In Seattle in the early ’80s there was a fannish group that lived together in a house called Star Base. It was part of an informal chain of Star Bases around the country, from the first generation of Star Trek fans. They had a charter and I think they were incorporated as a non-profit. (I was present when the charter was dissolved, but I was too distracted by one of the female board members and the sweater she was wearing to take in the details.)

Seattle’s Star Base was part of a larger group of science fiction fans who lived around Seattle, with a satellite group in Olympia. They threw raucous parties at their house on Phinney Ridge. Bet their neighbors liked that. It was mostly women living at Star Base, and from the outside this group looked as if a) every day was Gestalt Therapy Day, or b) they were training for a covert mission overseas.

I’m not making fun of these folks. For all the hijinks and emotional maelstroms that went on there, I have never met a group of people who got so much done in a day. If you had to get to the moon by close of business Friday, they’d get you there. They ran sci-fi conventions, held jobs, and saved lives.

I just noticed that “hijinks” has three dots in a row. Looks Danish.

Raspberry beret/The kind you find in a second-hand store
When I first met them, Michael Jackson ruled at Star Base (along with Rocky Horror and a true ’70s horror, Meatloaf). Every year at Norwescon, the region’s biggest convention, at midnight during the Saturday night dance, the djs played Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” from Off the Wall (1979). If you lived at Star Base or partied at Star Base or had sex at Star Base or wanted to have sex at Star Base, you got on the dance floor and participated in a group dance that I thought was kinda dumb but everyone had fun doing it so forget me.

But Prince was already making inroads among the female population of Star Base. Just look at the cover of Dirty Mind (1980):

Prince - Dirty Mind

Michael Jackson always seemed sexless to me. Not Prince.

Raspberry beret/And if it was warm she wouldn’t wear much more
I learned about Prince thanks to the Star Base population. I’ve never really written about him, probably because he’s released more albums than Chicago and I feel intimidated when I consider him as a subject. Today I’ll do a little to make amends.

You can’t think about Michael Jackson and Prince without noting the startling coincidences in the lives of the two men. They were both born in the Midwest in the summer of 1958. Michael Jackson started out as a Jehovah’s Witness. Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness as an adult. They began their solo careers within a year of each other. Michael Jackson named his son Prince. Prince would’ve done the same thing if he had felt like it. The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters. And so on.

Excuse me but I need a mouth like yours
But the differences are far greater. The Michael Jackson who launched his real debut effort (without his father hanging over him) with Off the Wall emerged with his sound fully formed. It didn’t change by a molecule until the day he died. Prince has experimented so much with his sound, he makes Beck look like he’s chained to a chair. Only David Bowie and maybe Paul McCartney can keep up with this guy.

Michael at his peak gave us “Billy Jean,” “Beat It,” “Bad,” and “Thriller,” but for overall accomplishment I’ll take Prince. Period. There’s a lot of uninteresting filler in Michael’s oeuvre. Of the songs I’ve heard on Prince’s army of albums, I can’t say that all of them are worth repeated listens, but rarely is something uninteresting. And as for high points – “1999,” “Delirious,” “Dirty Mind,” and “Let’s Go Crazy” are pretty good songs.

To help me forget the girl that just walked out my door
I’m launching The Prince Project beginning today. What is The Prince Project? Bill Murray to Dan Ackroyd in Ghost Busters: “I don’t know.” I’ll figure it out as I listen. Your thoughts and suggestions are welcome. You’re also welcome to keep me company in my little red corvette by loaning me a Prince CD. There are only about 35 to choose from.

If I could put Star Base to work on this, we’d finish this project before we began.

Random Pick of the Day
The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
The superb Bob Dylan covers include the title cut and “Chimes of Freedom.” The Gene Clark originals, particularly “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” and “Here Without You,” are like folk versions of The Beatles. The song that really kills me is Pete Seeger’s “The Bells of Rhymney.” This is one of my favorite songs of the 1960s.

I rate this album a Must Buy, even though Mr. Tambourine Man falls apart in the final laps and even though “Eight Miles High,” “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star,” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” aren’t on it.

Random Pan of the Day
Bad Company, Bad Company (1974)
Bad Company is nowhere near as good as Free or Mott the Hoople, the bands that begat them. Bad Company is nowhere near as good as AC/DC, though it’s obvious that AC/DC wouldn’t have existed without Bad Company. Whether that’s reason enough to build a time machine and return to 1974 with a bazooka is your call.

So what do we have on their debut? The origins of the arena buttrock format: “Can’t Get Enough,” which is about sex, “Movin’ On,” which is about leaving after sex, and “Bad Company,” which is about why it’s tough to be Bad Company, so I guess you should have sex with them to make them feel better. And then there’s “Seagull.”

“Seagull” is a rock-star dues song. Just the thing to include on your first album. In this epic tonal composition, “seagull” means “our awesome band” and “never asking why” means “we are so stoned” and “until you are shot out of the sky” means “until they stop buying your records.” Bad Company gets major demerits for writing a dues song when they should’ve been paying fines.

Ernest Hemingway said it best: “As musicians they are fatal.”

 

Comments
  1. verlierer says:

    An all-American football player for the UW Huskies is named Lincoln Kennedy. Another all-American Husky football player is named Michael Jackson. They were both succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

    The Husky football team played against a Kevin Prince of UCLA and a Prince Amukamara of the Nebraska Huskers. The Washington Huskies defense was called Purple Rain.

    Good luck with The Prince Project.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Turns out that almost everything in that infamous Lincoln/Kennedy comparison is 100% ridiculous.

      Every school in the USA with purple in their school colors calls their defense Purple Rain!

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