Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Sometimes It Snows in April..."

This print hangs on my wall to this very day

I never got to see The Artist live.

I’ve lied several times over the years out of sheer embarrassment, saying that I had but, in fact, I never had pleasure of seeing Prince Rodgers Nelson in concert. Now, he’s gone and I’ll never get the chance.

Part of the reason I never saw His Royal Badness live is that he didn’t play Philadelphia all that often. The story goes that he held a grudge against the city for how he was treated as an opening act for the Rolling Stones in 1980. This was the “Dirty Mind” era of Prince when he wore nothing more than black panties and trenchcoat on stage. That just wasn’t going to work in the Philadelphia of that era, especially for a liquored up crowd waiting to hear “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man,” so he was unmercifully booed off stage. Believe it or not, the treatment that my city showed Prince that night severely rattled his cage…so much so that Mick Jagger had to call him personally and beg him to finish out the tour. 

Philly was in no way ready for this...
The other part is, of course, that I idiotically assumed that there would always be a “next time.” “Oh, I’ll catch him next time,” na├»ve Jer thought time and time again as I would read glowing reviews of shows (secret or otherwise) that he’d put on around the globe. Now there will be no “next time." All I can do is hang my head in shame and weep for the sounds and visions I missed out on. Stupid, stupid me.


*****

The first song of The Purple One’s I ever heard was “Little Red Corvette.” I recall being instantly entranced by it, much like I was the first time I heard Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” Not much later, a friend of mine lent me the “1999” cassette, which I copied of course, then I proceeded to play that cassette into the motherfucking ground. I was only 13 at the time…the diversity and overt sexuality of the songs excited and shocked me. Songs like “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” “Automatic” and “Lady Cab Driver” blew my Catholic school boy mind. I was, in a word, hooked.

I could write volumes about “Purple Rain” of course (who couldn’t?), but the next album that was truly innovative and, in my opinion, perfect was “Sign O’ the Times.” I dare you to find an uninteresting or unoriginal song on that record. Go ahead, try. I’ll wait...forever…because it just isn’t going to happen.

A true masterpiece
I vividly recall every moment of my first listen of that cassette: I bought it on my dinner break at the Sam Goody in the pathetic Leo Mall. The cassette sat in my front pocket for the rest of my shift, silently calling to me, waiting to be played…waiting to reveal its auditory magic. When I got home later that night, I popped that bad boy into my boom box, slipped on my headphones, and glided into a soundscape of something that just wasn’t like anything else I’d ever heard in my previous 17 years on this planet. It was then that I knew I’d be a Prince fanatic for the rest of my days, be they long or short.

He’s had a varied career since that time to say the very least…but I’ve never stopped loving him and his sublime music. The man defined the word “iconoclast.”

It’s now 11:58 PM. I’m “in the cups” as my Irish ancestors would have said. Prince Rodgers Nelson, a being composed solely of sounds...as if he were some impossibly powered, musical super hero, is still very much dead. There are now stories floating about that he was treated for a drug overdose of some sort.
 
“Hogwash,” says I.

It still doesn’t change the fact that I never got to see the man whose music meant so much to me play a live set.

I guess I’ll just have to live with that.

Rest in peace, you sexy motherfucker, you.