Progression from Dirty Mind to 1999

More/less in a nutshell because I didn’t play every single song from any of the 3 albums I checked out.

I haven’t posted in about a week just because my mind hasn’t been in a fit state to write about Prince or rather, write anything meaningful enough that I felt like posting. And with my job, I feel like I have less of a personal life (i.e. life listening to Prince that had last summer).

Before checking out the music, though, I rewatched the special “Prince of Paisley Park,” which I hadn’t seen in nearly a year. The difference this time was that my folks watched it with me. My mom left the room after half an hour or so, but my dad stuck with me and I appreciated that. Best part was that he took it in silence, didn’t ask any questions and just made a comment or two. I’ve seen the special at least 3 times previous to this, but I really needed to watch it again to reshift thoughts in my head. Bring some older thoughts back to the front so I can reflect and build on them in anyway that I can.
In the end, my dad said that he enjoyed it and that’s the best I could ask for.

It brings forth an image of Prince in the way he’s meant 2b seen. Lately, I’ve been thinking of him as “common,” someone you could come by everyday and it wouldn’t make an impact. The extraordinary factor had been factored out of the equation and I wanted to get that back. To a degree, I think I did.

I got curious as to the progression of his sound from Dirty Mind (where he defined himself initally) to 1999 (where I am now and he’s at his peak just before super stardom). That’s when I decided to listen to Dirty Mind, Controversy and 1999 all within the time period I had.

Dirty Mind came off as raw, funky and a lot of the songs had a receding disco-vibe to them. Like this is the last stand of disco before Prince fully converts into the 80’s music style. The beat in “Do in all night” and “Uptown” reminded me somewhat of the beats in that song “Disco Inferno” or music that was done by The Commadores back in the day (before Lionel Richie went solo). Brilliance in simplicity, I think. You can easily pick out a lot of the instruments being played and the fact you can hear the keyboards or the bass that clearly make it true ear-candy.

I think this was one of the albums he recorded at his home studio, so that’s why it has that vibe of simplicity. This album was the one that set him apart from the Stevie Wonder-esque image and where he started to develop a Jimi Hendrix/Santana type of sound. At least that’s what the critics say about him at the time.

Here I played through every song except for “Partyup” because it doesn’t quite have the same feel as the others. And this is my look through Prince’s progression. That song was written by Morris Day, not quite the same.

Controversy was pretty interesting in itself and I was thinking early on “why do I dismiss these albums? They’re really good.” It might be because they’re not the Prince I’ve become familiar with. Here, he was pretty much a cult artist, playing funky R&B music, which really isn’t my genre. It’s good to have some of it, but it doesn’t mean I want to hear it all the time. People keep saying how they want Prince to play more funk or should stick to funk. If you want him to keep your attention, don’t you think he should do more than just funk? He shouldn’t take it completely out of the equation, but c’mon, he became famous on the fact he did all kinds of music. It’s what he’s best at, I think.

With Controversy, I skipped two songs because they sounded very little like the others and beared no resemblance to the songs on 1999, which was the whole reason I was skipping a couple of songs here and there. “Controversy” had some really good lyrics and I find them interesting because Prince directs them at his audience, as if he’s toying with them and their views of him.
“Do me baby” was a hit as always. I just closed my eyes and listened deeply to it because I hadn’t heard it in quite a while. It’s very raw and heartful. It kinda shows his genius too. How he could make all those sounds and make them sound authentic. As if he was [ahem] while recording it and such. At the same time, I was getting a feel for every note that was played and enjoyed it from the inside out. Because its where his heart is probably the most exposed that it’s ever been in any of his work and its extremely personal.

When the next song started, my eyes snapped out and I got into the beat. The line about him strangling Valentine makes it sound like he’d already written the song, Manic Monday and was responding to that, haha. I think that song was meant for Vanity 6 before he ended up giving it to The Bangles in 1986.
“Let’s Work” was probably the song that took me the longest to get into at all and since I got into it, I’ve enjoyed it every time I’ve gotten across it.

“Jack u Off” I played based on the fact that he uses the Linn-drum, which he uses in Delirious and Let’s Pretend We’re Married (those were the songs that came to mind at the time, though he favored the Linn-drum throughout the 80’s)

I’ve said how “D.M.S.R” bears resemblance to his previous material so it belongs more with them than the 1999 material. Turns out that its not as clear cut. It feels more like a transition. The sound on the song is just like the 1999 album, which has so many instruments playing at once that you can’t distinguish them that easily. It’s funkier than a lot of the songs on the album, so it does feel more like it fits with the previous 2, but it also seems to fit more here because its less bare-boned.

I played through the songs as I did last night, in the order I played them, but I changed one or two things. I played through Automatic and (Does not Compute) Something in the Water, but then I skipped “Free”. During the 2nd song, I was thinking “what does the other version sound like?” Because I’d heard an alternate version of the song and that was before getting the album, so when I did get it, I didn’t really like the album version because it was different. It does fit together better with the message in “Automatic” though.

I let myself get lost in “Automatic” where its pretty much the nerve impulses going through his mind for the last couple of minutes. Either he was playing whatever he felt or there was a purpose to the whole “trip” that the song was. I’ve come to the conclusion lately that his songs are just interpretations of situations he went through at the time and not all his says actually happens. It’s a little too far-fetched to believe he went through “torture” under a woman he couldn’t help but please. Couldn’t control whatever he’d do for her because he basically made himself her “love slave,” where there was nothing he wouldn’t do.

I also got to thinking, “How many times has he said ‘I love you’ in his songs and how many times did he actually mean it?” Love gets used so many times that its hard to tell if its meant or just said. Prince thought he was in love with a lot of girls, clearly, though Susannah & Mayte were the clearest causes that he truly believed he was in love at the time and probably was. Everything previous to his Purple Rain material, he probably just threw the word out there so people would know what he meant because everyone knows the word ‘love.’

So I listened to the alternate version of (Does not Compute) Something in the Water and it sounds like something he’d recorded after 1999 and before Purple Rain’s production began. It had a cleaner sound and a lot more instruments were at play here. I also like the key that its in because its easier to sing back-up here and it had a good feel to it.

“Lady Cab Driver” bares no resemblance to any of the other tracks I played, but I figured I should because it resolves the previous conflict and its one of a kind. Why not play it?

I skipped his talk about the Critics in NY for “International Lover”. At the time, I was also considering whether or not I should play the title track because it might keep me up, haha. I ended up playing it and just getting into the whole thing.

Another thing I noticed was his use of the rhythm guitar in “D.M.S.R” as well “1999”… and it sounds like what he did during one instrumental break in the song “Controversy”. That alone connects the 2 projects and shows a progression. People have also said he’s probably the best rhythm guitarist there is.

“Little Red Corvette” I wasn’t paying so much attention to, actually, haha. I was too busy doing something else at the time and I really hadn’t gotten the full experience of the song with all these distractions. I came close the other night, but it was skipping on me. (Really need to get that iPOD soon).

“Delirious,” I feel is notable for its use of the Linn-drum and it resembles some of the tracks from “Controversy”

Another thing I was thinking about was some of his messages and how he continues to stick to them. “Uptown” had an attitude that is carried over “D.M.S.R.”…and “Let’s Work” also has connection to “1999”. “Do me baby” has an obvious connection to “International Lover’ becasue they’re both love ballads, though the 2nd is a bit cheesier.

I was also thinking how a lot of the 1999 album sounds “out of this world.”
The last couple of seconds of “Automatic” sound like a UFO, or maybe Prince in midst of alienation
“(Does not compute) Something in the Water”, both versions sound a bit out of this world too.
“Let’s Pretend We’re Married” has a futuristic keyboard vibe, especially notable in the instrumental break that replays the chorus without the vocals.
“1999” sounds a bit out of this world as well, but maybe because it is THAT good. I enjoy every bit of it. A musical masterpiece for sure, and Prince played ALL of those instruments himself. Tres impressive.

Other songs sound rather grounded. Like “Lady Cab Driver” sounds like street/boardwalk chatter musically. And “Free” has ocean waves and shoes crunching in the sand. “International Love” sounds classy, but the vibe towards the descent portion of the song sounds like an airplane coming down for a landing. Makes you almost believe he has his own private jet, but its a metaphor, really.

Of course, the night was perfect during the last chant of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” which is always good for a laugh.

Especially the lyric where he says “You think I’m crazy? You’re probably right…”

I don’t necessarily think so, but by investing in Prince’s music financially and mentally, you do kinda lose some of your sanity along the way. It’s somewhat of an “entrance fee,” haha.

Hopefully I’ll put myself in the right position to watch “Purple Rain” soon. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it, though its probably been a few months. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to shelve it for 6+ months the way that I should.

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