Pittsburgh, 20 November 1981

A funny thing happened on the way here tonight……

I had every intention of taking in another concert from Austria, as I have done the last couple of weeks, but when I turned on the computer this morning I was surprised to find a soundboard recording from 1981 waiting in my inbox. There is several things you should know about me at this point:
1. I love concerts from the Controversy tour
2. Especially soundboard recordings
3. I am not one to be patient and wait.

So although I know this a premature leak with a complete recording and art work to come, I can’t help myself. All thoughts of the Austria concert are gone, and here I am with this 1981 soundboard recording blasting in my ears already. Oh the joy.

There is much more to it than being a simple soundboard recording. It is the first concert of the Controversy tour, and a mere four weeks after Prince opened for the Rolling Stones (we all know how well that went). So when we look at it in a historical context it becomes far more interesting than it might at first appear. With the typical Controversy setlist, and one of Prince’s more rock orientated bands, this is one show where I know exactly what to expect, and quite frankly I can’t wait!

20th November 1981, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Part of the trade-off of not waiting for the full release is that we don’t get to experience “The Second Coming” in way of an introduction.  Any thoughts of this are tossed aside as the band burst out of the speakers with “Sexuality.” My first thoughts are”My God, is this a 36 year old recording.” It is so clear and fresh, I could swear I was onstage with the band. It doesn’t have the ragged glory of some of the other soundboards of the tour, Prince and the band are calm and measured at this stage, and the guitar especially sounds as if it is in the studio and someone has simply turned it up in the mix. We have several other soundboards from this tour already in circulation, and from the first song I can already say that this is perhaps the best sounding. With Prince right in my ear it is a wild ride and a spectacular start to the recording.

 

The phrase la petite mort bursts into reality with “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” With guitar in hand Prince is a gentle lover, and as he reaches orgasmic heights he remains focused on the others in the room, providing pleasure without over stepping into the realm of over indulgence and self pleasure. It may be a guitar solo, but the moment belongs to all, and even if six minutes is disappointing by his standards (especially compared to some unhinged renditions later in the tour) it is still a satisfying experience that leaves me feeling like a post-coital cigarette.

“Jack U Off” is the complete opposite. Not only is it a song about onanism, but Prince performs it in a manner than complements the material. It is an exercise in oneism, everything is about Prince as he pushes himself forward. His vocals and guitar fill the air, and although I know his tongue is placed firmly in cheek, it is just too much for me. I seek redemption in his final guitar solo, and I find it both in the quality of his playing and the quality of the recording.

On other recordings, “When You Were Mine” leaves me giddy with it’s teenage energy and spunk. In this case it is the recording that shines brightest, the out of control guitar lines reined in and Prince’s pristine vocals sitting at the centre of the recording. It doesn’t lessen the moment at all, and I am just as enraptured by this version as I am by any other on the tour.

The same can be said of the proceeding “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” All instruments are secondary to the vocals of Prince. That’s not by design, merely that the recording is so clean that Prince sounds much more in the moment. With the pristine recording one can clearly hear the precision of his delivery, and indeed of all the performers on stage. It is the last minute where the guitar raises its head from its slumber, and it is with the guitar’s slippery funk that the band segues into the inevitable “Head”

There are longer versions and there are dirtier versions, but the rendition of “Head” on this recording is a perfect fit with all that has come before. With a performance so tight that it is almost suffocating, Prince and the band leave no room for error and sound  faultless and they turn the normally greasy funk of “Head” into something creamy. This can be heard nowhere more so than the final minutes as the guitar again lights up the darkness. It is neither heavy or forceful, but it takes the song apart with a scalpel like precise that cuts but does not tear the song apart.

The recording has brightened every song heard so far, yet “Annie Christian” seems to suffer in this case. It sounds strangely neutered throughout, the anger of the band and lyrics betrayed by the gentleness and crispness of the recording. There is some rage to be heard, especially Prince’s line about John Lennon being shot (only 11 months previous at this time), but it never becomes threatening or dangerous.

Later in the tour “Dirty Mind” will become an epic centre piece. First night of the tour and here we have a standard rendition that gives no hint at what will come later. The payoff of this neat package of a performance is we can hear Lisa in all her glory as she sings with Prince. Its easy to forget all else as she appears on the recording, and even though Prince turns up he energy later in the song, it is the vocals of Lisa that linger longest once the song has finished.

“Do Me, Baby” has a beauty that is infused into the heart. It may be a song of lust, but it retains it’s dignity through the reverential vocal delivery of Prince. Paired with music that is equally seductive, the song reaches out from the speakers, no longer just a song but instead taking on a life of its on and becoming an emotional experience. I have gushed over this song repeatedly in this blog, but here it is in it’s infancy and already one can hear that Prince has written his first great seduction ballad. Others may come in future, but this will always remain the first.

There is snap, crackle, and pop to the bass line of “Let’s Work” the makes my heart skip a beat. Again, I can’t help but compare it to other renditions on tour. It is not as forceful or driven as some later concerts, but it does retain it’s groove and easy flow. Prince hasn’t turned it into a stomping party song just yet, but we can hear all the key components and they have never sounded as clear as they are here.

The following “Controversy” is of similar ilk. The song sounds great, there is no  denying, but it lacks the energy and impulsiveness that is heard later. There is still plenty to enjoy, the dry guitar line by Prince has me salivating as it wraps me up in its funk. Brown Mark carries a lot of the load through the song, and for me it is just as enjoyable to listen to his contribution as anything else.

I am surprised to hear the guitar so low in the mix for “Uptown.” The band play with plenty of passion though, and although Prince remains the epicenter of all that happening on stage, this is the song where it most feels like a complete band performance. Like everything else on this recording, it is faultless. Everything comes together in a holistic performance, and the only wiry moment that stands out to me is the final guitar solo that appears both spontaneous and fueled by a deeper emotion.

“Party Up” takes “Uptown” and turns it up to 11. At this point the band throw caution to the wind, and for the first time it feels as if they are playing with an inner freedom that seeps through the music. With choppy guitar lines, keyboards dropping in unexpectedly, and some wild sounding yelps from Prince, this is a song I can instantly relate to as it seems to capture the inner workings of my mind.  The moment that sums up Prince’s performance most is as he tells the band to quieten as the crowd can’t hear themselves. He draws the room in at this moment and from here on in it is about performers and the crowd together in the spirit of the song.  It’s not a mind crushing finale, but it is perfect for this recording, and as the final notes recede I sit back, still trying to digest this wonderful recording.

There will never be another first time. This was my first time to hear this concert, and as such I will always remember this day. It was a day when I heard one of the best soundboards to appear in recent times, a recording that takes in another significant concert in Princes career as he turns his back on the Rolling Stones debacle and begins his Controversy tour.  You may think I have been over the top with my praise for this recording, but it is another keystone bootleg in the discography, and one that you need to hear. No controversy about this one, go out and get it.

Next week normal service resumes,
until then, take care,
-Hamish

Paris 1981

It’s been quite some time since I last went back and listened to some shows from earlier in Princes career, and today’s blog taking in the Paris show from 1981 is well over due. I have previously written of shows from earlier in year, the shows in March at both Sam’s Minneapolis and the Ritz New York, as well as the opening for the Rolling Stones later in October of the year. This show today falls right between those and neatly shows how quickly Prince is evolving. There is a lot more evolution yet to come, but here we see his look becoming a little less raw, and the overall show becoming more focused. There is still a long way to go, as we’ll see, but he is definitely progressing forward at a great rate.

4th June 1981, Théâtre Le Palace, Paris

As the show begins Prince is looking all cool and calm, it seems his look has been toned down, certain from the raw look he had at the Ritz show. I wouldn’t go so far as calling his look polished, but it certainly would be more acceptable to my Mother. Do It All Night matches the look of Prince and the band, it sounds smooth and polished, even if the lyrics give a clue to what lies behind this facade. The band is together on the small stage, shoulder to shoulder, and this too can be heard in the music, the band is tight and playing as one. Sonically it’s the bass that I am drawn to most, it’s got a life to it that lifts the song, and it helps that Andre Cymone looks dead cool as he’s playing. In fact, with a front line of Andre, Prince, and Dez it’s hard to say who’s the coolest, and all of them are worth watching closely.

Paris 81

Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad sees Prince stalking the front of the stage, guitar slung at his side ready for action. After the first verse he delivers, and along with Dez there is a nice clean rock sound that comes across as warm rather than dangerous. That feeling changes as the song progresses and Prince becomes more impassioned and bolder with his guitar playing as we get deeper into the song. Initially its Dez striking the guitar hero poses but soon enough Prince is again centre of attention as he has his guitar howling and crying. Even as the three of them stand shoulder to shoulder playing it is still Prince my eyes remain glued too, guitar in hand he is electrifying to watch. The last minute even more so as he plays out the last minute of the song solo, every note stretched for maximum effect and emotional value, and I know that as a teenage boy the final pose of him atop of the amps shredding was about as good as it gets.

Paris 81a

The teenage me would not have been quite as excited by Gotta A Broken Heart Again that follows, however the more mature me finds plenty to like about it. Eyes closed, gripping the microphone, Prince is in the moment and putting his all into the vocals. I haven’t seen this DVD in years, and watching it now I am seeing it with new eyes, Prince isn’t working the guitar or the audience, instead he’s pouring it out into the vocals and as a listener the reward is great. It’s not a song that I would generally rate for the vocals, today I am in a different frame of mind and it’s all I hear as he sings.

The announcement that “this is a new song, Jack U Off” has me again paying attention closely, Jack U Off seems to have been around for ever, but even it was a new song at some stage. The audience is fairly muted (as they are throughout) and it’s up to Prince to compensate with his dancing and energy onstage. His dancing is still at a primitive stage, its Dez who gets all the cool points here with his guitar god moves and poses. The song finishes with a flourish, before something more serious and well-known follows.

Prince loses another layer of clothing as When You Were Mine soars into view. The song sounds sprightly, although onstage there are times when the band look like they are going through the motions. They get a new less of life after the breakdown, and the second half of the song is played with great gusto. No matter what is happening on stage, it always sounds good in my ears, and never once do the band drop the ball in this respect. The final moments see Prince knelt at the front of the stage playing guitar in a visual image that always sticks with me.

Paris 81d

Paris 81c

I never thought of Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) as a fully-fledged rock song before, but here it is rocking my socks off. The bass and drums and beautifully locked in and Dez provides some sharp edged guitar buzz to it the has my inner rocker all a shaking. The only thing that pulls it back is the shrill keyboards, the rest of the time it’s all macho posing and Dez’s deeper backing vocals add a much manlier sound to the mix. Prince derails this somewhat with his effeminate dancing and overall provides a cool balance to it all, especially as he and Dez engage in some interplay with their guitar playing.

Andre is back to the forefront of things as Sexy Dancer begins, and his bass certainly adds a lot more weight than what is heard on record. Prince, Andre and Dez perform some rather rudimentary moves, although it’s hardly necessary on a stage as small as this, and instead it’s the music that carries the day. The part of the performance that does catch my attention however, is when the three of them stand in a semi-circle playing to each other. Although they don’t make eye contact you do get the feeling that they are listening to each other and playing off each other.

Paris 81e

I can’t get past the silliness of Sister, although one does have to admire the courage of Prince to stand in his underwear and sing this in front of a crowd of strangers. It’s a blessing that the song is so short, but to be fair I don’t see how he could make it any longer without really pushing things over the top.

I am much more at ease as we sail into Still Waiting. It refreshing to see Prince at this stage without guitar in hand, and instead he engages in some old fashioned showmanship and he croons and works his way through the song at the front of the stage. He moans, he howls, he croons, he falls to his knees at the front row, all the time attempting to break through to the audience. He falsetto for the final minutes is right on the money, and it’s a rare thing to hear a voice of such clarity and beauty in a raw club setting.

Guitar rattle and runs signal the start of the next movement, and initially sounds like the beginning of a blues song until Prince begins to tell the audience “Down with War” which kicks open the door for Party Up. Prince has worked himself into a lather by this stage and he is looking and sounding suitably sweaty as they bump and funk their way through the song. Andres moves behind Prince almost steal the show for me, I am fascinated by his bobbing and weaving, although Prince commands attention as he later calls on the rather flat Paris crowd to “partyup”. Even enthusiastic hand clapping from Prince fails to elicit much of a response, this is either one cool crowd or a bunch of cardboard cut-outs. Dez and Prince put their all into playing, and they look like they are feeling it, even if the crowd isn’t.

Paris 81f

Dirty Mind sees Prince finally dispense with the last of his clothes, and performs in his bikini briefs. The music is exciting and up-tempo, and the performance has plenty going for it. Princes dancing is raw, and to be honest at times he does look like he performing calisthenics rather than performing on stage. It makes me wonder if he did perhaps meet the devil down by the cross roads sometime between this show and 1984, there is night and day between the dancing of the two eras. Knowing Prince as I do, I’m sure he dedicated many hours to perfecting his dancing, and looking at his raw performance here I can see it was certainly needed. His passion for the music and obvious joy of performing it does shine through, and it’s very hard for me to be negative about any aspect of the performance, I know a lot of my moves are similar to this when I am dancing to his music. Dez’s guitar and the swelling keys give it a great uplifting sound, and the energy does leap out of the speakers at me throughout the entire song.

There is no better way to end the show than Uptown, and it is a glorious sounding version played here. Prince and the band end on a high, Andres bass and Dezs guitar sound full and fresh, as does Bobby on the drums along with Lisa and Finks keyboards. Everything sounds pushed forward and full, and I do love the full band sound playing at maximum power. Prince is back to playing guitar, mostly rhythm although he often instead punches the air or grabs the microphone. There is a great coda though where his guitar playing is highlighted, although only briefly, and then its Dez who gets a rocking lead break while Prince encourages the crowd one last time.

Paris 81g

There is no denying this is an earlier, rawer sounding Prince. He is moving in the right direction though, there is more dancing appearing and they are working on a more well-rounded performance. The sound on this recording was excellent, and seeing the band as well as hearing them is always an added bonus. Of the earlier shows by Prince captured on tape, this is perhaps my favourite, the look of the band, their sound, and the show itself are all interesting and it greatly appeals to me. This is a real band performance, I could hear each of them playing their part and contributing, I could have easily highlighted anyone of the band for special praise, and for me that says a lot for the quality of Prince’s bands. A worthy addition to any collection, this one will stand up to further viewings in years to come.

Thanks for reading,
See you back here next week
-Hamish

Paris 81b

The Ritz 1981

After listening to recordings from more modern times recently, I have today decided today to dig back all the way to 1981. I like these early shows- no Purple Rain, no dancers, no sampler sets- just the music. The word that always comes to mind is ‘raw’ and although it’s almost a cliché, it is entirely true. Prince is raw, both musically and visually, and I can connect to the younger him on stage. I will be watching a show from 1981, and there isn’t too many shows circulating on video from this time, it’s certainly not like nowadays when there seems to be a camera at every show. I love this show, but it’s been sometime since I last saw it, so I look forward to reacquainting myself with it.

Ritz 81

22 March, 1981, The Ritz, New York

The first thing I hear is the bass snap of Do It All Night and the simmering synth riff. Prince appears bathed in dry ice, and I already love this show. It’s got such a classic feel to it, it’s hard not to be swept along on a high. Prince’s vocals are nice and pure, and the bass in particular sounds great. The whole recording is very clean, it really is a treat to listen to. The band certainly looks like they are ready to rock, however the song doesn’t require it and they are nicely restrained. There is a cool moment in the show when Prince calls Andre and Dez to walk and the three of them pull a nice little move off together. Prince is a little quiet, that is by no means a criticism as his vocals are so crisp.

Ritz 81a

The rock part of the gig starts next as Dez throws himself energetically into Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. There are a few squeals from the crowd as Prince sings his lines, but it’s at the chorus that the song really takes off. Both Andre and Dez put a lot of energy into it, and I feel it elevates the song considerably. There is also a nice moment as Prince and Dez strike their classic guitar gods pose. I can just about sing Princes guitar break note for note as I have heard it so many times, and it gets my heart pumping now just as much as it did 30 years ago. It has been a good while since I last heard this song, and I had forgotten how much enjoyment I get out of it. Prince’s second guitar break is more interesting, he is backed by the keyboards, and they ably match him. The song isn’t as long as I have sometimes heard, and it leaves me wanting more as Prince brings it to a close.

Ritz 81b

“We’re going to do something for the rude people” has me wondering what he is going to play next, and I am pleasantly surprised as Prince croons his way through Gotta Broken Heart Again. Not only is his singing gentle on the ear, but there is also some delicate piano and guitar play which has me paying close attention. The song doesn’t contain anything in the way of surprise, and that is a surprise in itself and Prince keeps it simple. He does indulge in some vocal play at the end of the song before it comes to a close with that piano again. This song is great, and I’m doing it a disservice by not writing more about it.

I wrote about Broken when I covered his 81 show at Sams Minneapolis, and here it once again appears. Its rockabilly style feels a little out of place, but in retrospect it’s nothing like the stylistic jumps later in his career. I like Princes vocals, his singing at this time is a nice falsetto, it’s just the music in this song is so slight it leaves me feeling hollow.

Ritz 81f

Bobby Z gets to play a nice long intro to When You Were Mine, before Prince comes in with his guitar. The song isn’t as strong as I like, there is certainly much stronger versions floating around. It’s played well though, and I can’t fault it in any way. Prince looks incredibly young, and it’s hard to believe he’s lived the experiences he is singing about. The break down is normally longer than what we hear on this recording, and after a quick line Prince jumps back into the song. It’s all very fine, but I get the feeling that something needs turning up to 11 to make the song jump.

Ritz 81d

Gotta Stop Messing About sounds good, so I am surprised to see how static the audience is. Andre’s bass is the star for me through this song, he has a nice pop going in my left ear. Dez and Andre both contribute backing vocals to Prince and it does add a more manly sound to the song, although the synth squiggle undoes some of that. Prince does bounce and bob, and yet the song never really ignites and comes to an end leaving me wishing it was something more.

I hear a funky guitar play and the rhythmic pattern of Sexy Dancer played on the cymbals and my spirits lift. The main elements of the song are Princes guitar and his vocals, and that’s no bad thing at all. There is a keyboard solo, but I find myself still listening to Princes guitar as it plays. The song becomes a dance after about half way, plenty of bass, guitars and a nice easy chant rolling over and over. There is a brief guitar break from Prince that becomes more and more and we get a good couple of minutes of him playing rhythm guitar centre stage. I was about to dismiss the rest of the band, but Dr Fink plays a really cool solo, complete with bobbing head and jerking motions. I love ya Doc!

Ritz 81h

I don’t recall the last time I listened to Sister. Some days I love it, and some days I dismiss it as a throw away piece. I like seeing the performance here, but truthfully I could probably live without it. It’s hard to be critical of something that’s so brief, so it’s with pleasure we move to the next song.

I Want To Be Your Lover is a slab of pure pop, and it’s hard for me to reconcile between the look of Dirty Mind era Prince, and the pop sound of the song. In later years he would joke with the lyric “Ain’t got no money (now that’s a lie)” but I have to say looking at him here, he definitely looks like he’s got no money. As good as his vocals sound, for this song it’s the rhythm guitar of Dez that I focus on. Not just the chorus, but also the verses his guitar sound is fantastic. I don’t think I had noticed it earlier, but now it’s all I can hear. As befitting a pop song it finishes after three minutes and we move onto something much darker, and funkier.

Ritz 81g

There is no better sound than that of Prince and the band grooving on the intro of Head. That opening synth stab and the delicious sound of the guitars before Prince intones his opening lines, all of it is great for me. I would love this even if it was a bad performance, but then again how often does that happen? This one is great, and right at the start there is a fantastic shot of a very young Lisa Coleman singing her lines, the show is worth seeing just for that alone. Another highlight is seeing Dr Fink doing what he does best, and I swear one day I am going to learn how to dance like that. Prince looks somewhat like Mick Jagger as he leads the crowd into singing “head”, and there is plenty of strutting and prancing. The band hit their straps at this point, and all of them look like they are feeling the groove as the play. Andre in particular puts on a great show. For many years the highlight of this song has been the second half as Prince engages in his guitar noise and showmanship. Seeing it as well as hearing it is a bonus, and even though I have heard it a lot I still find myself watching transfixed as Prince plays. The last few minutes are epic as Prince plays lead, rhythm and masturbates with his guitar. I can’t help but think of the word ‘raw’ again. And ‘awesome’

Ritz 81i

Things take another change as Still Waiting is the next song played. Dr Fink again is a star with his piano playing carrying the song early on. Prince is once again at his crooning best, I may not catch all the words but I catch his meaning. The song has a gentle elegance to it during the chorus and the lights come up slightly as the music rises. Prince steps out from behind the microphone stand and engages with the audience with his looks and vocal performance, and I find myself warming to him much more here. Prince shows more of his star power as later in the song he sings under a single spotlight and we hear some of his great falsetto. Prince directs the band to finish the song and with a final vocal flourish it ends.

Ritz 81j

The show does go for longer, but sadly the video footage ends here, and so must my blog entry.

It’s very hard for me to write objectively about any show from this time period. I am a life long fan of Prince, and I listen to all sorts of shows, but some years are better to me than others. Give me anything from 1981, 1986 or 1995 and I am about as happy as I can be. This isn’t the best from this time, but seeing it does give it some extra merit. There are only a few shows documented on video from this time, so I do treat this one with reverence. A good show, and a nice video, it’s got plenty going for it, it’s just a shame it wasn’t the whole show or a more impassioned performance. A worthy addition to the collection and worth watching a couple of times a year.

Have a great week,
See you next week for another great recording ‘off the record’
-Hamish

Ritz 81k

 

Sams, Minneapolis 1981

Looking through my collection, I see that 1981 was a pretty good year. Prince was evolving fast, and there is a nice spread of recordings from this year to document this. There are DVDs capturing both Dirty Mind and Controversy shows and plenty of audio of recordings of both tours. I have gone for a recording taken earlier in the year of 1981 for today’s blog post. It would have been very easy to pull the excellent Houston gig from the Controversy tour later in the year, or a DVD of one of the Dirty Mind shows, but I have instead taken a listen to a show from early March. It is a recording taken in Princes hometown, and although the quality isn’t as good as some of the other shows I have mentioned, the fact that it is in Minneapolis is interesting for me, and I am hoping that we get something special due to this fact.

9 March, 1981, Sams, Minneapolis

Prince immediately acknowledges that this is a homecoming gig- when the recording begins the first things we hear him say are “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home”. The recording is thick and I do initially have trouble making out what he is saying. However, it’s by no means unlistenable, and once the music starts it’s not too bad, the music is nice and deep and strong, but disappointingly the vocals remain incomprehensible. But for an audience recording of this age I can’t say its surprise to me. The first song played is Do It All Night. It has a nice aggressive start, with several thrusts before it begins proper. The guitar and drums are what I can hear best, but during the chorus the noise pulls back just enough for me to hear the keyboards. There is a drum break and Prince gets the crowd to sing along “do it all night”. They sound full of energy, and it’s an enjoyable moment. Bobby Z closes the song with plenty of cymbals and we move easily into Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad.

Dirty Mind Prince3

Prince’s vocals become clearer on this part of the recording, and I think the recording picks up his lower register much better than his falsetto. This is bared out when he gets to the chorus and again the vocals distort. The interaction between the bass and guitar is worth listening to, you can hear them intertwining and it’s something I hadn’t noticed before. The first half of Princes guitar break is exactly the same as I have heard plenty of times, it sounds good, but I don’t pay it too much attention. But immediately after he says “Why you wanna treat me so bad, bitch!” the guitar really heats up, and this grabs me straight away. It’s aggressive and loud, and it is the stomping sort of solo that I like to hear. Bobby Z adds weight to this with plenty of crashes late in the break, before it all stops for Prince to give us another 30 seconds of guitar howl to end the song. A slow start, but excellent finish- this one surprised me.

Gotta Broken Heart Again subdues the mood, and its feels very calm and smooth after the previous song. The piano is lost in the recording somewhat, and it’s all Prince and the bass that I can hear. I do catch snatchs of the piano, but I have to listen carefully. The song itself does sound good, and Princes vocals are better on this than the previous two songs. The song gets better as it goes, and there is some nice guitar and cymbal interplay. Again it heightens my appreciation of Bobby Z and how much he was part of Princes setup in the early days. There is a long gentle finish with Prince singing with only piano, and it does have a better sound to it than the first part of the song.

Next we get Broken, a track that has never been released by Prince. It was played several times on the Dirty Mind tour, but here is its first live appearance. Over hand claps Prince sings the opening few lines, before a rockabilly piano enters and the energy jumps up. It sounds slight, and awkwardly out of place. But I do like it, especially the backing vocals of the band and their call and response with Prince. As with all his songs in this style its short, there’s just enough time for a piano break before the song quickly ends.

Dirty Mind Prince 1

I am back in more familiar territory next with the sound of the drum intro into When You Were Mine. The guitar comes on board, but due to the recording it doesn’t have the crisp clean sound I am used to, and the same could be said for Princes vocals, I know what he is singing, but I have to listen very carefully to make them out. As always, the keyboards sound joyful and full. The solo is a little quiet for my liking, but it’s still good. Prince doesn’t dwell too long on the break down as he does on some shows, and the song moves along at a good pace. It doesn’t have the passionate howls near the end as we get on the Controversy tour, it’s a nice rendition, but better was still to come later in the year.

Some nice rhythm guitar followed by a Prince scream begins us into Sexy Dancer. The tone and attitude is just right on this one, and the music itself does sound like a sexy dancer. The music is strong, but there is a nice funk guitar slithering underneath that gives it a sexy feel. There is a lot of crowd noise, and I guess Prince is doing some sort of sexy dance. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see it, as there is plenty for me to listen to. There is plenty of time for a keyboard break, and some more funky rhythm guitar. The rhythm guitar is a little low when it gets its break, but I can still hear it OK. The piano keyboard that follows is the best part of the song for me, it plays for a while, both doing it on thing, as well as interacting with the rest of the band. The song ends right after this with a bubble of electronic noise.

Sister takes us in another direction entirely, its upbeat, noise and brash. Again Princes vocals are loud but I can’t make out his words, and its probably just as well in this case! The rest of the band play with energy, and the song is over in less than two minutes. It was almost a diversion rather than a song.

Dirty Mind Prince2

The pop sounds of I Wanna Be Your Lover follows next. I have always preferred the live versions of this compared to the album version, they seem to have more intensity and grit to them. This is no exception, the crowd love this one, and the band do play it well. The bass and Prince are picked up best by the recording, so the keyboard sound is secondary to the bass. I’m sure that’s not the case, but on this recording that’s what I can hear best. It’s not a bad thing I do enjoy grooving along to the bass, and Princes vocals almost have me singing along. The coda is relatively short and it’s a nice lead in to what I know is coming next.

A blast on the keyboard signals the beginning of Head. I have never heard a version of Head that I didn’t love, and this one is no exception. Right from the start there is plenty of screams and yells for the crowd and I am right with them. Even on audience recordings Head still pops out of the speakers at me nice and strong. The keyboard stabs are captured well by the recording and of course the bass and Prince vocals. The audience sing enthusiastically throughout, and at one stage are chanting “head, head, head, head, head” There is an interesting little drum roll into a quirky keyboard break that I hadn’t heard before. It’s after Dr Finks main solo, and I can’t explain it well, but I do like it. The song quiets down to just bass and cymbals, and the crowd can be heard chanting ” you gonna have to fight your own damn war, we don’t want to fight no more” A very cool moment, before some keyboard stabs and Princes guitar begins. After some guitar noodling the keyboard comes faster than I had heard before and again it’s an interesting variation on a song I have heard plenty of times. It ends not as I expect with the strong sound of Princes guitar, but instead just sort of fades to an end. Surprising, but very enjoyable.

Still Waiting lacks the intensity of the last two songs, and the audience can’t be heard as much either. It seems lackluster after listening to 10 minutes of Head. But it’s not a bad song, so I am beginning to question its placement in the set list. The sound is better on this, I find it easy to listen to and Princes vocals sound sweet, although I still can’t understand what he is singing. The song takes a big up swing half way through, the recording changes, as Prince screams and the drums crash over the top. There is then another quiet passage of just Prince and the band singing, which is pretty much as good as it gets in this song. It’s a cool moment, but then the rest of the song doesn’t do much for me as the recording deteriorates.

Dirty Mind Prince

Partyup has a much tighter feel to it, and isn’t as bass heavy as other songs on the recording. The keyboards are more to the fore, and although I can’t hear the guitar as well the vocals do sound better. The song is played as we know it from the record, so there aren’t any surprises to be heard. There is plenty of noise, and keyboard from Dr Fink, and the drums are nicely in the mix too. It’s played for what it is, an audience pleaser, and you do hear the audience chanting near the end, and all the while Dr Fink keeps the keyboard noise going. It’s does sound just like on the album, but it runs out to eight minutes here, as the end is played out and the crowd begin chanting, although you can barely hear them due to the glorious racket the band is making.

There is a brief pause and then the band returns with Uptown. I have always thought that Uptown is thematically very similar to Partyup, so I was surprised to hear them side by side on this recording. Uptown is much better than Partyup here, and I enjoy it much more. It’s got a clean sound, and is very danceable. There is some excellent guitar work, and a great solo. Unfortunately it’s a very quiet on the recording, but it does sound fantastic. The band stops and there is plenty more guitar that I can barely hear. A shame, but that is the way with audience recordings. There is a drum beat that begins some more guitar playing, but it all sounds like it’s far away.

The ever reliable Bobby Z plays us into Crazy You. A song I very rarely listen to, here I find it a real high point. The keyboard and bass bob along just nicely, and even though again I struggle to hear Prince I do like the melody. There is some gentle guitar playing which I do hear better, and it lures me in well. The second half the song moves along faster and louder, but still retains it nice groove. There isn’t much in the way of singing, but I do like all of it. The guitar plays over the groove for a good two or three minutes and it’s excellent.

Gotta Stop doesn’t sound as fast as it does on record, and it is much better for it. The raw guitar tone and the steady drums rolls work well. The keyboards aren’t as strong as they were earlier. I like Princes vocals, but the lyrics do start getting repetitive, but I could listen to the groove all day. I am surprised when it suddenly ends, but I see that it was played for quite a while, so it really drew me into the music.

The pounding beat of Dirty Mind next, and that great driving keyboard riff. The recording lacks the intensity and energy of other shows, Princes vocals are too lost in the mix, and I can’t hear any guitar. Even the parts where I know he is yelling in the microphone still sound very quiet. To compensate though, Bobby Z and his drums sound great, and I especially like the hard electric noise he gets from them. The song lacks something without the guitar sound, and it’s one of the weaker recordings I have of this song. I can hear the guitar later in the song, but it’s mostly Bobby Z that I can hear with his drums.

Prince tells us “we are running out of songs” before he plays Everybody Dance. As with Broken, this song never made it onto an album, and was only played at a few shows on this tour. There isn’t too much to the song, just a keyboard lead groove, and Prince sing “everybody, everybody dance” He does mix it up a little with lines such as “everybody, everybody say yeah” but there is nothing more in the way of lyrics. Even the groove doesn’t vary much and I can see why we didn’t hear much more of this song. But it is good to hear unreleased songs from this era, and I do enjoy it for its novelty value. It does outstay its welcome by a good couple of minutes, and there is no tears from me as it ends.

Prince 3

The grinding guitar of Bambi takes us to the last song of the evening. The power of the song is neutered by the recording, but it’s still good to hear it. With the recording being weak, it’s mostly Princes vocals that I listen to, he is finishing the gig strongly, and his voice is standing up well against the drums and guitar. The first half of the song sounds a little mundane, but things pick up later when Prince begins to play his solo. It’s very unfortunate that the recording ends here, and we don’t get to hear the end of the song.

There was plenty to like about this recording, and plenty to dislike. I did enjoy the fact that there was a couple of rarities in the set list, and the hometown crowd added a warm atmosphere to the show. However at times the limitations of the recording did mar my enjoyment of the show. I have listened to plenty of audience recordings, and this one is by no means a terrible one, but there is some songs where I didn’t quite get all the sounds that I might have otherwise wanted to hear. A good show, with a less than average recording, it was still worth a listen. Something I would listen to once every few years rather than something I would give a high rotation to.

Take care
Hamish

A rocky start with the Stones

There are some recordings that are considered more important than others. Some capture a band in peak form playing on those magical nights when you can almost feel the intensity and the sweat running down the walls. Others are crystal clear quality, every element caught in near perfection for us to enjoy. And then there are other recordings, capturing not a just a performance, but a moment in time when something significant happens. A part of history.

This recording, though not perfect, is one of these moments.

October 11th 1981 – Prince opening for the Rolling Stones.

 

thorogoodstones

Like Michael Jordan being cut from his high school team, and then rising to complete domination of the NBA, the story of Prince being booed off opening for the Stones has now passed into part of his personal mythos, part of his struggle and his legend. Would his ascent to the throne a top of pop music in the 80’s been quite as spectacular without adversary and this misstep from 1981?

Much has been written about the two gigs when Prince opened for the Stones. I am sure it been well covered, how Prince was roundly booed on both occasions and pelted with trash. Whether or not he was booed off the stage on October 11th is debatable, he certainly left mid-set. But the band do seem to finish their set, although it is brief and not without incident.

Its not very often I listen to this recording, although of historical interest, its not really something I would choose to put on and listen to. But as it is significant I thought I would give a brief review.

Prince - Live at Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, 1981

As you see from the two pictures above, Prince wasn’t the only opening act that day. All three acts are recorded, J. Geils Band, and George Thorogood both have three songs each on the recording I have. I don’t know if those are their complete sets, but it does help to put Princes’ five songs in perspective.

Stones81

 

Okay, enough of this talk, I’m here for the music, lets take a listen!

Like any audience recording it takes a few seconds to adjust to the grubby sound. At first its just noise, then sure enough the opening riff to Bambi can be made out. The first thing that struck me is how muscular and strong it sounds. Prince and Dez guitars sound like they are really cranked, and there playing is dead on. Bambi has always been a strong rock song, but here it sounds like they are really pushing it. The other thing that stands out on the playing of this song for me is how well Brown Mark is playing. Its one of his first gigs with them, and in front of 94,000 people. I had read him saying how nervous he felt, and scared when the stuff started flying, but in this song his playing sounds very confident.

When Prince starts singing its not in his usual falsetto. And I’m surprised, but the song really sounds better for it. Maybe its my rock background, but when he sings in his lower register on Bambi it really gets me. This is how a great rock song should sound – not that I’m not a fan of it on record! The crowd don’t sound too hostile at this stage, they sound like any other crowd that are waiting in the hot sun for the support band to finish so they can see the main event- that is disinterested and slightly restless.

Next up is one of my favourites from the early days When You Were Mine. Dez addresses the audience (I think its Dez) during the intro, acknowledging that they are waiting for the Stones. At this point of the recording a couple of the audience can be heard chatting. One guy says something like “one more song and then..” the rest of his sentence is lost. I always wonder what he was about to say. “one more song and then they’re off” or “One more song and then I’ll get a beer” ? Another guys says (and again its not clear so I’m guessing) “better in a small club”. The song kicks of, and for the first time we hear the keyboards. They are not real prominent like the album, again the guitars are cranked to 11 for the rock crowd. I really like the guitar sound on this version, they have a real buzz to them. Not the clean, new wave sound, but a more buzzing grunge sound. Again it appeals to my rock roots. The audience seem pretty boisterous through out, and there is a bit of a cheer when the song ends (Is it an ironic cheer?)

The band go straight into Jack U Off without pause. Its during this song that it becomes apparent on the recording that they are playing to a hostile audience. Midway through the song an audience member comments “Look at all that trash”. I don’t know how much trash was thrown at them in the first couple of songs (Hey, I’m only listening on my stereo, not watching it!), but now it seems like the missiles are really coming at them. The song ends with a loud and prolonged “boooooooo”

 

Rolling Stones 1981

 

Uptown next, and its notable for the conspicuous absence of Prince himself. After whatever has gone down in the first few songs, he’s cut his losses and left the stage. And here I have to give credit to the band. They stay on, in front of 94,000 Rolling Stones fans, and play on without Prince. Best of all, they still sound good, testament to how well rehearsed and professional they were. Surprisingly the song itself doesn’t suffer too much from a lack of vocals. In fact I kind of like this way. There is more room for the instruments to play, and Dez is sounding great on this one. I would like to hear more songs played like this. Normally Uptown is a bit overwhelmed by the lyrics and the message, but here the music itself really comes out. I would love to hear this song in particular in better quality.

Prince is back onboard for the final song, Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? (Is he singing it for the crowd?) Again he is singing lower, especially the chorus. I enjoy it this way, but maybe its because I am so used to how he normally sings it. The crowd noise isn’t so prominent in this song, maybe they have settled down about after his departure from stage. Unfortunately the taper announces halfway through the song that he’s had enough and stops the tape, so I guess I will never know how it ends. Its a shame, because normally the second half of Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad really takes off, would love to know how it went over with the Stones fans. I don’t know how the audience reaction when he finished, but I guess they went back to their beers and continued on.

Stones81

 

So it ends, one of Princes most famous gigs, but for all the wrong reasons. What my verdict? While the recording isn’t great, its a fascinating look at one of significant moment in Prince career. The songs are obviously played with the white Stones audience in mind, and its refreshing to hear them played this way. I have plenty of early recordings where Dez and Prince have their guitars right out front, but none more so than this. The recording has several shortcomings, but I am very grateful to the taper who recorded this moment for us all to enjoy. Its a nice little addition to the collection. Not a must have, but definitely a interesting curio.

Please comment below- Additions, alterations, criticism and praise. Any and all feed back welcome.

Next week I will be looking at something a little more recent- a Third Eye Girl recording.

-Hamish

Dr. Fink and Prince

 This picture has nothing to do with the gig- I just really like it!

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