The blogger formerly known as Run-DMSteve

Posted: November 16, 2014 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When my brother and I were little, we tried to rename ourselves. Two of our choices were “Moose” and “Tex.”

We got Moose from Moose Skowron, who played first base for the Yankees. I remember him as a slow-footed blunderbuss, but I just checked his stats and for a guy named Moose he sure hit a lot of triples.

We got Tex from our Grandpa Sam, who worked with cattle in the Old Country and should’ve moved Out West when he came to this country in 1912. Imagine how my life would’ve turned out if I’d grown up in the Texas Panhandle instead of some dinky town you don’t stop in on your way to Cape Cod: Instead of writing this stupid blog, I’d be happy as a clam, governing the Lone Star State and repressing the rights of women and minorities.

How happy are clams? How can you tell?

Moose and Tex didn’t stick, nor any of the other names we tried, and in our family we remained Ronny and Stevie. My various attempts at rebranding in adulthood didn’t work, either. I’m like the teenage baseball player in Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel who kept bugging his adult teammates to give him a nickname. They finally gave him one: Nickname.

Here’s how the 1% do it
Prince ran into trouble in 1993 when he changed his name to a symbol without giving anyone a clue as to how to speak this symbol.

Prince symbol
Symbol courtesy of Loyal Reader Accused of Lurking.

Naturally, everyone immediately gave the symbol a nickname. (I can’t have a nickname, but a symbol can have a nickname?) The one you see most is “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” That’s right, Prince, we were still saying your name. Prince was also called The Purple One and The Artist Never Known As Tall. I don’t want anything like those attached to me.

So why did Prince Rogers Nelson change his name? What does the symbol mean? What did his family call him? How about his lovers? And why should you devote precious synaptic energy to exploring these questions?

Why did he change his name? His war with Warner Bros. His evolution as an artist. Because he could.

What does the symbol mean? It’s a combination of the symbols for male and female. It’s officially referred to as “The Love Symbol.” It looks like something you’d tie at the end of your line to catch some trout.

What did his family call him? Moose or Tex.

His lovers? “Sexy M.F.” (see below).

I think he was just fucking with us. All he really wanted was to play a Love Symbol-shaped guitar.

Prince guitar

Now comes the winter of our disco tent
Prince and Warner Bros. fought furiously in the 1990s and eventually divorced. (They’ve since remarried.) Here is what seems to have been the flashpoint for both sides, the next album on our list, the one with the symbol slapped on the cover.

Love Symbol  Album
1992
Right off the bat, on an album with an unpronounceable name, we get a track called “My Name Is Prince.” Don’t look at me, I just work here. Prince shares his origin story: “In the beginning God made the sea/But on the seventh day he made me.” Lest you think he’s conceited (OK, he is conceited), he continues with “My name is Prince, I don’t want to be king/’Cause I’ve seen the top and it’s just a dream.” This confused song also asks whether the Lord is happy with us and states that Prince isn’t happy with Jim Crow. And, of course, he’s not planning to leave until he has sex with your daughter.

“My Name Is Prince” could fill any dance floor, and “Sexy M.F.” is the song James Brown always wanted to record. Unfortunately, even with the awesome strengths of The New Power Generation behind him, the Love Symbol Album takes a dive after the first two tracks. We get ordinary songs, generic reggae, lethargic love ballads, one song that reminded me of Billy Joel (“The Morning Papers”), another that reminded me of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” (“The Continental”), one that set a new pomposity standard (“And God Created a Woman”), and Kirstie Alley answering a phone and having one-sided conversations. What? I don’t know.

I disliked “3 Chains O’ Gold,” another ballad with nothing in the tank. I mention it only for the enchanted flute you’d expect to hear in a treetop in Rivendell or in a TV commercial starring Snuggles the fabric softener bear.

But then comes “I Wanna Melt with U” and all I have to say is wow. In fact, double wow. This is one of the best disco songs of the ’70s. Except for the swearing, this whole album feels like the ’70s.

Love Symbol staggers into the end zone with “The Sacrifice of Victor.” Sometimes you catch a whiff of 1999 or Purple Rain and you cry from nostalgia. This is a song about a black man striving against all the crap that life throws at him:

Lord I might get tired,
But I, I’ve got 2 keep on
Walkin’ down this road
Keep on walkin’ down this road
When I reach my destination
My name will be victor.

True, Prince was writing not about his struggle against a white-dominated society but his struggle with his record company, but even so, he’s speaking from his heart. And, being Prince, he opens the album named for his symbol with “My name is Prince” and ends it with “My name will be victor.”

This exasperating record was written as an opera.

Thus ends the Prince Project!
Prince gave the Love Symbol its freedom in 2000 and I’m doing the same for me right now. I’ll tell you what happened and what I learned in our next, very exciting episode.

Today’s Randoms: Favorite baseball nicknames
The Human Rain Delay: Mike Hargrove
Eye Chart: Doug Gwosdz
Death to Flying Things: Three players since the 1870s, including a current Seattle Mariner.

The late great Dave Niehaus, Mariner announcer extraordinaire, had most excellent verbal skills, except for nicknaming. He dubbed pitcher Glenn Abbott, who was 6’6” and from Arkansas, “The Tall Arkansan.” He gave third baseman Dave Edler, who was a redhead from Yakima, the moniker “The Redhead from Yakima.”

Dave Edler later became the redhead mayor of Yakima.

Glenn Abbott is one of only three men in baseball history to have three sets of doubled consonants in their names. The other two are Rennie Stennett and Dennis Bennett. The weird thing is how close they all were in time. Bennett retired in 1968; Stennett played his first game in 1971 and Abbott in 1973. They have nothing else in common, besides playing baseball and being carbon-based life forms.

 

 

Comments
  1. verlierer says:

    Else in common: the phrase ‘happy as a clam,’ and Stevie Bryan Bieler – both originated in New England.

  2. Wm Seabrook says:

    Tex “Don’t Worry About The Government” Bryan Bieler:

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