Could You Just Put an End to Your Purple Funk?

Prince tribute

Alright! Alright! Alright! These past several blog entries have helped me get over the passing of Prince. It was one week ago today when I received a text message from a long time friend of mine asking me if the news about Prince dying was true. I immediately turned off the DVD I was watching to turn on the news. And, sure enough, the great Brian Williams was on msnbc anchoring wall-to-wall coverage on the channel about Prince’s death. My friend and I shared texts of disbelief, while I went numb. And, that began the Purple Funk I’ve been in for the past week.

You know, when Michael Jackson passed, I was not surprised by his death. Nor was I surprised by his cause of death being due to drugs. Tragic yes; surprising no. But Prince? I don’t know why, I’m usually very cynical about these things, but I had really bought into Prince’s health-nut lifestyle. And, now we’re slowly discovering that Prince was suffering chronic pain and possibly OD’ed on pain medication. As a chronic pain patient, I understand this pain thing. I totally get it. It’s not like aspirin or Tylenol will ever take your pain away, but taking more than what’s prescribed? I will never understand that. I simply try to bear the pain, just like distance running. Pain is a strange thing because none of us perceive pain the same way.  The thing is the pain medication is to simply make the pain somewhat bearable. At some point, you will experience “breakthrough” pain, that is more unbearable than before. When that occurs, you discuss the situation with your pain management doctor about a change in concentration of your current medication or have a new one prescribed. You never go with the American adage: “If some is good, more is better!” Because our society is built on that idea, I feel as though Americans are always going to be doomed to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Okay, enough of that rant! Let’s discuss one final aspect of Prince’s career: his influence on other musicians. As far back as 1982, when the editors of Rolling Stone magazine named Prince their Artist of the Year, Prince had created two bands: The Time and Vanity 6. In both cases, he had written all of their songs, in addition to playing all of the instruments. He was also the produced under his first pseudonym Jamie Starr. Along the way, Prince came to develop several more proteges, such as Sheila E., Sheena Easton, Martika, Carmen Elektra, Tevin Campbell, Mayte, Bria Valente, Andy Allo, The Family, Mazarati, among many others. He also worked with George Clinton, Patti Labelle and Mavis Staple, to name a few more.

With that said, allow me to list my favorite cover versions of Prince songs, whether he had hits with the songs, one of his proteges had the hit or he just wrote the song. I think you might be surprised by the number of hits for other artists that had Prince’s stamp on it. FYI: I made a playlist on my iTunes for these types of songs, and I have 50 on the list. I will only give you my Top 20.

20. “Get It Up” – TLC (1993) Poetic Justice soundtrack [Remake of The Time’s 1981 version]

19. “Love Song” – Madonna (1989) Like a Virgin [Prince allegedly played guitar on several tracks on the album that was not credited to him.]

18. “Sign O’ the Times” – Simple Minds (1989) single [This was a Top 10 hit in the UK and sounds just like you would like: Simple Minds trying to be Prince.]

The Family

17. “Mutiny” – The Family (1985) The Family [The Time breaks up, so Princes takes a couple of those guys and added his girlfriend at the time Susannah Melvoin, twin sister of former Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin. This band broke up after one LP.]

16. “When You Were Mine” – Cyndi Lauper (1983) Girls Just Want to Have Fun [This was one of the first cover version.]

15. “The Sex of It” – Kid Creole & the Coconuts (1990) Private Waters in the Great Divide. In the Eighties, there were four artists who were all mining the same pop/rock/funk/R&B/ punk vein. Kid Creole (August Darnell) joined His Purple Badness, Rick James & Michael Jackson in their attempt to create music that racially neutral.

The Time

14. “The Bird” – The Time (1984) Ice Cream Castles. Prince ruled the world in 1984, with his Purple Rain stranglehold, along with protege music by The Time, Apollonia 6 AND Sheila E. “The Bird” was the dance floor jam that summer, fall and winter. Plus, the song was a highlight during the concert footage of The Time in Purple Rain.

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13. “Nasty Girl” – Vanity 6 (1982) Vanity 6. Vanity 6 was Prince’s “Supremes”, or so he hoped. Vanity (Denise Matthews) was Prince’s first romantic interest in the music world. Ironically, Vanity passed away just a few weeks ago. This funky song happened to break a little ground as a girl was singing saucy Prince lyrics.

12. “Superconductor” – Andy Allo (2012) Superconductor. Prince discovered Allo and helped her by giving her a few songs that Allo recorded for her second album. This is a slice of pop heaven.

11. “Sugar Walls” – Sheena Easton (1984) A Private Heaven. Sheena Easton was a bland popster (remember her 1981 hit “Morning Train (9 to 5)”?) when she hooked up with an infatuated Prince who gave Easton this song. So, Sheena sings suggestive lyrics, dancing suggestively in her video, and has a huge hit for the year 1984/1985. She repaid Prince by appearing with him in the song and video “U Got the Look” in 1987.

10. “Round and Round” – Tevin Campbell (1990) Graffiti Bridge. Prince just had to make another movie called Graffiti Bridge, which was crap. And the soundtrack was a lackluster double album, but it did have two gems: this one and Prince’s “Thieves in the Temple”. I really thought this young teenager was going to be huge, after this song and an album, Campbell kind of fell off the face of the Earth. Still, this song reminded people of Michael Jackson’s early songs.

9. “Kiss” – The Art of Noise feat. Tom Jones (1988) single. Leave it to the crazy production group of The Art of Noise to grab Tom Jones to cover Prince’s minimalist funk song “Kiss”. The Art of Noise turned loose their Eighties production values and musical enhancements to Tom Jones’ vocals that had found the cheesiness in Prince’s lyrics. This is not a novelty song. It is a novel, nearly classic approach to a classic song.

8. “A Love Bizarre” – Sheila E. (1985) Romance 1600. This song is credited to Sheila E., but it has Prince written all over it. Just listen to the vocals, and you will discover Prince’s voice helping Sheila E.’s vocals.

7. “The Walk” – The Time (1982) What Time Is It? Back on the 1999 Tour, The Time was beginning to musically push Prince and his band, and this song was the highlight of their set at the time (and probably still is). This song may have been written by Prince, but The Time made it their own.

6. “Stand Back” – Stevie Nicks (1983) The Wild Heart. Honestly, this song was not written by Prince. But, Stevie Nicks will tell you the song has Prince all over it. First, she wrote it after hearing “Little Red Corvette” for the first time. Then, she contacted Prince, who came in and recorded the keyboards heard on the song, including the song’s introduction.

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5. “The Glamorous Life” – Sheila E. (1984) The Glamorous Life. After Shelia E. played a cameo in the movie Purple Rain (she’s the woman who Jerome picks up and throws into a dumpster after she jumps in front of Morris Day to begin verbally berate him), this song was released in the Fall of 1984. The music sounds like Prince, except for the use of horns. I have to be honest, Sheila E. does the song better.

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4. “How Come You Don’t Call Me” – Alicia Keys (2001) Songs in ‘A’ Minor. Alicia Keys totally made this song her own. She turns the male-been-done-wrong song into a woman scorned song. And, her version suits the lyrics even more. Personally, I’m glad that Prince did not put his production hands on the song. That way it becomes Alicia’s song. And, that may be the some cover version are better than the others.

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3. “I Feel for You” – Chaka Khan (1984). I Feel for You. 1984 was Prince’s year. Thus, he was too busy to help Chaka Khan to record this song. That was a good thing, allowing Khan’s team to bring in members of Grandmaster Flash to “hip hop”-up the song with some rapping and scratching. Adding the hook of “Chaka Khan” being scratched only added to the greatness of the song. This song is now hers.

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2. “Manic Monday” – Prince (1985) Different Light. In 1985, Prince was infatuated with the Beatles and the Psychedelic Underground music scene in L.A. Then, he saw this all-female band, The Bangles, perform and he was smitten with one of their members, the very attractive (though they all are attractive!) Susanna Hoffs. So, he wrote this paisley-tinted power pop gem for the band generally and Hoffs specifically. Well, the band re-did the whole song, since they are a musically talented band, and had their first huge hit. A side note: I remember telling my wife at the time that “Manic Monday” sounded like Prince wrote it. So, we purchased the album, and I looked at the credits. In the credits, it said that the song was written by a songwriter named “Christopher”. A short time later, Prince released his flop of a movie called Under a Cherry Moon, in which he played a character by the name of “Christopher Tracey.” Lo and behold, I had my evidence. Prince wrote the song under his new pseudonym.

Sinead O'Connor - Nothingcompares2u

1. “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinéad O’Connor (1990) I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Back in 1985, The Family recorded a paisley-covered version of this song that seemed to lack some soul. Along comes Miss O’Connor, who stripped the song down to it’s bare essence and discovered the pain in the lyrics. Then, she created that compelling video during which she had a tear stream down her face that only enhanced the emotional content of the lyrics. Even though Miss O’Connor knocked this song out of the park with her talent, she lost her confidence in the aftermath of her appearance on SNL where she tore up a photograph of the Pope. I think we lost a true talent in the aftermath of her own personal protest against the Catholic church for covering up the children being sexually abused. No one gave her credit for being correct when a decade later the Boston Globe‘s investigation blew the walls down on that cover up. Maybe O’Connor deserves some credit in retrospect.

Whew! I think I have finally put Prince’s career into perspective. I am ready to move on and get back on track with more music and the memories that go with them. Viva le Prince!

My Purple Funk, Part 3: My Favorite 21st Century Prince Songs

RIP PRINCE

Okay, yes, I agree! This is getting a bit obsessive. And, you are correct! But, then again, that’s me…obsessive, or hyper-focused, or whatever you want to call it. Still, I feel like I need to give a nod to the music Prince has made over the past 16 years. Although Prince has released only a handful, in his own prolific standard, of albums. Still, at the beginning of the century, Prince was releasing several albums worth of music directly to his fan club.

Much has happened in the Prince world in these past 20 years or so. First, while still in the 1990s, Prince got married, and he and his wife had a baby boy. Sadly, the baby was born with a congenital condition that took the baby’s life within the days of his birth. A few years later, Prince and his wife, Mayte, were divorced.

Now, while in the 1990s, Prince reached out to several of his musical heroes who were down on their luck. He even signed Parliament/Funkadelic leader George Clinton, as well as gospel/soul singer Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers. Prince even reached out to former Sly & the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham. It is this latter development that led to a major change to Prince’s spiritual life.

While growing up, Prince was raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist. Now, obviously, he made his living in the Eighties and Nineties playing up the juxtaposition of sexual freedom with spiritual freedom. Then, Larry Graham, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, began to influence Prince. Long story short, Prince was convinced over a year’s worth of time, Prince became convinced that he would convert. From that point on, Prince toned down the cursing and the sexual content. But, since Graham came into Prince’s life, Prince’s PG-13 version of his music went into high gear. So much so that Prince had released two albums in 2014 and two more in 2015. He was rejuvenated by a great new band of three female musicians. The group is known as 3RDEYEGIRL, and they are a hot power trio type of band. The last album, called HIT n RUN Phase Two, is easily the best album of this century. Which was a shame that we will not get to see in what musical directions he would go with and without the new band. But, at least, he left us on high note musically.

Today, I present to you my 15 favorite Prince songs of the 21st Century.

15. “We Do This Alone” [Feat. George Clinton] (2002) One Nite Alone…The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over. This is proof of what happens when two funk giants collide.

14. “Crimson and Clover” (2009) LotUSFLOW3R. Most people probably would not choose this song. The old Tommy James & the Shondells hit has been cover by everyone, including that great cover by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts back in the early days. Still, to hear this psychedelic bubblegum standard from the 60s getting the Purple touch is magic in itself.

13. “(There’ll Never) Be Another like Me” (2009) MPLSOUND. This album was released together with the album of #14, but he different sounds. This CD was more on the rock, Santana/Hendrix influenced Prince, and he was rarely better than on this song.

12. “Black Sweat” (2006) 3121. Prince had a little run between 2004 and 2007 during which he released three excellent albums. “Black Sweat” comes from the middle album and is a slice of pure funk that Prince had conquered in the Nineties but brought back for this great single.

11. “Plectrumelectrum” by Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL (2014) Plectrumelectrum. This was the easily the best song on this album. If you need proof, go watch the Chris Rock-hosted SNL show in 2014 in which the band performs the show and try to convince me that this band could not have developed into a hot metal band.

10. “Free Urself” (2015) single. If four albums were not enough, Prince even released several singles that could not be fit onto any of these albums. This song is proof that Prince was hitting a late-career peak.

9. “Clouds” (2014) Art Official Age. Yes, this too was played on SNL. It is a great pop ballad, with a nice slow groove. This is an example of Prince showing The Weeknd how its really done.

8. “Screwdriver” (2015) HIT n RUN Phase 2. Originally, this song was released as a single in 2014. This is a great Prince double entendre in the lyrical vein of “Little Red Corvette”. Just a fun song that’s got a good beat and its easy to dance to.

7. “FunkNRoll” by Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL (2014) Plectrumelectrum. Just as the title says, this song is something that you would be happy to hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers do. Actually, there are two different versions: this one and one on Prince’s Art Official Age, where Prince played all of the instruments. 3RDEYEGIRL makes this version ROCK!

Prince - baltimore

6. “Baltimore” (2015) HIT n RUN Phase 2.  Originally, Prince released this song to help the city of Baltimore heal after the racial unrest of the death of a young man while in the hands of the city’s police. Prince has actually released several protest songs, but they are rare. But when Prince talks, people listen.

Prince - fall in love 2nite

5. “FallinLove2nite” with Zooey Deschanel (2014) single. This is the fun version that was performed on the episode of New Girl where Prince sings the song with Zooey’s character. There is another version of this song on Art Official Age, but it misses something without Zooey’s vocals.

Prince - Hard rock lover

4. “Hardrocklover” (2014) HIT n RUN Phase 1. This song is a funk-rock jam that is chock-full of hooks.

Prince - If Eye Could Get Ur Attention

3. “If Eye Could Get Ur Attention” (2015) single. This is the last single that Prince released during his lifetime, and it is a brilliant piece of Prince pop. A side-note: Prince was close friends with msnbc newscaster and Today show substitute Tamron Hall, whose image is on the cover of the single.

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2. “Guitar” (2007) Planet Earth. What do you think this song is like by its title? You bet! It’s a Prince guitar-shredding song that rocks without forgetting the funk.

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1. “Fury” (2006) 3121. Once again, Prince was telling us directly what this song was about…fury! And, the whole song, lyrics and music, stick to the theme. This is another song that the Chili Peppers should cover, since its everything they stand for: rock AND funk.

All of this is helping me get through this loss. Now, I would be much worse if I had lost a family member. But, in many ways, Prince seemed like a family member since I started becoming obsessed with his music in 1980. His tunes have carried me through the last couple of years of high school, through college and med tech school, into my thirties, forties and, now, my fifties. God bless you Prince. God bless you my friends! And, especially, God bless my family!

My Purple Funk, Part 2: My Favorite Prince Songs of the 1990s

prince memoriam

I’m back, but I’m still not feeling all that great as far as my back is concerned. Now, my Purple Funk continues to hang around me. No matter how many times I listen to Purple Rain or Sign O’ the Times, I still feel a sense of musical loss. Heck, I have so much Prince music that I could be listening continuously for weeks on end and never repeat an album. Yet, I still cannot stop listening to his music.

In college in the early ’80s, Prince’s music was played at nearly every party I went to. If it wasn’t Prince, then it was his proteges like The Time, Vanity 6 or Sheila E. Heck, even my beautiful wife is dancing to his music again. For a short moment, we, as a couple, are not simply mourning the loss of Prince, but, dare I say, the loss of our youth. Maybe, that’s what all of these deaths of rock stars truly mean to us, the loss of our youth.

During the Nineties, Prince moved away from his simple pop/rock/funk tunes. By that time his James Brown/George Clinton/Jimi Hendrix-influenced brand of funk/rock music was leaving his Eighties fans behind. Those of us who stuck with him were entertained by this period of his career. After conquering the world, now Prince was going to conquer his artistic vision. As I go back and listen to his Nineties output, many for the first time in twenty years, I am finally hearing the artistic flowering of Prince, or whatever that symbol was called.

Prince Symbol

The whole Artist Formerly Known As Prince era, which most people did not understand, was Prince’s fight for his career. He was the first to use the internet for the release of his music. Between 1996 and 2009, Prince released several albums worth of music only as downloads. He was the first to realize that owning his work was every bit as important as creating it. Legend has it that Prince created a song a day, and as many as 500 songs remain in a “vault” somewhere in his Paisley Park studio. Personally, I cannot wait to see this material released over the next decade or two.

Like I said earlier, the Nineties were the fruition of Prince’s creative soul. Today, I would like to present my 15 favorite Prince songs from the Nineties, most of which the majority of you probably have never even heard. All I can say is to dig them up!

15. “Pink Cashmere” (1993) The Hits/The B-Sides. This slice of Prince-ified ’70s soul was added to his first greatest hits collection.

14. “Wasted Soul” (1998) New Power Soul. This may be the only good song on what is arguably Prince’s weakest album. This song is his take on Nineties R&B, only better since its Prince.

13. “Dionne” (1998) The Truth. In 1998, Prince released a three-CD set of his unreleased material which was called Crystal Ball. In the packaging, Prince included a fourth CD of “unplugged” numbers, all of which were new songs. This was the best of that fantastic lot, showing the world that he too could do acoustic blues like Eric Clapton.

12. “So Far, So Pleased” [Featuring Gwen Steffani] (1999) Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. In 1999, Prince signed a contract with Arista Records, where Clive Davis just hit revived Santana’s career by pairing the guitar great with contemporary artists. Davis’ idea was to do the same with Prince. The problem is Prince doesn’t play by others’ rules. Still, this song was rocker that has probably only gotten better in a live performance.

11. “I Like It There” (1996) Chaos and Disorder. This power pop rocker is found on one of Prince’s better Nineties albums. The song is in that long line of power pop songs that began with “When You Were Mine.”

10. “I Can’t Make U Love Me” (1996) Emancipation. No kidding! This is that Bonnie Raitt song from earlier in the Nineties given a good Princely going-over. If you love Raitt’s version, wait ’til you hear Prince’s take.

9. “Sexy M.F.” (1992) O)+->. Anyone else remember the controversy behind this song since he was singing “Mother F*@%$er”. I remember Arsenio Hall playing it on his show for several weeks. Sure, Prince cursed, but the song’s just so damn funky.

8. “Diamonds and Pearls” (1991) Diamonds and Pearls. Many cried that Prince sold out on this album. No way! He just proved that he could write a bunch of hit songs whenever he wanted to. And this gospel-based ballad proved that Prince still had the goods.

7. “Gett Off” (1991) Diamonds and Pearls. When Prince performed this song on the MTV Music Video Awards in 1991, he proved that he could absolutely rock while performing in a Michael Jackson-worthy production all the while courting controversy by wearing ass-less pants as he gyrated with his dancers, Diamond and Pearl. And, yet, he still found time to lay down a nasty guitar solo.

6. “Dinner with Delores” (1996) Chaos and Disorder. This nice little Paul McCartney-esque number is a brilliant showcase of the versatility of Prince’s writing skills.

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5. “Cream” (1991) Diamonds and Pearls. This naughty innuendo song was Prince’s last number one hit on Billboard’s Hot 100. Yet, this song was another one of his funk/pop/rock amalgamation that he was known for.

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4. “7” (1992) O)+->. This acoustic-based rock/funk song displayed Prince’s spiritual side by bringing up Old Testament imagery in one of his greatest and most forgotten hits ever.

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3. “Thieves in the Temple” (1990) Graffiti Bridge. This was his only hit from that God-awful movie Graffiti Bridge. Yet, there’s no denying this song’s slinky funk base. At least he left the bassline in the song this time. Yet, it does remind one of “Kiss” and “When Doves Cry”, only on a more complex level.

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2. “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” (1994) single. This is hands-down Prince’s greatest and most beautiful (pardon the pun!) love song in his catalog. I seriously think of my wife whenever I hear it.

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1. “Endorphinmachine” (1995) The Gold Experience. This is Prince’s nod to the grunge/alternative rock era of the time. He proves his guitar talents on this rocking song that almost proves he has a metal side to his playing.

Truthfully, Prince in the Nineties is a wild ride. Over the last twenty years, I tend to play these albums and songs more than his more popular Eighties output. There is something to be send for the long-term vision of Prince’s artistry.

My Purple Funk: My Favorite Prince Songs of the Eighties

Well, I’ve spent the passed several days with severe back spasms. I hate it when they get extra bad because I will have many nights in a row where I won’t sleep much. Then, all of a sudden, I will have one day during which I will sleep nearly the whole day. I’m not sure why I’m in that kind of cycle, but I am. The other thing about my failed back syndrome is how I can barely walk a couple hundred feet before I am hurting. And I mean devastating pain that takes your breath way. So now, those that have know me a long time remember how much running, cycling, weight lifting & basketball playing I did. Now, I am a non-exercising gelatinous mess. Now, instead of burning the candle on both ends teaching and coaching, I am now researching rock music, which has always been my way of relaxation.

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And all of this is in the middle of one of my all-time favorite rock artist’s death – Prince. I first heard his music on the radio during the winter of 1979-1980, when his song “I Wanna Be Your Lover” was a Top 15 hit. I loved the song, but when I saw him “perform” on American Bandstand, I became a fan. Someone was finally making an amalgam of all of the different genres of music I enjoyed into one party-time music. So, from his 1979 self-titled album through Controversy, his 1981 release, he remained one of my “secret artists”. But, then, as I wrote earlier, Prince release 1999, and it was all over for me. Prince was now up there in my Favorite Seven Artists, with Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Hall & Oates and Talking Heads. Now, I was beginning to collect everything Prince. But, this was going to be worse than the normal artist, since Prince was producing other artists, writing songs for other artists, and so on.

Today, I would like to present to you my Twenty Favorite Prince Songs of the Eighties.

20. “Dance with the Devil” (1989) Unreleased. This song was pulled from the Batman soundtrack because Prince felt it was too dark for the album. He replaced it with the cheesy “Batdance”. “Dance with the Devil” is a dark song with a Hendrixian guitar solo. The title was a take on a line that the Joker spoke in the movie. Try to find this one because it is worth it.

19. “The Cross” (1987) Sign O’ the Time. This bluesy song establishes his faith in this song, which was the climatic song on the Lovesexy Tour in 1988. Once again, here is another example of Prince’s mastery of the guitar.

18. “1999” (1982) 1999. This song kicked off the whole Prince-MTV relationship, though the song needed to be released twice before it became a Top 20 hit. This song could get every college dance going at Ball State.

17. “When You Were Mine” (1980) Dirty Mind. This song was never released, but it did show Prince’s mastery of new wave/power pop genres. The song has been covered by many, but may be best known as a Cyndi Lauper song on her She’s So Unusual album.

16. “D.M.S.R./Let’s Pretend We’re Married” (1982) 1999. This is Side 2 of 1999, and these two songs were a D.J.’s dancefloor dream. The crowds love this simply because it “had a good beat and was easy to dance to.”

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15. “Controversy” (1981) Controversy. Mission accomplished! Prince started a controversy with this single and album. “Am I black or am I white? Am I straight or am I gay?” With lyrics like that knew he was courting controversy.

14. “She’s Always in My Hair” (1985) B-side of “Paisley Park”. Prince is known as a prolific artist, and this masterpiece as a B-side of a single proves this claim. You know, allegedly Prince created a song a day, so there could be all kinds of gems that still have not been released. During the 1980s, Prince created some fantastic songs that were relegated to B-side status. Still, this is Prince’s greatest B-side.

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13. “Alphabet Street” (1988) Lovesexy. On the surface, this song sounds as if it were a Sesame Street song. But, upon closer scrutiny, this song has more to do with oral sex and should never be played on Sesame Street. Still, it is a fun dance song.

12. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (1979) Prince. For me, this is the song that jump-started my Prince fandom. The song was a little bit funk, a little bit rock, and a lotta bit of fun.

11. “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” (1987) Sign O’ the Times. This song begins as the ancestor of “When You Were Mine”, but does not stick to the three-minute power pop song but turns into a eight-minute psychedelic garage rock freak-out. This song would fit perfectly in a new Nuggets compilation if only Rhino Records would create a new collection.

10. “Erotic City” (1984) B-side of “Let’s Go Crazy”. Now, this song was played so much on the radio and at clubs that we could say the song was part of a double A-side. The real question about this song is “Does Prince say ‘funk’ or the f-bomb?” When you’re young, you prefer the latter. When you’re older, you kinda what the former.

9. “Purple Rain” (1984) Purple Rain. I know! How can I have the “Stairway to Heaven” of the ’80s down so low? I guess I am simply burned out on the song. Radio played the hell out of it. Consensus says it is Prince’s song. Oh well, I simply prefer eight others.

8. “The Beautiful Ones” (1984) Purple Rain. Never released as a single, this cut is probably the most emotionally powerful song on the album. I simply love to listen to this song, but does anyone else out there believe it would make a great metal song? Hey Mastodon! Or Metallica! Better yet, how about Anthrax? Someone make it happen.

7. “Kiss” (1986) Parade. Sure, this album supplemented that first crappy Prince movie, Under the Cherry Moon. Yet, this piece of stripped down funk rule the spring of ’86. What is it about Prince removing the bassline of song? He did it one other time.

6. “Let’s Go Crazy” (1984) Purple Rain. The album’s opener was a stunning anthem. From the warped televangelist opening to that Eddie Van Halen on Ritalin closing guitar solo, this song has a little something for every kind of music lover.

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5. “U Got the Look” (1987) with Sheena Easton, Sign O’ the Times. Prince always seems to bring the naughty side of the women with whom he works. But this song exudes Prince’s brand of humor. C’mon, “the World Series of Love.” Hahaha!!!

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4. “Raspberry Beret” (1985) Around the World in a Day. This is a funky slice of Beatlemania. It is simply brilliant.

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3. “Sign O’ the Times” (1987) Sign O’ the Times. This song is the “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”/”What’s Goin’ On” of the 1980s, where Prince bemoans the societal issues of the day. Once again, this song only grew when he played it live.

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2. “When Doves Cry” (1984) Purple Rain. The lead single off Prince’s masterpiece album, started and ended with a wailing guitar that sandwiched what might be Prince’s most personal lyrics every. And, this slice of funk was done without the bassline. The effect made the song much more eerie.

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1. “Little Red Corvette” (1982) 1999. This is the song that launched Prince on MTV and into the Top 10. What a great song with a new look at the car as a sexual metaphor. Like many Prince songs of the 1980s, this song was both funky and totally rocked!

So much for my mourning trip through the 1980s. I hoping to put away this Purple Funk I am in. And, I hope it helps you as well.

I Want 2 See You Underneath the Purple Rain

I couldn’t believe the text I had just gotten. One of my long-time friends asked me if it was true that Prince was dead? I immediately turned on the TV to msnbc, and to only add to my shock I was hearing that Prince had indeed died at the age of 57. I could NOT believe what I was seeing. One of my long-time musical heroes was truly gone.

Prince 2016

I text my boys to see if they had heard, since the poor men had grown up hearing Prince music throughout the house. My youngest even said he was near tears when he walked into his class to teach. My oldest was “bummed”, which is his speak for sad. I am beyond bummed and nowhere near tears. I am numb, completely numb.

After watching the news coverage for a few minutes, I decided to walk the dogs to collect my thoughts for this blog. Sure, David Bowie’s death had hit me hard, but this was Prince! Prince got me through the Eighties. Prince was the only artist to truly take rock, New Wave, punk, funk, R&B, heartland rock, and whatever else he liked, and synthesized those influences into an amalgam that was called the Minneapolis sound, since that’s where Prince came from. His music and lyrics were a call for racial harmony, and, hell, he even lived that harmony in his band selection. Nearly every band with whom he performed was interracial and had men and women playing. Being from a predominately white town in the Midwest, I appreciated this racial unity and gender harmony.

Princepurplerain

Many people will look back to the summer of 1984 as the pinnacle of Prince’s career. He had number one songs with “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” (plus, a number 2 hit with “Purple Rain”), the number one album of the summer and fall with Purple Rain and the number one movie during the summer of Ghostbusters with Purple Rain. The man was seemingly unstoppable. All of his previous albums had been building toward Purple Rain. But he became an artist beyond reproach with everything he released in the aftermath.

He followed up the Purple Rain blockbuster with what Rolling Stone called a pastel Easter egg album called Around the World in a Day. While most did not care for this Sgt. Pepper/Paisley Underground-infused album, I darn near wore out my copy. I loved the psychedelic touches to his funk. And, as the Eighties progressed, that sound only grew. Sure, he made a clunker of a movie called Under the Cherry Moon, but the “soundtrack” to the movie, Parade, was a long-simmering masterpiece. It took us ten years to decipher how great that album truly was. Next, he released another double-album masterpiece, Sign ‘O’ the Times, which was a summation of everything from Purple Rain to the present.

Unfortunately, at the last minute late in 1987, Prince decided to pull the plug on what would have been another masterpiece of an album called The Black Album. Prince said he had a vision from God telling him to pull those dark forces off the shelves and replace it with something more spiritual. Rumors say it was due to Prince taking too much ecstasy. For whatever reason, a great was replaced by a more challenging album, Lovesexy, whose stock has been rising with music critics as the years pass. Eventually, Prince did release The Black Album to less fanfare in the Nineties than it deserved.

LoveSexyTour

When the Eighties ended, so did Prince’s commercial appeal. Although he would remain prolific to the end, he would only intermittently achieve commercial success. Sure, his recent stuff has been lyrically homogenized, but who really could keep changing music? As we now know, no one can maintain that kind of impact forever. Heck, the Beatles may have made the best commercial decision to break up when they did, so we will only know their successful music. C’mon, their subsequent solo careers showed that their impact would have waned by the mid-Seventies with the occasional “comeback” every couple of years. Sound familiar? Uh, see the Rolling Stones’ career.

prince the dawn

We were blessed to have had this musical genius called Prince. Yes, I am very sad at his passing. But, my music room is full of vinyl albums, 12″ dance mixes, 7″ singles, CDs and mp3s of his music to last a lifetime. My advice is to find a bootleg of his Nineties output called The Dawn. This piece of masterwork was the whole reason changed his name to that symbol. It was supposed to be a triple-CD release, but the company rejected it. Subsequently, much of the material was released on three lesser albums: Come, Gold and Chaos & Disorder. I have heard a recreation of what that album supposedly was to sound like, and I think it is brilliant. To me, that album would have put him back on the map, commercially speaking. To me, that lost album is his most satisfying artistic vision of his career. You have to hear it to believe me, but he proves he is the funkmeister of our generation, as well as THE guitarist of our generation.

Prince’s death will put an end to his musical creativity. But, supposedly, he has over 500 songs left in his “vault”. That will remain to be seen, but at least we still have his fantastic library to pour through as we wish. Personally, I am sorry to see him gone, but I will continue to revel in his music until my own passing. RIP Prince.

This Is NOT a Cheap Trick

In the middle of October 1997, I had my usual weekend of no sports between my Cross Country and Basketball seasons. It was my weekend to stay with my dad, which was really Saturday night, since Friday had been the Sectional Cross Country meet, and I always liked to sleep in my bed after a sporting event. But, I also knew that this was new album weekend, not to sound like the guys on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and their “New Comics Wednesday”. But, I could usually count on getting one new album every other month when I went with Dad, which was kind of cool, all things considered, though I would have rather had my parents back together then.Cheap_Trick-logoOn “New Album Day”, Dad would take my brother and me to Service Merchandise (remember that place?) and let us get something. In the weeks leading up to this day, I was doing my due diligence by pouring over the album reviews in Creem, Circus and Rolling Stone magazines. In all three cases, they were pushing a relatively new band’s sophomore album. This band was from Rockford, Illinois, and was called Cheap Trick, and their new album was In Color. This album was getting great marks from the magazines, but I still wasn’t sure.

In those magazines, I learned about the dichotomy of their image: two guys who were the “sex symbols” and two guys who were the “music nerds”. Well, that appealed to me for some reason. The writers and critics all talked about the sense of humor in the band being sarcastic and parodist. Of course, even at the tender age of 14, those sensibilities appealed to me. Then, at the time, for some reason, the band was being lumped into the American brand of punk and new wave music. Finally, I got a look at their artwork of the album, and I was sold. This album had move to the top of the Keller list with a bullet.

Cheap_Trick_In_ColorWhen I got to the store, I noticed posters hanging up around the music section displaying the album cover. That was “cool enough” in my mind, seeing the “sexy half” of the band on the cover on motorcycles. So I flipped the album over. And, lo and behold, this was the image I saw.

Cheap_Trick_In_Color_back_cover

I laughed and laughed! Now, that’s what I was talking about, putting the “nerds” upside down on mopeds in a black-and-white photo on the back in order to contrast the two halves of the band.

The only thing is that when I got the album home and gave it a listen, I heard a band that played and created with a unity that was unparalleled at the time and ever since. These guys were diving back into the music of their youth – the Beatles, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, Small Faces, the Move – assimilating that music and using it to create their own muscle power pop sound that would go on to influence new wave music, power pop music, hair metal music and alternative music. But, I did not realize Cheap Trick would go on to continue to influence musicians to this day. What I had on my turntable was an album called In Color, and it was blowing my mind.

Throughout the record, I heard potential hits, from “I Want You to Want Me” to “Southern Girls” to my personal favorite “Downed”. I was hooked. This band was playing directly in my undiscovered musical wheelhouse. From the opening chords of “Hello There” through the slamming ending of “So Good to See You”, and all points in between, I was hit with an album that could easily be the setlist of a concert that year.

Cheap_Trick_In_Color_inner_gatefold

No other band had a guitar hook that sounded like an old clock chiming the hours that Cheap Trick put into “Clock Strikes Ten.” They could blast the listener away with a punkish “You’re All Talk”, all the while creating a pure pop song that you were certain would pop in concert with “I Want You to Want Me.” And with songs like “Big Eyes”, “Oh Caroline” and “”Come On, Come On” rounding out the set, I knew I was listening to MY band.

During the ensuing years, many people have been disappointed with In Color‘s glossy production. The band even went as far as to re-record the whole album with Nirvana-producer Steve Albini in the mid-1990s in order to make it sound like it should. The album has never been released to the public, but bootleg copies can be found on the internet. The Albini-mix is much more muscular, and probably conveys what these songs actually sound like in concert than the original mix. Now, as to why this new production has never been released as been the speculation of many, but it may come down to the one reason that Cheap Trick never really took over the music world that many thought would, and that has to do with poor management and lukewarm backing from their label. If the life and times of the band known as Cheap Trick interests you at all, there is a fantastic book from the mid-1990s that covered the band as well as any musical artist before or after. The book is titled Reputation Is a Fragile Thing: The Story of Cheap Trick by Mike Hayes with Ken Sharp. Currently, I have seen the book listed on eBay from upwards of a $1000 (no kidding!). However, it was recently announced on Pop Geeks Heaven website run by Bruce Bodeen that a second run of the book will be released soon. You might look at Bruce’s great website about all things power pop in order to get the details.

Of course, since Cheap Trick was just recently inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (my faux boycott is now over!), they have become a “hot” commodity. On April 1, 2016, the band released their first new album of material since 2009’s great The Latest. The new album’s title is Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello. Plus, on Record Store Day, they had two special releases. First, they released a 10″ EP called Found New Parts, which had four new songs on it, three from the new album and one that was unreleased, titled “Arabesque”. The other RSD release with a double vinyl album release of their 1997 CD, The Complete Budokan Concert, which includes all of the music played for that immortalized Japanese audience from the 1979 classic album Cheap Trick at Budokan.

If you are not familiar with Cheap Trick, I can only encourage you to take the plunge and purchase one of their first five albums, which will give you the best overview of the band. If you were a fan, go back and listen to them to rekindle your friendship with the band’s music. Cheap Trick has the ability to cover all emotions from loneliness and sadness to joyfulness to party time! Plus, they are still together, without original drummer Bun E. Carlos, who has been replaced by guitarist Rick Nielson’s son Daxx, touring and knocking concert fans out with the energy. They are still a very vital band, though many of us have forgotten about them.

1983: The Summer My Musical Tastes Changed Forever

I needed a job for the summer of 1983, so I participated in a series of interviews that could allow me to spend the summer being a counselor at a summer camp. Most of these camps were sports camps. I was hoping to parlay my basketball, track & field, cross country, cycling and/or baseball backgrounds into a summer job. While I was interviewing for those kind of jobs, I was interviewed by a resort barely across the Wisconsin/Illinois state line. Once again, I was trying for a sports activity director job. Instead, I was offered a job as a waiter/busboy. Since I could make more money, I took the resort job.

Needless to say, the job was interesting. There was a definite “look” the employers were going for when you were hired for a position. Case in point the sports activity directors were some of the least athletic people I had ever met, but they looked athletic. The intelligent/cynical people were put in the dining room. I worked with young people from all over the Mid West, like Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, etc.

The work was demanding. Some weeks, your patrons were very demanding and simply enjoyed watching the workers jump through hoops. But, most were laidback and tipped you well. Of course, I got to know a group of people who were musicians. One young man in particular, his name was Ted, was a DJ as well as a musician. I loved talking with these people about popular music. They all believe there was two types of music: good and bad. If it moved you, it was good. If it sounded as though a small group of people were exploiting the talent and/or the listener, the music was bad. Simple enough. Now, I could intellectually justify sticking with my love of Styx all the while backing the whole punk movement. It was all pop music.

At the time, my favorite artists were The Police, Talking Heads, Tom Petty, Prince, Cheap Trick, Bruce Springsteen; you know, pretty much everyone I still listen to today. One day Ted came up to me, holding a cassette tape in his hand, yelling, “This is the greatest album of all time.” Now, I roomed with another blonde-headed guy whose name was Scott, so I was known as “Sid” up there. Ted continued, “Sid, pop it into your cassette player.”FG - Shake Some ActionSo, I popped the cassette in and pushed play. We were listening to an album from 1975 called Shake Some Action by a band called the Flamin’ Groovies. What I heard was a pure power pop album with all of the nods being made to ’60s artists such as The Kinks, The Who, Small Faces, and, of course, The Beatles. This album was true manna. I was hooked. How could I have missed this band? Well, radio didn’t play it, of course. Later, he introduced me to Big Star, Raspberries and so many other Power Pop bands, that music began to make sense to me. No longer was I in pursuit of the bands with a new sound, but bands that were able to take old influences and make them new.

A couple of weeks later, Ted came running up to my room yelling about another album that will blow my mind. This one was a compilation of ’60s songs done by artists who basically sounded like all of the current punk, new wave and power pop bands we were listening to that summer. The album was called Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968. All of a sudden I was hearing songs that had been played at my parents’ schools during the sock hops I stayed for after my dad’s basketball games he coached. Memories came flooding back, along with sounds that were eerily similar to bands today. My transformation was complete. I was back to being a pop music aficionado and less of a classic rock person.

Nuggets,_Volume_1

So, there you have it – my evolution as a music listener. I no longer was going to limit myself to what Q95 played. After that summer, I was diving headfirst into Motown, English Mod music, soul music, disco, funk, west coast hardcore punk, and all kinds of other types of music. My listening has become so much more pleasurable when I don’t limit myself. Hmmmm, maybe that should be my philosophy of life. 1983 was my year of enlightenment, I guess.

Ted, the greatest song of all-time is not the Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”. I still say it’s the Raspberries’ “Go All the Way”. Agree to disagree, oh well.