Podcast: Empty Room – Part 4 of a Conversation with Jane Clare Jones

Podcast: Empty Room – Part 4 of a Conversation with Jane Clare Jones

(Featured Image: April 14, 2016; photo stolen from prince.org)

I have to begin with another apology: I had hoped to get this last installment of the podcast up early in the week, but I’ve been busy with job interviews, house hunting, and most recently, an illness that is definitely audible on the outro I recorded last night. But here, at last, is the final full installment of my now month-old conversation with writer, philosopher, and fellow Prince obsessive Jane Clare Jones. This is the one we’ve been building up to for the last month: a reckoning with the psychological factors that led to last year’s deeply tragic, avoidable death. But in case you’re concerned this will be prurient muckraking in the Prince: The End/When Doves Cry tradition, please know that it’s coming from a place of genuine love, and is grounded in research rather than wild speculation. And if you’re also (justifiably) concerned that it’s going to be a depressing slog, I promise it’s not all as grim as it might sound.

And with that, the first wave of the d / m / s / r podcast is over! Jane will be back, probably sometime next month, to talk about the Purple Reign interdisciplinary conference at the University of Salford; I also still have a short, lighthearted chunk of our original conversation that didn’t quite fit this episode that I’d like to post at some point. But other than that, the future is a blank slate. I’d love to hear your thoughts on where to go with the podcast–topics to discuss, suggested guests, etc.–because it seems a shame to go to the trouble of making a feed, etc. just for one month of episodes. In the meantime, as always, you can find me on any of the major podcast services–iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play–where you’re invited to leave a rating or review; you can also listen to the podcast on Mixcloud. I hope you’ve enjoyed these as much as I have. Thanks!

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Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden

Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden

(Featured Image: Prince at his 26th birthday concert, First Avenue, June 7, 1984. Photo stolen from Prince Off the Record; check it out for a very nice review of the show!)

Well, folks, the podcast episode I promised yesterday isn’t going to happen until early next week; I simply didn’t have enough time to finish editing. Luckily, though, Warner Bros. has my back, because last night they surprise-released another advance track from the new Purple Rain reissue: the studio-recorded medley of “Our Destiny” and “Roadhouse Garden.” So, rather than completely skip a post today, let’s take a short look at these songs and how they fit into the grander scheme of Prince’s work.

Like the previously-discussed “Electric Intercourse,” “Our Destiny”/”Roadhouse Garden” has advance notoriety among hardcore fans and collectors–though, in this case, its connection to the Purple Rain project is much less clear. Prince and the Revolution performed the song only once, at his 26th birthday celebration at Minneapolis’ First Avenue on June 7, 1984: the same concert that yielded the basic track for Jill Jones’ “All Day, All Night.” And as all of us Prince obsessives know, that might as well have been a decade after the previous year’s August 3 First Avenue date, which similarly provided the majority of Purple Rain’s second side. By summer of 1984, Prince was already hard at work on his next project(s), including tracks that would end up on 1985’s Around the World in a Day.

Adding to the confusion, Roadhouse Garden would later become the title of an aborted late-’90s compilation of refurbished Revolution tracks by the artist then-formerly known as Prince–most of which seemed to date from what Princeologists would consider to be the “Dream Factory era” of 1985-1986. This, in turn, appears to have transformed in many fans’ reckonings into a whole other album between Purple Rain and Around the World in a Day, possibly also called Roadhouse Garden. Basically, the song’s provenance is a mess, and I’ve seen more than a few people cry foul over its and its sister song’s inclusion in what “should” be a compilation of outtakes specifically related to Purple Rain.

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Podcast: The Most Beautiful – Part 3 of a Conversation with Jane Clare Jones

Podcast: The Most Beautiful – Part 3 of a Conversation with Jane Clare Jones

(Featured Image: Mayte and O(+> in their wedding program, 1996; © Noelle-Elaine Media Consultants.)

Way back in mid-April, I spoke with writer, philosopher, and fellow Prince obsessive Jane Clare Jones for so long that our conversation ended up being split into four parts; but by the end of that conversation, we were also talking around things more often than we were talking about them. So, last week, we got together for a redo. The resulting podcast is a Frankenstein’s monster–but a fun, interesting Frankenstein’s monster!–of our original discussion on Mayte’s The Most Beautiful (placed, for maximum confusion, at the end) and some setup for the things we were talking around–which we’ll finally address in our episode next week. We also take advantage of the passage of time by discussing some of the major developments in the Princeverse last month: the Celebration, “Deliverance,” and that godawful TV movie.  I promise it’s all a lot more coherent than it sounds.

You can listen to the podcast here or on any of the major aggregators: iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play; feel free also to subscribe and leave a review on the service of your choice. We should have it up on Mixcloud soon, too. If you’re just coming in now, you can–and should!–check out the first and second episodes here. As always, thanks for listening!

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Review: The Most Beautiful

Review: The Most Beautiful

(Featured Image: Cover Art for The Most Beautiful by Mayte Garcia, from Amazon.)

Because I want this blog to be as well-researched as possible–and because I have a reputation to uphold as a leading Prince expert, lol–I’m making an effort to read all of the major books being published about Prince. This month, we started out with a big one–The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince, an intimate memoir by Prince’s first wife, Mayte Garcia.

To be honest, I’ve been a little surprised by the negative reactions to this book in the Prince fan community–though, as a longtime Yoko Ono apologist, I probably shouldn’t be. The male-dominated music world has never been kind to ex-wives or widows, and Mayte is clearly no exception. There is admittedly a case to be made that because Prince was such a private person, no stories should be told about his personal life; this, however, would be more than a little unfair to Mayte, who lived through the same experiences–and suffered the same grievous losses–as Prince in the 1990s. As she carefully notes in the introduction, this is first and foremost her story, and she has as much a right to tell it as anyone.

In any case, for those who have been on the fence about reading the book, maybe I can help put some concerns to rest. Context is everything, and when read in the proper context–i.e., not a deliberately attention-grabbing excerpt in People magazine–The Most Beautiful is far from a trashy tell-all. Indeed, Mayte seems to be going a little soft on her ex-husband, who she still acknowledges as her soulmate (she even has nice things to say about the Graffiti Bridge movie). There are certainly moments of anger–especially toward the end of their relationship–but she is clearly writing from a place of acceptance, affection, and mourning; the book’s prologue, where she recounts the moment when she heard of Prince’s death, is among the most moving pieces I’ve read about that sad day. I don’t know if Mayte wrote the book 100% on her own–I don’t see a ghost writer credited in the acknowledgments–but her voice is evident throughout, with a charming, personable tone that occasionally turns poetic, even metaphysical.

Reading her side of the story also helps brighten some of the darker corners of her and Prince’s life during this period. On paper, as a few interviewers have recently observed, their relationship didn’t look great: Mayte met Prince when she was 16 years old, and they maintained a friendship and professional interaction that, viewed uncharitably, can look an awful lot like grooming. Mayte, to her credit, leaves the readers to draw our own conclusions: she affirms her consent, and notes that they did not become physical until well after she was of legal age, but otherwise refuses to simplify the nuances of the situation. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if we don’t see a minor social-media backlash over this, similar to the post-death “revelation” that David Bowie had sex with minors; but hearing Mayte’s perspective makes their love affair sound much less sinister, even if it does still test the limits of social acceptability.

Also invaluable is Mayte’s perspective on the tragic loss of her two children with Prince–though it’s unsurprisingly a difficult part of the book to get through. For those of us who weren’t keeping up with the New Power Generation in the ’90s, Mayte was perhaps most memorable for her and her husband’s bizarre 1996 appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where they seemed to deny that their infant son had died as a result of a rare genetic disorder. Her book captures this moment in detail, revealing the emotions and humanity behind something that was widely sensationalized and misunderstood at the time. She also sets the record straight on a few things: including the name of their son, Amiir, who has been widely misidentified as “Boy Gregory” due to the paparazzi’s unchallenged misreading of his hospital intake papers.

These corrections of tabloid misinformation are a big part of why The Most Beautiful feels not only justified, but also necessary–and why it’s ironic that the book is being bashed, sight-unseen, as a kind of tabloid in its own right. Mayte’s depiction of her ex-husband is no hagiography, but it is complex and humanizing: she makes “the Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” a figure often depicted as the very definition of inscrutability, into a real person. I hope that in the years to come, we will get more glimpses behind this artist’s self-erected walls, and that they will be as warm and well-considered as this one; I for one would love to see his second wife, Manuela Testolini, write a book–and Susannah Melvoin, and Jill Jones, and Susan Moonsie, and anyone else whose life he touched. Prince probably wouldn’t have approved, it’s true–but then, he wouldn’t have approved of a lot of things (this blog included). And if he really is in the “Afterworld” he clearly believed in, then I have to imagine he has better things to do than read his own posthumous biographies. The bottom line is, you don’t have to read The Most Beautiful, and I certainly respect anyone’s decision not to; but if you’re interested, it comes with my highest recommendation.

You can support dance / music / sex / romance by purchasing The Most Beautiful (or anything else!) using my Amazon affiliate link. We’ll be back with another conventional post later this week.