First Ave 1982 Revisited

Recently Mace2theO commented that this bootleg from 1982 was the equivalent to his first girlfriend. We all have a similar first girlfriend experience – she may have had braces and carried some puppy fat, but she will always be special by the fact she was the first and painted in nostalgic hues forever more because of this. It was our first proper relationship, and doomed to a crushing teenage ending, but always conjures up warm memories that do not fade as time passes.

I’m sorry Mace2theO, but  in this case your first girlfriend got around a bit. Not only was she your first girlfriend, she was my first girlfriend too. Mace2theO acquired this concert on cassette (and all the nostalgic currency that that carries), while for me I found this bootleg on CD hidden away at the back of the record store. It was far from perfect in sound quality but I can assure you that when I took a listen it shook me to my core, and the fact that 35 years on I am blogging about Prince bootlegs demonstrates how much of an influence it had over the rest of my life. Like that first girlfriend, it was a formative experience. I didn’t quite know what I was doing and I have had better relationships since, but retains a special place in my heart.

A couple of weeks ago the soundboard recording of this show became widely available. It’s not always comfortable when we meet ex-girlfriends later in life, a messy divorce behind them, a couple of kids under their arm, and the first signs of a drinking problem hiding behind their forced smile, but in this case my first girlfriend has grown up into somebody I want to spend a lot of time with. The roughness of the audience recording is gone, replaced with a shiny soundboard, all slender legs, short skirts and long luxurious hair. Oh yes, my first girlfriend is now the hottest chick on the block. She is has grown up in every way, while retaining all the charms that I first fell in love with all those years ago. I may have talked about this first girlfriend before, but now she is in full bloom and stirring up those old feelings in me. It’s not very often that I spend time with ex-girlfriends, but in this case I am going to roll back the clock and wine and dine this girl one more time.

So with my first bootleg love rekindled, lets douse ourselves in cheap cologne, grease up the hair, and head straight to the heart of 1982.

(all photos by Mike Reiter)

8th March 1982, First Avenue, Minneapolis

There is a heat between the thighs from the opening minute, a few quick words by Prince and then a rage of guitar pulled down by Dez. With a punk rock assault Prince and the band hang it all out in these first minutes with both power and panache. In a frenzy of guitar scuzz “Bambi” storms into the room. It’s a wild eyed performance that bounces of the walls in a maelstrom of fuzzed up guitar and shrieked lyrics, capturing the listeners attention from the start. It is much cleaner than the previous audience recording, and the soundboard brings the musicianship to the the fore while retaining the fierce sound of the more familiar recording. That first girlfriend has cleaned up her defiant punk-rock hair style, but still has a fiery intent in her eyes that hints at an underlying violence that could bubble over at any second.

“All The Critics Love U In New York” is the most Princely sui genius song of the evening, and clearly maps out the territory that he will roam in the next few years. It wears its uniqueness proudly, face melting guitar work grafted to the undeniable beat that appeals to both my gut and my feet. I am never quite sure if I should be dancing or punching the air, the music insisting that I move my body in any way possible as Prince gives us perhaps the greatest performance of this song ever recorded. The keyboard solo gains on this pristine recording, Fink’s solo standing out among the more forceful blazing guitar and holding his own calm centre at the eye of the storm. For a minute we are in another world, before the hurricane of guitar solos return and swallow up the all the sound.

There is a glimpse of the first girlfriend I used to know in the opening of “When You Were Mine,” both the title and the sound taking me back to youthful summers that were equally long and lost. It is easy to project these feelings back on a song that has been with us so long, but even at this show it has a nostalgic feel – although it was only recorded just two years previous. This is the most comfortable song of the concert, and captures the exact feelings that I first had when I heard it all those years ago.

There is a world of difference between the audience recording and this soundboard recording when it comes to “Sexy Dancer.” A far more nuanced performance emerges on this recording, and whereas before it was strident and bold, here it becomes much more of a sassy walk rather than a march into battle. Both the bass and the keyboard via for attention, each adding to a show that I am already eminently familiar with. While the bass remains holding the song together, Dr Fink spins off into an intergalactic sound with his keyboards, making me draw a sharp breath in the thrill of it all. It is Dez who gets to put an end to these flights of fancy, his solo serving as an exclamation mark on all that has come before.

Things slow, sex and lust temporarily forgotten as Prince dips into a song of love and yearning with “Still Waiting.” Prince is on lead vocals, but it is Sue Ann Carwell who is the star attraction with her contribution. At almost ten minutes long there is plenty of time for the candles of love to flicker and flame, and musically one can hear the lights being turned down as the song slows to a velvety and warm breakdown. In this circumstance it is grating to hear Prince saying “I got cause to celebrate, because my girlfriend died” but as Brown Marks bass rises up from this crushed velvet sea all is forgiven, and I am again transported away on the winds of Sue Ann Carwell’s voice.

The recording slaps me in the face and snaps me out of this reverie with a furious “Head.” On the previous recording it was nasty and slutty, on this recording it is far more sexy and erotic. While the audience recording sounded like a blowjob in the Walmart carpark, this one speaks in the language of fellatio and sex on the hood of a Porsche at a Beverly Hills party. The outcome is still the same, but it doesn’t threaten to be as dangerous, and despite some superlative bass work I am comfortable that when it is all over I won’t be visiting the clinic in the morning.

If there is a moment that demonstrates how much better this new recording is, it is the final minute of the “Head” when we can hear Prince preparing the band for “Sexuality.” We have heard his yell into the microphone before, but this time we can hear him say it a couple of times earlier to the audience. It’s not a big thing, but it does show just how good the sound is. “Sexuality” is relatively short, most of the song is given over to the audience sing-a-long that dominates. It does lose some of it’s impact on this soundboard recording, the audience recording obviously doing a far better job of capturing this moment with the audience. This is crying out for someone to combine the two recordings in a matrix mix that would better give us that electrifying live sound that makes this recording so vital.

Prince’s brief speech introducing The Time has been often discussed, and for good reason. His easy banter with Morris is refreshing, and its hilarious to hear him and Morris go back and forth, trading lines and barbs that belie the darker waters that swirl just under the surface. “Dance To The Beat” maintains this veneer of lightheartedness, and provides a pop twist to a show that has been thus far guitar heavy and drenched in intensity. There is a lift in the atmosphere and the recording shines bright for these minutes.

Prince continues to fire broadsides at the band between songs, this time with the comment “I didn’t like that, play something you know how to play.” The response from The Time is a taunt version of “The Stick” that would satisfy the most demanding of audiences. As much as I like The Time and this song, it does feel as if they have gate-crashed the date, and there is an awkward third wheel experience to hearing them on the bootleg. The real draw card though isn’t the music itself though, rather their dynamic tension with Prince, a tension that fuels his music and will provide some of his most dramatic work in the following years.

“Partyup” fuses these two elements together in a climatic finish that delivers all it promises. The opening talk between Prince and Morris sets the scene, the back and forth continues between them continues as Morris takes his place at the drum kit for this final stomp. Prince and his guitar lead from the front, but most fans will be focused on Morris and his drumming. He lives up to expectations, and the foreplay of the opening talk is forgotten as the the song becomes further arousing. Morris’s drum solo almost brings us to orgasm, but Prince pulls him back just in time with some great bass work from Brown Mark. The final climax comes with an inflamed guitar solo from Prince,but as with the audience recording there is coitus interruptus as the tape fades out, the rest of solo never realized and leaving us to only wonder what might  have been.

I have loved this concert for as long I can remember. I have grown older, but it has remained forever young, even with the imperfections of the long circulating audience recording. With this soundboard recording we have a chance to revisit our youth, and a chance to reconnect with that elusive first girlfriend. I have mixed feelings as I know that the first girlfriend is forever gone and never again will I listen to the audience recording. This new recording has created new memories and sparked a new love. It is time to move on and file the audience recording in my box of faded photos, yellowed love letters and yesterdays glories. I am firmly looking forward as with this soundboard recording I feel reinvigorated, my love burning with a new intensity. I have made up my mind, this is the recording that I want to spend the rest of my life with.

-Hamish

Bonus material:

Mace2theO messaged me this quickfire review when I told him I was covering this bootleg. It’s not written with public consumption in mind, but he has agreed that I could share it with you. I am in full agreement with everything he has written here, and he is far more succinct than me!

Re 82 – reasons the show is important to me, rediscovered with the SBDs

The First Ave show came the night after the main show at the Met Centre so going back to a small club, it has the feel of an aftershow. It is the first Revolution in all its glory, with Dez as a proper Keith Richards lead as the Black Rolling Stones, all pre-Purple Rain. Starting with a raw punk version of Bambi, it then goes into a monster version of All the Critics. While “Let ’em out of his cage” is great, my favourite is before Doc’s solo when Prince and Dez start soloing and Prince yell’s “Wait a minute, Dez” before ripping off a monster solo.

Sometimes audiences make the boot and I had been living with crowd singing at the end of Sexuality for so many years, it took me a minute to adjust to the soundboard. Same with All The Critics – without that kickdrum in your face, the SBD didn’t feel the power of the earlier version…although it sounds much better.

Most important – this is really the closest we will ever get the inspiration for the Purple Rain battle. Before all the controlling issues that came along in 83-84, you can feel the real affection between Morris and Prince (“We used to be friends”) – as trivia, it has the only time in bootleg history where someone gives Prince shit “You wanna borrow my comb?” Also history, as only time live Prince with Morris on drums.

I have fallen in love with my first girlfriend all over again – not looking forward to telling the wife

Making of Rain-Minnesota Dance Theatre benefit show

I am very intimidated about writing about this recording. Some shows are so legendry, so much part of the Prince mythos, that they are almost untouchable. This is very much one of those shows. Recorded between the albums 1999 and Purple Rain, it captures the genesis of what will follow in the coming years. It is legendary on so many different levels, and offers something for everyone. First of all, its Wendy Melvoins debut with the band- that in itself is a key marker for the storm that will follow in the next few years. Next, there is six new songs introduced, and three of them recorded for the basic tacks on Purple Rain (I would Die 4 U, Baby, I’m a Star, and Purple Rain itself). Again, a mouth-watering proposition for any fan. And one of the songs played here is the unreleased fan favourite Electric Intercourse. The most famous song that Prince never released? Perhaps, but I aren’t going to pass judgment on that. I can barely bring myself to write about this show, least I do it an injustice. I am not one for hype or hyperbole, but this show more than lives up to every expectation heaped upon it.

Minnesota Dance Theatre benefit show, August 3rd 1983

The opening keyboard of Lets Go Crazy is the first thing heard on this recording. The crowd cheers, but there isn’t the frenzied anticipation we see in later years. As a new song I am sure most of the crowd are unsure of what to expect next. Prince quickly shows them as he finishes his after world speech and goes into the now familiar riff of Lets Go Crazy. The vocals on the recording are a little fuzzy, but the song is already being played very tight, like all Prince bands there is many hours of rehearsal to back them up. Despite hearing this song hundreds of times, it sounds fresh to me here- perhaps as its fresh to the band themselves, and they certainly look like they are having a lot of fun playing it. Prince still has his 1999 look about him in terms of clothing and hairstyle, and he plays with a big grin on his face. I find myself smiling with him and I love it when he plays alongside Wendy and there is some nice interaction between them. Wendy makes an immediate impression, and she more than holds her own on this song. At times she does look a little stiff, but overall she kills it on the guitar and already has good onstage chemistry with Prince. It’s a great opening song, in fact it was so good I went back and played it twice.

Prince 8.83

The audience is much more familiar with the next song, When You Were Mine. I was going to write that this is another favourite of mine from this recording, but then I realized that I love all the songs on this one. It’s a good rocking version here, but Princes guitar is a little more buried in the mix, it sounds much noisier, and it’s not as clean as other versions. It’s a short song, but here it’s even shorter, as when the music stops and I expect Prince to do his unaccompanied singing before a reprise, the mood changes and he instead starts playing a slower song on his guitar. I have to give a shout out here to Dr Fink, his robotic handclaps are very entertaining.

Prince 8.83a

That song is of course a cover of Joni Mitchells A Case Of You, and what we have here is outstanding. Prince delivers a knock out in this one. His singing is beautiful and his guitar playing compliments his vocals fantastically well. The only other instrument is a keyboard filling the background, but I am totally entranced by Prince and his delivery. It’s only a minute and a half, but it’s one of my favourite minutes of his whole career. This one is otherworldly in its beauty. Although the lyrics aren’t Princes, he delivers them with total conviction, he more than does justice to Joni’s words. In particular the opening lines he sings are obviously heartfelt

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that isn’t afraid

Prince 8.83b

Things change completely as Prince introduces the next song “This song is called Computer Blue” As much as I love this song, I find it jarring coming in right after A Case Of You. But soon all is forgiven as Prince and the band play a rollicking version. A lot of the audience looks pretty stunned at this stage of the gig, and who could blame them. For all his history of guitar work and rock sensibilities he hadn’t played a song quite like this before. It’s not just the guitar I am referencing here, the overall tone of the music is darker and heavy, from the drum beat to the keyboards. All of it has a foreboding sound. The band is pushed right back on the stage, and Prince stands the edge of the stage pulling all the guitar licks and tricks he knows. Like the last song, it’s all about Prince, and he holds the centre of attention all song. The keyboards are strong, and aren’t drowned by the guitar as you might expect. Wendy goes to her knees when Prince wails on his guitar for a bit, before the fantastic segue into the second half of the song, and another chance for Prince to get busy on the guitar. The lead is played as we have all heard before, but here once again its sounding fresh, and Prince is very much playing the hell out of it with great relish. The last guitar break in particular has some real venom in it, and has a nice heavy, almost industrial sound to it. The song ends with a big smile from Prince as he throws his guitar pick to the crowd.

Prince 8.83c

Another about face next, as Princes puts down the guitar and we hear the quirky pop of Delirious. Plenty of dancing and handclapping from Prince soon has the crowd-back on board. Although I have no great love for the song, it does seem like a very fun song to play. Freed from guitar duty, Prince does interact a little more with crowd, moving back and forth across the stage and holding the microphone for the crowd to sing. The response is inaudible most of the time, mostly because the band are very loud, and at times it seems that Prince himself is almost yelling over the top of the band. That’s one thing I like about the gig, it does have that great live sound, where everything is a little louder, and little nosier, and overall a little more ‘rock n roll’. Prince does pick up the guitar near the end of the song, he is playing the main lead line, but it’s more raw, and just on the right side of loose.

Prince 8.83l

What follows is one of the most famous unreleased songs in the Prince canon – Electric Intercourse. Lead by Prince at the piano, this song was desperately unlucky to not be on the Purple Rain sound track. For many years I thought this song was over rated, but now I am firmly in the camp that considers it a great lost gem. The keyboard and piano in this one sound great, and Prince uses plenty of shrieks and screams throughout to emphasis his emotion. Between verses there is some very nice piano lines, while the band holds it all together in the background. Even Princes corny spoken word (Don’t you want to make love?) fails to take the shine off this. It’s very much a highlight, and worth listening to if you have a chance.

Prince 8.83d

Nasty Prince is back in full effect when Automatic begins next. As with the other songs on this night, it’s not as clean and smooth as it sounds on the album. Some of the robotic coldness is gone, but it’s more than made up for with the intensity of the bands playing. Prince puts a lot into this one, and the crowd responds in kind. He gets them all waving their hands mid song, and there is plenty of shouts and screams as he strokes his microphone stand. Prince doesn’t play guitar on this, but there is some great playing from Brown Mark and Wendy. As far as the band go, I think this is the song where they are at their best. Admittedly every song played tonight is top drawer- with some recorded as a basis for use on Purple Rain, but in this one I feel we get to see a little more of each band member, and as far as I can see they are all giving maximum effort and enjoying playing. Prince does lie on the floor for a minute to talk some smut. It’s pretty cool, but I just wish I could hear him a little better. The next part of the song is a long groove, and Prince engages in a few dance moves with the rest of the band. There is no let-up in the intensity though, and overall it’s a riveting performance.

Prince 8.83g

There is quite a long pause next, with the stage in darkness, before Prince introduces “This is I would Die 4 U” The distinctively drum machine immediately begins, and already I can tell that I am going to like this one a lot. Prince spits out the lyrics rapid fire, slowing down during the chorus and releasing a single note on his guitar. I realize that this song is actually pretty minimal but it’s the drum machine that’s filling all the space and giving it that immediate energy. The guitar break by Prince is a highlight for me, not what he plays, but the tone of his guitar. It’s nice and strong, and I think that’s the best way to describe it- strong. The song goes by in flash, so I had to listen to it a few times, twice because I enjoyed it so much, and once because I hadn’t written anything about it the first two times.

Prince 8.83f

Baby I’m a Star has a nice long intro before Prince throws some tambourines’ and it begins proper. This is another recording that was used for Purple Rain, so as you might imagine a lot of this sounds as it does on record. Part of the fun in listening to this one is trying to work out what he has used on the final record, and what has he changed or overdubbed. I’m impressed by the passion demonstrated by Prince on every song on this recording. Here we find him covered in sweat, putting all his energy into the singing, especially when he goes to the floor and unleashes a series of excellent screams. Back on his feet he calls “Doctor” and Fink plays the quirky sound we know and love so much. I was half expecting the song to go on way past this point, but it wraps up very quickly after this.

Prince 8.83m

The familiar strains of Little Red Corvette elicit a few squeals of delight from the crowd. Lisa is beautifully lit from behind, and every time I see this and hear her play fall in love with her a little bit more. In near darkness Prince sings the opening verse before the lights come up for the chorus. I thought the crowd would be more animated, but they are fairly subdued throughout the performance of this. Prince delivers a very raw performance of this, no choreography or tricks, he just delivers it straight down the line with fantastic backing from the band. It’s a more raw performance I would to see more, a sweaty band playing hard and delivering the song straight out. Wendy steps up to the mark and plays the solo, and I am struck by how young she was at this time, and how good she was and not the least bit intimidated. The solo again has a heavy tone to it, not her playing but the sound of her guitar. The song ends simply enough with a “Thank you, good night” from Prince.

Prince 8.83h

There is a break in proceeding next as Prince is publicly thanked and presented with a flower. Tucking one into his breast pocket he takes the mic as Wendy begins to play the public debut of what will become his signature song – Purple Rain. The fact that this recording was used as the basic track for the finished song tells you how well it’s played here. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this song is the same as the album however, there is a suitably drawn out and beautiful start to the song, as Wendy plays the opening chords over and over while Prince indulges in some nice lead guitar. Foreshadowing future live performances on this tour, it’s a good few minutes before Prince begins to sing. And sing he does, the vocals here are magnificent, it’s hard to believe that this was the public debut of the song, he sings so strongly and confidently. It’s interesting to note the expressions of the audience at the time, some of them look noticeably bored as Prince plays his new, distinctly unfunky, song. There is an extra verse sung that doesn’t make it into the final song, and when you hear it you can understand why it didn’t make the final cut. It doesn’t quite scan as well as the other verses and the song is much more cohesive without it. There is a moment in the next verse when someone from the band or audience lets out a “whooo!” which can be heard on the final album version. I’m not sure if it’s an audience member, but I kind of hope it is, that would be cool. Prince plays the impassioned solo, with plenty of suitable face pulling thrown in for good measure. The audience look muted throughout, and there is no arm waving for this new song. Only a couple of girls with hands in the air near the front seem to be feeling it at all. It’s a stunning performance of what is now a classic, and I would think this recording is worth having just for the historic value of this moment alone.

Prince 8.83j

There is again another long break before the next song, but the reason why is apparent when Prince begins DMSR in his old school leg warmers, bikini briefs, long coat, hat and mirrored glasses. Wendy shows another side to her playing on this one, and her funky rhythm holds it down throughout. The song has an effortless groove to it, and Prince is nice and funky on the microphone. This is the party song of the evening (and perhaps of every evening), and Prince and the audience seem to be having a great time. Prince is constantly moving throughout the song, with lots of dancing and audience participation. As you might expect, this is the song that they stretch out, and Prince shows of how well drilled the band really is. The song ends with Prince saying goodnight, introducing the band one by one, before they kick back into the song-this time it’s all groove and Dr Fink gives a cool little piano solo. Prince clowns around a little on the mic, calling for horns as the keyboards play what would normally be a horn line. There is another false ending, and then, as per his modus operandi, he calls them back in on the beat. This happens a couple of times, and Prince engages in some very energetic footwork. Another nice touch is when he calls for just Wendy and Brown Mark, and they have just half a minute just grooving on it. The song ends rather abruptly, it stops and then without a word Prince and the band walk off stage.

Prince 8.83k

Nothing I write here can do this show justice. Everything here is a 10/10. The songs played at this stage touch on his past, his future and gives us pointers to his influences, as well as what gems still lie in the vault. The band is as tight as they have ever been, and young Wendy is a star right from the first notes she plays. The blueprint for the next few years is laid out, and it’s fascinating to see it all unfold here right before our eyes. I watched this one with my mouth open for the whole 70 minutes, and I still shake my head when I think that such a historic show has been captured for us to enjoy. Amazing.

Prince 8.83i

Everything I write about in future will pale in comparison to this, but I will be back next week with another one.

Take care
Hamish

 

Rehearsal for First Avenue Benefit Concert ’83

After claiming that I rarely listen to rehearsals, I find myself listening to another one today. Listening to the rehearsal for the 1984 Birthday show piqued my curiosity, so I pulled a rehearsal of another famous show- the 1983 benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theatre, at First Ave I will be listening to that show next week, but I thought I would take a look at the rehearsal first to round out the full picture.

Rehearsal for First Avenue Benefit Concert 1983

The rehearsal begins with Princes spoken word intro of Lets Go Crazy. The most striking thing about it is how deep his voice is as he speaks it, it’s not the voice I am used to from Purple Rain. He sounds very relaxed, and he does have fun with it as he says “there’s something else.. that’s right, something”. The second thing that hits me is when he says “so when you call up that nigger in Beverley Hills”. It seems a little out of character now, but I guess it is of its time. The rest of the song sounds light after the deep voice of the intro, even with the heavy sounding bass and guitar, the keyboards have a very bright sound that seems to permeate through the song. There is plenty of guitar in the song, but there is so much of everything else that it never really comes to the fore as you may expect. The final solo and howl is a little damp, and I have to remind myself that this isn’t a live situation, it is a rehearsal. And as such the song seems to stop dead, only a silence greets the final note.

Prince 1984 (2)

When You Were Mine sounds excellent in this situation. I warm to the song right away as the keys and guitar come in.  The playing is tight, and you can hear Prince give instruction to the sound guy. There is an innate energy in the song, even without the audience it shines. The ladies voices are very strong in my right ear, and I was going to comment more on it, but half way through Prince calls for sound adjustments, and they do disappear back into the mix. Another part of the song I enjoy early on is when Prince talks to the sound guy, and then the band play on for half a minute with no vocals. It’s got a good stripped down sound that I like. The ever reliable Doctor plays an enthusiastic solo, before the song comes to a sudden halt.

Prince’s delicate guitar playing draws me into A Case Of U, and I am in love almost right away. As the keys move easy beneath his guitar he sings beautifully. Even in rehearsal there is the touch of emotion that is needed to carry this song off. The lyrics match up great with his playing, and there is a fantastic little guitar run as the song nears the end. I would have a lot more to say about this song, but the final version played live at the show is so phenomenal, that even as good as this is, I know that there is better to come.

The introduction of Computer Blue is without the girl’s spoken piece, but that isn’t a big deal as the music is extremely cold and strong sounding. The keyboards provide some good runs, but it really is the guitar and bass on this track that makes it what it is. I had to listen to it twice, as I was so enraptured with the guitar sound the first time I missed everything else that was going on. One of the great thing about listening to Prince and his music, there is so much to listen to that I can always find new things every time I listen to a song. Prince’s vocals stray from what we know, especially as he sings “where is my baby” in a variety of styles, before ending with a throaty shriek. The change midsong is, as always, killer, and I never seem to tire of it. Here I can hear the keyboards much better than I remember, and they provide a nice layer of fills in my left ear. All the while Prince continues with his guitar break. It is par for the course, and somewhat quieter than I am used to. However just as I was thinking that he comes on with the second half of his guitar break which is much more improvised and freer, and I am happy to hear more of this from him. The song finishes with a great roll and howl that belies the fact it is a rehearsal.

Wendy Purple Era

Delirious is a complete 180 from what we have just heard and it takes me half a minute to adjust to the sudden pop bounce. The guitar vanishes at the start, and as one might expect there is a lot of light keyboards playing. Later I do hear a rhythm guitar but it is very low in the mix. I am normally dismissive of Delirious, but tonight I enjoy it a lot. It does have a lot of nostalgic value for me, and this arrangement is a lot of fun, with lots of crazy keyboard solos, and a rockabilly guitar all vying for attention later in the song. The song ends in a keyboard crescendo as Prince instructs Lisa to turn the keyboard effects up, and she in turn replies that her keyboard is dead. Then as the music simmers Prince sets his piano sound, playing as the sound comes to his liking.

It took me a long time to come around to Electric Intercourse, but its performances like this one that won me over. The bass in the right speaker is pitched just right, and Princes vocals are on point from the first line to the last. I think part of the attraction of this song is that it has never been overplayed, it still has a freshness to it, and this recording in particular catches that feeling. In fact it’s so fresh that at one point Wendy misses her cue, only to be chastised by Prince with a loud “Wake up Wendy!” The keyboard solo has a sweetness to it, and although it’s short I still give it a lot of appreciation. As the song progresses I find myself listening to Prince more and more carefully, and the way his vocal arrangement works with the girls, he definitely knows how he wants it to sound, and what is required.

We are back into more familiar territory next as Automatic begins. It has a dense sound to it, and feels somewhat like a sledge hammer following the delicate Electric Intercourse. It is a joy to listen to the synthesizers play off against each other, and it’s another one of Princes songs where he very much creates a mood with the sound of his music. The song sticks fairly close to the original, there is one stage where the keyboards get all weird and wonderful, before pulling out and Prince plays a staggered guitar break. Right after this it takes on a dance feel, and despite still having a dark sound I find myself beginning to move.

Prince 2007

Again there is a great contrast in the track list as Prince flips the mood with I Would Die 4 U. The song has a fresh and energetic sound, especially coming off Automatic. I like Princes vocals, but he does sound removed, almost as if his voice is coming from another room. It’s not that his vocals are low in the mix, just the effect on his voice. The song goes past at a fair clip, and it’s a real sweetener.

Baby I’m A Star suffers a little at the start as the tape has that ominous chewing sound that I grew up with. However it does recover by the times Princes vocals start, and it’s not a big deal. As with the previous song Prince does have the sound of being in an empty room. I like the sound of it, but it does feel as if he is coming from a distance. The rest of the band are fairly anonymous through the song, its Prince I am listening to, and the keyboard coming from the left speaker. Although unreleased at this stage, the band sound like they have the song well and truly down, and they play note perfect throughout. The Doctors solo is very enjoyable, and even though it’s as I have heard plenty of times, it’s still infused with a joyous sound.

Things once again slow down with Little Red Corvette. By this stage the band had played it many times, and it seems that they could play it in their sleep. It’s so spot on note perfect, I love it for its perfectionism. The introduction is kept short, and Prince sings the song in an upbeat voice, foregoing emotion for efficiency. Hitting the first verse he does ask for more echo, but the song never lets up, in fact the whole song seems to fly by, the guitar solo is upon us before I know it, and then the whole song wraps up a line later, with Prince dead panning “Thank you, good night”

The guitar opening of Purple Rain is what we hear next, and it differs from we know so well in that  it doesn’t have a flat drum beat. The beat has an echo on it, which gives it a double kick all the way through. I find it distracting, but I do enjoy the rest of the song. Prince sounds cold at the beginning, but he asks for more echo on the voice, and this gives him a much warmer sound as the song moves forward. I do also enjoy the extra verse that didn’t make the final cut, I can understand why it was cut though, as thematically it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song. The song meanders after that verse, but things get back on track as Prince gets to “Purple Rain, Purple Rain” and then the epic sounding guitar solo. The solo is as expected, although for the first minute Princes guitar sounds thin, but this is rectified, and he takes on a bolder sound as the solo progresses. It’s an interesting solo, Prince is still playing with it, so apart from the opening, and the rest of it is new and interesting to hear.

DMSR has another ad-lib start as Prince kicks it off with “Holland, London, Paris, France” before some funky bass ups the ante. The bass playing hasn’t garnered much comment from me up until this point, but now I find I am paying close attention as Brown Mark rumbles along. Again when we reach the chorus Prince reverts to calling sitting names, this time throwing New York into the mix as well. There is a rhythm break for the guitar, but its low in the mix and I don’t hear it as well as I would like to. The song catches me off guard with a false ending, before it comes back in and there is a cool little piano solo. Prince calls “Give me some horns” and the keyboards provide a nice sounding line. With another call of “Telephone” we get a quirky keyboard run and Prince taking a mock call. The song is a showcase for the band, and Prince gives them several calls and leads to follow, and they respond well. There is another piano solo, with Prince chanting “Planet Rock, we don’t stop” as well as singing lines from George Clintons Loopzilla. Just as Prince calls break time I think its all over, but there is a couple more reprises. This is one of my favorite songs on the recording, the groove is excellent and it sounds like a lot of fun is being had.

Prince 1984

I cringe when I see the next track listed as ‘Band Tuning’. These are just the sort of things a dislike about rehearsals- minutes of the band tuning up and getting there sound right while very little happens musically. There is not much for me at this stage of the recording, so I am quietly happy when the tune up is over and we move to the next musical portion of the recording.

Things get back to the music next as the band play a laid back Africa Talks To You. Its a nice groove, and there are some enjoyable keyboard played over the top of the groove. Prince ad-libs a bit too, which is fun. I especially like it when he calls out “You gotta purify yourself in lake Minnetonka. You can also hear him asking for Wendy’s guitar to be ready “that’s why we bought it for her”. The song does meander towards the end, before it peters out into some tom foolery.

Next is ten minutes of the band fooling around and generally having fun. Its primarily led by Dr Fink, who does a variety of voices as he sings a medley of tunes and plays a light organ.  I Could Have Danced All Night has me smiling, as he sings briefly with great gusto, before moving to Catch A Falling Star. There is all sorts of snippets played including Our House, and the James Bond theme. There is also a Popeye impersonation that is actually pretty good. Its really great to hear the band feeding off each other and being completely at ease. I don’t feel I ever have to listen to this track again, but it was fun to listen to once. The track ends appropriately enough with a Dolphin singing Stevie Nicks ‘Stand Back’. If you have heard it you will know exactly what I mean.

Things become business like again as Prince says “All right, lets go” and the organ of Lets Go Crazy begins again. This time it starts closer to what I am used to, but then Prince quickly takes it in a different tack with the final couple of lines of the intro, before the band begin right on cue. After the looseness of the previous few tracks its some what surprising how quickly they tighten up, they are right on the money for the rest of this track. Princes guitar is very faint as he solos, I can only just hear him. Even the latter solo is faint, and the rest of the band easily drown him out in the final crescendo.

After listening to this rehearsal and the one the other week, I think I should more time to rehearsals. I prefer this rehearsal to the last one, and I thought the last one was excellent. This one had the band playing the songs in a very fresh sounding way, and yet they were very tight as a unit. And also you could hear how much they were enjoying being a band and being together. If you only hear one rehearsal in your life, this would be the one I would choose. But then again I do have another couple of excellent propositions…

Next week I will be listening to one of the greats, the benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theatre.

Have a great week
Hamish

1984 Birthday show

Sometime ago I rather rashly stated that the 2002 Copenhagen recording was the greatest of all Prince Bootlegs. I have been forced to swallow my words many times since then as I listen to my collection and some of the gems contained therein. There are quite a few recordings that could lay claim to being ‘the greatest’ and today’s show I would guess to be atop of many peoples lists. The 1984 birthday show is something very special. It oozes quality at every level, a brilliant sparkling soundboard recording that sounds better than the recording on many of his albums, the quality of the performance itself, and of course those unforgettable songs played to the hilt just as Prince was to ascend to his greatest heights. Yes, this one well and truly lives up to the hype, and I’m itching to take another listen to it today.

7 June, 1984, First Avenue, Minneapolis

prince-1984-birthday

The recording starts with the PA sound, and it serves as a nice soft opening. It gives a better feel for what it would have been like to be there, and we don’t have a hard jump straight into a song. There is a classic spoken intro of an announcer saying ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Prince, and the Revolution’, and then we are off into it. 17 Days sounds just as good here as I have ever heard it. The recording is so sharp, to my ears it sounds even better than it did on vinyl. The first thing that strikes me is the bass. It’s got an elastic feel to it, and it’s a beautiful big groove that comes out of the speakers at me. It’s almost like riding a wave, it’s so full and washing over me. The second thing that I really notice is Princes vocals. His singing is so clean sounding, it’s hard to believe it’s in a live setting. Generally I try not to gush about what I am listening to, but in this case it’s very hard not just to sit back and listen to it and be a fan. It’s oh so good. Brown Mark just grooves along underneath, and there is some nice moments when I hear Wendy playing with him on the groove. By the time the song finishes I am wondering how they could have relegated something so good to a B side.

Our Destiny starts slowly. I am not immediately won over as Prince starts singing, but when that chorus hits me I am fully converted. The keyboards are the hero of this particular song, whether it be the twinkling sound under the verses, or the muscular stabs driving the choruses. Prince’s vocals are a little more casual for this one, and some of his character shines through. Also worth mentioning is the drums in this song. Not the obvious beat of the bass drum, but instead the rather glorious sounds played on the cymbals. They seem to add just the right feel at just the right moment, and serve nicely as punctuation to Princes vocals.

The band are obviously very well-rehearsed as they move easily into Roadhouse Garden. Like the previous song it is an unreleased classic.  There is an excellent crisp guitar picking away, and it gives a sharp sound while Prince and the girls sing some nice full vocals. Listening to it now I realize there isn’t really too much to the song, the keyboards are barely heard at all, there is a solid bass line, but most of the interest is coming from the guitar sound and the girls singing. Prince tells the audience “you going to have to excuse us, we just jamming’ and it does very much sound like one of the jams that the band plays endlessly at rehearsal. It does have a good feel to it, and at no point does one member of the band get the spotlight, it’s very much a band thing.

Prince takes time to chat to the audience next, and I like it when he takes a moment to tell them “you’ll came in here expecting to drive Princes red corvette, that’s not going to work. We just going to play a few numbers, some of them you’ll gonna know, most of them you won’t” Then follows one of my favourite moments of the show, Prince says “Wendy wants to live forever. Maybe she will” and the band rip into a storming version of All Day, All Night.  The bass line is heavy and right in my face, and the whole band ride on it and it’s got a feeling as if they are playing as one, as a single entity. Every aspect is so tight and interwoven, it is an absolute joy to listen to. I could quite happily just listen to an instrumental of this, I feel like getting up and dancing as the introduction plays on. Prince comes with the first verse, and he is sounding excellent, as he is throughout the show. I love the way the groove lets up just a little at the end of the chorus so the guitar and music can take a few little steps up. Bobby Z gets a moment, and plays some hard electronic sounding drum rolls, which add to the overall pulsating feel of the song. If fact the whole song feels like it galloping a long, and when it suddenly ends it’s like a sharp intake of breathe.

Prince birthday 1984 c

Things slow down next as Prince plays a gentler sounding Free. After the dense sounding All Day, All Night, it’s very sparse sound, and it serves the song well. Princes vocals are back to being the main focus, and he delivers beautifully. I thought the Free sounded light on the 1999 album, but here it is much stronger sounding. A lot of the corniness is stripped away, and it no longer has the over the top finish as heard on 1999. All in all I much prefer this arrangement, and I am glad we get to hear it. Prince ups the ante with his singing near the end, before the song closes with the solo piano again. This is not the best song on the recording, but it is a very pleasant surprise.

The drums take a few bars to find a steady beat for the next song as a funky sounding rhythm guitar begins to play. As good as it sounds, it is a little misleading as the song takes a sudden turn. Prince dedicates it to Shelia E, and the music takes on the smooth sound of Noon Rendezvous. Again, this is another song never released by Prince, and that’s a shame as it does have a very alluring sound to it. The guitar is playing just enough to draw me in, and the rest of the band create a smooth velvet sound. There is a guitar solo, but it’s in no way disruptive to the gentle groove, and it’s well tucked up inside the song. The second lead guitar break is slightly louder, and Prince is playing more of what I might expect from this time. The girls enter with the soft refrain of “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby”, but it’s not as drawn out as we hear in rehearsals, and the song ends soon after.

Things are much heavier almost right away, as a hard drum beat begins, and some rock lead guitar. It’s quite loose sounding, but after half a minute the band come on board and things immediately tighten up as they play Erotic City. Although not as bass driven as it sounds on record, it is still very strong sounding. Some of the sparseness of the record is sacrificed, but what we get instead is a lot more guitar, and a lot stronger vocals from Prince. It also sounds faster to my ears, and doesn’t sound as dirty and funky. It’s a fair trade-off, but only just. With the intonation of “all the critics love me” we get plenty more guitar of Prince, and I can hear Wendy step up the funky guitar she is playing. The band is heavily in the groove by this point and Prince becomes a lot wilder sounding on the guitar, but always returning to the All The Critics Love U riff. The keyboards also get stronger as the song progresses, and as time goes on it becomes denser and louder. It increases in intensity until it eventually comes to an end at the eight minute mark.

Birthday 1984

Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) has a great dark beginning. The cold keyboard initially starts before a brooding guitar riff from Prince. He asks the crowd “alright if I just play for a minute” as he then proceeds to do just that. It’s atmospheric in sound, and suitably slow and mournful. When Prince begins to sing he captures the lonely feel of the song perfectly, especially with his “does not compute, does not compute” There is even a moment when he sings “what’s the hang-up, bitch” which adds a hint of desperation and feeling to the song. The song is without the drum machine rhythm heard on record, but that barely matters as Prince is sounding so emotional, yet the music is cold and detached, much like the woman the protagonist in the song is singing to. Later in the song Prince lets his guitar do his talking. It’s not right in front in the mix, but it does sound very good, and worth listening carefully to. This song is played right out and every minute of it is worth listening to.

Birthday 1984 b

When Doves Cry is the standout track on this recording for me. Right from the first moment it has a clean sound, and the drum line is so familiar. Dr Fink plays the lead line a couple of times, before Prince comes to the microphone. At first he blows the first line, he mumbles “how can you…” before he catches himself and quickly covers with “come on, have you heard this before?”  It’s very fast and smooth, and a great recovery. He then asks the crowd to get on board, before calling for Dr Fink to play the lead line gain. He then implores the crowd further to “get down” before calling for the lead line once more before singing the first chorus. The longer intro actually works well, and I like hearing him talk to the crowd like this. Once the song starts, I notice that Wendy and Lisa are very strong on the vocals, they are much more prominent than heard on record. It’s not bad, just different. Wendy gets her moment to shine on guitar, and its good sounding, but perhaps not as clean sounding as everything else. The best is yet to come, as the band play on, Dr Fink plays a cool solo, and then there comes a great scratch guitar. I’m not sure if its Prince or Wendy, but it’s my favourite part of the song. It plays on and on, and I never tire of it. The band sing “Don’t cry” over and over as that beautiful guitar line just loops again and again. I don’t know how long it goes for, but it feels like forever, and it encapsulates the Prince sound I first knew and loved.  And just on a side note, my girlfriend told me she thought this part was boring and repetitive -looks like I might be single again soon! This last half is a song unto itself and the recording is excellent just based on this alone.

Birthday 1984 a

Of course there is the obligatory Happy Birthday sung by the audience, before the band turn up the funk levels with Irresistible Bitch. It’s not as dark as I have heard elsewhere, but it’s still a nice version. The band are playing incredibly tightly, and it’s the guitar that mostly holds my attention. It’s so crisp sounding, and the song revolves around the guitar riff. There is a keyboard solo that sounds good to my ears, but it’s a little low in the mix, I would have of liked to hear it much more. Near the end Prince stops and starts the band several times, and as always they are right on the button.

Prince birthday 1984d

Possessed is equally funky, but with a dash of pop thrown in the mix. After a Vegas sounding opening the band open up a rapid groove, again the rhythm is king here, the only melody coming from a simple keyboard line. Prince’s vocals aren’t quite as clear as they had been earlier in the show, he is a little more in the mix, but that’s not a negative at all, and the second verse I can understand his lyrics much better, so it maybe my problem more than his. There some further interesting keyboard jamming later, again it’s a too quiet for my taste and I have to listen carefully to appreciate all of it. Prince does a scat about ‘big ole soul sisters’  and its very tightly in the rhythm, so I give him a pass despite the corniness. I think that the band are going to play this one as a long funky jam, so I am very surprised when it stops suddenly and Prince tells the crowd that they got to go.

There has been a lot of talk about this soundboard recording since it first surfaced, and I can fully understand why. This show is mindbogglingly good, and deserves all the praise heaped upon it. If someone was to tell me that this was the best recording, I would have very little argument with them. This one is excellent in every way, and a must listen for any sort of fan.

Thanks again for reading
See you next week
Hamish

 

 

Noon rendezvous rehearsal

I am rare to listen to rehearsals. I admit that they are great, and show off another side of Prince and his talent. But they don’t have the same intensity as a live show, and that’s what I enjoy most. However, without that intensity we do get some very cool arrangements of the songs, often being drawn out and just letting the band do what they do best -play! Today’s rehearsal is from May/June before the birthday show of 1984. There are a few rehearsals from this period, and I think this one exists in several variations, but this is my favourite and the one I play most.

noon-rendezvous

Noon Rendezvous Rehearsal May/June 1984

As I mentioned above, there is a couple of variations of this rehearsal circulating, the major difference being the sequence of tracks. I am listening to the FBG release, which opens with I’ve Gotta Shake This Feeling Baby (Purple Rain), and I have to say that right from the start it grabs me and any reservations I have about listening to a rehearsal are immediately laid to rest.  Over the familiar beat of Purple Rain, Prince lays down some very raw, yet beautiful guitar work. There is very little in the way of lyrics, just Prince singing “I’ve gotta shake this feeling baby” over the top of the Purple Rain music we know so well. He does ask for a longer echo at the start, but I can’t hear where it is applied. The rest of the band are a solid base on which Prince lays his guitar work. Some of the phrases and melodies he plays are familiar, and some are new to me. The best parts are for me when he reins in the guitar and plays it tightly in the song. The quality of the recording is very good, and all the other instruments can be heard clearly, especially the piano, which I enjoy. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy this, and what a complete surprise it is to me. I was planning to sit down one evening to write this blog post, but truth be told I played this several days in a row, dumb struck, jaw on the floor, before I finally was able to find the words. It’s a great listen, imagine the second half of the Purple Rain song doubled in length, and that pretty much what we have here.

The treats keep coming as without pause the band play an electrifying version of Noon Rendezvous. Although the music does have a gentle sound to it, what is attention grabbing is once again the raw guitar sound of Prince in the mix. The lead guitar isn’t over powering, but it does give it a rock edge. The guitar does pull out and Princes singing is light and ethereal, and blends in well with the overall feeling of the song. It is an intoxicating song, and before I know it Princes guitar sound is back in the mix as we get a brilliant lead break. For the longest time I couldn’t understand the fuss over this song, but in recent years it has really grown on me. I always loved the version on the 1984 birthday show, but I can’t quite decide if that one or this is my favourite. On any given day it may well be the one I am listening to here. As the song continues on and Prince is “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby” I am in heaven. And even better, this goes on and on, there is no audience, no time constraints and it feels the band is playing on and just enjoying the gentle groove. It’s just brilliant, and oh, did I mention it goes for almost 20 minutes?!

Prince 1984 (2)

There is then what I more associate with rehearsals, checking to get the sound right, some tinkling and crashing of instruments and the like, before a steady beat is taken up, the piano plays and then we settle into Free. Free consists of just a drum beat, a piano, and Prince and the girls singing. I find the drum a little plodding, but I do like Princes vocal performance on this one. He sings around the melody, and plays with it. And the girls sound excellent, and once again it only highlights how great Prince, Wendy and Lisa sounded together. The song doesn’t get played on as much as the previous two songs, and it remains reasonably faithful to what is on record, sans the big finish.

Things take a serious turn next as we hear the strong drum pattern of Erotic City, and some equally erotic sounding guitar from Prince. I wonder what kind of heavy arrangement he is going to play, the vocals begin and it reverts to it familiar sound. I rate this song just as highly as the first two songs on the recording, it’s fantastic. After sticking with the song for the first couple of verses, Prince then unleashes his guitar, as well as a line from All The Critic Love U. The guitar has a howling whining tone at this point, and it gives the song a harder, darker edge. The guitar becomes more intense as the song progresses, and Prince is really working it in the latter part of the song. As brilliant as it is, it’s almost relief when it finishes, it was so intense. Yet another highlight in a recording full of highlights.

Prince 1984

I am used to hearing guitar heavy arrangements of Something In The Water of late, but this one offers another dimension. Sure, it’s full of guitar as he has recently played it, but here he is backed by the Revolution, and they give it a cold remote feeling behind Princes guitar playing. Prince’s voice is in fine form, and although he doesn’t scream, he does at one point give a nice long howl. As the song gets to the refrain of ‘must be something in the water you drink’ the guitar again comes to the fore. I know Prince is a good guitarist, but even after being a fan for 30 years I still find myself shaking my head as I listen to some of these recordings. He plays some much, it’s everywhere, and he plays on and on. Even today I still think of him as a song and dance man and listening to his guitar playing is always a headbuster. I didn’t think this rehearsal could get any better but as the song moves past the 12 minute mark I realize that I underestimated this recording by a long way.

When Doves Cry begins very faithfully to what we know so well. After the main hook is played a couple of times, Prince is straight into singing the verses and chorus. Even though it is played as per record, it does have a harder sound to it. Obviously it’s not as polished, but I do love the sound of it here, it is a much stronger band sound. Later in the song we do hear Wendy’s rhythm guitar, which I always enjoy immensely. And my smile becomes even broader as Wendy launches into her guitar solo, it’s impossible not to enjoy her and her playing. After Dr Fink plays his equally cool solo, and Prince gives a fairly impassioned scream, he’s not holding anything back for this rehearsal. The rest of the song is pure groove, and for a few minutes I forget to write as I sit enraptured by the music.

Prince 1984c

A couple of James Brownesque grunts and ‘huh’ and the band play the equally James inspired Irresistible Bitch. For the first time on the recording I find it lacking the intensity of earlier. This is a great song live, but here it’s missing that sharpness and quickness. There is a Dr Fink solo, which has all the qualities you would expect from such a thing, and it’s at this point that I find my interest in the song reinvigorated somewhat. I am very impressed at how well drilled the band are, and how well they respond to Princes call. But I’m not really surprised as I know how much Prince rehearses his bands, and the Revolution are one of the greatest bands he has put together. I thought that this song would have been ripe for the long jam, but it’s played very straight, and Prince ends it sharply after a few stops and starts with the band.

As far as rehearsals go, this one has forced me to reassess my feelings about listening to them. This is far from a rock rehearsal, yet there is plenty of Princes guitar on all the tracks. If anything, it only served to highlight what a well-balanced and versatile band The Revolution were. They have plenty of funk, but rock when they have to. As I said in the beginning, I am rare to listen to rehearsals, but if I was going to take a listen this would be one of my first choices.

So that’s a rehearsal for the birthday show, I guess next week I better listen to the birthday show to see how it all plays out.

Take care
Hamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Avenue 1982

It blows my mind that this gig was recorded just five weeks after the Passaic gig that I listened to the other week. It’s got a completely different feel to it, show cases new material, resurrects some old material, but as always features some outstanding musicianship. Such is life in the world of Prince, things change pretty fast. This gig was recorded at First Avenue, between Controversy and 1999 tours, and yet it doesn’t really sound like either one of those tours. Most of the material played here does not appear on either tour, and the band has a chance to play out and really jam on some songs. As I seem to say every week, this is one of my favorites, and I can’t wait to write about it.

-Please note, none of these photos are connected to the gig. They are just a few nice ones to give you something to look at between all the words.

8th March 1982, First Avenue, Minneapolis

I have listened to this gig so many times that I can recite the opening lines from the top of my head. After a brief prelude Prince opens the gig by telling the crowd that “This is not a concert, this is a dance, if you can dance to stuff, you’re a better man to me. The only reason we’re here is that there is no place else to go”. Bambi starts and it’s heavy right from the go. I know Bambi is always a heavy guitar driven song, but here it is even more so. The guitars’ don’t let up at all, even during the verses, and Princes vocals struggle to get out above the din. You can hear him fine, but the guitar noise and band are very rowdy and wild. There is a great heavy guitar chugging underneath and some wild guitars over the top. It definitely has a garage band feel to it, but a very talented garage band! Dez’s playing is excellent, as is Princes solos over the top. I have heard plenty of great versions of Bambi, but this one tops them all. It’s a fantastic way to start the gig, and already I feel breathless by the end of the first song. Prince does some guitar noodling after the bulk of the song, before the band enters for a final onslaught to finish.

prince 2

A steady beat, then the now familiar keyboard run of All The Critics love You In New York begins. Prince intones “This is a new song, probably won’t be out for another year or six” The steady beat goes on for a very long time before Prince begins to sing, and in that time there is some grinding guitar flashes. The sound is, obviously, much more heavier than on record, and it has a darker feel to it. The guitar is much dirtier sounding, and much louder. Prince is not as restrained as he sounds on record, especially as he sings “look out all you hippies, you aren’t as sharp as me” But mostly the song isn’t about the vocals, it’s very much a guitar song, with plenty of guitar played over the beat. It sounds great, and I can only wish that I could have been there. The guitars pull back for a moments, and Prince asks Dr Fink if he wants to solo. He duly obliges while Dez calls for a drink. The keyboard solo is fast, yet delicate. Sounds very good and clean. Prince then asks Dez, “Did you get your drink?” Dez responds yes and Prince asks does he want to play, then with a yell “Let him outta of his cage!” Dez plays a fantastic solo. Completely different from what Prince would come up with, it has a heavy rock sound about it. Its short, but very rock orientated. The guitars stay low for a bit, and the song sounds much more like what it does on album. The song only lasts another minute or two after this before it ends with a synth howl.

Keeping in tone with the evening so far, the next song is a guitar heavy When You Were Mine. There is more lead guitar on this then we normally hear, and it’s an interesting arrangement. The rhythm guitar sound that normally drives it is absent, and instead some long mournful notes on the lead guitar replace it. It’s still as upbeat as ever, but it does have a more rock sound to it. Dr Finks solo is more familiar territory, and after this the more familiar rhythm guitar we are used to returns. There is a break, with just Prince on his guitar and the crowd clapping, and he stretches it out for a couple of minutes like this. I like it here, when he sings a few lines, then knocks out the rhythm for a bit while the crowd clap along. The band all jump in back in for the final verse before it all races to the finish.

Prince

After thanking the crowd “Give yourself a hand, that was some mean clapping” Prince and the band get funky with Sexy Dancer. It’s a welcome break from the guitar noise of the first few songs. I love guitar, but I also enjoy the variation that Prince gives us. Sexy dancer is full sounding, propelled along by the bass and drum, but there is plenty of playing over the top. Again Dr Fink plays a great solo, and it’s really stretched out, he plays for a couple of minutes on it. It’s very enjoyable, and as I so often do, I find myself in admiration of the skills of the good Doctor. Dez follows up with a restrained but loud solo. It’s in complete contrast to the solo that Dr Fink plays, and yet complements the song well. The song ends with a Dez solo, and there is a pause in the action.

Prince tells the crowd he wants to play a slow song if they want to go get a drink. He calls for Sue Ann, and then plays Still Waiting. The recording still has a garage band sound to it, which doesn’t really suit this song. However Princes vocals sound very good, especially harmonizing with Sue Ann on the chorus. It’s in the quieter more delicate moments of the gig that the limitations of recordings like this are exposed. The song itself is very good, as we have come to expect from Prince, but I would want to hear a better recording of it. There is some very nice vocal work from Prince here, and some great interplay between him and the backing singers, especially in the breakdown. There is one weird vocal ad-lib from Prince, when he tells the crowd ‘I got cause to celebrate, because my girlfriend died” I didn’t notice it for years, but I can’t help but to hear it this time. Sue Ann gets a moment to sing solo, and she is remarkable good. She’s not the most distinctive singer I have ever heard, but she is nice and strong. Prince responds with some of his shrieking and screaming before the song comes to an end.

Prince 4

There is a pause, and then the band plays a heavy and slightly quicker version of Head. It’s not as dirty or nasty as I have heard elsewhere, but the guitars are nice and strong, and I do enjoy the grittiness of this recording. Prince lets the crowd sing a lot of it, choosing to sing every other line himself. The recording doesn’t pick up the crowd singing very well, but if I had have been there you would definitely of heard me! After the first verse there isn’t much singing, mostly a lot of keyboard, solos and groove. It’s not a bad thing at all, and I like it very much in this way. Prince picks up the mic for some more singing, but again he only sings every other line, letting the crowd fill in the spaces. Dr Finks solo is excellent as always before the music pulls back for a breakdown. There is some very enthusiastic singing of head from the crowd, as always, and then some nice funk guitar from the band. It then descends into the usual guitar solo and keyboard sounds that we have heard so many times before.

A couple of beats and Prince calls “Read my lips, Sexuality”. Things really take off here, the beat jumps up, and after several screams from the man himself the bass and scratch guitar jump in. It’s played fast, and the drums and bass provided a great energy. This song is a favorite of mine, and it’s a shame there is not more live recordings of it out there. As with the other songs, the sound is very full, and all the instruments are battling to be heard. The six band members sure do make a big noise! The bulk of the song is over before I know it, it was fast and furious throughout. The band all pull out, except Bobby Z, and Prince sings Sexuality as the crowd claps along. The crowd then takes up the singing of sexuality, while Prince takes a break. This section goes for as long as the main song itself, and it sounds as if the crowd is having a great time. Prince finishes by singing “Never let it be said, white folk ain’t got no soul”.

Prince 1

Prince tells the crowd that they are going to take a break, and then the Time plays a couple of songs. The recording covers the bands changing over, and it takes some minutes, with plenty of banter while it happens. Especially funny to me is when Prince tell the crowd “We share the same management, and they say they gotta play too”

The first song they play is Dance to The Beat. It’s up tempo, and fun, but it comes and goes before I can properly register it. It does sound like it would have been good to be there, but on the recording it doesn’t do much for me.

Much better is The Stick. The bass and the keyboards have a deep groove and the over all sound is something I really enjoy. This is The Time that I like the most. Jimmy Jam and Jesse both solo, before Morris calls for a mirror. The classic Time that we all know and love is in full effect.

The song ends, and Prince asks Morris if he can still play the drums. Once again there is plenty of banter, as Morris moves to the drums and Prince is running things again. They then play an enthusiastic version of party up. The band sound nice and loose, as does Princes singing. Again, it’s a sense of fun that I get when I listen to this recording. Prince calls for a break down and the band find a nice groove while the crowd begins to clap along. Prince tells the crowd “Give the drummer some” and then Morris plays a drum break. It’s not overly cohesive, but it does fit with the fun of the gig. Brownmark brings things back with some nice bass playing, and then Lisa puts some nice rhythmic keyboard work over top. There is then some really fantastic sounding guitar solo played over the top but to my great disappointment the recording fades out here and ends.

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This was one of the first recordings I ever brought, and I have listened to it many times over the years. In more recent years better releases of the same gig have appeared, and this has greatly added to my enjoyment of it. As I said earlier, I love the garage band sound of this, and the loose feel of the band. All The Critics Love You In New York is a standout for me, as is Sexuality. I was one very happy man at the end of listening to this.

Take care
Hamish

For Those Of You On Valium

For Those Of You On Valium is surprisingly short. I always thought it was longer, but today when I was listening to it, it seemed to fly past pretty fast. Every warm up gig that Prince plays at First Ave is special. The music is fresh, the crowds are always up for it, and Prince is always happy and at ease. This recording has Prince introducing a new band after the demise of The Revolution, and a raft of new material from the Sign O The Times album. It’s a classic Prince recording, and often quoted by Prince fans. For today’s post I listened to the CD then decided to also watch the DVD. It was well worth the effort.

21 March, 1987 Minneapolis

Who doesn’t love the start of this show! Prince’s intro is just great and the way he keeps the crowd waiting only adds to the excitement. He’s in no hurry at all, and is completely at ease as the gig begins. The gig starts with Prince and the band coming on stage, and Prince introducing the new band. He briefly explains that this is still just a rehearsal, then after a pause “these are my new friends” and quickly runs through the band members before coming to “that’s an old friend, Dr Fink, this is a new friend, polka dot suit” then the rest of the extended band. His look is one of my favorites, with his hair slightly longer, his polka dot suit, and glasses. He finishes his introductions with one of his most famous lines “and for those of you on valium, my name is Prince”. I knew of this recording for a long time before I finally heard it. I always thought that it was a great title “For Those of You on Valium” and I was intrigued by what it could possibly mean. I had a grin from ear to ear when I heard Prince utter those lines and all was revealed.

Prince valium

“Shut up already, damn!” What a way to kick start the music. Housequake is a great song for a gig like this. Who am I kidding; Housequake is a great song for any gig! The band is immediately behind him and tight as ever. They are obviously well rehearsed, as it goes without saying for all of his bands. Within 30 seconds of the music starting the glasses and suit jacket are gone. Prince is working the stage very well, moving from side to side and dancing. I am not a great fan of Princes dancing, I would rather see him play some sort of instrument, but here he is right in step with the rest of the band, and I can’t help but be impressed by how well drilled they are. This song was made for playing live, the beat is captivating, and the horn lines are everything you could ever want from Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss. They are absolutely crucial to his sound at this point. I should also mention, Princes facial expressions throughout this are priceless. He is always so expressive in his face.

Prince encourages the crowd to clap their hands as Shelia E drums in the intro to Girls and Boys. “This is my jam” is not a phrase you would normally hear me say, but in this case “girls and boys is my jam!” That guitar is hypnotic to me, and I really enjoy Eric’s playing on it. At any gig this is song that stands out for me, and the version played here is a lot of fun. Again Prince is very busy with his gesturing and facial expressions. Oh, and there is plenty of ass wiggling for the ladies. Coolest guy in the band and perhaps on the planet is Eric Leeds. When he steps forward to solo, he is the epitome of cool, with his sun glasses and classy suit. With Cat on his shoulder, really feeling it, it’s a great moment in the song. Prince himself is having a lot of fun in this song; he is very active off mic and is all smiles. I do have one complaint, and that is that the song ends much too soon.

Prince Valium 6

Three songs in, and we have a ballad. Slow Love on any other album would be a stand out. On Sign of the Times, its sounds a little average surrounded by the other classics on that album. The performance here has Prince in full seduction ballad mood, and it comes across very well. It doesn’t deviate from the recorded version, but it does feel nice and strong. Prince’s voice is more forward, and the horns are much stronger. After listening to it here, I think it’s something I should probably play more often. This is a must for my slow jams playlist.

Prince introduced the show by saying that it was a rehearsal, and it seems most like that during Hot Thing. Hot Thing is excellent, and played very well, but it seems like the band and Prince are trying very hard to get their dance moves right, and working on the stage routines. As a result it feels too tight, and a complete contrast to Girls and Boys which was loose and joyful. Things kick up a gear after Eric plays a solo, and Prince quickly bangs away at the keyboard, but unfortunately it ends just after this.

Prince Valium 7

I have never properly understood the purpose of Now Is The Hour, asides from an obvious costume change by Prince. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy it very much, but it does seem a waste to be at Prince concert and he’s not on stage. The band is great here, every member shows off their obvious credentials. I particularly enjoyed Atlanta Bliss and Miko. Everyone was very good, but these two in particular I don’t hear enough off. It’s hard for me to get excited about Shelia E’s drum solo. I have never been a fan of drums solos, by anyone, anytime. But it is a suitably exciting way to close out the song.

The next song, Strange Relationship, is the absolute highlight of the gig for me. This version always makes my best of playlists, I rate it very highly. It starts with the beat, and some great keyboard that puts me in mind of Stevie Wonder. It’s nice and drawn out, just the way I like it. Prince encourages the crowd with his now trademarked “ooh wayy ohh” The main lead line plays and my head is bobbing. As much as I love the singing, the beat, the horns, it’s the keyboard that I really love on this. The song and band are very loose here, with Prince jamming on the keyboard a lot throughout. But the very best is after the main song finishes and it really does move to a jam. Shelia plays great percussion solo, calls for “just the drums” while he plays the keys for a minute or two. Boni brings her unmistakable sound, while Prince calls over and over “Is he good to ya?” A couple more changes, and we are left with a stripped down beat, and Eric playing a nice little riff underneath. Prince then gets on the mic and mentions “we have some new shit for you, squirrel meat.” Yes, it doesn’t make any sense, and sounds mad, but as we all know its absolute genius. Miko gets a brief moment to play, and then a little flourish by Prince. He does sing a few lines from Superfunkycalifragisexy but I don’t think any of us know what he was singing about at that time. It all looks and sounds effortless, and like I said, its the highlight of the gig.

Prince Valium 8

The show has been getting better and better and after Strange Relationship is another classic as he plays Forever in My Life. For a song so slight on record, but it certainly packs a punch live. There is no extended intro here; he goes straight into singing over the beat. It gets interesting right after the singing when he picks up the guitar and plays. I remember the first time I heard this, I had never heard anyone play an acoustic guitar like this, and even today I am struck by just how great it sounds. He gets so much soul and funk out of it. Every time I hear it I find myself moved. The song then moves into the sing-a-long that it always is. It’s no bad thing, and again Prince is looking like he is having plenty of fun, lots of smiles and facial expressions. And watching this I am again reminded that Prince is as much a visual experience as an aural one. I love listening to his music, but when you can see him at the same time it adds a whole new level to it, and being there live is even more intense. Nothing can really capture the live experience like being there.

Prince Valium 9

Kiss is a great song, but I have never heard a live version I like. This one probably comes closest. The first part of it here is played nice and strong, and sounds pretty good. There is some very nice dancing between Prince and Cat. It’s all short and sweet, but excellent. The song then fades out to just the sound of Miko on the guitar. I haven’t too much about it, as it is the shortest song all night, but it is my favorite live version of Kiss.

Prince thanks the crowd for coming at the end of Kiss, but there is one more song to come. The energy level goes right up with Beautiful night. I am a big fan of this song, and I enjoyed this performance a lot. As you might imagine, the version here is exactly the same as seen in the Sign O Times movies, every dance step, move and Prince on the drums. Again it feels very rehearsed, and yet it completely believable and fun. There is one moment when Prince is talking about a brand new dance, and for a moment I worry he is going to break out the wooden leg again, but thankful he doesn’t. We get a variety of dance moves, but no wooden leg. Beautiful Night is one of those songs with plenty in it to keep you interested, so no matter how many times I hear this, I never get bored or tired of it. There is one more horn flourish and Prince ends the song and the gig with a “Thank you, good night”

Prince Valium 10

There is many great Prince recordings out there, and I am reluctant to use the word ‘essential’. However this one certainly is essential to any fan. Showcasing new material and band to small audience, this one is outstanding. The fact that there is proshot video of it circulating makes it even better. This should be in any true fans collection.

Next week, a mystery show (that means I haven’t decided yet)
-take care, Hamish

Prince Valium (2)