Posts Tagged ‘Spinal Tap’

In June I set out to review every album Prince ever made. I embarked on this project because I realized that, for me, Prince was embalmed in the ’80s – the guy I heard at clubs and parties. He was that sexy M.F. who could rock, croon, talk to God, talk for God, write weird erotic scenarios, and take goofy chances. I wanted a better idea of who he really was. There had to be more to the man than “Purple Rain” playing to a gang of us nerds in a hotel ballroom at a science fiction convention.

It’s easy to follow, album by album, a band that existed for fewer than 20 years – I’ve done that with The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Pixies, The Clash, Creedence, and several others. It’s much harder to do with an artist who’s been playing and recording for 30 years or more. They change too much. They travel down side roads while you stick to the interstate. Or you change too much. It’s been a long time since I was punchin’ a clock and listening wide-eyed to Born to Run.

It’s also hard to follow an artist with a lengthy career because every artist, no matter how talented, eventually skids into the Bad Spot. That’s the rough patch where your Muse runs off with someone younger and prettier and you’re left to grit it out on craftsmanship alone.

In the 1970s, Neil Young dissected his soul on several awe-inspiring albums. Two that’ll slay you: On the Beach (1974) and Tonight’s the Night (1975). When the ’80s dawned, Neil took a long time getting out of bed. For example, Trans (1982), which might as well have been called Tron, and Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983), his fake Fabulous Fifties record. Neil didn’t make a good record until Freedom (1989), which you’ll recall for the stunning “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Bruce Springsteen did pretty well in the 1980s, at least until Tunnel of Love (1987). Then things went downhill. Or, in Springsteen terms, the mill closed, the state cops shut down all that street racing, and the D.A. couldn’t get no relief. After two subpar efforts, Human Touch and Lucky Town (both 1992), he recorded nothing of consequence until his reaction to 9/11, The Rising (2002), after which he reinvented himself as the Dark Knight of the 21st century.

I need a weatherman to explain to me what Bob Dylan was trying to do on Self Portrait (1970) and Dylan (1973).

David Bowie’s career after Scary Monsters (1980) is not the least bit scary.

Sadly, Michael Jackson’s career after Bad (1987) is not worth talking about.

Back to Prince. I made it through the first 14 albums. I rediscovered his ’70s disco discs. I relived my youth with Dirty Mind, 1999, and Purple Rain. I was struck as if by lightning by Sign O’ the Times.

By the time we got to the 1990s, the road Prince and I were driving developed some serious twists, the safety rails disappeared, and the paving got thinner. Loyal Reader Slave to the Garden warned me that in the ’90s, Prince, in his apocalyptic struggle with Warner Bros., dumped albums on the market that should’ve been dumped in the dump. We were approaching the Bad Spot.

The next one on my list, Come (1994), is what we critics like to call awful. I’d rather listen to a flock of trumpeter swans barking like dogs as they circle for a landing.

Prince’s 1987 bootleg, The Black Album, officially appeared in 1994. It’s not as good as black albums by Spinal Tap (1984), Metallica (1991), and Jay-Z (2003), though it’s probably better than the Marilyn Manson Black Album bootleg, if I could bring myself to listen to that one.

Looking at the rest of the ’90s, I see that Prince was either attacking the Warner Bros. Death Star or playing stuff that belongs in a galaxy far, far away. Well, what did I expect? How long can Prince go on being that sexy M.F.? (I can still pull it off, but only from a distance.) Artists have to change or they might as well be locked in a trophy cabinet. I’m convinced that Prince will emerge from this depressing era into some new and wonderful form, but I’m not going to follow every bread crumb until I catch up with him.

(There are two albums I definitely want to hear: The Girl 6 soundtrack, which is supposed to be a throwback to the ’80s, and the three-record Emancipation, both from 1996.)

What I’ve learned
Here’s what I can tell you about me: It’s hard to grow past the music that filled me with joy when I was young. Some of those artists are still recording, but they no longer speak to me. Or perhaps I can no longer hear them.

Here’s what I can tell you about Prince: Overall, no performer in the history of popular music is as talented as Prince. Some people sing better or write better or dance better, some people see deeper into the human or the national psyche. Some people are more economical (Prince does not know when to end a song).

But no one can do everything that this gentleman does at such a consistently high level. No male performer is as insistently sexy without also being sickeningly misogynistic. Carlos Santana, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Bowie, Young, and Dylan are as prolific, but even those guys never released three discs of original material on the same day.

There’s much more to Prince than “Purple Rain.” I just don’t need it.

[Editor’s note: It’s at least twice as difficult for a female singer/songwriter to survive in a decades-long career as it is for a male. It’s much easier to find male counterparts to Prince, so I stuck with the men.]

I started out liking Prince, but after listening to the first 14 albums I really like Prince. I want to keep liking Prince. So I’ll stop here. Thanks as always for reading along.

A couple of days ago I spent an afternoon listening to Pink Floyd and Justin Timberlake. I got nothing out of that. This afternoon I’m listening to Chuck Berry. Until next time, enjoy this insane video from the Neil Young of the Everybody’s Rockin’ era.

 

Women dislike Pink Floyd. Certainly all the women I’ve married dislike Pink Floyd. I’ve only married one, but she’s not backing down on this subject. Or any subject.

I can’t recall ever meeting a woman who publicly stated that she liked Pink Floyd. I wonder if there’s an unattached woman anywhere in the world with Pink Floyd in her music library, and I don’t mean something left behind by some long-gone guy. In college I remember a mistreated girlfriend burning holes with her cigarette in her ex-boyfriend’s copy of Meddle. It all seemed very sophisticated, plus it taught me to hide my LPs.

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon may be the most gender-imbalanced record in music history. When Floyd released their masterwork in 1973, it immediately went to the top of the Billboard Hot 200 albums. Plenty of albums surface in the Hot 200, but Dark Side of the Moon was still bobbing around there 15 years later. Dark Side of the Moon is the third best-selling album of all time, trailing Justin Bieber’s My World but outpacing Honus Wagner’s entire Ring cycle. If women aren’t buying this thing, every man on the planet must be.

This leads me to ponder what makes music palatable to women. Here are my hypotheses:

What Women Like in Music
1) Something you can dance to, or might dance to if you could find the right partner.
2) A doomed romance.
3) The possible start of an exciting long-term relationship.
4) Living your own life and setting your own rules.
5) Attractive performers.
6) Four minutes and you’re done.

Here’s how Pink Floyd matches up with What Women Like in Music:

1) Pink Floyd is every bit as danceable as Led Zeppelin.
2) Everyone who has ever appeared in a Pink Floyd song was doomed.
3) Floyd’s idea of a long-term relationship: “There’s someone in my head/but it’s not me.”
4) Empowered women are scary.
5) Even when they were young, Dave, Roger, Nick, and Rick were nobody’s idea of a boy band.
6) They managed to hold “Echoes” to just under 24 minutes.

Given that Dark Side of the Moon is my favorite album of all time, ever, period, it’s a wonder I’ve been able to form and sustain relationships. Fortunately, God gave us headphones before She gave us Floyd.

Pink Floyd fun fact: “San Tropez” is a hybrid of “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Lovely Rita.”

I love Dark Side of the Moon so much that I only play it a couple of times a year. I always want it to be a treat. This same principle explains why I waited 20 years to go back to Apocalypse Now.

Wise men say that you’re never too annoyed for Floyd. Notice that it’s only men who say that. The truth is that once you leave the safety of Dark Side of the Moon you can get very annoyed with Floyd. Pink Floyd can be as bloated as Yes, but without the hysteria. They can be as pompous as Queen, but without the camp. They can be as meaningless as Black Sabbath, but without the medieval camouflage. They can touch your heart with “Comfortably Numb,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “Fearless,” and then try to trap you in “Echoes,” which starts well but after 7 or 8 minutes veers straight into Spinal Tap’s “Jazz Odyssey.”

It’s about time someone said this: 75% of the Pink Floyd catalog is Deep Purple with a PhD.

Shine on you crazy diamond
Thus we can define Pink Floyd Syndrome as a two-part phenomenon:

  • Men are from Pink Floyd, women are from Pink.
  • If you’re a man, you either love everything Floyd or you only love Dark Side of the Moon. Either way, you’ve learned how to hide your record collection.

In a future post we’ll entertain the proposition that Nebraska is Bruce Springsteen’s best album. Until then, keep your headphones on and your partner happy.

There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.