Monday, July 17, 2006

"I never wanted to be your weekend lover"

I love that line.

"Purple Rain" is a great song, in my opinion, and plenty depressing enough to fit this week’s vibe. Having seen most of the movie it comes from last weekend on HBO, and being astonished anew at its...Purple Rain-ness..., I figured it would be doubly timely to post the YouTube clip below of the performance from the film.

I came to have a deep respect for Prince late(r) in life, but in 1985, I was going to confirmation classes at my church sporting a T-shirt with an iron-on decal of Michael Jackson’s Thriller cover. To me, Prince was, at best, "that guy who sings 'When Doves Cry.' "

So I didn’t see Purple Rain until college or so, I’m guessing, and of course wasn’t impressed. I’m still not, but it’s bracing to see, in the same movie, such goodness (five or six great songs) alongside such badness (everything else).

It’s a shame this performance -- the dramatic climax of the movie, such as it is, and not to be confused with the earlier climaxes involving Apollonia, which brought the project to the verge of an X rating -- is canned, and not live (the song was recorded live, I believe, for the soundtrack, making it especially annoying they didn’t film a live version for the screen).

Prince never gets enough credit for being one of the best guitar players in recent memory. I guess he made it hard to focus on that looking like he does throughout the movie, like someone who spent most of the ‘80s auditioning to be the bass player for Sexual Chocolate. His appearance and his mushy spirituality made him more likely to be singled out by fans like “poison2funke,” a commenter on YouTube who wrote the following:
Prince is my soul mate. if youre reading this more than an illusion. Take a dare. Take a voyage. i know what you feel. i know your trip. dont be scared. journey into the person i am.
Strange, yes, but I guess that’s what a guy gets from his fans when he’s penned lyrics like, “I’m not human, I am a dove.”

But do yourself a favor (even if you already subjected yourself to the clip above) and watch the live performance below from a 1985 awards show. The whole thing is pretty incendiary, especially the guitar solo. If you’ve watched any awards shows in the past 15 years, does this not make you amenable to arguments that everything is getting worse? I mean, this performance was on an awards show? Sure, he’s dressed like Liberace, but he also seems to be channeling, in turn, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, and James Brown. Not bad.

You should really watch the whole thing, but the solo starts at 4:12 or so and it’s something. Lionel Richie, looking as spangled as ever, introduces the band with this statement: "There’s been a revolution in American music. It’s not just for listening anymore, it’s for looking," referring to the dawn of MTV’s day. They're sad words in light of the performance that follows, since MTV’s friendliness to young guys with six-pack abs and even younger girls with pigtails and...well, six-pack abs...has long kept attention from being focused on truly great musicians like Prince. Not that there are many like him out there, but if there is somebody, kids today are increasingly unlikely to know. Enjoy:



Blogger JS said...

I've never stopped loving the Purple O.M.P.S. I only recently noticed that "Purple Rain" is about 9 minutes long.

I recently caught Prince on SNL and everyone in the room stopped talking. He wails.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Saw an unplugged Prince performance on MTV about two years ago and it was ridiculous. The man has a talent that I did not realize when I was young and simply thought"that guy dresses silly".

6:37 PM  

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