Categories
Purple Rain, 1984

Darling Nikki

With Albert Magnoli on board as director, preparations for Prince’s film debut finally began in earnest. The artist’s new rehearsal space on Highway 7 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota became the epicenter for a “flurry of activity from morning ’til night,” recalled Brenda Bennett of side project Vanity 6 (Bellaire 2015). Along with a stage setup and recording console, “the Warehouse” also included a small wardrobe department for Vaughn Terry and Louis Wells: costume designers, best known for their work with Earth, Wind & Fire, who had joined the Prince camp during the 1999 tour and would be instrumental in crafting his iconic Purple Rain-era look.

Soon, Terry and Wells would be joined by another familiar face: tour manager Alan Leeds, whose capable handling of the inter- and intra-band tensions during the latter months of the 1999 tour led to his being rehired to help coordinate the film’s production. “I got a call from [manager Steve] Fargnoli sometime in July, offering me the gig to come to Minneapolis,” Leeds told journalist Alan Light. “And I said, ‘Well, what’s the gig? Are you going back on the road?’ ‘Not right away. We’re going to make a movie first.’ I go, ‘Okay, you need me to come there because you’re making a movie? First of all, I don’t believe you’re making a movie. Second, why do you need me to make a movie? I don’t make movies.’ He said, ‘We got three bands: we got Prince and his guys that you tour managed, we got Morris [Day] and the Time, we got Vanity 6. They’re all in the movie. Everybody’s taking acting lessons, everybody’s taking dance lessons, and everybody’s rehearsing new music. We need an off-road road manager to coordinate all this stuff.’ ‘Okay, Steven–you’re really making a movie? Get the fuck outta here!’” (Light 82-83).

Leeds wasn’t the only one surprised by the sudden increase in scale. As keyboardist Lisa Coleman recalled, “For the longest time, we would talk about [the film] like, ‘We’re gonna make the best cult movie, it’s gonna be cool, we’re just gonna put it out there and see who responds to it.’ Then Al Magnoli came and actually kind of connected with Prince, and Al was the one who was like, ‘If we’re gonna make a movie, why don’t we make it a hit movie? It seems like we’ve got all the parts here. Let’s not just make some artsy movie, just for fun. What do we have to lose?’” (Light 91).

In aiming for a “hit,” however, Prince faced the inevitable temptation to sand away some of his rougher edges. Guitarist Wendy Melvoin, who had been a fan before she joined Prince’s band, recalled being disappointed by the new material at rehearsal: “The songs weren’t as funky to me,” she told Light. “They were pop songs; they were definitely watered down.” Coleman remembered Prince himself poking fun at his newfound populist tendencies: “He would imitate an old granny, like, ‘You could make Granny dance to this one,’ but then I think he was just like, ‘We’re leaning it too far to the granny; we still need danger’” (Light 77).

Categories
Reviews

A Purple Day in December: The Truth Review

As most of you are no doubt aware, Erica Thompson has been a great friend and supporter of the blog since we met for a podcast to discuss her presentation at the University of Salford Purple Reign conference back in 2017. We’ve been talking for a while about my writing a guest post for her own blog, where she shares updates and research from her own work writing a book about Prince’s spiritual journey. Tomorrow’s special Record Store Day release of the 1998 album The Truth finally gave us the excuse we’d been looking for. So, here’s my review:

A Purple Day in December: “‘What if Half the Things Ever Said Turned Out 2 Be a Lie?’ – One of Prince’s Richest, Weirdest and Most Intimate Albums Gets a Limited Reissue”

While you’re there, you should check out the rest of Erica’s blog, and follow along with what is shaping up to be one of the most compelling projects in the burgeoning world of “Prince studies.” And yes, I’m still writing on here, as well: “Darling Nikki” will be available for patrons by the end of next week. Have a great weekend, and good luck snagging a copy of The Truth tomorrow!

Categories
Roundup Posts

D / M / S / R Year Five in Review

Well, we’ve made it: Another year of Dance / Music / Sex / Romance is now in the rear-view mirror. As always, my output has fallen short of my loftier expectations: I count a total of 30 “proper” posts this past year, of which 12 were your typical song posts, six were Patreon-exclusive “bonus tracks,” seven were briefer write-ups of promotional singles, and three were reviews of recent books and films; there was also one patron-requested “alternate timeline” post and one personal reflection on the five-year anniversary of Prince’s death.

Still, like I said last year, I’m no longer losing sleep over things like “productivity.” My interest is primarily in quality, of life and of content, and I know from experience that both will suffer if I don’t pace myself. Besides, I actually think my output was pretty damn good, all things considered: After all, I wrote nothing (aside from some discarded drafts of “Cloreen Bacon Skin”) between the months of October 2020 and January 2021, and very little this March and May. As for what I did write, several of my posts from the past year (particularly the three tracks from Purple Rain) are among the longest and most complex in the history of the blog.

All of which is to say that, yes, I only completed one “chapter” in 2020-21–and even that one included posts from as long ago as 2018:

Ephemera, 1981-1982

But I also recorded a three-hour podcast on Dirty Mind (which, before you ask, I do plan to follow up on soon)!

40 Years of Dirty Mind

Perhaps most importantly, though, I’m still having fun, still proud of the work I’m creating, and still planning to keep it up for a long time into the future. I’m sure there are people out there who are frustrated by my pace, and to those people, I will just say I’m sorry, and also, please give me a grant so I can quit my job and become a full-time Prince scholar. In the meantime, I’m going to keep writing as much as I can, as well as I can, to document what I consider to be the greatest body of work in the history of recorded music. Here’s to another five years, or 50–as long as it takes!

Categories
Welcome 2 America, 2011

Born 2 Die

We now have just under two months to go before the release of Welcome 2 America, the album Prince recorded and shelved before his tour of the same name in 2010 and 2011. So, with the 63rd anniversary of the artist’s birth right around the corner on Monday, the time was ripe for another promotional single; and Sony Legacy has delivered with a track previously teased on 60 Minutes back in April, “Born 2 Die.” In fact, the drop appears to have been timed to commemorate not just one date, but two: Thursday, June 3 would have been the 79th birthday of Curtis Mayfield, whose early-’70s sound was a transparent source of inspiration for the song.

Categories
Reviews

Review: MPLS Sound

Since Prince passed away a little over five years ago, an urgent topic of conversation for aging dorks like myself has been how “we” can keep his memory alive for future generations. And yet, in all of the endless discussions I’ve participated in since 2016, somehow I can’t recall “publish a young adult graphic novel about his impact on the Minneapolis music scene” ever coming up. Now, after reading MPLS Sound, I’m wondering how we all could have missed something so obvious.

MPLS Sound is not a comic “about” Prince–which may be the most brilliant thing about it. Instead, it tells the fictional story of Theresa Booker, who shares some key character traits with Prince–a lower-middle-class upbringing in segregated Minneapolis, a frustrated musician father, a steely determination and drive–with the added wrinkles that come with being a Black woman in a music industry dominated by White men. Prince is certainly present, serving by turns as an inspiration, benefactor, and antagonist for Theresa’s band, Starchild; but it’s Theresa with whom the book’s target audience will identify most readily. Putting her in the lead also allows writers Joseph P. Illidge and Hannibal Tatu to address more topical issues of sexism and colorism: asking the pointed question of how much space there was for a fuller-bodied, darker-skinned Black woman in even a post-Prince Minneapolis.