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Category: Prince

Remembering Prince – A Lifetime Fan’s Tribute in Memories

Uncredited. From Housequake.com.

In the late summer of 1984, I saw Purple Rain for the first time. I was 14. Adolescence had arrived, and was about to be taken for quite a spin with Prince Rogers Nelson at the wheel.

Every long time admirer of Prince has their memories. These are some of mine… 

  • Summer of 1984 (14 years old), driving home from baseball practice with my mom. Passenger side of her Buick Park Avenue. “When Doves Cry” on the radio. Ears perk. “Hmmm,” I think, “here’s something different.”
  • Late September 1984, my first viewing of Purple Rain. The experience was so vivid, yet I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember who was with me. Likely my friends Matt W. and/or Chris G. The reason I can’t recall is that I returned to the theater several times in the ensuing weeks to see it again. And again. And again. Watching the movie Purple Rain didn’t just spark my interest in Prince. It ignited several very potent megatons of TNT. It upturned my teenaged midwestern suburban existence. In the coming weeks, my Rod Carew posters would be untacked from the walls, methodically replaced by posters, magazine covers, pins, and photos of Prince (my poor folks – “what is happening to my kid??”). Yep, adolescence had come barreling down the road, ran a red light, and smashed right into this strange purple man from Minneapolis. It was on. I would learn about love, sex, funk, soul, the sacred & profane, but most importantly: tolerance and acceptance for all (“black, white, Puerto Rican everybody just a freakin’ good times…”). Prince opened my mind, and it hasn’t closed since.
  • Late ’84: Friday Night Videos premieres a live video of Prince and the Revolution live in Landover, MD. They perform “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star.” Prince commanding that stage in a white lace getup. “Woof! woof! woof! woof woof!, you say it.. woof! woof! woof! woof woof!, any dogs in the house?” That Sheila E. timbales solo…
  • The American Music Awards, January ’85. Prince and the Revolution are all over the Lionel Richie-hosted show (“Outrageous!”). Prince’s bodyguard Big Chick escorts him to the stage. “Life is death without adventure.” A kiss for Vanity. Bar none, the very best live performance of “Purple Rain” I’ve seen to this day. Microphone kicked over during guitar solo. Cyndi Lauper going crazy in her front row seat.

  • A month later, the Grammys. “I Would Die 4 U” / “Baby I’m a Star.” Fantastic, but anticlimactic after the AMA performance of “Purple Rain” a few weeks earlier.
  • Several trips to Mainstream Records in downtown Racine, Wisconsin to grab the newly released 12″ maxi-singles the day they were released. New music! Most of the maxi-singles had an extended version of the A side (“Let’s Go Crazy,” “Raspberry Beret,” “Kiss”); but even better, brand new tunes on the B-side. “17 Days,” “Hello,” “She’s Always in my Hair,” “Love or $”… and I would snatch up the earlier 1999 releases too of course – “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” and “Irresistible Bitch,” possibly my two favorite B-sides.
  • Voraciously seeking out all of Prince’s projects and extended Minneapolis family. The Time, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, The Family, Sheila E., Andre Cymone, Jesse Johnson. Top tune of this bunch? Must be “777-9311.”
  • Calling into WLUM Milwaukee to request “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” from my DJ crush Alli Ellison.
  • In my room 1: Listening to every Prince album straight through, from the first to the latest. From For You through Purple Rain (six albums worth). Then For You through Around the World in a Day. Then For You through Parade. You get the idea.
  • In my room 2: “Performing:” A tennis racket with a strap tied to it for my guitar. A putter for my microphone (handy for the James Brown mic tricks). A lot of “Purple Rain” and a lot of “Irresistible Bitch” / “Possessed” / “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” from the Live 85 concert video. My brothers were away at college, so when my folks went out, it was mirror time. Damn if I didn’t nail those splits a time or two.
  • In my room 3: Posters of Vanity and Apollonia. 14, 15, 16 years old…       Moving on.
  • My first live Prince experiences: September 18-19, 1988 at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago. Prince was in the round for the Lovesexy tour. My high school sweetheart and I drove the 90 minutes from Racine. On night two we ran out to the loading ramp to watch Prince jump in his limo and speed away before the final notes sounded.
  • During college (Colorado College in Colorado Springs) between 1988-1992, there were many trips to Independent Records to pay exorbitant prices for bootleg albums and CD’s. ‘Chocolate Box,’ ‘The Black Album,’ live bootlegs of varying quality. I still have most of them, save for a couple I stupidly sold on eBay for a quick and fruitless cash grab.
  • My second set of live shows at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, April 1993 ( I had recently moved to Tempe, AZ). This was Prince’s Act II tour – gun microphone, wavy hair, and police hat with chains covering his face. Before the first show, a nice couple kept buying me tequila shots in a nearby bar – which I kept on not refusing. Not a wise decision. I recall night two much more vividly. Funny how that works.
  • A road trip to Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve 1993, triggered by a rumor that Prince would be performing at his Glam Slam nightclub. The result? I can’t even remember if it was just a DJ playing or a random band, but there was no Prince in the house. But hey, I did see Ice-T and Yo-Yo. Wasted trip? Yes.
  • 1997: My banner year for live Prince. Five shows + two aftershows! He stopped in Phoenix twice that year – April and October. April’s visit included an aftershow at Tempe’s Electric Ballroom. It was short but sweet, since the club had a curfew they couldn’t break. Prince and the band took over a local band’s gear onstage and played a Santana jam and “The Ride.” I found a live recording of it and posted it here. Later in October, my old pal Chris flew in from Florida, and we road tripped to SoCal for two Jam of the Year shows – at the Hollywood Bowl and Irvine Meadows Ampitheater. Yes, seeing Prince at the Hollywood Bowl was as awesome as it sounds. But the highlight of the month (and Life, perhaps?) came later that month after his Vegas gig at the MGM Arena. Rumors swirled that Prince and the band would be playing an aftershow at a club on the strip called Utopia. I promptly hauled ass to Utopia, where about 150 of us were rewarded in the early hours of October 25th. A Sly Stone cover (popular that year with his relatively new pal Larry Graham along for the tour), “Face Down”, “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, and a personal highlight, “I’ll Take You There.” I was twenty feet away, taking it all in. Pure magic.
  • The internet cometh. Prince chat rooms. Newsgroups! I was “ick1999” on alt.music.prince. Mostly a lurker. For the first time, an introduction to a community of like minded Prince lunatics.
  • April 2002. Prince’s One Nite Alone tour, and I’m engaged. Our first date was New Year’s Eve just a few months prior. 24 days later, we were engaged to be married. My fiancee Myra was quickly introduced to my Prince obsession up close and personal at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix.
  • And then… an 11 year Prince drought! The next, and sadly, my last time seeing Prince live came on May 1st, 2013. Prince was energized, fronting his all-female power trio 3rd Eye Girl at a midsize, intimate venue: the Marquee Theater in Tempe. There I was again, probably 50 feet from the man I’d been listening to and following avidly for almost 30 years. Watching him tear the stage up, ripping through “She’s Always in My Hair” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” Taking me to that familiar place… “in my room”… all of these memories flooding back – the same memories I’ve shared here.

Like most of you, I thought Prince would endure as that strange and wonderful musical genius, always a little bit under the radar, keeping that mysterious low profile. And like you, I was sure we’d be watching him perform well into the future as a sixty-something, a seventy-something, and even beyond. He seemed otherworldly and immune to “time,” didn’t he? Well, that all obviously shattered on that awful morning of April 21st.

Prince is gone. And I think the biggest reason I haven’t typed a word about him all year – my very favorite artist – is that it still doesn’t seem real. Prince dead? Impossible, man. Does not compute. It still just doesn’t quite make sense to me. But gone he is.

The beauty of it all is that his music endures.

I’m 46 now, and still under that purple spell. Always will be. Just as I thought to myself in my room all those years ago. 

Prince – “”Just My Imagination” (from the 8-19-1988 aftershow in The Hague, Netherlands)

Prince at the Marquee Theater – May 1st – Setlist

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Man, what a night! What a thrill to see Prince in the intimate confines of the Marquee Theater in my hometown.

I’m old school, so the highlights for me were seeing Prince front and center from 20 feet away singing “Joy In Repetition” (with Larry Graham in the background on bass), “Forever In My Life (with Prince on bass, Ida on keys), and “She’s Always In My Hair.”

“Purple Rain” with P on keys was also magnificent, although I wish he would’ve started on keys and moved to the guitar for the solo..

The crowd was electric, the joint was packed, and I was one happy Prince fan after an 11 year drought since I last saw him live.

Prince
Marquee Theater
Tempe, AZ
May 1, 2013

Start Time: 8:23pm
End Time: 10:11pm

The Breakdown
Let’s Go Crazy
Endorphinmachine
Screwdriver
Dreamer (with Bowie’s “Fame” snippet) >
Play That Funky Music
She’s Always in My Hair
The Love We Make
Forever In My Life
Joy in Repetition (w/ Larry Graham)
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) [w/ Larry Graham]

***sampler set***
When Doves Cry
Nasty Girl
Sign o the Times
A Love Bizarre
Housequake
I Would Die 4 U
Hot Thing
Pop Life
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World

Purple Rain
Adore

**Encore**
Let’s Go (The Cars cover)
Guitar
Plectrum Electrum
Fixurlifeup

The Makings of Rain

If I had to point to one performance that sums up everything I like about Prince, it would be his August 3rd, 1983 benefit show at First Avenue in Minneapolis (the day I turned 13!). It was not only the debut of new guitarist Wendy Melvoin (just 19 years old at the time), but the debut of many of the tunes from Purple Rain, which wouldn’t be released until the summer of 1984. In fact, some of the recordings you hear on the Purple Rain album come from this show (“Purple Rain” and “Baby I’m a Star” to name a couple). The circulating video bootleg is called The Makings of Rain, and it is essential viewing for Prince fans. It’s out there. I recommend you track it down.

This is classic Prince in every sense for me: young, vibrant, sensual, sexual, urgent, commanding…here is an artist coming off a very successful album and tour (1999), and about to unleash (what I consider) his masterpiece upon the world.

So every once in a while, part of the performance pops up on Youtube. Here’s the unreleased classic “Electric Intercourse”.

(Dead Youtube link, sorry)

BET’s Tribute to Prince: Janelle Monae, Esparanza Spalding, Alicia Keys, Patti LaBelle

This past Sunday, Prince was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 10th annual BET Awards. Prior to the presentation, four of his favorite ladies took to the stage to pay tribute to His Purpleness, and let me tell you, this was no half-ass tribute. The performers were reportedly hand picked by Prince: Janelle Monae, Esperanza Spalding, Alicia Keys, and Patti Labelle – and they all killed. Let’s take a look…

Janelle Monae – quirky, unconventional, and flat out weird (in the good sense of the word) – chose the perfect song to match her style and to kick off the festivities: “Let’s Go Crazy”. Watching her perform made me slap myself for missing her when she stopped through town last week with Erykah Badu. I love the way she writhes and slides and pops and twists (aka her flavor of dancing). And to top it all off, she’s carried off the stage after the tune. Prince seemed to dig it, didn’t he? So did I.

Esperanza Spalding was next, stepping to the mic with her stand-up electric bass, and launched into the classic from side 3 of Sign ‘o’ the Times, “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” It sounds like they used the original studio intro, sans Prince’s “oooo’s”. I wonder if Prince provided the backing track? Top notch performance of one of my favorite Prince tunes.

Next up was Alicia Keys with another Sign ‘o’ the Times standout: “Adore”. I have NEVER been more attracted to Ms. Alicia Keys than during this performance. It may have something to do with kicking off her heels and crawling barefoot on top of her piano and doing serious lusty justice to the song. She stayed pretty true to the nuances of Prince’s vocal delivery too – though she couldn’t hit some of those falsettos where Prince is up in the stratosphere like only Prince can do. Outstanding stuff from Alicia Keys. Yum yum yum.

To top off the tribute, Patti LaBelle emerged for “Purple Rain” (which Trey Songz had segued into briefly during his performance a few minutes earlier). Patti was on fire. She was having some issues with moving around in her heels, so off they came. She kicked one toward Prince, who swiftly grabbed it up. Patti’s voice was in top form, and was letting loose after her first and only verse. It was a great finale, and Prince was clearly moved, as you’ll see.

Since 1984, for better or worse, through good times and bad, I’ve always loved this man’s music. It was a treat to see him honored like this, and a treat to watch him enjoy and be emotionally affected by these performances.

Nicely done, ladies, nicely done.

Watch.

Prince’s 52nd Birthday

Shout out to the kid today, as June 7th marks the occasion of Prince Rogers Nelson‘s 52nd birthday – a milestone that Prince himself will choose to ignore, as Jehovah’s Witnesses tend to do.

So what is the State of Prince at the moment? Not much this year, it appears, at least from a fan perspective. There is a brand new issue of Ebony that features an interview, which I haven’t picked up yet. But as far as music goes, his last effort was the triple CD release of Lotusflow3r last year. Seems so long ago, right? It was March 2009 when we saw a flurry of activity with the release of Lotusflow3r, MPLSound, and ladyfriend Bria Valente’s Elixir album – along with three straight nights on Jay Leno, and a special series of shows in Los Angeles. It also saw the debut of www.lotusflow3r.com – which offered fans the chance to enter Prince’s online universe at a fee of $77 (nope, didn’t bite).

2009 carried on, and, except for a few one off performances here and there (mostly overseas), Prince’s enthusiasm for the project apparently faded quickly. Once again, no tour. In fact, it has been six years since Prince has toured (Musicology was the last).

So once again we’re faced with a lull in Prince Land. Even Lotusflow3r.com has gone offline, and we’re looking again at a major artist who chooses not to have an official online presence in the 21st century – a concept that befuddles me.

There is one bright spot this year, however, and that’s the re-emergence of quality Prince videos on YouTube. He’s either given up the fight, or his attention has shifted elsewhere. But it’s good for us, as all sorts of good stuff is popping up again.

For me, I look to the 80’s. This video (parts 1 and 2 below) was filmed in Atlanta on the Purple Rain tour. It was late 1984 during Christmas break when Friday Night Videos aired this entire performance of “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m A Star.” Other than the performance footage in Purple Rain, this was my first glimpse into Prince as a live performer. I was 14 years old, I had just discovered this eccentric, indefinable force of an artist, and – needless to say (because here I am 26 years later talking about it) – I was just blown away.

Here’s a 26 year old Prince at the top of his game. Prince the showman; Prince the presence, the undisputed ringleader.

“I Would Die 4 U”

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“Baby I’m A Star”
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UPDATE: There’s a new Prince song making the rounds today. It’s called “Hot Summer“, and here it is…

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When Doves Cry / Beautifully Broken

It’s been a while since I’ve discovered a gem in my own music library – one that I don’t recall ever hearing. I’ve listened to Gov’t Mule’s 2003 live album (Deepest End: Live in Concert) before, but I don’t remember hearing what I heard tonight: a slow and bluesy “When Doves Cry” sung by Warren Haynes. Prince’s classic tune bookends the tune “Beautifully Broken”. Only the chorus is sung, but the way it weaves its way into the full song makes it one of the best interpretations of a Prince tune I’ve heard.

I’m sure there are a few groups in the jam band scene that have tackled Prince’s music. The only cover that comes to mind is Phish’s take on “Purple Rain”, which always seemed like more of an attempt to be humorous than a respectful and heartfelt interpretation of the work (must be the vacuum cleaner solo).

With an artist like Warren Haynes though, you can bet that he’ll put his heart and soul into any song he performs – and it’s evident here with “When Doves Cry” and “Beautifully Broken”. There’s a passion in the vocals and every pluck of his guitar string. And with a heavy duty powerhouse like Gov’t Mule backing it all up – well – I’m damn sure I’ll have this on regular rotation for some time to come.

Gov’t Mule – When Doves Cry / Beautifully Broken (mp3)

From The Deepest End: Live in Concert.

Ick’s Pick: Jesse Johnson’s Verbal Penetration

As a Prince-obsessed maniac since the age of Purple Rain, I’ve always been interested in following those he helped spawn back in the day. The Time were obviously the most talented of the bunch, and a sizable contributor to the feel and sound of the band – along with Prince, Morris Day, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis – was guitarist Jesse Johnson.

After the success of Ice Cream Castle (which featured “The Bird” and “Jungle Love”, tunes co-written by Jesse), he left the group for a solo deal with A&M Records. His body of work has always ranked up there as my favorite – his first two albums, Jesse Johnson’s Revue and Shockadelica, are classic Minneapolis synth-funk. Also solid were his other two studio efforts: 1988’s Every Shade of Love and 1996’s Bare My Naked Soul.

Except for a 2000 greatest hits collection, Jesse has been quiet all these years… that is, until Verbal Penetration came along. I know, I know, the album title is pretty cringe-worthy at first glance. But after picking it up earlier this week, I’m here to tell you – this is a fantastic collection of neosoul, retro-funk and R&B. It’s 29 tracks spanning two discs, and clocks in at almost two hours, and you quickly succumb to the verbal penetration ride that Jesse wants to take you on.

At the forefront is Jesse’s prolific guitar work. It’s been 13 years since his last studio album, and this album burns with a funky ferocity that feels like Jesse’s been bottling up this energy all these years, and he’s finally been uncorked. Case in point is the instrumental “Merciful” [mp3] – where a smooth, simmering groove sets the backdrop for a jaw-dropping guitar solo that kicks off 25 seconds into the song, and doesn’t let up until the song finishes at almost 5 minutes.

There are so many highlights, and I’m just a few listens in… Check out “Sheila Rae” [mp3], a dose of warm and sunny pop/funk with synth horns and some catchy female backing vocals (which show up a lot on this album).

“1000 Watts of Funky” is old school – you guess it – funk, paying obvious homage to Sly & the Family Stone.

There’s “Ali vs. Frasier”, where Jesse puts on his Wes Montgomery hat and kills with some jazz guitar.

“Letter From a Soldier (Reprise)” and “Love Letters” mashup classic Curtis Mayfield vibes with smooth neosoul grooves.

Even the strange ones are captivating. There’s “Redemption for the Soul, Enlightenment for the Earhole”, a tale set in the far future where music is banned. It is the “Days of the Deafening Quiet”, after the “Great Last War left the Nurennus Realm in control”. It’s narrated by French-Norwegian artist Jezabella Kipp-Messmer, and her accent will confuse, possibly annoy, and probably mesmerize you. What’s truly mesmerizing is the funky sounds backing up the story.

Verbal Penetration is a welcome surprise from a familiar old friend. It sizes up well against Prince’s post-2000 output, and even far exceeds it at points. Jesse’s hiatus hasn’t diminished his talent and potency in any way whatsoever. If you have a little purple in you, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Buy: Verbal Penetration

Visit: JesseJohnson.com

Video: Prince mini show on French TV

Let’s face it, it’s been a long time since quality video footage of Prince has been readily available to the internet masses. So it was refreshing earlier today when I came across this cool mini-concert of Prince on a French TV show called Le Grand Journal.

On the set list: “Dance 4 Me”, “No More Candy 4 U”, “1999”, and “Controversy”. The quality of the video is excellent,and Prince, his band, and his dancers appear loose and relaxed…they’ve been over in Paris for a week or two now –  I think with more shows to come over there.

This may be one of  those here today / gone tomorrow videos, so enjoy while you can…

Prince Performance on Le Grand Journal (French TV)

The Time live in KC

In the year nineteen eighty-three, Prince’s Triple Threat Tour did hit the road. Vanity 6 opened the evening, with The Time as their backing band behind a curtain. Next up, before Prince took the stage, Morris Day and the boys got their 45 minutes in the spotlight, and they took every advantage, trying their hardest to upstage their boss.

I was a wee 12 year old during this tour, so I didn’t get to witness the competition firsthand. But from all accounts, it made for an amazing tour – Prince touring behind 1999, and the Time, with two solid (Prince-produced) records under their belt, there to try and show him up night after night.

Here’s The Time’s set from a recently unearthed soundboard recording from March 19th, 1983, at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.

The Time
Kansas City, MO
March 19, 1983

1. Intro
2. Get It Up
3. 777-9311
4. Girl
5. Wild & Loose
6. Gigolos Get Lonely Too
7. Cool
8. The Walk
9. Outro

Video: We All Wanna Be Prince

I’ve seen this song all over the place the last few weeks, but I didn’t take the time to listen until tonight, when I noticed the video was out. And let me say, the video is cool and pretty chuckle-worthy at times. They capture the Dirty Mind thru 1999-era Prince – with the Prince dress-up, the ladies, the rampant horniness, and the song itself. Well done, Felix Da Housecat…

Felix Da Housecat – We All Wanna Be Prince