Dream Analysis

I find that too many of my dreams these days involve reviewing server logs.

(They are not interesting dreams.)

Even Auto Mechanics Have Tough Troubleshooting Issues

Customer states check engine light on. Install SOP part. P0411 sec. air flow incorrect. Traced fault to a restriction in the cylinder head. No cylinder head available. TAC sent engine. Went to replace the engine. Went to replace engine. Had old one out when I found out TAC had sent the wrong engine. Called TAC again and they instructed me on how to clean air ports in head. Cleaned sec air injector ports then reinstalled engine. Verified fix.

That was my last week or two. How you doin’?

An Unfortunate Omission

I read Ronin Ro’s biography intently this year.

In fact, I read a lot of Prince-related books this year. In part because he died. In part because after he died, I knew I was going to be stupid enough to make Zappadan (mostly) about Prince somehow (and so here we are).

My recommendation is to start with “The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir” by Sheila E. Your jaw will drop at several of the revelations in this breezy read, and I will not spoil many of them for you. But Sheila does put to rest a hazy bit of data for us: Yes, they were an item and, in fact, they were once engaged. But this little book will break your heart a few times and give you a fascinating look at what I consider to be one of the hottest, most iconic music videos of the era, “The Glamorous Life.”

And you will never. See Carlos Santana. The same again.

But, back to “Inside the Music and the Masks.”

Here’s the thing. Ro’s book is excellent at documenting how Prince won us, then lost us, then won us back. But he ignores a lot.

For instance. Page 122. Ro writes:

February 26 at the Shrine Auditorium, Wendy’s father, Mike, onstage in a black tuxedo. Tonight, they’d celebrate the success of a very special performer, he announced.

This is the only thing mentioned in the entire book about Mike Melvoin. Who is not only Wendy Melvoin’s father, but the father also of Susannah Melvoin, Wendy’s twin sister and Prince lady friend and member of his Time spinoff band The Family, and also father of Jonathan Melvoin, also a player on many Prince tunes and touring keyboardist for a little combo called Smashing Pumpkins (sadly, Jonathan died of a heroin overdose in 1995).

Not only was Mike Melvoin the seed provider for those three accomplished musicians, he was an accomplished professional musician in his own right.

He was one of the most sought-after session keyboardists who ever walked. He recorded with with Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, The Jackson 5, Natalie Cole, and The Beach Boys and was considered a member of the not-so-famous group of session musicians who created 95 percent of most of the music you ever heard in the 1960s and 1970s known as The Wrecking Crew.

There is a documentary on Netflix right now called “Sample This,” the story of a song called “Apache” by a group of session musicians called The Incredible Bongo Band that provides a prominent break beat used widely in hip hop (though one might make an argument that the Amen Break is actually more prominent). This film has more Mike Melvoin in it than Ro’s bio.

“He wore a tux and said stuff” is all that Ronin Ro writes of Mike Melvoin. That’s a shame. Explaining the Melvoin kids’ musical pedigree might have offered some context.

But that’s not the worst of it. Ro completely fails to mention one of Prince’s most vital collaborators, Clare Fischer.

Thankfully, Matt Thorne, author of “Prince: The Man and His Music,” exists.

This is a book so thick and densely packed that it sometimes can read as a really crazy fan’s extensive tour log. As a Prince reference it may be valuable. A breezy read it’s not. But it is packed with data. And one of the nicest things it does is to document what I have come to think of as the sweet working relationship between Prince and Fischer.

Herbie Hancock said “I wouldn’t be me without Clare Fischer.” The quote could have just as well been attributed to Prince.

Prince never met Clare Fischer. He was supposed to have met Fischer when they first started working together. Prince was to have sat in as Fischer led his orchestra arrangements. But Prince was called away and could not attend. So Prince sent them a tape and some dots on paper. And Fischer and his son worked out arrangements to go with them and sent them back.

And Prince became terrified that if he had been there he would have micromanaged the process and thus ruined this perfect music he had received. Beautiful orchestra arrangements we first heard utilized on Parade.

Prince had the opportunity to meet Clare Fischer later in his career. He demurred. He had become downright superstitious about Clare Fischer. That’s how important Fischer was to the Belle. And * swapping him in the head one last time * Ronin Ro IGNORES HIM COMPLETELY.

That’s a horrible omission. Sorry, dude.

There’s a Bass Guitar in This

I was sitting in my dorm room at Ohio University pretending to study but probably secretly brooding about some broad or another or about my asshole roommates or my shitty living situation or whatever. It was late afternoon.

This kid on my floor, he was tall and pretty and denied to the ends of the Earth that he was gay. I hope he’s since been able to live it real. He walked in to my room and held the CD in front of my eyes.

It was Prince. As a sprite of some kind. Naked. On a flower.

I bought the tape days later and walked back down to the dorms. I remember clearly the first time I heard “Dance On.”

I don’t know why by now I wasn’t used to Prince blowing my mind up.

Ya know, you would think with the overtly religious themes on the album, you would think Mr. Nonbeliever here would hate the living gravity out of it. But I lived on it. Thrived on it all through a shitty freshman year which ended with me tossed back home missing my friends immensely and a lonesome summer in Lawrence Kansas.

Nonsense. This is a revival I would gladly attend.

What a world this man spun for us. Rain is wet. Sugar is sweet. Clap your hands and stomp your feet.

Everybody. Everybody knows.

When love calls, you gotta go.

If you own the Lovesexy album on CD, you know the annoying thing about it: It’s all one single track. So you don’t get to just skip ahead to “Alphabet Street.”

This used to annoy me a bit.

Not so much anymore.

That is how Lovesexy should be experienced.

As is so often true, it turns out the man was right.

Mrs. Gwynn and Prince

I want to tell you a story about the sweetest thing my Grandma ever did for me.

And she’s bought me cars.

I’ve told you about how I found out about Prince’s time to stop refusing to die. Part two of that story is that the next day, my Dear Old Dad and I were scheduled to drive to Erie County, Pennsylvania, to have a birthday party in her honor.

It’s a three hour drive, so my Dad had to listen to a lot of Prince the whole way over. It’s just where my head was at. I couldn’t have possibly listened to anything else.

We arrived at the house. She had CNN on. And CNN was at Paisley Park.

Please understand. My Grandma had always been an oddly encouraging and simultaneously discouraging influence on me when it came to music. I’ve seen Pete Fountain with her, and Tommy Dorsey’s Thundering Herd. She wanted me to know the music of her era, and due in large part to her influence, I do, and I have an appreciation for it that few people my age might. I don’t consider it music of just her generation, in fact. Music belongs to us all and cuts through generations like a Ginsu.

But pretty much anything created after 1949 was out of bounds for my Grandma. Put on anything contemporary and she’d act like I do when my brother puts on Job for a Cowboy or whatever. I mean I could be playing Chicago and she’d be like what’s with all that screaming and grimacing?

But she wanted to know about Prince.

She asked questions. She put up with me playing his music on the radio as we drove to supper. I asked her what it had felt like when Glen Miller went missing, and she confirmed to me that it was a tremendous loss because they had no idea where the great bandleader had ended up.

I told her this was like that. To me.

She stayed up to watch SNL’s tribute to Prince with me. She wanted to know. She couldn’t bear to hear the music but she wanted to know who this little black man was and why he meant so much to me.

As you might know, a month later, we lost her to heart failure at age 92. I lost Prince, and then I lost her. But she, in one of the most interesting and certainly strange moments in my relationship with her, she offered one of the kindest gestures I’ve ever encountered.

Peace and B wyld, Grandma.

Good Gawd! Good Golly!

prince_LR.jpg

Prince’s death in April led to an immediate speculation of the well-being of one Richard Penniman.

Little Richard responded to the notion: “Not only is my family not gathering around me because I’m ill, but I’m still singing. I don’t perform like I used to, but I have my singing voice, I walk around, I had hip surgery a while ago but I’m healthy.”

I couldn’t be happier to hear news than to hear that the Architect is healthy and relatively comfortable. And, as you may know if you’ve read this space at this time of year before, this is the day we wish Little Richard a happy birthday as an adjunct to the lovely Zappadan holiday.

Because Little Richard wrote “Directly from my Heart,” one of the finest pieces of music I have ever heard, and Frank Zappa apparently thought so too, because he chose it to feature Don “Sugarcane” Harris.

In the same story referenced here, William Sobel, Little Richard’s attorney of the past 30 years, has apparently had Prince on his mind, too.

“I just spoke to him today,” Sobel tells Rolling Stone. ” I used to represent Prince and he just engaged me in all kinds of Prince conversations, calling him a ‘creative genius.'”

It’s not hard to imagine the influence Little Richard may have had on Prince. But it’s difficult to document and too easy to assume because they are/were both pretty black dudes who were awesome performers and wore pancake and purple.

But I think there’s one aspect of these performers that I would focus on when considering any influence. It’s not the hair, or being pretty black men, or style choices, or even religious devotion.

It’s an outrageous work ethic.

Listen to a Little Richard tune sometime and observe how hard he works. It’s as if he believes he has to be everything in a song. He’s the entire chorus. He’s the whole of the performance.

And we all know that our man Prince took that aesthetic to heart. “Produced, arranged, composed, and performed by…”

Anyway. Here is the reason for the season. Thanks as always to the Georgia Peach. Happy birthday to Richard Wayne Penniman, the man who first showed every rock performer how it’s done.