Midwest Kids and Prince

PRINCEHere’s the thing about Prince: to a midwestern guy back in the early 1980’s,  Prince wasn’t necessarily in the cassette player.  To most of us dudes, it took a while.  For me, it took my friend Ron Hefner turning me on to the Dirty Mind and Controversy albums, and letting me borrow them back in 1983.  I gave them back and went out and bought both.

And I’m not sure why.  It certainly wasn’t Bob Seger.  It wasn’t John Mellencamp.  It wasn’t really quite like anything on the radio.  It was adult and juvenile at the same time, with keyboards and groove.  Funk.  And sex.  Lots of sex.

But with the 1999 album, on the title song and especially with “Little Red Corvette”, the Midwest boys started to get it.  And maybe it was because the Midwest girls already did. They knew Prince had the goods that made it easy to dance.

Then it was Purple Rain, and the movie. The explosion.

Look up his catalog on Wikipedia.  I did.  Amazing. Ubiquitous on the radio for ten years.  Hit songs  – ah, career songs – for other artists:  Chaka Khan. The Bangles. Sinead O’Connor. Sheila E.  Did you know he played the synthesizer that is so crucial to the sound of Stevie Nicks’ hit “Stand Back?

Tonight, I’ve been listening to 89.3 FM The Current, an NPR station in Minneapolis that has been playing nothing but Prince music since a little after 1:00pm. They’ve done marvelous work.

It’s midnight now.  They are playing “Jungle Love” from The Time.  It sounds good. Damn good.

The thing is, everything they have played has sounded good.  Everything.  The drum and keyboard sound that is the Minneapolis Sound – the Prince sound. It  reminds of the brilliance of his guitar playing and the twist he made on the mixture of Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton and his own brain.

Maybe it’s the filter of loss that makes the music sound more alive.  Maybe it’s because we are now able to somehow hear the soulfulness and heart and guts of Prince’s music more clearly.

What I hear when I listen tonight is intelligence and the groove. Funk and the smarts.  Rock and roll and charisma.  I’m glad it sounds so good, through the lens of a rewind. Happy to know the music was really that good, and our memories hadn’t tricked us.

I’m elated that we have the music to remind us of his genius. And so very sad that it’s where we are tonight.

 

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Peter Wolf Pt. II

I wrote a piece on J. Geils frontman and solo roots-rocker Peter Wolf that we posted yesterday.  Today, I came across a really good 9-minute interview he did last week on Boston TV.  Great stories about his new album, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, about Springsteen, and about the first concert Wolf ever saw. #jgeils @springsteen

New Peter Wolf album; Throwback video

peterwolfIt’s criminal, you know, that the J. Geils Band is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  And it matters for one selfish reason: there is a credibility bump that translates to dollars available on the road. Simply put, you get in, your career gets better.

So selfishly – and correctly, I might add – the Boston band needs to get in.  They need to earn a spot for one main reason: so they will continue to play live as a band, and more fans (like me) can see Peter Wolf and the band blaze through the rock and blues and soul revue that they do so well.

Wolf, meanwhile, rolls right on along, all 135 pounds of him.  The 70 year-old singer, who has reunited with the Geils boys as recently as last year for the opening slot on the Bob Seger tour, has his own band, and they are set to hit the road for a tour. On April 8, Wolf released A Cure For Loneliness,  a followup to 2010s Midnight Souvenirs.  While the previous album leaned on a rootsy, country-ish Memphis groove, the new record is a soul album, lashed with country, with the always-present Boston R&B.  Plus, there is a reworked cover take on the J. Geils hit “Love Stinks”, tipped musically to bluegrass.

A couple links follow, one for the first single “Wastin’ Time”, one of the two or three best songs on the record, The second link is to a brilliant and unseen-outside-of-Boston PSA for the Boston library.  It is a bit of subversive video work before it was cool for libraries and NPR to play things a bit more hip.  Plus, a nice job of keeping the acting straight from the “Woofa Goofa”.

ADDENDUM: I got into a discussion at a music club one night with a friend, and we ended up trying to rank the top 5 rock and roll frontmen of all time. (Not the singer/songwriter Springsteen/Prince/Sly  Stone model – frontmen, you see,  can’t be known for playing instruments.  They sing.  They play some tambourine). I said Peter Wolf belongs on that top 5 list.  May have even said he was top 3.  We were drinking. I probably mentioned that if you really think about it, Wolf may be the most underrated frontman of all rock and roll time.  I think we agreed on Jagger at the top, and then it got murky real quick.  Freddie Mercury? Steven Tyler?  Eddie Vedder?  Roger Daltrey?  Paul Rodgers? Jim Morrison? Elvis?