April Showers Bring Prince Memorials, Steely Dan, White Denim, & Cold-Brewed Coffee
|Allison Felus||Apr 27, 2016|
Well, yes, I guess sometimes it snows in April.
Who would have thought that we'd see the loss of both Bowie and Prince before the first six months of 2016 were over?
My most salient memory of Prince's genius is, predictably for me, a late-night one. I remember laying on the floor in the living room of my childhood home after everyone else had gone to sleep and watching an episode of Sinbad's short-lived TV talk show with Prince on as the musical guest and interviewee. (Checking the dates of the Sinbad show online, this would have been sometime in '97 or '98.) I'd never owned any of Prince's albums; in an uncharacteristic display of prudery, my dad once refused to buy me one of his CDs when I was a teenager and told me he'd get me a copy of Pet Sounds instead.
But, that night in my half-asleep state, I watched in awe as Prince not only danced and sang his way through the appearance but also joked about the newly solemn state of his backstage environments, where it was more likely you'd hear Bible verses being discussed than witness any debauchery (cf, this incredible Tweet from Talib Kweli!!). The memory of the show that actually sticks out most to me now, though, was when the bass player from his current band (I'm guessing it was probably Sonny T of the New Power Generation?) marveled at how, during rehearsals, if any of the musicians would balk that a line was too complicated for them to play, Prince wouldn't hesitate to pick up their instruments and blow through the part with no trouble at all, showing them exactly how he wanted it done.
It was an offhanded remark meant to just reinforce Prince's legendary musical prowess, but I really felt the largeness of it. It's like, there were mere mortals--talented professionals though they may be--and then there were people touched by supreme grace, who, I suppose, need to be able to do all those many things expertly in order for their visions and hearts and messages to make their proper impact.
Here are some marvelous things that I've come across in the past week that demonstrate at least a glimpse of Prince's proper impact:
"What I’m gonna try and think instead about is this: what it felt like watching Prince play. It was like watching God’s love." ♥ "Without missing a beat, Michael said, ‘You don’t understand — if I’m not there to receive these ideas, God might give them to Prince.’” ♥ "I didn’t know until years later that . . . Prince had epilepsy, too. Prince got freaky as survival strategy." ♥ "[T]hat bizarre moment is one of thousands that makes it clear that I'd followed the correct path decades earlier when I put my faith in that tiny purple prophet." ♥ "No one else cared that much. Only Prince." ♥ "Obviously he could see things and hear things that no one else could, but what amazed me was his ability to defend and cultivate that vision until it became real in everyone else’s heads, until we could all see it too." ♥ Prince's 2007 Superbowl Half-Time Show (I remember watching this on TV at the time with a handful of my best friends and just screaming, it was so wonderful) ♥ Related: "And Prince is like, 'can you make it rain harder?' And I was like, 'right on.'" ♥ Prince upstaging everyone when he solos out at the end of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" ♥ "SAW PRINCE hustling through the Memphis airport once, with 3 bodyguards in bespoke purple suits. He wasn't walking - he was LEVITATING." ♥ "[Sign o' the Times] really changed the course of my life. Sad, sad news today." ♥ "All I can think is that the universe is taking away our heroes & magicians so we are forced to make some new ones."
What's new on the blog
On Queen of Peaches, I go long explaining why I freaked out (in a good way) when I saw that one of my favorite bands, White Denim, performed a cover of the Steely Dan song "Peg":
Playing a cover of “Peg” is in no way, of course, just playing a cover of “Peg.” It’s referencing all that deep music-nerd knowledge of Steely Dan as these legendarily exacting players. It’s having the chops to actually pull it off. It’s gesturing toward the music people who will get the reference and understand the complexity of the choice and be duly surprised and impressed by it. It’s having a solid enough identity as a band that the song comes off as affectionate rather than ironic. It’s operating at a level of success where all these factors add up to, like, just a fun thing to try to do if you happen to be touring behind a new album anyway.
And, holy crap, it works! I mean, for me, given all of the above, it so works.
I was gonna be a little rough on this cover of "I'm Waiting for the Man" by Echo & the Bunnymen. I was all set to talk about how, sure, it seems like it'd be easy to blow through a cover of this song, just because it doesn't necessarily require a fancy arrangement--as long as you can keep all the lyrics straight, you're basically set--though, if that's all you're going to do, why bother? I was going to go on a long tirade about how you actually do have to do something fancy to the arrangement in order to compensate for not having, y'know, Lou Reed fronting the band with his magnificent attitude and the Velvets' extremely specific late-'60s New York dirtbag sound that's always seemingly on the verge of coming completely unhinged. But, then I realized that Ian McCulloch was probably just like, "why in God's name to I have to lead this whole thing off with an ad for bloody Jägermeister?" and then decided to pull out one of the first songs he probably ever learned to cover as a young musician just to get through the damn taping. In that sense, playing a completely pedestrian cover of a song that's pretty guaranteed to elicit a happy "oh yeah, I love that song!" response from a crowd of NME journo-snobs is actually kinda punk rock indeed.
Are you in the middle of a creative project with lots of moving parts? Have you been through all the intellectual reasons why you should probably do one thing or the other, but just can't push yourself through to the next phase of the process? If a little mystical glimpse into this creative decision that has you stumped might be just what the doctor ordered, that's definitely something I can help with. As a clairvoyant reader, it's not my job to make predictions or give advice, but to offer a picture of the energy surrounding the decision; to highlight possible trajectories, in light of the multiple options; and to offer some insight on where the most juice is, so to speak. The code PEACHES gets you or a friend 50% off any psychic reading or healing in my shop.
Here's to tall glasses of cold-brewed coffee and warmer and sunnier days ahead,