Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Prince - "Kiss"
I. PRINCE WAS A BUD MAN?
SuperAmerica Prince. Joel said that there was a guy that worked at the SuperAmerica near his house who looked a lot like Prince. It was eerie, he said. One night, we were at a bar near this SA and while giving Joel a ride home, I said I needed to stop at the SA to get a snack. Joel said he didn't need anything, but had to go into the store in case SuperAmerica Prince was working. And lo and behold, he was. And he looked A LOT like Prince. Eerie. A couple of years later, Joel and I were at The Country Bar and Joel elbowed me: "Hey, that's SuperAmerica Prince!" Sure enough, a couple of stools down there was SA Prince drinking a bottle of Bud. We said hi and "hey don't you work at the SA on East Lake?" though I think we kept the Prince stuff to ourselves.
II. EVERYBODY IN THE TWIN CITIES HAS A PRINCE STORY. THIS IS MINE.
In the summer of 1992, I was working at my accounting job on the third floor of the Young-Quinlan building in downtown Minneapolis. There was a video production studio on the second floor, and our office heard rumors that Prince was there at nights working on a video. I was working late one night - a usual occurrence during that stretch of that summer - and when it was finally time to head home, I was surprised when the elevator stopped on the second floor. Generally I was the only one in the building this time of the evening. Prince stepped into the elevator, followed by a rather large man. Prince was decked neck-to-boots in lavender, the large man wore a suit. Prince entered the elevator quite confidently, but when he sensed there was somebody else in the lift, he proceeded to back up against the opposite wall from me and stare at the ceiling. I could tell he was not interested in interacting, but I had to say something. THIS WAS PRINCE. In my full North Dakota accent, I said: "How's it goin'?" The large man, who had stood immediately in front of me, turned his head ever-so-slightly and politely said: "We're doing fine, thank you."
(Now over the years I have gone back and forth on this exchange. At times I've been miffed that Prince refused to talk to me. Then I have read about how shy he was, and maybe talking to some dope in a blazer and tie wasn't something he felt obliged to do. As time goes on, I just get a kick out of: "We're doing fine, thank you.")
So we got off on the first floor, and I proceeded to trail the two out of the elevator, down the hallway, and towards the front door. The Y-Q building had two sets of doors. When we got to the first doors, the large man went first, Prince followed him, and then Prince did subtly acknowledge my presence. If he had kept walking, that door would shut on me by the time I got to it. It was a big, heavy door. Prince paused and held the door just long enough so that I could catch it in stride. He never looked back, did just enough to provide me safe passage. He and his companion went through the second doors and into a waiting limousine. Me, I proceeded to tell people I ran into Prince. Some thought I was making this up as six months earlier Joel and I had run into Slash and Duff from Guns n' Roses at the Uptown Bar. (Duff shook our hands - he had leather gloves! Slash tried bargaining for Joel's flannel shirt.)
III. HOOKS, NOT WORDS, RULE MY EARS
I am bad with learning and recalling lyrics. In the case of Prince's "Kiss", for years I thought the line was:
Women, not guns, rule my world
I still hear it that way most times.
IV. SUMMER OF '84
Buying the Purple Rain soundtrack at age eighteen in that glorious musical summer of '84 was a gamble that went against my usual tastes, but even at that young age I could sense the restrictions of the classic hard rock I wrapped myself in. Suddenly, albums and songs by aging (many times British, sometimes dead) white guys with long hair weren't all that consumed me. Totally digging Purple Rain opened up the door for me digging new sounds by the likes of Run-DMC and oddly, metal that didn't get airplay (then, at least) like Metallica. Maybe if I had tried to convey how Prince's music did that for a stubborn white kid from North Dakota, he would have said "hi" on the elevator. Rest in peace, Prince. And thanks for the music and memories.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
The Kinks - "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman"
Give me seventies hard rock Kinks: Cleaned up around the edges and ready for heartland FM radio stations, still quirky and witty enough to bring a smile or a smirk. "Destroyer", "Do It Again", "Low Budget" - these are grade-A songs you don’t have to be a member of some B-side-collecting cult to enjoy. I remember years ago when Mojo magazine was on a mission to declare “Waterloo Sunset” the Greatest Song Ever Recorded*, and all I could do was shrug. This was at a time that I had gotten bored with sixties Kinks and no matter how hard Jimmy Page riffed on “All Day and All of the Night”, I still couldn’t get behind their proto-metal like I could with The Yardbirds or The Who. Plus The Kinks always had that frilly thing going, so there was always going to be some stupid Totally English crap song like “Sunny Afternoon” lurking and threatening to put me in a foul mood. (All the Brit bands succumbed to this jolly old nonsense: The Stones had “Something Happened To Me Yesterday”, I couldn't make it through a listen of Cream's Disraeli Gears last year because of it, and The Beatles' “When I’m Sixty-Four” is absolutely horrible. It's like they tried so hard to be American, that the Englishness would just seep out and cause unforced errors.) One night last winter, I gave a Kinks deep cuts playlist on Apple Music a shot, and nope: Dainty ditties about (probably) tea and crumpets or maybe somebody's mum. Not being into the velvet suit Anglophile thing and fueled by a couple of Surlys, I almost went on Twitter to declare The Kinks as overrated as The Beach Boys.
But. But. I remembered that in The Sopranos, The Kinks' "Living on a Thin Line" was used effectively in an episode that showed how disposable the girls who danced at The Bada Bing! were. Instead of badmouthing The Kinks, I instead assembled a seventies Kinks playlist. It was made up of mostly hard rockers, a good chunk of which were from the Low Budget album. Apparently, going to the Arista label in '76 paid off as The Kinks in that period recorded catchy, wry and/or poignant tunes launched solidly towards the mainstream. Hell yeah.
As for “(I Wanna Fly Like) Superman”, it packs a disco beat (all the rage in this era for FM stalwarts - The Stones, Kiss, and Rod Stewart also had disco songs) and has a killer riff that hints at disco-metal. While Superman himself is a complete and utter bore (he can fly, is really really strong, doesn't sleep with Margot Kidder zzzzz)**, Ray Davies just sings that he wants to be able to fly like him, not be him. Earlier on the same album, Davies sings in the voice of Captain America. Oddly, there were no bellows from the “don’t mix DC and Marvel” crowd.
*The Greatest Song Ever Recorded (my opinion this week) is Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."
**And Superman is not from this planet. Can he be trusted? Would President Trump bar Superman from the United States? DC: I will send this story over the transom if I don’t hear from you soon.