strawberry soda from ecuador

Day 30: Purple Rain (the untold story)

Well, we’ve come to the end of the month. I hope you’ve enjoyed the songs and a bit of the stories behind them. When it comes right down to it, for a real appreciation of Prince’s genius, you have to go past the amazing lyrics and powerful music to find the stories about HOW he made the music. Like the fact that he had the “Purple Rain” album completely written when the record company decided none of the singles were suitable for a debut single, so he went back and wrote TEN songs overnight, including “When Doves Cry”. Like the fact that his first few albums were completely written, produced, and arranged by Prince alone and he also did all of the vocals and played all the instruments. Before getting his first major record deal, one of the conditions was that he prove to the record company that he had done everything on his demo by himself (they thought he was faking) When he went into the studio and did it all solo again, they knew what kind of talent they were dealing with.

And then there’s this video. Everyone knows the song. It’s his magnum opus, and undoubtedly one of his best. But many people probably didn’t realize that the recording that’s on the album, and is shown in the movie is recorded almost note for note from this performance from a charity event at First Avenue almost a year before the movie debuted. It’s also the first time the band had ever played the song in public, and the first time Wendy Melvoin played in public as a member of The Revolution. If you listen closely, you can hear some of the crowd noises that you’ll hear on the album. The song was cleaned up a bit, some orchestration was added, a verse was removed, but other than that, this performance is what’s on the album.

One of the few blessings of the last year has been the discovery of footage like this that shows some of what went on behind the scenes in the making of his music. It has been a blessing getting a chance to see videos that many of us haven’t seen in decades, and learn new things about this man we all love through interviews with his friends and loved ones. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the genius that it took to constantly reinvent himself with each album. I used to think that it was sad that he never achieved the same success that he had with “Purple Rain” again, because he did release plenty of music that was as good, if not better. But in the end, if the greatest thing you ever make is something of the magnitude of “Purple Rain”, what a tremendous gift you’ve given the world! To ask for more than that would almost be greedy.

So here is the video of the first time “Purple Rain” was ever performed in public. I apologize for the quality, but after all this is a video from a nightclub performance in 1983! I don’t own this video, so please don’t share it or the link. I don’t want to get any record company lawyers breathing down my neck. I’m only sharing it because the story behind the song and the way it was recorded is almost as powerful as the song itself.  (Click on the photo below to watch.)

purple rain

Thank you for coming along for the journey this month. It’s been a pleasure sharing so much of his amazing work and it has helped take a bit of the sting out of missing him so badly.

I wish u heaven.

xoxo,

Michelle O(+>

dmsr mix

Day 29: DMSR

I really hope everyone’s heard this one, but I don’t really want to take any chances. Talk about your straight-up, no question funk anthem – this is it.

“DMSR” (or “Dance Music Sex Romance”) was a sure way to drive everybody to the dance floor back in the day.  I believe it even made an appearance in the movie “Risky Business”.  It’s from the “1999” album. And it’s not such a bad philosophy when you get right down to it. Later on in his career after he converted to Jehovah’s Witness, he switched up the lyrics a bit, but it didn’t take away from how absolutely amazing this song really is.

So here, without further ado, “DMSR”. Enjoy your Saturday night! (Click on the photo.)

prince dmsr

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

greatest

Day 28: The Greatest Romance Ever Sold

If you go on any Prince fan message boards, there’s bound to be at least one board devoted to interpretations of the lyrics to this song. And given that it’s Prince, there’s every chance that not one of us got it *right*. I won’t try to interpret it for anyone else; all I can say is that lyrically, I think it’s one of his finest songs. And it’s one of his sexiest, as well.

“The Greatest Romance Ever Sold” is the third track on Prince’s “Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic” album.  Various remixes of the song were also released with Eve, Maceo Parker and The Neptunes taking part.

It’s sensual and slinky and gorgeous. Enjoy the video by clicking the image below.

prince greatest romance

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

god

Day 27: God (Instrumental)

Yep – an instrumental today. I’ve been in a yoga/meditation frame of mind and I think this song is just perfect for it.

If you’ve ever seen “Purple Rain”, you’ll recognize this as the love song that’s played when Apollonia and Prince make love for the first time. The instrumental version is the b-side to “Purple Rain”. Prince actually recorded a version of the song with lyrics that are a sort of Prince version of the beginning of the book of Genesis. But I think that the instrumental version has so much more impact, simply because the music is so beautiful and transcendent.

Click on the photo below to enjoy “God”, and I hope that it has the same effect on you that it has on me.

prince god

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

prince 2

Day 26: Temptation

This is another song from “Around the World in a Day” – the final track on the album.

The song starts right away with a blistering guitar solo that leads immediately into a classic bump and grind and all of this melts into one of Prince’s sexiest songs ever, in my humble opinion. He does some amazing vocal theatrics in the song, but at its core, it’s just sexy, but it’s also much more. He begins the song talking about how everyone in the world has a vice (and his is obviously sexual) and by the end of the song, a higher being comes to him and shows him the error of his ways. He now understands that “love is more important than sex” and promises to be good. Yet another example of Prince’s mixing of sex and faith and his constant effort to reconcile the two, given society’s beliefs and some religious beliefs.

Click on the photo below to listen to “Temptation”.

Prince-4
Talk about purple electricity…

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

prince controversy

Day 25: Controversy

“Controversy” is the title song to Prince’s 4th studio album, “Controversy”. It also marks a radical shift in his music and his career. Enter the trademark purple trench coat, immaculately trimmed facial hair, skintight pants and heeled boots. In the video, he’s jumping off the stacks, and most of the players that would eventually become The Revolution are in place.

prince controversy

Just as fine decades later. 

The song’s lyrics show that Prince had obviously become famous enough at this point to draw the attention of the press and the public in general. The opening lines of the song show his feelings on the intrusive nature of some of the attention:

I just can’t believe all the things people say (Controversy)

Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? (Controversy)

Do I believe in God? Do I believe in me? (Controversy)”

Prince was always a very private person, so it’s not surprising that he wasn’t keen on interviews and constant probing into his private life. It seems he never really understood why people were curious about such things. He felt that he showed what people needed to see through his music and wasn’t interested in being a tabloid story. And the more secretive he was, the more curious the public became. He always had a love/hate relationship with the media, often deliberately feeding them false information about himself, and creating an aura of mystique that lasted through his entire lifetime.

Click on the photo to watch the “Controversy” video.

controversy

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

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Day 24: The Ladder

Prince was as notorious for his faith as he was for his risque songs. And in his younger days, he had no problem reconciling the two. He viewed sex and sexuality as a gift from God, and seemed to also see it as a way to commune with the Divine.

“The Ladder” is the eighth track on “Around the World In a Day”, and is a funky, straight up gospel song. The song starts with the story of a mythical king living in the land of “Sin-a-Plenty” who was looking for the ladder. The ladder is a metaphor for whatever we are looking for in life – a deity, the meaning of our existence, the answers to our most basic questions.

atwiad

Cover art for “Around the World In a Day” featuring The Ladder in the middle. 

The song was co-written by Prince’s father, John L. Nelson, and the strings were composed by Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin. This song really was a family affair. In addition to Prince’s father working on the song, two of Wendy’s siblings (Susannah and Jonathan – who later went on to play for the band Smashing Pumpkins) and Lisa’s brother, Jonathan did as well.

The song wasn’t released as a single, and wasn’t regularly featured in his live shows, but was widely considered one of his best gospel songs.

And here is “The Ladder”.

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

adore

Day 23: Adore

My intention for this month of blogging was to cover some of Prince’s lesser-known works, but this one is just too good to ignore, even if it is a bit more well-known.

I love Prince’s music no matter the style – funk, R&B, rock, pop, soul, psychedelic, hip-hop – you name it. But nobody does a love song the way that he does. I mean, “The Beautiful Ones”? “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”? “Forever in My Life”? “Slow Love”? I love them all. But “Adore” is one of those songs that is sure to get every woman (and probably a lot of the men) in the audience all twitterpated. And he knew it. He absolutely knew how to write a love song that was sure to make you fall in love with him. “Adore” is a perfect slow groove from a man who wrote quite a few of them.

adore prince adore

“Adore” is the last song on the second disc of the “Sign O’ The Times” album. Prince does all of the vocals and plays all of the instruments in the song with the exception of the horns. His last performance of the song was on April 14, 2016, during the first of two shows at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Those would be his last performances.

Enjoy “Adore” by clicking on the photo below.

prince adore

Peace and b wild,

Michelle  O(+>

tamborine 4

Day 22: Tamborine

Well, the one-year anniversary of Prince’s passing has come and gone and I don’t mind telling you, it was rough for his “fams” (that’s what he called his fans). An internet radio station interviewed an associate of Prince’s and the guy summed it up perfectly. He said it really hasn’t fully hit that he’s gone because there’s still new music coming out, new stories – things none of us have ever seen or heard before. And it’s likely to stay that way for years to come, so it’s going to be a prolonged grief and it will hit hard when we get to the point that there’s nothing new coming from him. It’s hard knowing that while there will be new music, new photos, new interviews, there will never be another performance or concert. Never another chance to see him live, which is where he really shone brightest. But I think he was too beautiful, too special to have stayed here too long.

But today is not for grief. Today is for remembering him through his music, and the song I chose for today is such a fun, clever, sexy song. I’m sure when it came out (I was 14), I had *some* inkling that he wasn’t singing about an actual tamborine and I knew the song itself was sexy. But I think I was a little older before I figured out what exactly he was talking about.

 

 

That look tells you all you need to know about the "tamborine".
That look tells you all you need to know about the “tamborine”.

 

“Tamborine” is the fifth track on “Around the World in a Day”, and true to the album’s experimental nature, this is a strange little song but ultimately very catchy, too. Oddly enough, though the song was recorded in 1984, the album released in 1985, Prince didn’t perform the song live until 2002, and it was during one of his late night, after party jam sessions in London.

I don’t know that this was ever an incredibly popular song, but I love when Prince gets playful with sex and sensuality and this is a perfect example of that.

prince with tamborine

Again with that tamborine…

I found an audio of the song on Youtube. It’s not great quality but the way it’s presented is interesting. The guy who runs the channel takes out his old vinyl, puts in on a record player and video records it. It gives you the feeling that you’re back in your bedroom in the 80s listening to these tracks for the first time. So check it out here.

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

sometimes it snows black

Day 21: Sometimes It Snows in April

This truly is the only song that would do for today – the one year anniversary of Prince’s passing.

prince upward

In a truly outstanding twist of fate, Prince recorded this song on April 21, 1985 – exactly 21 years to the day before his untimely death. The song seems even more prophetic when you listen to the lyrics. The entire song describes the death of one of Prince’s alter egos (and his character in “Under the Cherry Moon”) – Christopher Tracy. When writing the movie, Prince insisted that his character die at the end of the movie, and even after test screenings showed that audiences responded poorly to the ending, he refused to change it. Given that Prince was so fond of symbolism and metaphor, I’ve often wondered if Christopher Tracy was meant to be a symbol of the darker side of himself – the playboy with the roving eye, and his symbolic death was meant to show that Prince was ready to commit to a long-term relationship (at the time he was engaged to Susannah Melvoin). Or was it meant to show that he was entering a new phase in his career? “Parade” would be the last album with the Revolution. Was it meant to show something deeper?

Whatever the meaning, it’s become an anthem for Prince fans, with some believing that Prince foresaw his own death (and a small portion believing it means that his death was intentional or was part of a conspiracy). For the rest of us, it is a fitting way to eulogize someone who shared so much joy and amazing art with the world. And someone who gave so much of himself to his fans.

It is a hauntingly beautiful song with a very simple arrangement. This is the final song on “Parade” and one of the songs Prince sang in the final encore of his last show  – “Sometimes It Snows in April”.

prince piano
Click on the photo to listen to “Sometimes It Snows in April”.

 

All good things they say never last..

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>