Prince Wins

I downloaded the full album of covers of ‘Purple Rain’ Spin assembled for the article I mentioned thid morning and it’s a lot of fun. (.ksa 2 woh on u fi drow cigam eht u llet lliw eye)

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings take on ‘Take Me With U’ is smokin’ hot. It sounds like a lost James Brown classic if James Brown sang like Aretha Franklin. Really. The Riverboat Gamblers had a nice take on ‘Let’s Go Crazy. It reminded me of my old pal Robert Rial mixed with Nick Cave or something.

‘The Beautiful One’s’ sounds like it should have been on the ‘Electro Goth Tribute to Prince’ album Cleopatra put out a few years ago. Which, incidentally, has some really essential cuts on it. Rebecca Romijn’s cover of ‘Darling Nikki’ is so good that even Wulf liked it. No kidding. Everyone who hears it loves it. The cover of ‘Darling Nikki’ here is by Chairlift who also has a female vocalist, but I like Rebecca Romijn’s better.

But I do like the inclusion of the backmasking bit at the end, which I believe is essential to the song and Romijn skipped it. One of the reasons Purple Rain should be considered an important album is because it is one of the the last great records ever produced with the convention of having two sides; contemporary artists have been freed of the mechanical reality of flipping the record that ensured an interruption of the work. The best albums embraced this enforced intermission; think of Sgt Pepper or Dark Side, or countless others, unless, of course, you’re of an age where you only listen to these songs on ‘shuffle’. Here the grey beard shakes his fist at Time Itself and tells the kids they don’t know what they’re missing with their newfangled technology that he himself adores and embraces wholeheartedly. The bit of prettily eerie backmasking closing side one, and the spare simple beat of ‘When Doves Cry’ opening side two are effective bits of compositional inspiration that are meaningless in the mp3 age.

The punk mariachi version of ‘I Would Die 4 U’ is spectacular with spicy horns and guitar rhythm crunchiness and a beautiful take on the refrain. This and the Sharon Jones cuts are definitely my favorites, but the rest of the record works fine for what I paid for it. I am struck by the fact that I saw this magazine on the newsstand while in the midst of the media frenzy surrounding Michael Jackson’s transfiguration into a secular god; clearly Jackson is destined, like Elvis and Marilyn or Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop, to gaze in maudlin happiness at mortals from merchandise and sing from mall speakers for decades, perhaps even a century to come.

It is generally uncouth to speak ill of the dead but in this case I must make an exception as I cannot reconcile the glossing over of the monstrous corruption that festered in Neverland. Michael Jackson possessed great glamor, but I use the word in a literal sense; it is as if he magically charmed people with illusions that allowed him to do as he pleased without consequence. He literally announced to the world that he thought it was just dandy to share his bed with prepubescent boys and still managed to portray himself as a victim when authorities investigated.

Twenty five years ago I was frequently told by adults that I shouldn’t listen to that nasty Prince music and asked why I didn’t like that nice Michael Jackson? Probably because they were both black the two artists were frequently and unfairly compared to each other, with Jackson being the paragon of wholesomeness embraced by the mainstream and Prince as the dangerous outsider. In my eyes, Jackson resembled Nosferatu in clown makeup, an artist turned predator who exploited innocence. Purple Rain was a quasi-autobiography that actually painted Prince in flawed terms; he slaps his girlfriend, pisses off his friends, and has a messed up family. He didn’t try to pretend to be something he wasn’t and that’s why the music and film still resonate a quarter of a century later.

7 Responses to “Prince Wins”

  1. ok, well i’m down with a punk mariachi version of anything – and i totally get the hepped up pure sex thing that is prince, I love the little purple guy (am pretty sure there is a benny hill euphamism in there somewhere…) must try and grab that somewhere, tahnk you ()as with senor coconut – you always introduce me to glaringly awesum stuff)

    but, it doesn’t get me like the eleven year old michael jackson. driving into work last friday – down the M8, through neglected tower blocks with the sun a watery pale yellow – I am absolutely lifted up – out of the drudgery of the day job, children and their occasional problems that, like london buses come at once. There are no money worries, no reluctance, no self loathing, no concerns, No unrequited lusts, no bitterness, no awareness of my failings or dreams – all there is, is an eleven year old boy with a huge ass afro singing with total joy – possibly with his father standing over him with belt to make it so – but oH! darling, give me one more chance! to! show you that I love you!

    I feel so sad about Jackson – the childish potential squashed by yes men, bad advice and the inability to put aside childish things (but I envy that apparent innocence..) I hate the mob mentality pitchfork waving ‘duh’ people who can’t look further than how a tabloid tells them to think) I do find the whole hoo-hah around his death diana-like. I can’t equate the love and passion that so many people have about MJ with the way that he is regarded by easy points. I don’t have the evidence to refute claims, I can’t be arsed to research because, it isn’t that important to me. ipeople settle out of court, or not – they do what they do.

    yes, prince = genius, but I also don’t see them as natural ‘competitors’, other than both black musical geniuses. there is room for more than one.

    as an aside. My children weren’t overly familiar with jackson. Mo especially is now completly enamoured. I was trying to explain to him about how other children might talk about him, dismissively as a paedophile, but he had never heard that at all.. alll he saw was a man who loved performing. We went swimming last saturday – a weekly family excursion and Mo was moonwalking (badly!) in the tiled floor foyer area.waiting for Hamish to get dressed, throwing some shapes – all he got was the sheer utter joy.

    he sings raspberry beret, but it’s not he same. πŸ™‚

    love to all chicagoans, arizonans (?) and wherever alise is these days. I want to come back!

  2. lord that didn’t look as long when i was writing it. πŸ˜‰

  3. This blog design has a way of making four or five paragraphs seem like a novella, but it is always a delightful bonus when you’re feeling chatty in any case. It’s funny, I expected this to be a disleasing post, but I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s you taking me to task.

    Jackson is a tragic figure no matter the perspective; there is such promise and joy on those early records that it seems incomprehensible that he ended up the way he did, but there’s very little that’s inevitable in human lifetimes. The truth, of course, is that I’ve never met the man and only know what anyone else in the public does about him, which mostly are things his publicist wanted us to know. It’s the few things we know about him that he fought very hard for us to not know about that are the most revealing. Thinking about him and his life makes me sad as well. The few times I glimpsed his eyes from behind his sunglasses in photos and films from the past fifteen or twenty years I saw a terrible bleakness and pain. I don’t think it was fun to be him.

    I can appreciate the importance of separating the art from the artist; it’s unfair to hold some people to a higher standard than others. It certainly isn’t up to me to forgive or condemn him, either. I just have a hard time working up grief for him. But also can’t deny the joy in the music; I can admit to you that I’ve had ‘Black or White’ running through my head since Thursday afternoon…
    gotta run.
    much love.

  4. it’s that goddam looped slash guitar lick.

    With the benefit of hindsight, I can look at the jacksons in the seventies and feel sad at the potential squashed and what fame can sometimes do.

    Funny you mentioning black and white – I feel there was a degree of acceptability in the jacksons for white people worried about the panthers and equality movements at the time, in that they are *very* non threatenning. they have their nice natural fros and stuff, so there is a nod to the civil rights movement – and they were very cross-over – theres no sexuality at all (which certainly wouldn’t be appropriate when Michael was at his youngest) which again, would have made the jackson 5 more palatable to middle america.

    The thing I find especially distasteful about the tabloid media approach to jacksons death is – leaving aside the child abuse allegations for a mo, Jackson was either mentally ill due to various problems growing up and as such should have been treated and helped if possible, and at least looked on kindly, because as a society we should try and treat the mentally ill where possible, not point, yell freak and run away *or* a fairly harmless eccentric and we need more eccentrics in the public eye as oppossed to this assinine beigeness that pervades the entretainment industry.

    I agree a lot of the ‘facts’ we know about Jackson are managed by publicists and yes-people and so a lot of what we think we know can be taken with a pinch of salt.

    dread to think what this one will look like. I could go on, I’d best not.

  5. It is one of the catchiest guitar riffs ever…

    The Jacksons had the same sort of wholesomeness that Disney projected; that is to say that they seemed perfectly wonderful as long as you never looked too close.

    When you consider the extreme circumstances of his life it’s difficult to apply labels like ‘mentally ill’ or ‘eccentric’ because he can’t be contained in a single explanation. Even allowing for the enormous influence of formative events the entirety of a person can’t be boiled down to how our daddy treated us or what happened in high school; we are all more than the sum of our parts. And then there is the warping element of media exposure that the rest of us can’t even imagine. To have never had any real privacy, to have been in the fisheye lens from childhood; these things didn’t help.

    I certainly hope that you don’t feel that I’m yelling ‘monster’ because of his eccentric body modification or odd behavior; I am a proponent of idiosyncratic individuals everywhere.

  6. No, of course I don’t – i know you’re smarter than that – you appreciate me and my arguably less extreme body modifications, I know you see people not appearence.

    it’s all very difficult and the general publics quest for salacious detail is at best disquieting.

    I do agree that the sum of our parts in the case is saddening. I feel there is obviously more than we ever will, amd arguably should know about an individual. when you buy a CD – you buy a CD ( I wanted to type ‘record’, but I would look very old!) I don’t think you do own part of someones soul and whilst I admire the jackson fans who sit shiva in the way that I admire people with belief in higher offices, because it comforts and ritualises and allows a sense if belonging, I can’t connect with either.

    ah. everything is sad toay. the worms and ravens are crawling out from under stones and flying in from far away fields.

  7. sorry! have to pick up a point – disney? not wonderful?

    ok, ok – there are never any fat princesses – but Belle in beauty and the beast , seeing past appearance to love someone for who they are, not what they are…head stuck in a book… whip smart?

    and who doesn’t cheer-on the evil step mother in snow white? πŸ˜‰

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