Local Current Blog

Remember when Prince ruled Coachella (and controversially covered Radiohead) in 2008?

Prince performs during day 2 of the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 26, 2008. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Earlier today, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival announced its lineup for 2019. The bill includes headliners Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, and Ariana Grande, as well as acts like Janelle Monáe, Weezer, Maggie Rogers, and former Minnesota resident Lizzo.

While the internet is in a frenzy over this year’s Coachella performers, we thought we’d turn back a few years to remember one of the festival’s most remarkable performances: when Prince headlined Coachella in 2008.

Let’s rewind to January of 2008, when Coachella announced its lineup for the year. The biggest buzz was for a headlining set from Pink Floyd bassist and founding member Roger Waters, in which he recreated the iconic 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. Other headliners included Jack Johnson and Portishead, but there was no sign of the Purple One.

Prince had been rumored to play Coachella for years, and just weeks before the festival, Coachella organizers confirmed that he would join the lineup as a headliner for the festival’s second night.

“In this year of a lot of festivals, we think we’ve dug pretty deep,” Coachella booker Paul Tollett told Billboard. “We’re in our ninth year, and this is a really great addition to the whole story. It’s exciting to add another artist into the mix that hasn’t played festivals.”

On April 26, 2008, Prince took Coachella’s stage. His set included some of his most iconic songs like “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Purple Rain,” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” as well as a surprising number of covers.

Prince performed original songs popularized by longtime collaborators — like the Time’s “The Bird” and “Jungle Love” as well as “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E., who joined Prince onstage to play the song with him. Prince played not one, but three Santana songs, and threw in some surprising covers including the Beatles’ “Come Together,” the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster,” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.”

However, what many remember as the most distinctive part of the night was Prince’s eight-minute long cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.”

For many years, only Prince’s Coachella audience could remember this iconic performance. The day after Prince’s set, video footage of “Creep” began circulating online, but Prince’s team quickly took down all copies.

Prince’s decision to pull the clip from the internet caused controversy online. Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke weighed in, saying that since “Creep” was Radiohead’s song, the band should have the final say over whether the video is available online. “Really? He’s blocked it?” Yorke asked an interviewer. “Surely we should block it. Hang on a moment. Well, tell him to unblock it. It’s our song.”

In 2015 Prince changed his mind, allowing the clip to appear online when he tweeted a link to an NME article that included a video of the “Creep” performance. (Although the tweet no longer exists, the Verge created a timeline of the “Creep” controversy to keep things straight.)

The last night of Coachella 2016 took place just three days after Prince’s passing. At dusk, purple lights illuminated the festival grounds, reports USA Today. Purple flowers and a poster of Prince as a headliner of 2008’s Coachella adorned a Prince memorial near the festival’s Ferris wheel. A number of the night’s performers remembered Prince through musical tributes and stories of the artist’s impact on their lives.

Colleen Cowie runs the blog Pass The Mic.

  • Zoonie

    Surely there must be a long form video of this somewhere? Or just the audio? Man, I loved Prince and saw him live in the UK several times over the years but I never saw him playing a gig like this, it sounds *incredible*.

    • Wild Turkey Surprise

      I was there. It was rad.

      • Zoonie

        This is not the answer I require!

        • Wild Turkey Surprise

          Sorry I dunno about the vid/audio

    • rogifan

      There isn’t but this soundboard version of Creep at least has better audio.
      https://youtu.be/hAzzRQe6lms

    • Rich Probert

      U should have been at hop farm in Kent.. Prince at a UK festival is the best concert I’ve ever seen😁unbelievable line up of all his band members past n present of that time.

  • Tammy Frazier

    One correction: “Glamorous Life” was written by Prince for Sheila E.

    • True! I’ve edited the piece to clarify.

  • Does anybody realize how ridiculous his guitar playing was on Little Red Corvette!?!??!! That was, in my opinion, the real highlight of that show. He went off and played so pretty!! Rest in Heaven PRINCE – you were incredible!!!!