Prince and I had a love thing going for years. When it comes to relationships, especially with a true soul mate, isn’t quality of time more important than quantity?
We most recently communed last autumn, but unfortunately that over now….What touched me most about his shows was the intimacy.
Even though often staged in today’s branded megavenues, Prince’s performances were as intensely personal and seductive as if all thousands of devotees were gathered in a tiny club. How many other talents could achieve that?
Some artists speak to you so clearly, it’s as if they’re hardwired to your own soul. And so it is, for me, with Prince.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Sign Of The Times is the album that sealed our affair. I reckon it’s one of the bravest and most eclectic records ever made. Whether it’s the dystopian title track-a clinical diagnosis of the American dream gone wrong-or the joyous abandon of Play In The Sunshine,
Prince brings to bear the complete range of his influences. Hard funk, deep soul, heavy rock, synthetic pop, torch-song melodrama, modern jazz, Ellington-era swing, and even Eastern-inspired sounds bleed and blend to form a liquid mass that creeps up and overpowers you like molten lava.
Drugs, disease, and disaffected sex are the collection’s signature themes. But there’s plenty of love too: both romantic, in the tenderly empathetic If I Was Your Girlfriend, and spiritual, with the mantra procession of The Cross.
Through all these strange, often dark soundscapes, Prince uses the hook of the beat to lure you on, making this an intensely danceable adventure. Emotive, exploratory, pulsating, Sign Of The Times moves me—in every sense of the word.
MUSIC TO MOVE YOU:
1. Kind Of Blue, Miles Davis, 1959: ice-cool, stripped-down melodies and arguably be-bop’s crowning moment.
2. Live At The Apollo, James Brown, 1963: The Godfather of Soul makes your feet an offer they can’t refuse.
3. Abraxas, Santana, 1970: jazz, rock, blues, and salsa fuse in a timeless San Francisco trip.
4. One Nation Under A Groove, Funkadelic, 1978: seismic funk and psychedelic streams of consciousness join forces.
5. Thriller, Michael Jackson, 1982: producer Quincy Jones sets the world moving to an irresistible electro-disco beat.
I’m confused. A child of the ‘80s, I grew up believing life’s about more than toeing the line. Yet daily, my existence feels more and more of a compromise. And I know I’m not alone.
Many of my friends are experiencing a similar identity crisis. What was once the exclusive prerogative of the angsty teenager now seems almost the Zeitgeist. So I put on Who’s Next, and for 40 minutes at least, I know, or rather feel, everything’s going to be alright.
Pete Townsend’s songs have always been about the struggle to develop and believe in a coherent, meaningful self. Many other groups have dealt with similar themes. Yet the make-up of The Who ensures their sonic essays pack a dynamism and intensity you cannot doubt.
Almost uniquely, the main songwriter doesn’t sing his own lyrics. For me, this mismatch produces an electrifying tension. It’s as if vocalist Roger Daltrey has to constantly prove he’s up to articulating Townsend’s thoughts and emotions.
Throw in perhaps rock’s greatest drummer, Keith Moon, and the revolutionary bass machinations of John Entwistle, and you have a quartet so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Who’s Next goes way beyond the band’s signature shock and awe. Opener “Baba O’Reilly,” AKA “Teenage Wasteland,” fuses futuristic synthesizers with a pastoral-flavored fiddle solo.
“I’m In Tune” and “Behind Blue Eyes” are beautifully melancholic, yet never mawkish. “Going Mobile” is a paean to escape from the everyday. “Bargain” speaks tenderly of redemption through love, where “One and one don’t make two; one and one make one
” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is the thunderously affirmative sign-off. “New boss, same as the old boss?” Maybe, but simply feeling my own resentments and hopes expressed with such blistering integrity helps get me through.
MUSIC THAT GIVES LIFE MEANING
1. The Stooges, Stooges, 1969: as desirous and dangerous as a praying mantis love-in.
2. Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin, 1970: guitar pyrotechnics and folky flourishes cement the prog-rock template.
3. Love It To Death, Alice Cooper, 1971: Detroit dervishes open a Pandora’s box of deviant ambiguity.
4. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, David Bowie, 1972: schizoid glam excess with aliens as the alibi.
5. Nevermind, Nirvana, 1991: coruscating collection shoots alt-rock into the mainstream.