Monday, 2 January 2012

I get delirious whenever U're near. Lose all self-control, baby, just can't steer. Wheels get locked in place. Get a stupid look on my face

Pick of the Week

“Delirious” by Prince (1982)

So today we will look at a simple recipe. See if you can prepare some yourself. It is fast and easy!

Power Soul Stew: Minneapolis recipe

In one large pan, sear 4 Tbsps of pounded Jimmi Hendrix guitar riffs and ½ lb of James Brown’s funk. Then shred some Michael Jackson moves and vocal styles and stir in (3-4 Tbsp to taste), increasing the heat until a rolling boil; at least 120 beats per minute. Next, chop up some Chuck Berry riffs and stir in. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. While this is simmering, in a separate pan blanche some Joni Mitchell and some ‘Atlantic-era’ songs in the water of the Minneapolis sound. Combine all ingredients. Sprinkle with a bit of Miles Davis. Serve to cool people.

If I was only allowed to use one word to describe Prince it would be ‘prolific’. Boring you say?
Well hang on. He has released some 30 albums and provided material for many others including the Bangles, Sheila E., Chaka Khan, and many others. Believe it or not, he is the same league and Lennon & McCartney, Bob Dylan in terms of songs written, and has skills up there with Joni Mitchell and maybe (well maybe not) Paul Simon.

Prince is also an amazing guitar player. In this one performance many years ago for the Rock and Roll Hall of fame he came out and just lit it up. I mean, I knew he was good, but wow!

He was also one of the most influential producers and arrangers of the ‘80’s. If that was not enough, he was putting on ground-breaking shows like his idol James Brown.

So ya, actually he was born Prince Rodgers Nelson. Brought up in Minneapolis his father led a jazz trio and his mom sang.  Learning how to play every instrument he could get his hands on, he listened to rock and all the R&B he could get in somewhat isolated Minneapolis. He formed a band in High School called ‘Grand Central’ already well on his way.

His debut album, “I’m Yours” in 1978 (when he was 20) was completely played by Prince – all 27 instruments. The song “Soft and Wet” did modestly well going to number 12 on the “Hot Soul Singles chart”. He decided he needed a band and 1979’s “Prince” rocked up to number four on ‘Billboard’. Songs like “Why you Wanna Treat Me So Bad” which sold over one million copies.

In 1980/81 Prince put out the albums “Dirty Minds” and then “Controversy”, appearing on Saturday Night Live for the first time, and opened for Rick James. His lyrics were very explicit in songs like “Head”.

In 1982, Prince’s “1999” (a double album) hit commercial pay-dirt, selling over 3 million copies. Songs like “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious” were heard everywhere and his videos were played on MTV with heavy rotation.  

On the soundtrack for the freakish melodrama called “Purple Rain”, Prince and the Revolution (as he called his band) was a lot more accessible to the masses and it sold. Songs like the title track, “Purple Rain”, “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” soared on the charts. There were other strong songs like “Computer Blue” and “Take Me With U” on the 13 million selling album, .The use of letters for words was not new, but Prince seemed to like it.  Later he wrote “Nothing Compares to U” for Sinead O’Connor”. (Maybe he was influenced by Sly & the Family Stone and liked the abbreviations they used such as their 1969,”Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”).

Prince may have been responsible for the “Explicit lyrics” warning label on recordings. When Tipper Gore, (Al Gore’s wife at the time) heard her 12 year-old daughter listening to “Darling Nikki”, she founded the ‘Parents Music Resource Center’, and somehow persuaded the music industry to ‘voluntarily’ put ‘Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” on albums. Of course the song is about one of Princes ‘sex friends’.

In comparison to today’s songs, Prince shocked us with the blunt sexuality his songs. The value of rock and roll is sometimes measured in shock value and Prince certainly had his share.

Prince did do things his way and the next album “Around the World in a Day” is a psychedelic train seemingly going nowhere. At about the same time his second movie soundtrack “Parade” for the terrible film “Under the Cherry Moon” was a bit better representation of where he was going. He mostly played all the instrumentation on his records while recording. In 1986 his “Manic Monday” went to number two for the Bangles and his “Kiss” went to number one.

By 1987 “Sign ‘O the Times” was released the title song went to number three. He also did a duet with a reluctant Sheena Easton (U Got the Look) trying to bolster her career went to number two. She was a bit taken aback by the lyrics Prince had her sing though.

After he stopped the presses on his next album “The Black Album” (deciding it was evil) he hurriedly replaced it with ‘Lovesexy” in 1988. In 1989 he appeared on Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” album with unaccredited guitar performances for a number of songs.  Later that year, asked by Tim Burton to come up with a soundtrack for his upcoming ‘Batman’ movie produced a nine track album that went to number one on the charts.

Of course everyone knows Prince is a bit eccentric or at least that is the promotional image we have of him. In any interview I have seen he is intelligent and well-spoken. He has had his issues; the use of the symbol instead of his name, copy write issues with YouTube, etc. but I don’t really know the reasons behind them and hey, I just listen to the music and judge it, not the artists personally.

The fact that Prince has sold over 80 million albums: ten platinum albums and 30 top forty singles are to very much understand his contribution to music. Prince was the new funky in the ‘80’s pioneering the “Minneapolis sound”, his productions, stage presence and instrumental mastery vaulted him to being really one of the most influential pop artists of all time.  

I remember listening to a Mitch Ryder album he put out in the ‘80’s that had the cut “When you Were Mine” and when I read the liner notes discovered it was Prince. I thought, hey if Mitch Ryder can get into Prince when he was forty it must be o.k.

P.S.  it was very tough finding a video due to the whole dispute Prince has with YouTube so not sure how long this video will stay posted.

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