At least, that was the general consensus on the Internets.
I mean, throw a dart at any year and you will come up with a long list of musical notables who had stopped refusing to die. But 2016, for some reason, seemed particularly heinous.
David Bowie (January 10). Glenn Frey (January 18). Paul Kantner (January 28). Maurice White (Feb. 4). Vanity (Feb. 15). Keith Emerson (March 10). Merle Haggard (April 6). Jimmie Van Zant (April 7). Leon Russell (Nov. 13).
But for me, it didn’t get any worse than April 21. (Or so I thought, but that’s a different story…) Respect to every other musical mind we lost in 2016, but in April 2016, it just went from bad to worse. To the worst. The worst.
I was at work. I emptied myself into the hallway to stretch my legs and view social media. There was this weird news story on my phone about them finding a body at Paisley Park.
Calm down, says me to myself. They didn’t say it was him. Yet.
Four minutes later they’re saying it was him. It was him. It was him.
Prince Rogers Nelson had stopped refusing to die at age 57. It was not the most devastating loss I would face to Grim the Reaper in 2016. But it sure felt like it was.
As I left the office, I told my boss I was “going to go home and watch Purple Rain.” And I did. Twice. And several times after that. And once when it played at the Little Theater. I even watched Graffiti Bridge.
Man, he made horrible films.
But, so did Elvis. And Elvis was still Elvis.
Except for me.
Prince was my Elvis.
I was thinking of about when Prince came into my conciousness. I think I kept seeing the “Controversy” album for sale via some record club I was in. Then I think I heard “Delerious” on the radio one morning. Then there was the video for “1999.” Then I ended up with the 1999 album via another record club. And I didn’t listen to it for a while. And then when I did listen to it, really listened to it, I was blown away by the attention to detail. To the chiming clock and the flute orchestration during “Lady Cab Driver.” To the weird whirring baseline during “All The Critics Love U (In New York).” To the weird inneuendo in “Little Red Corvette.”
(Shortly after his death I could not help but joke:
“Little Red Corvette
This song is not actually about a car
Little Red Corvette
This song is about sexual intercourse actually.”
–Prince’s original draft
Everything. In total. About the album 1999 is great. Still is. That’s the lovely thing about it. It still stands up. Solidly. Even now, 17 years after the arrival of the title’s indicated year.
Yeah, I mean at 1999, I thought I was fairly hooked on Prince and probably had by that time even bought Controversy.
I could not have prepared myself at that time for Purple Rain.
Welcome to Zappadan. It’s purple.
I am learning how to do Edinboro.
Please understand that Edinboro, Pa. is a rather special place for my family and I. I myself have 48 years of memories here, of some of the happiest times I ever knew. But in 1986, when my Grandpa died, Edinboro changed for everyone because his widow, my dear Granny G, made it her home, which it was from then until she died in May 2016.
So I no longer come here to visit my Granny G (except in spirit of course, which I will discuss in a bit). So this place which once held my childhood wonder with elements such as The Penny Candy Store, bike rides, sandy flip-flops, canoe excursions, and the like, is now… well…
Radiolab recently ran a story about a woman with an odd neurological condition she first noticed when she was a child. From time to time, her sense of place shifted by about 45 degrees. So for her, when this happened, nothing seemed to be in the right place. Wait, let me see if I can find it for ya.
So it feels kind of like that.
Now my theory has been that you leave Rochester Friday night after your shift. But I tried this last night, and it was no fun. First the snow made the road feel like a pool full of ball bearings. So I chickened out and left the thruway at the next exit. And promptly was met with completely stopped traffic.
I do not do well in stopped traffic.
It cleared, and then my GPS got me lost by mistaking Avenue for Road.
I finally got home and had cancelled this trip in my head before I slept. But I woke up this morning and was gung-ho.
Via this, I have concluded the move is to get home from work, go to bed, then get up early and beat feet.
So anyway, I am here, in our quiet lake house. I have some writing to do (Zappadan, don’tcha know). And I brought laundry. And I had a nice lunch and did some antique looking. Picked up some toiletries I had forgotten at the CVS.
Then I went to see the other piece of real estate my family owns here.
I told my Granny G about President-Elect Trump.
I told her I was sorry.
I told her we had tried.
It did not have the necromancing quality I had expected. She did not come to life and claw her way up to demand answers.
I really sort of expected her to. I mean, I even told her Trump had talked to Taiwan.
What a nitwit.
Anyway. Look out, folks. Zappadan is coming!
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Zappadan.
Electric word, Zappadan, it means Dec. 4 – Dec. 21. But I’m here to tell you: There’s something else.
A Dude Extraordinaire. He could always bring the Quake. Day or night.
So when you call up that shrink in Cucamonga, you know the one, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, instead of asking how much time you have left, ask WHO ARE THE BRAIN POLICE, baby.
‘Cuz in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld.
In this life, you’re on your own.
And if the elevator tries to break you down…FREAK OUT!
LET’S PUNCH ANOTHER FLOOR
What on this green growing Earth are you talking about?
I’m talking about Zappadan, man.
I thought Zappadan was for Frank Zappa.
It is. Of course. But this year we lost Prince.
What does Prince have to do with Frank Zappa?
Well, historically, not much. In fact, here’s a tidbit I found on the internets, though I would not vouch 100 percent for its validity:
From Todd Yvega, one of FZs technicians (via Kickstarter):
“One day in the studio, during the course of regular studio banter, the subject of Prince somehow came up. Most of the guys up on their high horses disparaged Prince for his “sex and purple fantasy” image. Frank made his point that he admires Prince simply for being dedicated and a hard worker. I asked Frank if he had met Prince, whereupon he said, “Well I tried, but he ran away!” Naturally that struck me as one hell of a teaser so I asked for elaboration. Frank said he was at an industry event where Prince was in attendance. Frank spotted Prince and decided he’d walk over and introduce himself. But when Prince saw Frank walking toward him, he looked like got scared and just ran away. The way Frank told it gave the impression that he just shrugged it off and thought, “Oh well.”
So they never even met? And you’re going to fete that skinny motherfucker with the high voice on Zappadan? I still don’t get it.
But, look at it this way. Iconoclastic musician. Great facial hair. Hard-working, industrious multi-instrumentalist. Unbelievably prolific, too prolific, in fact, for the music industry to manage. Leader of bands. Producer. Railed against the established industry practices. Multi-genre artist, dabbling heavily in jazz and orchestral composition. Guitar master. Filmmaker.
Which one of these fellas does this describe?
Hum, I guess I can see your point.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it. And I don’t. I don’t like it.
Well, too bad, McFly. You know what I have to say to that?
Sigh. Yes. AAAFNRAA
That’s right. AAAFNRAA. Anything. Anytime. Anywhere. For no reason at all.
Fine. You gonna write about Frank at all, fool?
Well, of course. I have to. I mean, Lady Gaga bought the ranch house, right?
And Dweezil and Ahmet?
So shut up already.
I’m using the chicken to measure it.
1. Frosty the Snowman by Fiona Apple
2. We Wish You a Merry Christmas by Booker T and the Mars
3. Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You by Billy Squier
4. Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses
5. Christmas Song by Mogwai
6. Christmas Treat by Julian Casablancas
7. This Christmas by Donny Hathaway
8. O Holy Night by Weezer
9. Get Down for the Holidays by Jenny O.
10. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (remix) by Kay Starr
11. Wonderful Christmastime by Sir Paul McCartney
12. Please Come Home for Christmas by The Eagles
13. Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC
14. Father Christmas by The Kinks
15. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town by Bruce Springsteen
16. White Christmas by Iggy Pop
17. Silent Night by Dinah Washington
18. White Christmas by The Drifters
19. 2000 Miles by Pretenders
20. Santa’s Beard by They Might Be Giants
21. Just Like Christmas by Low
22. We Three Kings by The Reverend Horton Heat
23. Whatever Happened to Christmas by Aimee Mann
24. We Wish You A Merry Christmas by Shonen Knife
25. I Did It For The Toys by Dance Hall Crashers
26. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band
27. Winter Wonderland by Macy Gray
28. Ain’t no Chimneys in the Projects by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
29. Someday at Christmas by Stevie Wonder
30. Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry
31. Oi to the World by No Doubt
32. Christmas Feeling Ska by Toots and the Maytals
33. Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano
34. Do The Know It’s Christmas by Bare Naked Ladies
35. Sleigh Ride by The Boston Pops Orchestra
36. Christmastime by Smashing Pumpkins
37. Who’s Up there by Bhi Bhiman
38. The Christmas Waltz by SOAK
39. Ave Maria by Born Cages
40. Christmas Alone by YACHT
41. Jingle Bells by Avid Dancer
42. New Year’s Day by Turin Brakes
43. Champagne (I’m Ready) by Lisa Loeb
44. Surviving Christmas by Sondre Lerche & Jherek Bischoff
45. Donuts in the Snow by The Reverend Horton Heat
46. It’s Only Christmas by Moon Taxi
47. Christmas with You by Fruit Bats
48. Christmastime by Rogue Wave
49. Silent Night by Wild Child
50. Jingle Bells by Crash Test Dummies
I heard on the radio the other day a bit of the story about how Leonard Cohen, who died this week, wrote his best-known song, “Hallelujah.” The song had 80-some verses and sometimes drove Cohen crazy.
Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for “Hallelujah”, with one writing session at the Royalton Hotel in New York where he was reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor.
John Cale eventually covered the song, as did a youngster named Jeff Buckley, whose version of the song became the standard bearer. Buckley’s album “Grace” is likely to be number one on many “albums you need to have” lists, and his version of Cohen’s masterpiece is key as to why.
Other covers abound with different interpretations. Rufus Wainwright has performed it, as have k.d. lang, Regina Spektor, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Bono, Amanda Palmer, Willie Nelson, I mean, here, here’s a list of 60 (thanks, Newsweek).
And, last night, on live national television, it was covered by Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton. And that was brilliant. That is why Kate McKinnon holds a doctorate in what she does. It was so bittersweet, so effective, the jiu-jitsu of feeling the loss of a great American songwriter while playing through what many of us feel was a loss of the great America itself.
I hadn’t cried yet over the loss to Trump. But boy, that brought it out of me. Thanks, comedian.
Because that’s what this feels like. It’s been slipping away for a while now, what with the idiocy-as-a-leadership-quality approach seen in folks like George W. Bush and Prudence Palin. Now we’ve elected a man who ran on a platform of pointing to specific groups of people and saying THEY are the problem, and we are going to get rid of THEM to solve the problem.
What could possibly be wrong with that?
Newt Gingrich on Face the Nation this morning poo-pooed such allusions. He called it “garbage.” Said he’d never heard of the “alt-right” before this. Republicans don’t mind riding such ugly, Bircher-powered waves, but confront them to acknowledge them, and you will face a cloudburst of denial and false outrage.
Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in part by tapping into scapegoatism, via a radical jingoism, racism, misogyny, and general angry hatred. If you are a Republican and you deny that, you are simply doing more of your putting your head in the sand.
I was a supporter of Hillary Clinton early on. I don’t think I was “wrong,” per se. As I write this, Mrs. Clinton leads the popular vote by 600,000 votes. She only lost the presidency by losing Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Three states. And we cannot possibly know how Mr. Sanders would have fared in the general election. I maintain that he was an utterly unvetted candidate who would have been trounced.
However, I think my party needs to beat a path to Bernie’s door now. Because, mark my word, this new Republican regime in Washington will over-reach. It’s what they do when they assume all levers of power. And, when they do, we had better have an organization that’s ready.
I say now that the way to get ready is to line up behind the socialist.
What have we got to lose?
In Other News
For many years, I have slept on a futon. I don’t even bother to open it up because it is more comfortable to me as sofa. Opened, the slats sort of come through, and as a side sleeper, this is not cool. The futon was a necessity when I was living in a cramped studio apartment. I have since changed up to a one-bedroom. And so I have been furnishing and organizing and plotting and planning. There was a dishwasher fiasco the likes of which you would not believe. But all of it was leading to the purchase of the bed.
Which got done yesterday. As of this Friday, I will sleep on Serta just like a normal American.
A fabulous development.
Also did a little canvassing with my Dad for the Democrats today. Well. He canvasses. I drive. It’s nice because he doesn’t have to worry about driving and can mark his lists while I’m getting us out the driveway. But while we were working for our Democrats, we couldn’t help but commiserate over how over this torturous election process is.
So. I think you all know by now how I will be voting. But I wanted to write a bit tonight about * how * I will be voting.
You know, we hear every five minutes that the two major parties have managed to field two of the least liked candidates like, evar. I see feedback from all manner of voters, liberals, conservatives, Beatles fans, Elvis fans, all kinds of folks, that they will place their vote sporting a clothespin on their nose to keep the stench from reaching their thalamus. I am not one of those voters. Not by a mile.
My Facebook pals will know the line I’ve echoed there time and time again: “Have I mentioned that I cannot wait to vote for Hillary Clinton?”
Look. When these pundnosticators equivocate the public’s seeming dislike of each candidate, they are discounting completely the relentless public relations campaign effort of the last 30 years to discredit and delegitimize Bill and Hillary Clinton. The “right-wing conspiracy” is not a made-up thing. It exists. And its strategy for decades has been to keep blood libel after blood libel in the public’s face regarding these good people, the latest of which being this foolish e-mail nonsense, which should have been laid to rest today but most certainly won’t be.
The difference between the unfavorable numbers between these two candidates is that Trump actually earned his.
Hillary Clinton is an accomplished public servant. She is, for example, the first presidential candidate I have ever heard succinctly support the #trustwomen position on abortion. She stridently explained when questioned about her position the tragic medical necessity for some such procedure after 20 weeks. I support her based upon her response to this question alone. A preznit who truly understands this issue would certainly be nice.
I will walk into that voting booth to vote for Hillary Clinton, not for a party and not in opposition of a stink-bomb. She is the strongest candidate to ever run for the office, and I think her presidency is going to be transformational and powerful. I cannot wait to vote for Hillary Clinton, and if ya’ll are holding your noses, maybe ya’ll better vote different or think differently about your vote. You can vote proudly for Mrs. Clinton. But there is no way possible, not even squinting or scrunching your mouth funny, that you can do the same with the funny orange man. His election would be a horrible misstep for our little country.
Vote for Hillary and leave the booth skanking. You can. I promise.
In Other News
(Trombone Shorty. Sunrise. You’re welcome.)
The intro to tonight’s 60 Minutes report on some musicians in Malawi by Anderson Cooper:
“Something unusual happened on the way to the Grammy Awards this past year: an album was nominated from Malawi, a small country in southern Africa not exactly famous for its music. The artists weren’t polished pop stars but prisoners and guards — men and women in a place called Zomba, a maximum-security prison so decrepit and overcrowded, we heard it referred to as ‘the waiting room of hell.’ How could such beautiful music come from such misery? We went to Malawi to find out.”
How could beautiful music come from misery?
Anderson Cooper knows fcuk-all about music.