Prince Track by Track: “Life Can Be So Nice”

Prince Track by Track: “Life Can Be So Nice”

(Featured Image: Outtake from the Parade cover sessions by Jeff Katz, 1986.)

Over the weekend, I once again had the opportunity to appear on Darren Husted’s podcast Prince: Track by Track. The topic this time around was “Life Can Be So Nice,” one of my dark-horse favorite tracks from one of my dark-horse favorite albums, Parade:

Prince Track by Track: “Life Can Be So Nice”

I was unfortunately too slow to get on Darren’s schedule for Sign “O” the Times, so the next time I appear on Track by Track will be next month, talking about another dark horse favorite from Lovesexy. In the meantime, you’ll just have to settle for hearing my voice on my own podcast–the next episode of which will be live by the end of next week.

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Podcast: Am I Straight or Gay – A Conversation with Snax

Podcast: Am I Straight or Gay – A Conversation with Snax

(Featured Image: That Poster, 1981; © Warner Bros.)

This episode, I’m taking a little break from the University of Salford Purple Reign conference to talk to musician Paul Bonomo, a.k.a. Snax. We discuss Prince’s professional and personal impact on Paul, of course, but we also speak more broadly to the two-way flow of influence between Prince and gay culture–an area that’s been vastly underexplored in the popular discourse around the artist. I’m excited to see the extended conversation that comes out of this frank and at times provocative discussion.

Next episode, we’re returning to both Manchester and queerness with two presenters from one of the Purple Reign conference’s Gender and Sexuality panels: independent scholars Chris Aguilar-Garcia and Natalie Clifford. In the meantime, remember that you can subscribe to the d / m / s / r podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play; you can also stream individual episodes on Mixcloud. If you like what you’ve heard of Snax, you can also follow him on Facebook and check out his new album, Shady Lights, when it releases on October 27.

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Lisa

Lisa

(Featured Image: Lisa–and André–on the Dirty Mind inner sleeve, 1980; © Warner Bros.)

While Prince was starting work on the album that would become Dirty Mind, 19-year-old Lisa Coleman was in Los Angeles, working on the shipping dock of a documentary film company and teaching classical piano part-time. Lisa, born in the San Fernando Valley in 1960, was as much a product of L.A. as Prince was of Minneapolis. Her father, Gary L. Coleman, was a percussionist for the legendary session team the Wrecking Crew, with credits most notably including the Beach Boys’ 1966 single “Good Vibrations.” When she was 12 years old, Lisa played keyboard in a bubblegum pop band, Waldorf Salad, alongside her younger brother David, older sister Debbie, and another Wrecking Crew kid: Jonathan Melvoin, whose own younger sister, Wendy, would form the other half of Lisa’s longest-lasting creative partnership. The band was a little like the Partridge Family, Lisa later told journalist Neal Karlen, except “we all actually played our instruments” (Karlen 1986). As a teenager, Lisa attended Hollywood High and appeared in a bit part as a teenage pianist in the 1975 made-for-TV drama Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, starring Linda Blair and Mark Hamill.

According to the official narrative, it was 1979 when Lisa heard from a friend in the offices of Cavallo, Ruffalo, and Fargnoli that Prince was looking for a new keyboardist. But this date seems off, for a couple of reasons: first, because in 1979 Gayle Chapman was still very much a part of Prince’s band, and there are no other accounts from that period to suggest she was being replaced; and second, because Steve Fargnoli wasn’t made a partner in Cavallo’s and Ruffalo’s firm until 1980. Whatever the year, however, Lisa submitted a tape, and was summoned to Prince’s home in Wayzata, Minnesota for an in-person audition. “When I got to Prince’s house,” she told Karlen, “he sent me downstairs and said he was going to change clothes. There was a piano down there, and I just started playing, trying to relax. I got the feeling he was eaves-dropping at the top of the stairs, so I whipped out my best Mozart. He finally came back downstairs, picked up his guitar, and we started jamming. From the first chord, we hit it off” (Karlen 1986).

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Oh Hey, I’m in the Journal of African American Studies

Oh Hey, I’m in the Journal of African American Studies

No real post today–that’s coming tomorrow!–but I wanted to let you all know that the forthcoming special Prince issue of the Journal of African American Studies appears to be going to press. Also, I’m in it, with a revised and expanded version of my review of Ben Greenman’s recent book Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God, & Genius in the Music of Prince. You can read that review–for free!–right here:

Ben Greenman: Dig If You Will the Picture

No word yet on when the full issue will be available, but you can keep on eye on the JAAS website for updates. And you definitely should keep an eye out, because the issue looks incredible: with contributions from scholars including Kimberly C. Ransom, whose name you’ve probably heard come up in my series of podcasts on recent Prince scholarship. Though I only played a very, very small role in the making of this publication, I’m still very proud of the role I played, and excited to read everyone’s work.