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Those Kinds of Cars Don't Pass You Everyday
My mom saw Prince, in Knoxville. She still remembers the chaps; at least I thinks she does.
My stepmother had the Purple Rain poster Prince up on her walls. When I stayed in her place in Tazewell it’s plain as day to me that it was there, even if it had been removed.
Something happened one day and I came home to one of the homes and they were both yelling at each other on the phone. My stepmother called my mom crazy, my mom called my stepmother crazy.
One was from Arizona, multiply addicted, didn’t get out of bed and didn’t work, smoked and cussed. One grew up in Southwest Virginia, didn’t drink, worked as a respiratory therapist, and never cussed. They hated each other.
They both liked Prince.
My favorite Beck song is “Debra”, which is Beck in soul-man mode singing to “Debra”, who he wants to get with (and her sister). He’s singing his heart out in this tender song that if it didn’t mention Zankou chicken would register as a slow burn. It’s a homage to something like Prince’s “Adore”.
The reason it’s not condescending garbage is Beck means every last word he’s singing, no matter how ridiculous it is he’s angling a threesome with Debra who works at JC Penney’s (and her sister) .
It’s a Prince song both in sound and a feature: the absurd but heartfelt sexuality and desire. Beck makes a joke out of it, but means the joke.
Because Prince is silly. If you invented Prince people would tell you you were ridiculous for it. He wore assless chaps and people liked it. Earnestly.
Prince didn’t create an absurd figure to make himself a point, but he did prove our general absurdity. You don’t fare much better when you’re bursting at the seams with: erotic desire, a fear of the end of the world, wanting to know God, critics in New York, berets from second hand stores, a wealth of sensual detail tied into the most gut instincts we have. Prince’s most fascinating quality is his lack of narration to his own life but to a psychedelic detail to his sensations coupled with his omniscient spirituality.
To juxtapose him with Bowie: Bowie’s such a specific combination of tactile arts and strains of thought put into a great package that at some point there had to be a guy simply walking the Earth. David Bowie was at a point in time not David Bowie but someone undergoing cultural osmosis inside of a cocoon.
Prince was always Prince and I have no idea who Prince was besides Prince or before he was Prince. I guess he was riding a motorcycle around Minneapolis.
During his Super Bowl performance, he made me like a Foo Fighters song. If Prince covered your song you didn’t write it anymore. It was Prince’s. If you can find the aftershow he played in Amsterdam, he does a version of “Just My Imagination” that make the Temptations look like a college choir group. If guitar work could ever blister, that’s the one.
A note on Prince’s guitar playing, just an apparatus of his musical genius.
When you talk about great guitar players, what makes one great isn’t always a technical facility, even though that doesn’t hurt, but rather what your contribution adds to the song, coupled with your innovation and creativity. A guitar solo should be a moment. Frank Zappa called them improvised compositions. When you play a guitar solo, you’re creating a moment within the song, and it can be greater than the song itself or make the song greater than anyone could have imagined.
“When Doves Cry” isn’t a song about Prince’s guitar playing, it’s a song about fights. But it’s
“When Doves Cry” only with the guitar, and name a time a guitar has sounded like that. It sounds like the someone’s interior during an argument.
How many times have I been regretting something I said and thought I was just like my father, they were just like my mother, wondering if my demands would buckle whatever we had. Sooner or later the art you love is your vocabulary and Prince crystallized these thoughts so I thought maybe I wasn’t alone in this.
Me and a friend were editing a script. I am lucky enough to own Sign O’ The Times on vinyl and we threw it on. When it was running afterwards his friend who looked like every other boy who went to VCU started scratching the vinyl like a DJ.
I’ve always been big and quick to anger, thus afraid that people will see me as an oaf, a knuckle-dragging Cro-Magnon a site of fire away from clubbing someone to death, so I go about whatever affairs I have with a restrained attempt at grace and which I’m sure sometimes I give the impression of a Brahman bull being forced to wear clothes and eat with fine china. But there are times I drop the airs of caring and become blunt, and this was one of those times.
“What are you doing?” is all I asked him. He quit and grumbled. I’m sure he was late to a house show.
“If I Was Your Girlfriend” was the song that made me fall in love with Prince. It has Sly Stone’s eccentricity and There’s a Riot Goin’ On’s drum machine tracked madness, but it looks less like Prince’s dark night of the soul and more about everything you could want from him. All Prince wants to do is shred the trappings of his masculinity and forget that men aren’t supposed to help their girlfriends pick out their clothes. It’s slinky and sexy and loving. He wants to help you dress because sometimes that’s what being in love is all about. He just wants to go to a movie with you.
Everybody I’ve ever been around loving, even it’s a few digits back from a whole number it’s been that song that I associated with the feeling.
Most people love people they actually hate and they feel tricked, trapped, that they have these feelings, but “If I Was Your Girlfriend” is about being so in love tickling is enough.
Back to the spirituality. Prince was about how the world around you was erotic. All of it. Rain, gardens, corvettes. A life lived so full everything has the feeling of a sensual touch. To me, that’s life as a spiritual experience, and throughout Prince’s catalogue, these questions get asked.
“1999” is a dance song about 2000 ending the world. “Let’s Go Crazy” starts with a prayer. Spirituality culminates in the one question: what’s after the end? He said in “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, “I’m goin’ to another life, how about you?” And that other life was bereft of the pressures and pains of being a person and was just the erotic details. I hope he’s there now.
You can’t help but feel helpless when legends die. We make immortals out of the music we love to make ourselves immortal. Not unlike shaving the barber, if someone whose music lives forever becomes a part of you, then so do you. But it runs out, and there’s no stopping it. Prince dies. The kid who scratched my vinyl dies. My mother and former stepmother, them too, along with the Prince acolytes musically talented, the dilettantes like myself who wondered if I could do a power pop cover of “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Girlfriend”, and those who think keys only open doors, everyone fades with the hope that they stop the world with their death without a hope of doing so.
I’m sick of obituaries and have more to write. And each time, I will think, “those kinds of cars don’t pass you everyday”. So enjoy them while they go much too fast.
#Real #Essay #Prince #RIPPrince #PurpleRain #Tribute
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