Will You Accept My Tears To Pay The Fare?

I got my first copy of Prince’s 1999 album accidentally.

See, when I was a kid, they had this brilliant sales tactic called a “record club.” So you signed up, and then if you didn’t cancel an order, they sent you the record anyway. This was a brilliant selling tactic that probably should have been illegal. But as a result, one of the albums I ended up with was weird and purple and had a penis on it.

Face it. That “1” in 1999 is a phallus. It just is. Let’s move on.

I had a bias at the time, I have to admit. I mean I was what, 14? And I didn’t like this boom-boom music. So I accepted the record, but I didn’t listen to it, for a while. I just didn’t. Until, one day, I did. I think it’s because “Delirious” was on the radio. I got it out and listened to it.

And this song came on.

It was called “Lady Cab Driver.”

There is a drum beat, and Prince calling for a taxi. Funky guitar and bass. Then Prince regaling the “lady cab driver” and engaging her in light conversation but then begging her for relief via escape.

Then there are the clock-chimes and the water-blow noises. And the part where he’s f*ing that broad and giving her the what-for.

And what’s with that flute-synth sound ?

And then the traffic noises continue and we fade into “All The Critics Love You In New York”

and I

was instantly a Prince fan

and I always will be

U no what I’m talkin’ about.

*

The eighth performance in the film Sign O’ The Times is a drum solo by Sheila E. The “E” stands for “Escavedo.” Her father is Pete Escovedo, a renowned percussionist in his own right. Tito Puente was her godfather, and she is also auntie to a young lady you may have heard of called “Nicole Ritchie.” Sheila was romantically involved with Prince at one time and, I was stunned to learn, was also in a thing at one time with Carlos Santana. Yeah.

Her album, “In The Glamorous Life” was always one of my very favorite Prince albums.

But there is a moment in the middle of her drum solo I think about often, because it shows her to be one of the most terrifying drummers out there. During the solo, Sheila gets rid of her sticks and starts beating the cymbals with her hands.

I have never seen another drummer do this. To my knowledge, Mick Fleetwood never did this, nor did John Bonham, nor even Stumpy Joe Childs. This is a move it took a girl drummer to do. She is the fiercest drummer ever and don’t ever forget it.

*

Prince didn’t merely record albums. He forged worlds. And for a while, one could look forward to entering one of these worlds pretty much annually. I’ve spent a good amount of time at Paisley Park (it’s in your heart), and at Christopher Tracy’s Parade. I’ve been talking stuff in the Violent Room, and I have kept Vicky waiting. I was of the New Power Generation and wanted to change the world.

And, I have most certainly spent a lot of time experiencing a religious epiphany known as “Lovesexy.”

It was three years ago on a Thursday. I had taken April 22 off of work to drive to my Grandma’s house for her birthday with my Dad. I had taken a break to peek at my phone, and there were reports of a body found in Chanhassen. Later reports confirmed the body belonged to Prince. He had been found slumped over in an elevator, which I immediately found to have been horribly poetic.

Punch a higher floor.

Strangely, that weekend, I had to explain Prince to my 92-year-old grandmother. To explain to her how widely admired was the Dude Extraordinaire, I broke out the big comparison. What was it like, I asked her, when you lost Glenn Miller?

I watched Purple Rain every night for a week once I returned. I have since re-written it in my head because it is not a good movie. I have also since purchased and digested Art Official Age, PlectrumElectrum, and Hit and Run Phases One and Two. These, his last released works, would all sit comfortably next to anything he had ever done; they are that good, which I find to be the largest shame of his end. I think he was ready to unleash at least another decade’s worth of music on us.

Mary Don’t You Weep

With the litany of production credits that trails at the end of the “new” Aretha Franklin film Amazing Grace, it is an astonishing miracle that the film exists as it does, completely unadulterated. There is a brief text crawl that introduces the film, explaining why this rare and exceptional performance occurred, and then you are allowed to simply watch. There are no self-aggrandizing interviews, such as in The Last Waltz, for example. Nobody talks about what’s happening or attempts to shine light on the events. You just get to watch. And that is wonderful.

Franklin is brilliant as expected, but you’re also treated to one of the finest call-and-response partners there is, James Cleveland; not to mention the Southern California Community Choir. As Mr. Cleveland points out to the audience at one point, the project could have just been another studio effort by Franklin, but that the point of recording at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church is to get audience reaction on the record, as well.

And hey. Mick Jagger and his friend Charlie Watts are in the audience as well. Because of course they are.

The film, captured on 16 mm film by filmmaker Sydney Pollack, could not originally be released because of a technical screw-up that prevented audio synchronization. Later techniques fixed this problem, but, I was sad to learn, Franklin sued to keep it from being screened. That’s a shame because it’s a film that shows her as a mighty powerful presence.

Amazing Grace is a joy for a music nerd like me. The only problems I had with it are that it made me want so badly to be in the room and that made this non-believer want to find a black Baptist church and sign up. Have you ever been to one of those services? I have. One of those might make Bob Ingersoll a believer.

Seriously, though: Amazing Grace is one of those things you will regret not having seen in the theater. It is a beautiful document, treated carefully and honorably by its caretakers. What a wonderful thing to get to experience.

Where Did The Guitar Go?

This is one of two examples I can find on the Internet where Prince ends by making his guitar disappear. It is a move I have seen no other artist perform. It is astonishing. Watch this 12-minute medely at the 2005 NAACP Image Awards and try to deny that he was the best live performer on the planet.

I have to be honest, though, I think that audience was more excited to see Morris and Jerome than they were anyone.


Last night, I heard Chris Hayes report that, despite the shootings today, the staff of the Capital Gazette in Maryland fully intend that a paper will go out tomorrow. My automatic but certain response as a former news reporter and editor (and one who once covered a live shooter situation) : Well f*** yeah the paper’s going out!


Purple Rain. Again.

I learned via local public radio on Thursday evening that The Little Theater was featuring Purple Rain and Sign ‘o’ the Times on Saturday. There went my normal weekend.

I have probably watched Purple Rain a dozen times since April 2016, and now twice in the theater thanks to the good people at The Little. That is, admittedly, a lot of times to have watched a movie that is, quite arguably, a horrible movie. So bad is it that I have essentially re-written it and tend to choose my version over the one that appears on-screen, and I am able even when actually watching it to apply at least one major change. If I squint a bit, I can pretend that The Kid’s mother is actually dead and is just a ghost haunting he and Francis L. Their haunting by a discorporated being better explains the family’s derangement. I mean, if they’re both alive, then the only other explanation is that they are both insanely unhinged tweakers.

Of late has come the following observation: If indeed The Kid’s parents are off-the-rails meth users, well, then, they’re that and they are prolific gardeners.

I’m referring to the scene after Francis L.’s suicide attempt, after the cops have left, and The Kid is all alone and has a freakout, hallucinates his own self dead by hanging, and, you know, “goes crazy” beating the crap out of the family’s basement. The Kid’s first line of attack is to take a bat or something to the family’s abundant collection of preserves on the shelves.

The Kid’s parents, who are for most of the film only seen screaming and yelling at one another if they are not physically fighting, apparently also engage in the utterly wholesome practice of home cannery. People rarely bother to sterilize jars unless they are putting up food they have grown themselves.

I mean, can you imagine those two working in a garden? And when would they find the time?

It’s these details that fascinate me about Purple Rain, these story elements that were apparently not considered beyond “we need something for Prince to break / how about jars of preserves.” For instance:

In the beginning of the “Lake Minnetonka” scene, The Kid asks Appollonia where she is from. “New Orleans,” she answers, matter-of-factly.

Let me get this straight. She grew up in New Orleans. NEW ORLEANS. She has show-bidness ambitions. Claims she’s a singer and a dancer, in fact.

And she came to Minneapolis?

So many things in Purple Rain don’t make sense. At one point, Francis L. gruffly insults The Kid with, all my songs are in my head, I don’t have to write them down like you do (we later discover this to have been a lie). But we never see The Kid putting pen to paper, not once (as I recall, he is seen writing music in Graffiti Bridge).

Why is The Kid always late to rehearsals?

Why does The Kid show up at First Avenue in the afternoon and ask “where is everybody?” It’s a NIGHT CLUB.

And why does he have no idea how to kiss a woman?

Why is Jill Jones holding a dog near the end? (We actually know the answer to this, but if you don’t know that in a deleted scene The Kid for some reason gives Jill Jones a dog, you’re gonna wonder.)

Why did these filmmakers find Appolonia’s job application process interesting enough to leave in the movie? Why not just have her fill out W-2s as well?

Anyway. Who am I to criticize, I reckon. The thing made Warner Bros. buckets of money. And I, for one, can’t stop going back to it.

#6

I was nominated on Facebook…to list my 10 all-time favorite albums, ones that have really made an impact and are still on my rotation list, even if only now and then. In accordance with directions, I’ll do my best to post an album cover each day for 10 days. No Particular order, No explanations, just the cover.

#6: