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Edge Of A Broken Heart: The Runaway Bon Jovi Song

As if Slippery When Wet could have gotten any bigger. Well it COULD have.

 

When we think of 80’s mega albums, Slippery When Wet rubs elbows with Thriller, Purple Rain, Make It BigMadonnaHysteria, Can’t Slow Down, Toto IV, Sports, Born In The U.S.A., and Back In Black.

 

The Bon Jovi Holy Grail spent 8 weeks at #1 (Billboard), 38 weeks within the top 5 albums, became the best selling album in 1987, is among the 100 best selling albums (currently #48) in the United States, and has sold over 12 million copies worldwide.

Richie Sambora’s white Fender Stratocaster

 

Those of us who lived through the New Jersey invasion of the airwaves from Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, remember the 4 singles from Slippery When Wet:

 

You Give Love A Bad Name” (#1)
“Livin’ On A Prayer” (#1)
“Wanted Dead Or Alive” (#7)

 

The above trifecta here gave Slippery When Wet the notable distinction of being the first Glam Metal/Hard Rock album to have 3 top 10 hits. The Hair Metal floodgates opened from there. It was indeed a great time to own stock in Aqua Net.

 

The power ballad, “Never Say Goodbye” was released as the 4th single but not domestically so it wasn’t able the chart on Billboard’s Hot 100.  However it did reach #28 on another chart, the Hot 100 Airplay which measures how often a song is being played on radio stations and more recently streamed online as well.

 

That was the first missed opportunity for another official Bon Jovi single off of Slippery When Wet. The demand was certainly there. The second was “Raise Your Hands”, which was on the soundtrack of the classic 1987 Mel Brooks Star Wars spoof Spaceballsstarring John Candy as Barf, Rick Moranis as Lord Dark Helmet, and a pre Independence Day Bill Pullman as Captain Lone Starr.

 

The movie literally opens up with Bon Jovi. Can anyone picture flying a Winnebago in space without rocking out to “Raise Your Hands?” I mean what the hell did Han and Chewy do on the Millennium Falcon, listen to NPR and knit sweaters? Leave it to a comedy to portray something more accurate,

 

 

But the most egregious lapse in Bon Judgement was not including the amazing track “Edge Of A Broken Heart.” For whatever reason, it missed the tour bus for Slippery When Wet and has been thumbing for a ride in Bon Jovi limbo ever since. It’s a stronger song than many that were included on the album.

 

Slippery When Wet (1986) was the 3rd studio album from Bon Jovi, sandwiched between 7800° Fahrenheit (1985) and New Jersey (1988). It was also the first album they brought in songwriter Desmond Child who co-wrote the album’s 2 biggest tracks “You Give Love A Bad Name” (#1)
“Livin’ On A Prayer” (#1) with Jon and Richie as well as a few others. “Edge Of A Broken Heart” should have been on that list and on the charts.

 

For the longtime Bon Jovi fan or people who just know their songs from the radio, in either case the reaction is the same: WTF?! Why wasn’t this track [“Edge Of A Broken Heart”] released as a single?

 

Slippery When Wet (1986) had 10 songs on it of which 4 were released as singles. For comparison, other albums in this pre-CD era released more songs as singles from their respective albums as shown below:

 

Thriller (Michael Jackson, 1982) 9 tracks 7 singles all becoming top 10 hits, 8 Grammys, best selling album of all time
Can’t Slow Down (Lionel Ritchie, 1983) 8 tracks 5 singles.
Lionel should have released the title track “Can’t Slow Down” as well. It could have been his 6th single.

Back In Black (AC/DC, 1980) 10 tracks 5 singles
Sports (Huey Lewis & The News, 1983) 9 tracks 5 singles
Make It Big (Wham!, 1983) 8 tracks, 4 singles
Purple Rain (Prince, 1984) 9 tracks, 5 singles

Hysteria (Def Leppard, 1987) 12 tracks, 7 singles
Toto IV (Toto, 1982) 10 tracks 4 singles
Born In The U.S.A. (Bruce Springsteen, 1984) 12 tracks, 7 singles all becoming top 10 hits
Madonna (Madonna, 1983) 8 tracks 5 singles
Like A Virgin (Madonna, 1984/85) The 1985 reissue included “Into The Groove”, a track from the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan making the album 10 tracks with 6 singles

 




 

“Edge Of A Broken Heart” is chock full of classic Bon Jovi ingredients in their proprietary Jersey Shore stew: David Bryan’s keyboards, Sambora’s crisp crunchy power guitar parts, Jon singing a few long notes during the verses (the words “I’m” and “Now” in both verses of the song) teasing us for the bigger payoff we know he’ll deliver come chorus time.

 

The same kind of vocal hook was used in the verses of “You Give Love A Bad Name”:

Oh, oh, you’re a loaded gun
Oh, oh, there’s nowhere to run

 

This singing device is so Bon Jovi and we drink it up like like bacon flavored Kool-Aid, ready to become drooling rock zombies wearing overpriced tour T-shirts. The nutrition label on this track indeed gives us more than a full days RDA of RAWK—and you’ll still find yourself wanting second helpings of this lost hit.

 

There’s also the “Bon Jovi build” which starts up the song with Tico Torres drums, Sambora’s guitar riff and Bryan’s keyboard work until the band enters in for a full tidal wave of fun smiley 80’s rock before it recedes and gets calm again to let Jon sing about the latest fictionalized Femme fatale that crossed paths with a peaceful tour bus just trying to spread the Gospel of Rock & Roll. The lyrics even mention “Private Dancer” another classic 80’s hit/album from Tina Turner.

 

Then there’s the deluxe call and response vocal parts during the chorus between Jon and the band’s backing vocals giving us a double shot of satisfying volleyball of energy for the ears:

 

Bon Jovi Tickets

 

 

Rock chemists the world over have devised strategic formulas over the years and “Edge Of A Broken Heart” uses a tried and true mixture: The Root, Four, Five chord progression (AKA I IV V)—A classic example  being “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen.

 

Another well known chord progression is Root, Five, Four (I V VI) like Baba O’ Riley by The Who better known by as “Teenage Wasteland.”

Chords in Baba O’ Riley:  F  C  Bb  (1 5 4  or I V IV)

Chords in Edge Of A Broken Heart:  E  B  A     E  B  B  C#  A  (1 5 4   1 5 5 6 4  or  I V VI    I V V VI IV)

 

You can see and hear the first part of the chord progression is the same as Baba O’ Riley but just one note lower.

“Edge Of A Broken Heart” is also in the key of E Major like a few other classic rock tunes:

“Limelight” by Rush

“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey

 

So Slippery When Wet COULD have had a total of 6 singles released by our count here.




Savvy Glam/Hair Metal fans will know the band Vixen also had a song in 1988 of the same name off their debut album Vixen which peaked at #26 .  This “Edge Of A Broken Heart” was actually written by two other 80’s vocalists/songwriters: Richard Marx and Fee Waybill of The Tubes. Richard Marx actually co–produced the album.

 

As you can see, the #MeToo movement back in the 80’s involved sharing each other’s hair care products as well as song titles:

 

 

But you can’t copyright a title. And Bon Jovi also has song called “Runaway” which Del Shannon had a hit with back in 1961. “Runaway” is one of the “Carpal Tunnel Classics” where there’s Eternal triplet notes for keyboard players like Toto’s “Hold The Line” where a bucket of warm epsom salt is a welcome spa treatment after a gig for your wrist.

 

A fun trivia tidbit here is Steve Vai is married to former Vixen bassist Pia Maiocco (playing the red guitar in the above video). They met at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Richard Marx makes a cameo as well at the 2:41 mark.

 

The Bon Jovi “Edge Of A Broken Heart” was included on the 1987 film Disorderlies starring The Fat Boys who are best known for the single “Wipe Out” (1987) with The Beach Boys doing back up vocals. It was a rap using The Surfaris 1963 hit instrumental of the same name.

 

And speaking of films, there’s an interesting connection with drummer Tico Torres. He was also a studio player for fellow New Jersey band Franke and the Knockouts who are best known for their 1981 hit “Sweetheart” which reached #10.

 

Namesake and lead singer Franke Previte also went on to have a few of his tunes appear in movies like his Bon Jovi brother. Previte is co–writer (along with John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz) of “Hungry Eyes” and “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” which were the anchor tunes on the classic 80’s film Dirty Dancing (1987) with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

 

The original versions were recorded by Franke and the Knockouts but went onto greater acclaim as covers by Eric Carmen (#4 in 1987) and Bill Medley (of The Righteous Brothers) & Jennifer Warnes (#1 in 1987) respectively. The later won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and a Grammy.

 

Looking back, 1986 and 1987 were great years for both New Jersey bands. And here we are some 30 years later coming full circle from when Bon Jovi seemingly took over the world on a steel horse. The funny irony of Slippery When Wet was that it had massive international success with one of the cheapest album covers EVER. Just a step up from Metallica’s The Black Album, where Jon write “Slippery When Wet” on a wet trash bag.

 

So with that, we extend an esteemed “Shock to the Hearty” congratulations to Bon Jovi for making it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Class of 2018. A photographer I know worked on the New Jersey tour and had nothing but positive things to say about them. It’s always a bonus when people who aren’t a bunch of arrogant egomanics get a deserved honor. Jon is an authentic humanitarian who has his own charity feeding homeless/low income people as well as homeless veterans:

JBJ Soul Kitchen (www.jbjsoulkitchen.org)

Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation (www.jonbonjovisoulfoundation.org)

 

Oh and Jon has stated this lost Bon Jovi tune should have been included on Slippery When Wet and actually apologized believe it or not. So they’ll have to answer for the “Edge Of A Broken Heart” transgression on Bon Judgement Day, but in the meantime, we can forgive them because we’ve found their missing runaway.

© Composer Yoga


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Sound Mines: The Outfield “Taking My Chances”

Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”

George Michael: The Careless Whisperer

Closet Singles: The Outfield “New York City”

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The Colors Of Rock: Songs

A list of songs on the palette making The Colors Of Rock (updated periodically)

18 Yellow Roses (Bobby Darin)
99 Luftballons/Red Balloons (Nena)
All Cats Are Grey (The Cure)
Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk (Dr. Hook)
Back In Black (AC/DC)
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown (Jim Croce)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Black Celebration (Depeche Mode)
Black And Blue (Van Halen)
Black Cat (Janet Jackson)
Black Cow (Steely Dan)
Black Diamond (Kiss)
Black Is Black (Los Bravos)
Black Night (Deep Purple)
Black Water (The Doobie Brothers)
Blue Collar Man (Styx)
Blue Eyes (Elton John)
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain (Willie Nelson)
Blue Jean (David Bowie)
Blue On Black (Kenny Wayne Shepard)
Blue Suede Shoes (Elvis Presley)
Bluer Than Blue (Michael Johnson)
Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
Brown Shoes (Frank Zappa)
Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones)
Caribbean Blue (Enya)
Crystal Blue Persuasion (Tommy James & The Shondells)
Colour My World (Chicago)
Desert Rose (Eric Johnson)
Don't Eat the Yellow Snow (Frank Zappa)
Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue (Crystal Gayle)
Fade to Black (Metallica)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
Green Earrings (Steely Dan)
Green Eyed Lady (Sugarloaf)
Green Green Grass Of Home (Johnny Darrell, Porter Wagoner, Bobby Bare, Tom Jones)
Green Light (Lorde)
Green Onions (Booker T. & The M.G.s)
Green Tinted Sixties Mind (Mr. Big)
Gold (John Stewart)
Golden Lady (Stevie Wonder)
Golden Slumbers (The Beatles)
Lady In Red (Chris Deburgh)
I Saw Red (Warrant)
Indigo Eyes (Peter Murphy)
It's Not Easy Being Green (Kermit the Frog)
Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (Brian Hyland)
Little Red Corvette (Prince)
Mellow Yellow (Donovan)
Men In Black (Will Smith)
Midnight Blue (Lou Graham)
Mr. Brownstone (Guns N' Roses)
Orange Crush (R.E.M.)
Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)
Pink Cadillac (Bruce Springsteen, Natalie Cole)
Pink Houses (John Cougar Mellencamp)
Purple Haze (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Purple People Eater (Sheb Wooley)
Purple Rain (Prince)
Red Barchetta (Rush)
Red House (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Red Sector A (Rush)
Red Skies (The Fixx)
Song Sung Blue (Neil Diamond)
Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree (Tony Orlando and Dawn)
Touch Of Grey (The Grateful Dead)
True Blue (Madonna)
True Colors (Cyndi Lauper, Phil Collins)
Still Got The Blues (Gary Moore)
White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)
White Room (Cream)
Yellow (Coldplay)
Yellow Flicker Beat (Lorde)
Yellow Submarine (The Beatles)

© Composer Yoga

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Sound Mines: The Outfield “Taking My Chances”

The unfortunate thing about massively successful albums is there's songs on them that never see the light of day.

 

Stated another way, if these songs were written by another band or artist, they would have been released and became their signature song in an alternate parallel pop universe.

 

The Outfield had their breakthrough album with their 1985 debut Play Deep. And it was all about some girl named Josie after that.

 

The band have so many instantly recognizable songs: "Josie's on a vacation far away..." see what i mean? And from there, bassist Tony Lewis became known as the lead singer. But there was another singer in the band who you only heard in their signature harmonies, which we'll come back to in a moment.

 

But first: The pop world is still wondering, "Is this same "Josie" Steely Dan hung around in the 70's? Did Josie also attend Bard College with Walter Becker and Donald Fagen then do a semester in London?"

 

Play Deep was huge with 4 singles becoming radio mainstays: "Your Love" (AKA that tune about Josie), , "Say It Isn't So", "All The Love" and "Everytime You Cry."

 

Like Cheap Trick, The Outfield have so many interesting songs buried in their respective catalogs. Do yourself a favor and dig into their deeper tracks. You'll find veins of auditory ore that'll turn you into a more active fan of both bands. Okay I used to live near Robin Zander for those of you full disclosure purists.

 

The Outfield were a brilliant blend of power pop, new wave and pop rock with trademark crisp, clean positive vibes. A band from London and apparently not pissed off about anything when the prices of hotel rooms there alone are enough to piss off most tourists.

 

The vision behind The Outfield was guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter and yes, vocalist John Spinks. And it is John who is lead vocalist on our featured track here "Taking My Chances." John Spinks was a regular "jack" of all instruments like that Canadian Aldo Nova or that Prince guy you may have heard of.

 

For those fans who missed Canadian Musicians 102, Aldo Nova had a major hit with the tune "Fantasy" off his 1982 self titled debut Aldo Nova. You can now safely go back to your Rush, BTO, The Guess Who, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Corey Hart with or without OSHA approved sunglasses.

 

While main Outfield vocalist Tony Lewis showcased a high piercing positivity like Jon Anderson of Yes, John Spinks had a deeper introspective voice which made for a rich vocal blend with and classic counterpoint to Tony Lewis.

 

On top of that, John Spinks' guitar tone is among the happiest guitar tones I can think of. The matrimony of Lewis's soaring vocals and Spinks's guitar tone and style is something that often goes unnoticed and understated for why The Outfield have legions of fans outside the English speaking world.

 

Close your eyes (You Canadians take your sunglasses off) and imagine that "Taking My Chances" was the first tune you ever heard from a new band called The Outfield. You'll see that John Spinks could have fronted his own band as guitarist and lead singer:

Hey Rick Springfield did it. So did Bryan "Sandpaper Larynx" Adams. John Spinks easily could have done so too with all the demos he made that eventually became Play Deep. But The Outfield was a project he enjoyed with his pre–fame bandmates since the late 1970's, bassist/singer Tony Lewis and drummer Alan Jackman.

 

"Taking My Chances" reverses the traditional vocal order of The Outfield winning formula but it still works great. It also demonstrates how well John and Tony blended their vocal harmonies and could expertly weave in and around each other no matter who was the lead off hitter in the song.

 

It's this classic blend of high range and low range vocals which worked superbly for other successful acts generations a generation earlier like Hall & Oates and Kiss. Daryl Hall & John Oates and Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons gave the ear fix for high and lows plus the chorus blends of each. Coincidentally, The Outfield and Hall & Oates both had a hit song titled "Say It Isn't So."

 

This "Master Blend" also worked well for Journey although briefly. The Tony Lewis and John Spinks blend was also similar to Steve Perry and Gregg Rolie. the former vocalist for Santana and original Journey vocalist. Rolie has such a beautiful deep soulful voice, and is best known or singing "Black Magic Woman"  but gives stellar performances on tracks that have been largely unknown and forgotten which is  another story altogether.

 

For just 3 people, The Outfield packed a lot of power and wattage. Their incredibly full sounding choruses weaved from the tapestry of harmonizing between John and Tony gave songs their characteristic punch.

 

The Outfield wrote great pop music and weren't pretending to be anything they weren't. In fact, the same 3 bandmates which became the classic Outfield lineup took a hiatus in the late 70's because the Punk Movement was becoming more popular in England.

 

Instead of getting mohawks, bleaching their hair fluorescent orange, or piercing their nipples with nunchucks, John  Spinks, Tony Lewis and Alan Jackman took a long 7th inning stretch into the mid 80's when the music industry, now steadily dating it's new flame MTV, became more favorable to their original style of songwriting. The strange thing being, even though the English speaking world was all over British Pop/New Wave acts like Duran Duran and The Fixx, The Outfield were never as popular in their native England as they were in the United States.

 

What I've always enjoyed about The Outfield is the production quality of their songs is always crystal clear but never hospital sounding sterile. There's always a vibrance and energy to the music and instruments in the mix. The recording quality is always bright and shiny, it's like listening to sunlight reflecting off chrome. People just feel good listening to them, just like a simple Beach Boys song. And that's all the proof anyone's ears need.

 

Sadly the creator and songwriter of The Outfield, John Spinks died of liver cancer in 2014 at just 60 years of age.  Later in early 2016, liver cancer also claimed David Bowie. But John's legacy lives on as does his pleasantly hypnotic vocal tonality on this track which never made it out of the band's batting cage of potential hits.

 

"Taking My Chances" is great song that got overlooked because it was a track on a album filled with great pop songs. Play Deep quickly went triple platinum and continues to be a Must Have 80's album for new generations of fans.

 

Indeed The Outfield knocked it out of the park on their first album. They could have also hit more singles.

© Composer Yoga

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Closet Singles: The Outfield “New York City”

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George Michael: The Careless Whisperer
Closet Singles: Billy Idol “Hole In The Wall”

 

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LANY “Where The Hell Are My Friends”

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One of the things I love about college radio is you hear all kinds of songs you’ll never hear anywhere else. You’ll hear things before you’ll hear them on mainstream radio. And things you’ll never hear on mainstream radio but are cool enough to be there and even better than much of the stuff on there. Such is the case with “Where The Hell Are My Friends” by LANY, a track they released as a single in 2016 on the internet not connected to any particular album they did.

 

That said, I do like how artists have more control over making and releasing music these days. LANY used the same do-it-yourself ethic punk rock groups employed decades earlier because back then radio and recording companies wouldn’t give them the time of day. And college radio is as do-it-yourself as you can get along with Low Power FM (LPFM/Community Radio) stations. It’s just students and residents with their music collections and NO CAR COMMERCIALS. What a concept. Wow, there is a God. You can sing about a Little Red Corvette or a Little Deuce Coupe but I don’t want to hear any crap about 0.9% financing, capisce?

 

College radio is where I first heard the Disco Biscuits before Camp Bisco became a major stop on the tour map. So wherever I am, if I’m there for a few weeks or months, I try to find the local college station(s) and look up their program schedule. I can stream my favorites online as wherever I am as well. It’s a fountainhead of new music straight from the horses mouth. Compare that to the beached whale of Clear Channel that swallowed up numerous independent stations across the airwaves.  They only play songs by heavily promoted major label backed artists. You won’t hear the next “Where The Hell Are My Friends” on their dials because their band width is pretty anorexic as far as variety goes.

 

LANY is made up of Paul Jason Klein (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar), Les Priest (keyboards, guitars, vocals), and Jake Goss (drums, percussion, programming/sampling). If you can tell by looking, the band name isn’t another first or last name like Adele, Beyonce, Prince, Madonna, Britney, Usher, The Jacksons, The Ramones and the like–It’s a combination of two cities: Los Angeles and New York said like “Laney.” Stylistically, my ear tells me there’s a few New Order and Depeche Mode albums in their music collections.

 

The vocal triplet staccato line “And I don’t, and I don’t, and I don’t know why” is a neat hook which gallops like a horse in the beginning of the verses. The chorus is sung honestly and questioningly where Paul Klein is actually inside and merged with those lyrics. “Where The Hell Are My Friends” is a neon soliloquy in the moonlight of one man’s mind who speaks the thoughts of thousands of men and women who’ve encountered similar moments of isolation. And not just LA but especially places like LA and being a recent transplant to the “City Of Angels.” Places like that can quickly magnify one’s sense of loneliness, difficulties making connections and fitting in, and feeling out of place:

The song contains some daring lyrics for an unassuming sounding pop song. LANY seems to have taken a page from Professor Sting on that one as he was always slipping in topics, references and concepts beyond what’s typically required for pop music lyrics. “Every Breath You Take” is a classic example of this. It’s actually a song about a stalker. Yet it’s more often “re-purposed” for Valentine’s Day radio station dedications and wedding playlists. I’ve bit my tongue at more than one wedding behind a camera because of Mr. Sting.

 

“Where The Hell Are My Friends” also crosses a cultural red line. It’s almost sacrilegious to utter a discouraging word about the film and entertainment capital of the world. But for those who’ve been to LA (even the tongue in cheek tune for “losers” out there who value exercise, “Walking In L.A.” by Missing Persons), moved there recently, have lived there for any amount of time, the lyrics will resonate with you to varying degrees. “Where The Hell Are My Friends” is kind of an electronic music version of  the Guns N’ Roses L.A. County tourism classic “Welcome To The Jungle.” The theme is similar even decades and genres apart. It captures that state of mind, the inner unspoken dialogue, the doubts and disorientation of being in LA wondering if it was mistake:

 

Am I starting to hate California
Why am I in LA
40 million in California
No one cares if I stay

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There’s not much middle ground with a place like LA. People either love it or hate it I’ve found. I have friends who moved there, moved back, went to music school there (MI–Musicians Institute), went there to “make it”, and friends who still live there. Paul Klein is voicing some common experiences which don’t often get said out loud. It breaks the taboo in pop culture to express any doubts about the hallowed home of the film industry, the zip codes of Brenda and Brandon Walsh, the beaches of Baywatch. Friends of mine who grew up or live there are often surprised at how overly impressed people are when they tell them they live in Southern California. It’s not surprising: California in pop culture has had decades of impressions on the world often at odds with the everyday social and economic realities of being there as natives and residents will tell you.

 

Alienation. Like Phil Collins and Genesis said “Its no fun being an illegal alien.” Its no fun being a legal one either. LA is a place that can easily happen in. Stranger In A Strange Land in your own country. Like Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s They Live but with shades that suddenly make you privy to all the plastic people with plastic boob surgery.

 

The song also walks the tightrope of how you can love the place and still have outsider status with the people–wandering the meandering hedgerows of social cliques. Duff McKagan remarked in his book It’s So Easy: And Other Lies of how playing the L.A. club scene in the early days of Guns N’ Roses was being in front of some of the most judgmental people in the world. I had friends tell me it was difficult to meet friends when they moved there and network. My thoughts echo back to those conversations with them hearing the lyrics “Where The Hell Are My Friends” and “No one cares if I stay.”

 

People I know who grew up in California have said to me, “It’s really easy to leave but hard to move back.” What they mean is that if your family doesn’t own property to pass down multigenerationaly, the pricing of housing and cost of living is prohibitive to most transplant hopefuls. Unless of course you have wads of cash you’re laundering for Mexican cartels through your amp stacks, not that I would know anything about that.

 

I spent time in LA and the surrounding areas and had many of these same thoughts. LA certainly wasn’t like it was on TV and movies. The first glaring dose of reality beyond Beach Boys anthems was it looks so much greener on screen than with your own eyes. I quickly realized that I didn’t need to live here. I found my California in the Bay Area. It resonated with me more on multiple levels, which it’s understandable how you can have a love–hate relationship with such a big state like California like “Where The Hell Are My Friends” describes. California is like several states in one hence the chorus lines “Am I starting to hate California” and “But, god, I’m so in love with this place.” Geographically, there’s only 3 states on the west coast whereas 14 states touch the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast.

 

Am I starting to hate California
Why am I in LA
40 million in California
But, god, I’m so in love with this place

 

“Where The Hell Are My Friends” is an ambivalent narrative that strikes a chord with genuine experience. It speaks to the suspended animation of being a permanent tourist and outsider in “Hotel California”: The conflicting thoughts and feelings with no neatly wrapped up resolution unlike how the film industry likes to package it’s products for mass worldwide consumption.  Like 90210’s Dylan McKay (Luke Perry) the undisputed James Dean of primetime teen soap opera TV would say, “I’ve been there.”

© Composer Yoga

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George Michael: The Careless Whisperer

Just when we thought 2016 was done swallowing up celebrities, with just a week left in the year, we lose another. Then another. George Michael and Carrie Fisher. I can’t remember another year where more major musical figures exited the stage of life taking their final bows.

 

I mean David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, and George Michael—Four of the most well known musicians on the planet. George Michael sold over 100 million albums which is even “more” considering he recorded far fewer studio albums in his career than the others listed. Whether you’re a fan or not, that’s a lot of albums and fans. That’s in league with acts like The Eagles, Queen, Chicago, Whitney Houston, The Rolling Stones and Mariah Carey and nearing fabled Beatles and Elvis territory. George Michael’s numbers will no doubt increase in the coming weeks as it did with Prince posthumously even causing an unreleased track on the 1986 album Parade, “Sometimes It Snows In April” to chart in several countries in Europe peaking at #14 in France.

 

The death of George Michael came as a surprise to me as it did many others.  I was visiting my brother later in the afternoon and saw it on my Twitter feed. I said to him George Michael just died. He didn’t believe it either. With all the recent talk about fake news stories on Facebook and Twitter like “Donald Trump Summits Everest” as well as discussion of verifying the accuracy of Tweets, at first I thought this was just another social media sucker punch celebrity death click bait. Then I googled and found a BBC article. George Michael gone too early at just 53 years old. Which means there’s songs not released yet and songs and projects unfinished.

 

George Michael won two Grammys: one for his debut album Faith (Album Of The Year) and one for his amazing duet with Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin. He achieved eight #1 singles on Billboard charts during his solo career. He began his foray into pop culture with high school friend Andrew Ridgeley in the 80’s British pop group Wham!. The historical fun fact about Wham! was they were the first western musical act to perform in China. Make that allowed to perform in China as many types of music was still banned there at the time. That was 1985 and Chinese police were worried there’d be riots. Being trampled by teenage girls can be an occupational hazard. I know the feeling. A few years back, I went an Ingrid Michaelson concert and it was me surrounded by 400–500 teenage girls. I hung out back near the soundman until the end of the show then talked to friends of mine in her band when it was safe. I lived to tell about it.

 

I’m going to disregard the American Idol admonition “You shouldn’t have picked a George Michael song” and pick several of my favorites. Some were released as singles, some not. All showcase his incredible voice and adeptness at singing. It’s blatantly evident George Michael was far from a base model vocalist—with him our ears get the deluxe package with all the bells and whistles. There’s none of smoke and mirrors of autotune numerous pop stars depend on and which newer generations of music fans have become tone deaf to people who wield greater mastery of the art of singing like George Michael.

 

Last Christmas (Single 1984, included on Music from the Edge of Heaven 1986)


Last Christmas for George Michael. The bittersweet irony of George Michael dying on Christmas Day was not lost on Captain Obvious. It was another bizarre coincidence like Prince dying in an elevator after mentioning one in “Let’s Go Crazy.” Both occurrences with greater odds against them than if Elton John, a member of Chicago or the Bay City Rollers died on a Saturday.

George Michael and Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley released “Last Christmas” on the heels of the massive success of their second album Make It Big. “Last Christmas” is one of those fun pop holiday songs that invites you, some would say addictively beckons you to sing along. Special. See? You know you love doing the backing vocal to it. And of all the Yuletide assaults on our ear canals in retail stores from November 24th til December 31st, I was always glad when the satellite radio roulette landed on “Last Christmas” when I was in a store. Just like when Michael Jackson died, MJ merchandise was everywhere only a day or so later and shop owners were moonwalking all the way to the bank. So don’t be surprised if you see Last Christmas or CHOOSE GEORGE apparel in stores soon.

 

Careless Whisper (Make It Big 1984)

 

Although Wham! was marketed as an early boy band (or more aptly a boy duo), when I got older, I could see how George Michael displayed a compositional maturity beyond his years. Case in point: “Careless Whisper.” I was even more impressed when I learned he wrote that famous haunting sax line when he was still a teenager. This was the first official solo from George Michael even though it was included on Make It Big. He and Andrew Ridgeley started writing this track several years prior and it’s the only one on the album where Ridgeley has a writing credit. The rest of Make It Big was all George Michael compositions.

 




Father Figure (Faith 1987)

 

George Michael had devastating nuances like Sade. “Father Figure” demonstrates how he could maneuver inside whispers. It’s one of the most believable love songs I’ve ever heard. It’s not surface pretty pop lyrics, it’s not idealized, it’s not some teenage or 20 something year old lamenting about love with miniscule life perspective—it’s a naked vulnerable exposure beyond what teeneyboppers and young pop stars could pull off. I listen to this track and see how George Michael is actually living inside these lyrics and delivers fine point precision singing with a degree of authenticity they cannot replicate. Put another way, I highly doubt even if they could write lyrics as piercingly honest and revealing, they couldn’t sell the performance vocally as genuinely as George Michael does on “Father Figure.”

I hear songs first on the level of emotional depth. So even if this song was in a different language it still would have connected with me. Though now, as an adult I can see how the lyrics could be interpreted as references to gay culture. Back then I wasn’t privy to this since this over a decade before George Michael officially came out. And during his Wham! days and early solo work, he was still bisexual (which was kept from the press) and still writing songs about women.

 

Nevertheless, I just heard “Father Figure” as a great love song with rare solemnness and sincerity. It really didn’t occur to me at the time that a guy who had women like Tyra Banks in his videos was gay. Back then, for George Michael, life was like a Robert Palmer video. He didn’t publicly come out until that incident in a Beverly Hills bathroom in 1998—his Pee Wee Herman moment—both men caught masturbating in public. Michael made fun of himself and the incident in the music video for the single “Outside” by wearing an LAPD uniform, holding a nightstick and dancing in a bathroom pimped out like a disco. He didn’t take himself seriously, which is a blessing when you meet famous persons who are like this, but George Michael always took his singing seriously which is preserved in the sublime softness of this moment carved in sound. Rest assured in the future, some work(s) by George Michael will be selected by the Library of Congress to be included in the United States National Recording Registry joining the Steely Dan album Aja. I have Faith on that.

 

I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) 1987, Duet, Grammy

 

What’s better than a song by Aretha Franklin? A song with Aretha AND George Michael. It was the only time it happened and fortunately it was awesome. George got to sing with one of his heroes, one of his favorite artists. He definitely picked a great example to emulate and develop his own style. The pairing was also the biggest hit for Aretha Franklin reaching #1 on Billboard charts. Earlier on in her career Aretha got Respect. Sharing a mic with George Michael got them a Grammy. Coincidentally the song has the word Faith in it as well.

This song proves it doesn’t matter what color your skin is or what gender you are. It’s what’s inside you. George Michael had Motown and R&B coursing through his veins supplying his vocal chords with velvety richness and a buttery expressiveness. On the outside we saw a white British guy of Greek heritage. We heard something beyond all those temporary impermanent classifications when he sang. And this is such a beautiful contemporary spiritual/gospel flavored song disguised as pop tune with an infectious triumph and elation in the chorus hook.

 

Something To Save  (Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 1990)

This song soars. It’s either a secular gospel song or a hymn in the First Church of George Michael. This track will bring tears to your eyes with it’s openheartedness. It was never released as a single but it’s definitely a George Michael track that deserves more attention that it got. His affectation, freedom, and expressiveness on this track show how George Michael could make singing into a religious experience. It’s like taking a glider ride on sighs.

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Waiting (Reprise) Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 1990

 

This is another track which was never released as a single. Although it’s short it contains some brutally confessional lyrics. And George Michael doesn’t devolve into sappy which all too often undermines the realness of a song. He expertly matches the singing to these really personal lyrics. He’s wasn’t just a singer, he was a songwriter and you can hear the difference—he’s singing his own words and experiences. The intimacy of this song is a reflection of self discovery. It’s daring and not the juvenile shock value kind, it’s delicate shades of gray which don’t get obscured by clouds of anger. When he sings “Here I am” towards the end of the song, he paints so many more words than just those three.

 

Freedom! ’90 (Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 1990)

 

Man could George Michael sing. Listen to “Freedom! ’90” and he’ll blow your hair back on the chorus. It’s one of my favorite George Michael tracks. The outro is just pure astral emancipation. It’s danceable latin flavored groove is deceptively inviting onto a dancefloor of deliverance. “Freedom! ’90” is where we delightfully hear George Michael roar in celebratory victory. The resonant power of his chorus yells gives reverberating lift fanning the ignition of independence.

 

 

After Wham! George Michael explored songwriting further, stretching out from the common verse chorus restrictions. And that’s when he really showcased his vocal techniques and vocal range. It allowed him to employ a greater tonal palate with his singing and become more confessional with his material and singing. George Michael ranged from theatric to solemn, from sassiness to spiritual. His slower tempo songs really allowed him to stretch out and showcase his vocal flair.

 

For a vocalist to reach and apply higher level artistry, he or she has to sing more than just notes. and George Michael brought vocal ornamentation to the forefront. His sense of dynamics, use of nuance and inflection have made me go wow in my head numerous times. It’s in the tonality of his voice, the multi–textural vocal stylings, it’s not just his vocal range, it’s he could do so many cool things with his voice.

 

When your ear becomes educated you can Listen Without Prejudice and appreciate singers and styles you wouldn’t otherwise have listened to. Like Freddie Mercury (whom he was a fan of as was Freddie of him) George Michael was a one of a kind unique voice. He wrapped silver and gold tinsel around his melodies, fitting for someone with such a gifted voice.

 

So boom boom boom boom.

Remember, if you’re going do it, do it right, and wear your CHOOSE GEORGE shirt.

But I just hope you’ll understand, sometimes the clothes do not make the man.

© Composer Yoga

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Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

For those unfamiliar with our organization, DPAC, the Dork Prevention Advisory Committee has been entrusted with the ardent task of upholding, maintaining and preserving standards of cultural coolness & integrity for successive generations. We conduct ongoing policing of pop singers recommending safeguards and protocols with the noble aim of curbing, avoiding and eliminating Dorky Dialogue in popular music.

 

Our panel of experts have compiled a series of reports entitled “Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song: Case Files And Conclusions.” In addition to this website, copies of our reports will be available at all Federally funded government offices and institutions including but not limited to your local DMV, Post Office, and Public Library.

 

DISCLAIMER: DPAC should not to be confused with 2–Pac, nor is in any way affiliated with Self Help author Deepak Chopra.

 

Abstract & Origins

Dorky Dialogue is indeed a razor’s edge many have slipped from iconified grace and wound up impaled on Dork Stalactites in the corny canyon years or decades later. Such dialogue risks launching self–inflicted salvos at their own careers and creates blundering boomerangs as their own “Towers of Babble” return to sender. CAUTION is the watchword for unfiltered enthusiastic utterances in the studio or onstage, impromptu or planned.

 

DPAC aims to erect a “Speech Line: Do Not Cross” Auditory Police Tape so future musicians and entertainers may refer to maintain a successful “Bell Curve of Cool” throughout their careers as well as protect the airwaves and internet from Nerdy Noise Pollution. Our Publication SM 58: Dampening Dorky Dialogue (see below), provides helpful guidelines for singers to learn when to palm mute their given instrument. The Singer Modification 58 Protocols outline safe and unsafe lead vocal territories in regards to unnecessary chatter, gibberish, babble, bragging, ego stroking, superfluous filler, fluff, Paul Stanleyisms, etc.

 

Publication SM–58

 

Showing Some Love Towards Cover Bands

The first thing such Inter–Song Socializing (ISS) or Inter–Band Dialogue (IBD) on a recording does is it renders a particular song Cover Tune Unfriendly (CTU). Before engaging and risking such utterances, ask yourself “What are the odds cover tune band members will have the same names and/or play the same instrument?” Or be the same gender for that matter. If you are not good with math like a singer, the odds are about that of a Beatles reunion, Charlie Manson getting a record deal, or another Tiffany album.

 

Acceptable Usage and Examples

Neneh Cherry saying “Hey DJ…” in the intro to her hit track “Buffalo Stance” is one such example. Note that this is acceptable as Ms. Cherry refrained from naming the particular DJ, and just telling him (or her) to “Stop that effing scratching and give me a beat!”

 

Vanilla Ice prodded “Yo VIP–let’s kick it!” to get his DJ to press a button and get the the synth drums going on “Ice Ice Baby.” Again no one is insinuated by name and thus cannot be charged as an Accessory to Nerdy.

 

Steve Perry shouting after the piano intro to “Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Neil!”  to Neil Schon to cue in the 4 note guitar lick build that increases in speed and crescendos with the drums entering. Steve did this live but NOT on the actual sound recording which would have definitely been North of dork and South of cool.

 

Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention could get away with lots of inter band conversation onstage because it was musical theatre and part of the show.

 

Rap & Hip Hop have taken Inter–Song Socializing to new plateaus, talking to and about themselves with a frequency density far greater than that of other genres as they do not seem concerned with having their material covered by bands in nightclubs. Since it is so much a part of the genre, we have determined a hands off policy is the recommended approach.

 

When did all this Inter–Song Socializing (ISS) start?

DPAC has determined its origins seem to have been with James Brown, shouting “MACEO!!” To Maceo Parker his horn player. However these were live recordings and part of the spontaneity of being in the moment.

 

Note that doing so on an actual STUDIO recording is a logical contradiction, since if a band member is dumb enough to not know when to solo or play a certain part, then why would they be in the band to begin with? One presupposes they ARE in the band because they are competent on said instrumentation. ISS on recordings is further innecessitated when hiring session players for an album, who it can be safely assumed, know their ass from their elbow.

 

Recommendations

One recommendation is yelling out the name of the instrument about to take spotlight such as “Guitar!!” In regards to such solos, riffs, fills and licks, fans already know it’s coming and who’s playing it, so doing this in substitute of a bandmates name can prevent a dork meter spike and keep you safely south of dork. Bret Michaels finally learned this wise strategy on Poison’s sophomore album with the track “Nothin’ But A Good Time” after his horrendous transgression to C.C. on “Talk Dirty To Me.”

 

Consider the fact that your band members will already be listed in album liner notes and also on your website. You also get to introduce them live on stage every performance. Is there really a need to have such a conversation during the song?

 

Just Shut Up And Sing!! Well, you know what we mean—avoid mentioning your bandmates by name and at all during recording sessions. (The SM–58 Gold Standard—our preferred recommendation)

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Sharpening Your Cool IQ

Imagine a Steely Dan recording session where Donald Fagen yells out to Jeff “Skunk” Baxter “Go Skunk!” Or to Elliott Randall, “Elliott!” on the opening solo of “Reelin’ In The Years.” A voice sample of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial saying “Elliott”, although getting points for originality, still fails to be a Trojan horse in the cool army.

 

Picture “Tom Sawyer” with Geddy Lee saying “Gimme a roll Neil!”  to Neil Peart right before his first gargantuan drum fill. Then “How about another?”, and finally a “One More time.” Or alternately after the 3 big drum fills, Geddy saying “Wow, Neil was on a roll!” in some form of schlocky musical slapstick.

 

Singers are most often the guilty parties. Think about how dumb it would sound for another band member telling the lead singer to sing. Can you picture Jimmy Page telling Robert Plant “Scream Robert!” Or Keith Richards telling Mick Jagger “Sing unintelligibly like you always do Mick!” ISS seems to be a symptom of Lead Singer Disease (LSD) as guitarists, drummers, bassists, pianists and keyboardists, etc. are not prone to such fanciful faux pas.

 

Did we ever hear Freddie Mercury telling guitarist Brian May “Go Brian go!?” In the classic Rob Reiner Mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, the track “Gimme Some Money” on the band’s CD makes fun of Inter–Song Socializing. It’s a retro 60’s Flower Power song, where lead singer David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) says to guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), “Go Nigel Go!!” as he begins a wimpy guitar solo replete with stellar garage band cacophony.

 

“Gimme Some Money” is a parody song. DPAC exists to prevent parody from unintentionally becoming reality, and any Careless Whisper or Momentary Lapse Of Reason from becoming a parody later on. That being said, we wish you a long and productive career filled with years of Certified Dork Free Recordings (CDFR).

–DPAC

SwimOutlet.com

 

Case Files:

 

Poison “Talk Dirty To Me”

“C.C. pick up that guitar and talk to me”

Bret Michaels yells out “C.C. pick up that guitar and talk to me” to C.C. DeVille on Poison’s debut album during the track “Talk Dirty To Me.” It’s like what the hell was C.C. doing prior to this in the song—NOT playing guitar? Sitting on his monitor amp painting his fingernails? It makes little sense. One needs to factor in and consider before doing so “Will this still sound cool 20 years from now?” Because unless you’re in a tribute band, and dress and pretend to be the actual members of the original band onstage, such lyrical appendages are better omitted.

 

 

Def Leppard “Armageddon It”

“Come on Steve, get it!”

Joe Elliott talks to one of his guitarists on the track “Armageddon It” off of the monstrously successful Hysteria album. He calls out to Steve Clark, “Come on Steve get it!” right before the guitar solo. Was this encouragement because Steve flubbed the last 5 takes in the studio? DPAC wonders if there could be some kind of curse in doing this—In Def Leppard’s case, this was Steve Clark’s last completed album (due to his untimely death) and our friend C.C. got fired from Poison later on as well.

 

 

Mötley Crüe “Girls, Girls, Girls”

“Hey Tommy check that out man
What Vince where?
Hey hey right there
(whistle)
Hey baby going somewhere?”

Vince Neil and Tommy Lee are obviously not at a strip club during this conversation even though that’s what most of the song is about—a tour of the world’s finest nude entertainment establishments. Unfortunately due to the global recession, some of the strip clubs mentioned in the song are no longer in business.

 

But does this dialogue have real world authenticity? Like any girl wouldn’t be like “Who are these juvenile douchebags?” Like they would say, “Oh that’s okay, they’re in a Rock Band so high school kinda stuff is still pretty cool. They’re socially exempt from being any more sophisticated than a cruder construction worker Cassanova to be successful with women. They’ve got motorcycles so they MUST be cool.” Ah, the ‘ol Harley hat trick.

 

Although the strip club bonding Bromance between Vince and Tommy was some drunken drooling over imaginary Double–D’s, fortunately the motorcycle starting up in the song’s intro was real as one of our Board of Directors knows the person who did it on the actual studio recording.

 

 

Rick James “Super Freak”

“Temptations Sing!”
“Blow Danny!”

Rick slipped up twice in his hit dance track “Super Freak.”  First he tells his backup singers, “Temptations Sing!.” We’re sure after a successful recording career prior to Rick getting his first pubes, that Motown veterans The Temptations know the difference between choruses and verses and when to get their backing vocals on. And hiring session musicians as experienced as The Temptations requires conductor caliber instructions from Maestro James during the track?

 

Rick also tells his sax player when to take a standard 8 bar solo, with “Blow Danny!” Really? Like Danny would do a solo during the verses when Rick was singing about some very kinky girl? We think not. There are “Lead Drummers” who inappropriately intervene thunderously real or imagined virtuosity over lyrics but the phenomenon of “Lead Sax Players” has yet to spike our grievance and peeve meters.

 

 

Prince And The Revolution “Computer Blue”

“Wendy?
Yes Lisa.
Is the water warm enough?
Yes Lisa.
Shall we begin?
Yes Lisa.”

Although we’ve never heard Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie yell out “Go Lindsey” to Lindsey Buckingham telling him when to rip into a guitar riff or solo, one example of women talking during the song is on the Purple Rain Soundtrack. Our research has indicated female singers don’t tend to talk to their band members by name as frequently as their male counterparts. The intro to “Computer Blue” being a notable exception. The track begins with a conversation between Wendy and Lisa with no discernible reference to even playing an instrument.

 

What does this “girl talk” conversation have to do with a song entitled “Computer Blue?” Your guess is as good as ours. Incidentally, you shouldn’t have water anywhere near your computer as it can short it out and damage the circuitry. Yet certain questions still remain as to what they’re actually talking about. Our panel has narrowed it down to the following possible scenarios:

  1. Making herbal tea
    2. Shaving their legs
    3. Making sure the pasta they’re cooking turns out Al Dente
    4. Visiting a day spa while on tour

Regardless, don’t let no thermometer stop you from purifying yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka:

 

This concludes Case File Installment #1. And remember:

Some singers get hip replacements, others need lip replacements.
Don’t get a D in Dork, score a C in Cool!
Loose Lips Sink Hits!!

 

The Dork Prevention Advisory Committee (DPAC)

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America




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Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”

If you’re a fan of the classic Prince sound congealed with his backing band The Revolution, you’ll definitely appreciate this lesser known track off the Parade album.

 

Released in 1986, Parade was the 8th studio album by Prince and also the final one with The Revolution. Tracks like “Mountains” are prized audio real estate since his passing for fans to nostalgically travel back in time to the 1980’s on a purple motorcycle.

 

“Mountains” starts off with the familiar Linn LM–1 drum machine used in several earlier Prince hits like “1999” and “When Doves Cry.” This drum machine was also used by other artists in the early 80’s as it popped up on Billy Idol albums as well—Say for instance, if you’re going to be dancing with yourself, you’ll probably need a drum machine.

 

“Mountains” was written by Wendy & Lisa with Prince which demonstrates just how much The Revolution was the integral formula that produced the classic 80’s Prince sound which reached it’s commercial peak with Purple Rain.

 

Prince’s earlier solo records didn’t have the same “real world” orchestration as when he was backed by The Revolution. Being a multi–instrumentalist although impressive, it’s still ALL YOU playing every instrument and this can be perceived by other musicians and astute listeners. Having other musicians play and collaborate with adds an additive synergy one person cannot create by themselves alone.

 

Case in point, Steely Dan could have recorded everything (keys, bass, guitars) by Walter Becker & Donald Fagen and used an electronic drum machine. Instead they hired the best A–list studio musicians in the business which made all their albums sound all the more varied than if the two did everything by themselves. That’s how one band can turn into and sound like a handful of bands with the same 2 core members.

 

Thankfully Prince realized this after a few solo albums as well. That he could still record all by himself in his home studio and also with a band. Each has it’s pros and cons but having both puts more globs of color on a artist’s creative palette. Then there’s the blatant reality that if your’re going to play out and perform live, you cannot just be a studio band—you’ll have to have an actual band so you might as well have a group of other musicians to bounce ideas off.

 

Another thing is you can only overdub yourself so many times before it becomes overkill and listeners want to hear another biological entity vocalizing something—like that chimpanzee in the beginning of Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” for instance.

 

Outside of Freddie Mercury and Brad Delp of Boston, there’s not too many singers that still sound cool nuanced and interesting overdubbed 20 times. Having two or more vocalists creates tension and resolution within a song and having male and female vocalists adds another layer to the audio onion. Prince nailed this concept on “1999”; If only one vocalist sung the entire song it wouldn’t have had the same impact and appeal. There’s not too many songs like “1999” that use 3 vocalists to split the verses.




“Mountains” only reached the #23 slot on the US Billboard charts, but it’s definitely a buried track in Prince’s catalog that deserves greater recognition. The earlier single released from the Parade album “Kiss” became more popular having become a #1 hit. However, I prefer the groove and mood of “Mountains” as it has more emotional depth and introspection than “Kiss.” It holds up better for me during repeated listenings and on replay which helps to “get inside the song” and integrate a song into your life.

 

“Mountains” is a “sister synth” song to “1999” and “I Would Die 4 U.” It uses the same Prince falsetto we all know and love as in “Kiss” but it’s a more seriously toned falsetto instead of a “playful south enough of lecherous” for AM radio one. “Mountains” is the track where Prince unleashes his full array of vocal tricks. It has the trademark Prince Wooo!! like on “Let’s Go Crazy”, the Owww!, and the Purple Banshee Screams like on “When Does Cry”:

 

Lollapalooza Tickets


Guitars and drums on the 1 Huuuh!!!

“Mountains” is my favorite song off the Parade album and the track I listen to most frequently in several of my iPod mixes. Plus I always dug the lyric “Once upon a time in a haystack of despair” in the song’s second verse. It evokes a cool jagged image where I wonder why any metal band hasn’t jumped on writing a song called “Haystack Of Despair.” If there’s a “Harvester Of Sorrow” according to Metallica, then it follows logically there should damn well be a “Haystack Of Despair” right? Nuff said.

 

“Kiss”, with it’s stylized falsetto, is like a hybrid pop/novelty song—it’s like Prince walked the fence between those two genres on that track, which isn’t surprising as he was never the poster boy for musical purists. He lived to experiment in the Paisley Park fire pit and create new sound stews. And besides, blind obedience to purism and “genre parameters” makes for a lower ceiling on Creativity. And that leads to starvation like what’s whispered towards the end of “Mountains” before the fade out. If there’s Diamonds And Pearls and Gold Experience in them there hills, my ear definitely hears some Purple Rain in them “Mountains.”

© Composer Yoga


Related Posts To Check Out:
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America
Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

Recommended:
Sound Mines: Bihlman Bros: “Dream”




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Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince

I realized something being a longtime fan of Science Fiction: that Yoda’s favorite Prince song would be “When Doves Cry.”

 

Wait for it…Some of the lyrics are just the phrasing the Jedi Master himself would appreciate. Prince is clearly speaking Yoda’s native tongue here—all three verses begin in “Yoda” or Yodaspeak”:

Dig if you will the picture

Dream if you can a courtyard

Touch if you will my stomach

 

Can you picture Yoda singing it in the shower? While taking his morning constitutional on planet Dagobah? Can you picture this?

 

Deeper questions then emerged. Did the Jedi Master himself inspire “When Doves Cry?” Did Prince channel Yoda in the recording studio? Pop culture influences and inspires other pop culture and we may never know.

 

Linguistics scholars would also appreciate that “Yoda” is a Romance language like French and Spanish. And speaking Yoda is quite fun as well. In the control room of the music instructional video company I used to work for, we’d joke around and talk Yoda on a regular basis. This would frequently spill over the VOG (Voice Of God) to rank on the talent in the studio—yelling at them in “Yoda” for botching up a take as well as providing motivation and guidance for the proper corrective course of action.

 

“When Doves Cry” was the first number one single for Prince. Ironically it was the last song written for the film/soundtrack to Purple Rain as Director Albert Magnoli needed another song for a montage scene and requested Prince write additional music for it. You’ll notice with all the other songs written for Purple Rain, Prince and The Revolution perform them onstage in the film except “When Doves Cry.” “When Doves Cry” was written to musically portray Prince’s character, The Kid’s parental issues with his father Francis L. and his simultaneous blossoming romance with Apollonia.

 

Looking at “When Doves Cry” deeper musically, it’s a pretty minimalist song in A minor. There’s no bass line throughout the entire song. Most listeners don’t notice things like this until it’s pointed out to them, and besides the pop rock world has caught fans sleeping at the wheel before. For instance, Free’s classic rock tune “All Right Now” had a hibernating bass line all through the verses and only emerges on the chorus and bass solo leading into the guitar solo overlaying it. And that was during the 70’s–when rock, pop, dance & funk fans were far more rabid about bass in your face.

 

Still none of this “multi–track lack” reduces the appeal of “When Doves Cry.” Prince was very good at writing for what fits the song. I myself am a believer that every song does not need a guitar solo (or any kind of solo) nor have to contain every instrument in the band just because someone will feel “left out” onstage during a performance. Prince was a screaming guitar player and I dig how he never overplayed or overused his chops at the expense of what a particular song called for. In cover bands, when there was no keyboard part for the song, I’d just either double the bass or a guitar part to fatten things up not add a keys part. The Police were another band that was very good at this non oversaturation and not bludgeoning the listener with excessive musicality at the price of playing within the songs actual needs and parameters. We can take an example from Prince & The Police (an 80’s superband that never happened) here: Musicians have to realize that sometimes “space”, silence, and breathing room are part of the song like in “When Doves Cry.”

 

There is some flash (no pun intended, Prince was only nude in the music video) of virtuosity in “When Doves Cry” though it’s sparsely and tastefully done. The opening guitar flourishes and the classical cello part towards the end add some moments of heightened tension, higher energy & angry spiciness to the song’s recipe. If memory serves and I’m not the victim of my own Purple Haze, I remember reading years ago in the Prince biography Purple Reign: The Artist Formerly Known As Prince by Liz Jones that Wendy Melvoin’s brother Jonathan Melvoin wrote the classical string part for “When Doves Cry” but I’d have to check that book again if I can find which cardboard storage box it now resides in.




Back to Prince’s #1 Jedi fan, Master Yoda. I can picture an alternate version of the “When Doves Cry” music video being done with Yoda superimposed over Prince (someone on Youtube who has more free time than I preferably). We’d see Yoda stepping out of the bathtub and subsequently crawling on the floor sans Jedi robe. Then Yoda cruising around Minneapolis and the suburbs on Prince’s motorcycle (or riding on the back–riding in the front would be “Too E.T.“), and kissing Apollonia passionately horizontally while levitating over her—hey he’s a Jedi Master remember? Hopefully this won’t be in a galaxy far far away but just in case, here’s your “When Doves Cry” refresher:

 

Whoa…that crawling on the floor was so much fun Madonna had to try it herself in her video “Express Yourself” and add some bovine special effects.

 

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Since it was an 11th hour recording request for the film, “When Doves Cry” is pretty much Prince by himself with his trusty drum machine playing several instruments and without the vocal harmonizing of The Revolution like on most of the Purple Rain soundtrack. The vocal audio looping bears little resemblance to an actual dove crying not that I’ve crossed the line being cruel to animals to scientifically gather such information. It’s a droning “I” or “Aye” sound making Prince’s looped vocal yearnings sound more like a zombie pirate brigade or some species of South American tree frog that would definitely make you Delirious if you lick its skin. And I’m sure you’d see Paisley Parks and Strawberry Fields Forever but let’s not go there just yet.

 

But then again these made up syllable loops worked well for Jon & Ritchie on the Bon Jovi hit “Livin’ On A Prayer.” Did Bon Jovi sample a neighbor’s dog or have Chewbacca come in for a session to lay down a vocal track? “Livin On A Prayer” is one of the most frequent songs I hear when I work weddings—and every now and then I hear a Prince tune. But “When Doves Cry” isn’t the optimal Prince song to inaugurate a lifetime together—more salient choices in this department that better suit the occasion are “Kiss” or “I Would Die 4 U” as people can get their pointer finger on while ripping up the dancefloor and impress a slightly inebriated crowd with some stellar rudimentary choreography. Plus it looks pretty cool against uplightling as I can attest. But hey, I’m just a dude behind a camera so what do I know.

 

“When Doves Cry” was Prince’s directorial debut—it was racy for it’s time and had to threaten heterosexual males watching MTV for the half naked girls. I mean could middle America start liking a song with a naked guy coming out of a bathtub and crawling towards them? It turned out the Bible Belt was on the floor with the rest of Prince’s clothes in that regard.

 

Fashion wise, I always found it interestingly dapper how The Revolution (save keyboardist Dr. Fink) dressed in ornate clothing similar to the upper crust during the French Revolution. There’s also a funhouse mirror effect in the later dance routine which creates a kaleidoscopic effect with Prince in the center. And Prince wasn’t a slacker on stage performance—he loved to dance with his own trademark moves as well as nods to the Godfather James Brown.

 

Come to think of it, if Michael Jackson didn’t become the megastar of 1980’s pop, Prince would have been seen as a better dancer than he was usually given credit for. But Prince held his own on his own terms and wasn’t in music to compete with others which isn’t what art and creativity is about—actually competition diminishes the joy of creativity and one’s personal enjoyment of the process.

 

If Prince was competitive, he would have come out with some lame dance move in response after Michael premiered the Moonwalk with his own version “The Cherry Moonwalk.” Prince never challenged Michael Jackson to a dance off like MC Hammer. Nor did Prince extrapolate his songs into stylized themed dances over the abyss of the campy canyon with The “When Doves Cry Waltz”, the “Let’s Go Crazy Conga” or “The Purple Raindance.”




Yet with all his contributions to pop culture and writing songs for other artists, Prince wouldn’t allow parody of his songs even though Weird Al Yankovic was aching to do so for decades. Some, like Mark Knopfler said yes on one condition—that he play guitar on the parody track. This is why Weird Al’s parody of Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” called “Beverly Hillbillies” musically matches the original version more than his other parodies.

 

For “When Doves Cry”, I can picture Weird Al doing “When Spuds Fry” starting off saying the word “Fry” as that’s what it sounds like Prince is uttering in the original recording. Weird Al did do a similar themed parody to the Robert Palmer song “Addicted To Love” called “Addicted To Spuds.” And I know for a fact that Weird Al would not pass up the opportunity of being naked in a bathtub to parody the video. That’s the stuff Weird Al bucket lists are made of. Buckets of dove’s tears.

 

Yankovic was never able to secure permission for parody of any of Prince songs when he was alive. When Prince’s estate gets settled and who owns the licensing to his song catalogue is decided, Weird Al may get to parody Prince songs in the future.

 

Yankovic is far from malicious towards the artists he parodies—it’s a nod and a tribute, though some like Coolio get miffed when Al does a parody of a song he himself didn’t even write the music to in the first place (Coolio’s 1995 single “Gangsta’s Paradise” sampled the 1976 Stevie Wonder song “Pastime Paradise”).

 

One thing for certain that’s probably in the works already is a Hollywood biopic about Prince. Within a few years it’ll likely hit theatres. One can only hope Hollywood will see Purple instead of getting tangled up in green and Prince won’t be physically miscast with someone like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But then again I’d pay to see Arnold Schwarzenegger singing Prince songs and buy that soundtrack. William Shatner can cut a Prince tribute album as well. It’s all become part of our shared collective culture and part of celebrating that will encompass some obligatory moneymaking schlock along the way. But this doesn’t diminish the original inspiration for it nor hamper appreciation of Prince’s contribution to popular culture.

 

As with Michael Jackson’s glove, that bathtub Prince used in “When Doves Cry” has to fetch a pretty penny on eBay—the perfect gift for those who already have a bottle of Elvis’ bathwater. And then Yoda can whisper at the end of that revamped “When Doves Cry” music video, “There…is…another…Moonwalker.”

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America
Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

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The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code

There’s the Bible Code and the Da Vinci Code—but is there a “Let’s Go Crazy” Code?

 

Before anyone thinks I’ve stared at the Abbey Road & Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album covers Clockwork Orange style way too long, isn’t a bit of poetic coincidence that Prince died in an elevator?

 

I mean you know the narration before the full band enters in “Let’s Go Crazy”:

And if de-elevator tries 2 bring u down
Go crazy – punch a higher floor!!!

 

It seems Prince indeed punched a higher floor in that Paisley Park elevator and left the Earth plane.
The second verse of “Let’s Go Crazy” going into the chorus is even more prophetically elaborated:

We’re all excited
But we don’t know why
Maybe it’s ‘cuz
We’re all gonna die

And when we do (When we do)
What’s it all 4 (What’s it all 4)
U better live now
Before the Grim Reaper come knocking on your door

Tell me, are we gonna let de-elevator bring us down?
Oh, no let’s go!

 

(Note to Steven Tyler & Aerosmith: The Grim Reaper takes elevators)

 

I never met Prince nor saw him perform live but he was one of the people on my concert bucket list I wanted to see. Actually the only time I was in his home state of Minnesota was in Minneapolis to catch a connecting flight from the west coast. One of my relatives however did meet Prince at a club in Miami and talked with him.

 

An actor friend also met Prince when he worked for a network TV station in New York City. He didn’t get to ride in an elevator with Prince (most definitely a Scavenger Hunt Selfie), but did so with Neil Young. Interestingly, Neil Young had a backing band called Crazy Horse…hmmm…and further down the Purple Paisley rabbit hole we go. Later in his career, Prince also wrote a song called “Cinnamon Girl” which was one of the biggest hits of Neil Young And Crazy Horse.

 

When I was out in Hollywood visiting friends and wandering around (the occasional olfactory overture of concrete mingled with fermented urine while on The Walk Of Fame comes to mind), I came upon the fabled Sunset Sound recording studio where so many famous acts such as The Doors recorded their historic and iconic albums. Prince also recorded there in a cute story by Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks.

 

Nicks was working on her solo album The Wild Heart at the time. She was driving around and heard “Little Red Corvette” on the radio and came up with lyrics to “Stand Back.” Since a song written by Prince inspired her lyrics, she called him up and asked if he was in the area (Prince had another residence nearby) and if he would like to come down and play on the track.

 

Like calling a pizza delivery session player, Prince was there in under 30 minutes and laid the keyboard parts down for “Stand Back.” Prince influences Nicks and in turn it seems Nicks influences Prince. Being asked to play on “Stand Back” seemed to give Prince the foundational ideas for one of my favorite Prince tunes: “I Would Die 4 U.” There’s an apparent aural geneology to these two songs: “Stand Back” and “I Would Die 4 U” have similar tempos and utilize the same kind of pulsating staccato synth bass bed.

 

Prince wrote several pop rock anthems: “1999”, “Purple Rain”, “I Would Die 4 U”, “When Doves Cry”, and “Let’s Go Crazy” to name a few. I remember first becoming aware of Prince with the single “Little Red Corvette.” After Purple Rain, I went on to buy all his earlier work and then every now and them, I’d pick up his later post 80’s material.

 

The albums 1999 and Purple Rain are still my favorites because I really liked the musical chemistry of Prince and the Revolution as well as the mix of male/female vocal trading and harmonizing. The Revolution was for Prince his “original Kiss lineup” to my ears. Another irony here being Prince wrote a song called “Kiss.” With bands, there’s a certain unique chemistry every now and then that can’t be duplicated even if the band goes on without earlier members for any number of reasons in the Rock and Roll playbook.

 

In 1984, “Let’s Go Crazy” became a number 1 hit. If only George Orwell lived to see that. Big Brother in a Jheri curl*? Dressed in a purple trench coat wielding a white guitar? Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack and the movie became joined at the hip with the 1980’s. The eulogy intro narration to “Let’s Go Crazy” is one of those 80’s pop culture moments along with the intro to Twisted Sister’s music video “We’re Not Gonna Take It” that nearly every child of the 80’s has grooved into their neurons. “1999” was a playful dig by Prince at Big Brother and his nuclear arsenal during the Cold War 80’s with the lyrical mention:

 

Yeah, everybody’s got a bomb,
We could all die any day

But before I’ll let that happen,
I’ll dance my life away

 

This was misheard by some at the time to be a reference to President Ronald Reagan (Yeah, Ronnie’s got a bomb, we could all die anyday…)

*Invented by a white guy from Illinois—go figure




For a guy who rode a motorcycle, Prince was never the “biker type rocker.” Then again those types of bands wouldn’t dare to write a song like “When Doves Cry”, “Purple Rain”, “Raspberry Beret”, or “Kiss.” I mean can you imagine Mötley Crüe pulling that off?

 

Prince was more multifaceted as an artist which gave him broad appeal over successive generations and crossed lines of gender and race with his fan base. This is hard do do especially now as the recording industry tries to segregate fan bases to maximize profit. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Sade, Gloria Estefan are other contemporaries of Prince that crossed these “Pop Picket Lines.” Prince’s music also escaped the vinyl witch hunt of rock radio station record burnings and steamroller rodeo rides over popular Disco hits. He was rock enough for the rockers—one of his fans being, oh some guy named Eric Clapton.

 

Enjoy The Talents Of Others And Let It Inspire Your Own

Prince was an incredibly creative and multi–talented musician. I know many critics and fans will use the word Genius when referring to him and his prolific body of work. It’s a deserved compliment and helps celebrate how his music touched millions of people around the world. However I take a different perspective on the nature of Genius as I believe the current way it’s used and how who’s labeled as such or not separates people from participating in art and their own creativity.

 

The Genius label encourages the “Why should I bother, when THOSE people are Geniuses and I can only play “Lean On Me” on piano or “Pretty Woman” on guitar mentality.” If we all felt that way as we did when we were young looking up to our heroes and inspirations, no one would try to write music on their own—even Prince.

 

We all should participate in art and creativity. It’s just fun and a form of play which becomes in shorter and shorter supply when many people become adults. Every child innately enjoys art and music and participates in these then they get to a certain age and internalize the cultural message that they are wasting their time because they aren’t Geniuses or they aren’t that talented.

 

By all means be inspired by artists like Prince and whoever came before you that inspired you down the road of creativity so you can take your own tuning forks to deeper self expression. But don’t get stuck behind the starting gate just because certain people are better or more successful than you. No one comes out of the womb a concert pianist. Every future “Genius” can’t even play “Three Blind Mice” during that early stage of life.

 

What often gets lost in praise, compliments and fan worship is the nature of art and creativity itself—which even Prince would have probably said the following of his body of work. That Genius, like gender identity and sexuality is along a spectrum, not a black or white, either or static state. Stated another way, a Genius will not always produce works of Genius every single time and an artist of average talent can produce works of Genius at times.

 

The more important thing as an artist or anyone producing works of creativity is to keep producing and don’t censor or judge. Your favorite pieces may very well differ from the works your audience loves and considers “your best stuff” or “your works of Genius” but it’s all part of you and you don’t want to play favorites—even your own.

 

In another example from baseball, for decades Babe Ruth held the record of 714 career home runs. His nickname was “The Sultan Of Swat” not to be confused with Dire Straits “Sultans Of Swing.” What people fail to often see with such talent and ability is that Babe Ruth struck out quite a large number of times in his career as well (1,330 times in fact as has EVERY other Hall of Famer). He could have just as easily earned the derogatory nickname “The Sultan Of Flyswat” or “The Sultan of Sloth” if he wasn’t getting his “hits” on the other side of the ledger.

 

The important thing was Babe Ruth kept stepping up to the plate, kept having another opportunity at bat. Similarly, Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler has stated he is not the most skilled guitar player on the technical level yet he still wrote “Sultans Of Swing” which is an amazing guitar composition by any standard. And music schools crank out dozens of dazzling technicians every year yet how many have actually written a piece with the depth of “Sultans Of Swing” or “Purple Rain?”




The Prince Prophecy

Prince dying in an elevator is one of those coincidences we can embellish into pop culture lore and legend. Songwriter John Denver died in a glider accident and one of his well known songs was called “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” If Denver’s tune was titled “Leaving On A Glider”, I’d weigh that more in the neighborhood of authentic foreknowledge.

 

Another coincidence here is John Denver was one of the people who testified against the PMRC (Parent’s Music Resource Center) along with Frank Zappa and Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister after one of Prince’s songs on Purple Rain, “Darling Nikki” sent Tipper Gore into a tizzy over it’s masturbation reference.

 

Such ironies of life will happen on occasion as statistics and probability can demonstrate. Case in point, say I wrote a novel about a female pilot and named her Amelia Earhart. You’d think the characters name was made up for the fiction novel because it alludes literarily that Amelia has her heart in the air—hence the two words “air heart” combined in her last name and more poetically spelled as Earhart.

 

But such “novel names” and situations like our “Let’s Go Crazy Code” here actually do happen in real life some of the time. So have we negated the “Prince Prophecy theory” and de–romanticized the departure of a pop legend? We’re just chasing white doves formulating such theories—dig if you will that picture.

 

The body of work is what matters and the body of work is what’s still here. We have to look deeper and ask the internal question: What did the creative works of Prince mean to you? For starters, it didn’t make anyone’s life WORSE in the final analysis. It even had a happy ending for Darling Nikki.

 

The Aural Autopsy on the artist we knew as Prince is clear though. Prince is one of the best selling artists of all time with over 100 million records sold. Prince released 39 studio albums, racked up 7 Grammys, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He was a shoe–in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible in 2004. He walked down the Red Carpet but also made his own Purple Carpet as well—and luckily didn’t slip on any purple bananas while dancing on it.

 

Still, none of these awards, accolades and sales figures means as much as the fun and joy of making music. And Prince loved making music. It was about making music long before the money and about making music even after he had plenty of it. And that’s what I really admire about him.

 

There’s works of his I absolutely love, there’s works I think are cool and okay, there’s works I think aren’t his best. But Prince was never alive to write to specifically please me nor or any of his audience. He had the right to be an artist, to explore his creativity and he truly exercised that right—just look at his creative output.

 

It’s easy to slack off on the Fame Train after even one or two successful albums. As an artist, I experience and understand creativity this way because I write to enjoy doing so myself BECAUSE making art and being creative is it’s own reward. Whoever resonates with a creative work besides the originator is secondary and an added bonus to the joy of creation. And the more work you produce, those odds on connecting and resonating with an audience go up exponentially.

 

For myself, I have Prince tunes in iPod mixes for all moods and occasions. I’ve grooved out his classic tunes at friend’s dance parties into the early morning hours numerous times. Writing music is a celebration of life and listening and dancing to music is celebrating life as well. We can all always party like it’s 1999 on the dance floor and revisit our own sacred time outside the confines of the calendar. Why? Because the Messiah of the Minnesota Music scene said so. Stick that white dove feather in your Raspberry Beret.

 

Indeed, the Pale Blue Dot did turn a bit Purple with his time on the planet.

So goodbye Prince, and thank you for adding to the soundtrack of my life.

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America
Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

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First Recording Of Purple Rain In America

Jimi Hendrix first described a Purple Haze in 1967. Back in 1983, The Weather Girls forecasted that “It’s Raining Men.” Amen. Not just “a men” but LOTS of them. Unfortunately for women, most of that “man rain” fell on gay nightclubs as the song got absorbed and usurped by gay culture.

 

However, the conditions seemed ripe for these two songs to combine into a huge storm front at some point—and it most noticeably did in 1984 as radio, MTV and theaters worldwide were saturated with the purple deluge.

 

On other ends of the weather song spectrum, The Fixx saw “Red Skies” at night over London in 1982. A couple years later in 1986, Peter Gabriel reported “Red Rain” in England and Slayer saw it “Raining Blood” in America that very same year.

 

But where was the first record of “Purple Rain” falling? Minnesota? Hollywood? Does Purple Rain make doves cry? Would Gene Kelly sing in it? Is it responsible for Teletubbie Tinky–Winky in England?

 

Due to it’s massive notoriety and cultural impact, most people would think the first record of Purple Rain mentioned in the pop world was by Prince in the song/album/movie of the same name. But Prince did not coin or originate the phrase. Purple Rain didn’t first pour into the mainstream audience in 1984—it was actually recorded years earlier by another band.

 

First Recording Of Purple Rain: London, England

Purple Rain was first seen by America on “Ventura Highway” on their 1972 album Homecoming. America are a British born trio composed of musicians Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek. They met as sons of American servicemen stationed overseas around London.

 

The second verse in “Ventura Highway” contains the reference to Purple Rain which seems to have no particular intended meaning other than it rhymes nicely with ‘train’:

Wishin’ on a falling star
Watchin’ for the early train
Sorry boy, but I’ve been hit by
Purple rain

 

Another lyrical possibility could’ve been, “Sorry boy, but I’ve been hit by a Herpes strain.” Maybe for the Weird Al version…

I’ve always been entranced with the mood “Ventura Highway” creates. It’s a trip back in time for me even though I was in the area for a first time as an adult. “Ventura Highway” is a combination of haunting nostalgic longing for moments of a heightened sense of freedom and the joy of being alive.

 

In addition to capturing moods in aural photographs, America was always able to pull off creating very full sounding acoustic folk rock. Their sonic recipe being the interplay and layering of the 3 guitarists individual tracks and the multi part choruses. Instrument wise, it’s stripped down but the vocals have a rich fullness where the listener doesn’t notice there’s anything missing in the auditory department—just guitars, bass drums, vocals and strategic use of space.

 

America’s style of songwriting doesn’t need a Rick Wakeman, Al DiMeola or Neil Peart sitting in on a recording session. It’s complete in itself and most importantly, very singable by an outside nighttime fire as a bunch of musician friends and relatives often do when I’m visiting family in the Northeast.

 

“Ventura Highway” as well as another favorite, “A Horse With No Name” are great mood pieces—narrative story songs with some of the most fun memorable sing along choruses and interludes in pop music.

 

Kudos to America for creating several earworms which stimulate alpha and theta waves of relaxation, personal reflection and deeper connection instead of the more common beta consciousness of numerous pop songs which don’t venture beyond major chords—and are color blind to how the wider sound palette of 7th chords and above can furnish the listener with deeper, more profound harmonic textures. Songs like “Ventura Highway” have the endearing ability to become part of the soundtracks of people’s lives as it’s done so with mine.

 

Should you try to find Ventura Highway, you may have more luck finding Ausfahrt, Shell Beach, or Bigfoot hitching a ride back to Seattle from Burning Man. The song refers to the section of Highway 1 along the coast of California, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH.

 

When I was in Southern California, I drove up that famous ‘fictional’ highway and took in the beauty of the sharp jagged coastline and images of the mighty Pacific which relentlessly carved it over eons. Of course, people will tailgate then pass and flip you off while you’re trying to take in the same awesome spectacle that they take for granted. Welcome to California—land of “no worries” but not no hurries.

 

That kind of motorist etiquette just shows the mentality of young adults who have very little life experience and growing up in California doesn’t give you a fully stamped passport either. It also demonstrated to me there and in numerous other places I’ve traveled around the country, how most people are not in control of their lives. If you’re always in a hurry, how in control of your life are you? If you ARE in control of your life, then you wouldn’t be in a rush or hurry all the time. That just means lots of other people and things own your time and you’re their bitch.

 

Regardless, I wasn’t going to let a few testosterone cases and stressed out SoCal speedometer slaves interrupt my Ventura Highway moment and another one of my pop culture pilgrimages. They certainly didn’t personify the youthful hunger for wonder, Indian time schedule rebellion and explorative quest for freedom captured in America’s “Ventura Highway.”

 




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My journey continued. I drove up to Ventura then Santa Barbara, soaked up the State Street shopping district a friend who went to UCSB told me about then onto Santa Barbara’s beach and the Stearns Wharf pier.

 

The PCH is a windy and at times mountainous stretch of road. Traveling north from LA, you’ll pass Vandenberg Air Force Base outside the city of Lompoc, just north of Santa Barbara. It was in this area years ago a young Dewey Bunnell formed impressions he later translated into some lyrics in “Ventura Highway” as he and his brother were standing around waiting for their father to change a flat tire and saw a sign for Ventura.

 

Ironically I had my own car issue in the same general location but AAA took care of me nicely as my father was most likely on a golf course several states away. Like Dewey, I also formed some memories of vivid nomadic optimism and several “Freedom of the Road” impressions of my time spent there.

 

I was considering relocating to that area north of LA—I enjoyed Ojai in the mountains, Ventura and Santa Barbara, all less crowded and congested areas of southern coastal California. Driving the “Ventura Highway”, it’s easy to get tangled up in blue there—the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean reflecting the western sun as you ride the snake along that ancient lake.




Second Recording Of Purple Rain: Chanhassen, Minnesota, United States

 

Back to Purple Rain Prince style. Ah, the Wendy & Lisa era of Prince, with The Revolution. It’s highly likely Prince got the title idea from the “Ventura Highway” lyrics. Perhaps while driving up Ventura Highway in his Little Red Corvette.

 

In any case, Purple Rain was the most massively successful and enduringly popular album and movie Prince has ever done. Purple Rain spawned a phenomenon—sprouting several hits: “Let’s Go Crazy”, “When Doves Cry”, the title track “Purple Rain”, and perhaps my favorite Prince tune “I Would Die 4 U.” Mr. Slowhand himself, Eric Clapton is partial to “Purple Rain”—supposedly one of his favorite songs.

 

Prince and the Revolution live at the 1985 American Music Awards introduced by Lionel Ritchie:

 

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Some of the other tracks on Purple Rain however had unintended consequences for the Prince of Minnesota as well as the rest of the listening public. Purple Rain set off its own Water–gate or more aptly, an Ear–a–gate scandal.

 

“Darling Nikki” was the track that tipped off (and ticked off) Tipper Gore thus beginning the Parent’s Music Resource Center (PMRC) crusade and the black sticker stampede against explicit lyrics all because, according to Prince, Darling Nikki was masturbating with a magazine in some hotel lobby and her aforementioned grinding ability was irresistible.

 

This was the creative inspiration for Tipper Gore to co–found the PMRC and spiked the moral VU meter of the masses putting popular music under a microscope and bringin’ on the ear gates so we could all become Def Leppards to bad influences. The Censor Ship was bound to set sail up everyone’s auditory canal.

 

Perhaps a brush up on remedial Reverse Psychology 101 would have been a better course of action in retrospect before cooking up a controversy casserole which usually has a few tablespoons of the secret ingredient “personal embarrassment” in the recipe.

 

The “Sticker from Tipper”, Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics/Explicit Content was to teenagers and adolescents as appealing as stray beer in their parent’s fridge and sneaking into R rated movies (like Purple Rain) after buying a ticket for some tame G or PG flick not that I would know about such things.

 

Fortunately Purple Rain did produce the fabled “Trickle Down Economics” of the 1980’s as it created additional production jobs for duplicate censored versions of albums to be sold at more conservative retail stores like Walmart thus insuring purchase by parents on the cutting edge of cool.

 

These Clean Version Technicians or Song Sanitation Technicians have been protecting impressionable ears by erasing all discouraging words home on the range here in America since the mid 80’s. I doubt France or Europe got in such a tizzy over dirty words, but in America, the sound sanitation continued with questionable results.

 

Santa may have bought you the wrong version of that 2 Live Crew CD in those turbulent turntable times. And building an auditory F–Bomb shelter Skinner Box only enhances the future culture shock to befall the Rod & Todd Flanders types portrayed in The Simpsons.

 

Regardless of the controversy Purple Rain set off, ask a group of people the top albums that defined the 80’s and you’ll hear Purple Rain right up there in moonwalk orbit with Thriller. Purple Rain duked it out with Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. for the #1 album spot twice—a showdown between Minnesota and New Jersey; Two primal elements, “Purple Rain” vs “I’m On Fire”, battling it out in a Billboard boxing match each scoring successive hits on their opponent.

 

“Purple Rain” is Prince in a more introspective tone which I tend to really enjoy when he wrote songs in this manner as opposed to his more explicit “I’m a Sexual God” song catalog. He could write deeper stuff well which is why “Purple Rain” has more widespread appeal than say “Pussy Control” —Errr…bad pun there. This is the chorus of this particular tune on The Gold Experience album but thanks to Tipper, it’s track listing being the self–censored and unassuming “P Control.”

 

Prince really shows off his guitar acuity on “Purple Rain” like he does on the more uptempo rocker “Let’s Go Crazy” and moderate tempo “When Doves Cry.” The thing with Prince is he was able to do some guitar flash without alienating his female audience because it’s not overkill—it’s strategically placed and thematic to the melodic exposition of the song.

 

Gratuitous guitar masturbating (being a Guitarling Nikki?) and shredding generally is more interesting and impressive to men. When you hear the outro guitar line of “Purple Rain”, it’s reminiscent of other 80’s hits like “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister and “Who’s Crying Now” by Journey.

 

“Purple Rain” is a modern gospel rock ballad and his guitar playing is nicely legato and played in a smoothly connected singing style known as Cantabile as all the standard musical terms from the classical tradition are in Italian. This is because both the violin and piano originated there a few centuries after pizza did. Cantabile is the art and technique of playing a musical instrument in the manner of imitating an actual human voice singing.

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As for the movie, a little known fact is one actress who was approached to play Prince’s love interest in Purple Rain before Apollonia Kotero eventually got the role. Some girl named Jennifer Beals. A movie called Flashdance came out the year before in 1983.

 

They probably figured since Beals got drenched already onstage dancing to “He’s a Dream” by Shandi Sinnamon and in the “Maniac” montage to the Michael Sembello tune, she’d be game to purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

 

Unfortunately, Beals was in college at the time and declined the offer as she had aspirations in life other than welding and exotic dancing. On the upside, Flashdance did win a Grammy in 1984 for Best Album of Original Score. Another fun fact is Lee Ving from the punk band Fear was also in Flashdance as a strip club owner, not that this stereotypes vocalists in punk bands in away way, shape or form.

 

The classic 1980’s album opens with Pastor Prince giving his famous sermon from the pop pulpit on Purple Rain in the beginning of “Let’s Go Crazy” with the church organ sample rocking out behind his “Dearly Beloved…we are gathered here to get through this thing called life…” spiel. It culminates in the sage advice as the drums kick in elevating the tempo and just before the full band enters:

“And if the de–elevator tries to bring you down…go crazy…punch a higher floor.”

 

People who grew up in the 80’s memorized this Prince dialogue as much as the opening dress down rant by actor Mark Metcalf (the Doug Niedermeyer character in National Lampoon’s Animal House) in Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video, one of the funniest things to grace the early days of MTV. “A Twisted Sister pin?! On your uniform?!…”

 

Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider later found himself defending free speech to Congress along with Frank Zappa and John Denver after that “Darling Nikki” incident from Purple Rain. Seems the Purple Rain washed Dee’s makeup off for the congressional hearings as he wasn’t sporting his trademark stellar Cover Girl looks.

 

All in all, Prince seemed to weather the controversy of Purple Rain fairly well. The album and film have held up over time and aren’t going to wash away with censorship soap anytime soon. Pop history knows the Censor Ship set sail after the Purple Rain and wouldn’t have had the degree of controversy buoyancy without it’s success being embraced on a wide scale by the culture at large.

 

Years later, the controversy fizzled out and ran aground on it’s own moral high ground. People can read into things and create and inflate issues like our tale here of how a little Purple Rain turned into the Perfect Sh*tstorm.

 

Let me take a retroactive stab at it before I wrap up this purple banana: On “Purple Rain” Prince states, “I only wanted to see you bathing in the Purple Rain.” Okay, so maybe that means the Prince has a bit of a voyeur fetish as well. Cover your ears! Release the hounds!

 

The good news is, we can baptize ourselves with Purple Rain in more than one way and in more than one location thanks to America and Prince. So before you build that F–bomb shelter or call up that shrink in Beverly Hills, it might be better for your sanity to go crazy and take a long leisurely meditative drive along Ventura Highway in the sunshine after the purifying cleansing of a freshly fallen Purple Rain.

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

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