Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Report: Purple Rain 25th Anniversary Party

As I've pounded into your skulls for the last month, on Friday my good friend Cunningham and I threw a 25th Anniversary Party for Purple Rain at the Brillobox in Pittsburgh. It was a rousing success. At the peak of the night, there were around 120 folks there, shaking what their mama gave 'em. Everybody seemed to have a great time. I certainly had a blast, though my feet are still recuperating from the damage a night of dancing in heels inflicted (now I understand why the ladies toss their shoes at wedding receptions).

Upon hearing of Michael Jackson's passing on Thursday, we pretty immediately decided we had to close the night with a Michael Jackson track. On the fly however, we ended up doing a 30 minute MJ set. We felt we must. We unfortunately didn't have all of MJs work with us, but we had some - and wireless access to iTunes. So we made do, and the crowd got down.

After that, we said our thank yous only to be met with cheers of "PURPLE RAIN! PURPLE RAIN!" So we closed the night with the purple one's anthem. People slow danced. It was off the hook.

Some photos:

DJs The Kid and The Character, your hosts for the evening.

Starting off with a screening of that cinematic masterpiece, Purple Rain.

The Character rocks the decks.


The Kid takes over.

Paisley Park Productions, bitches.

The Character loses his 'stache, but not his cool.

Slow dancin!


Jesse Johnson-Fast Girls
The Time- 777-9311
Prince-Lady Cab Driver
Vanity 6-If a Girl Answers Don't Hang Up
Jill Jones-G Spot
Prince-I Wanna Be Your Lover
Prince - Dirty Mind
Prince - Sleep Around
Prince & the New Power Generation - Cream (NPG Mix)
Prince - Irresistible Bitch
Prince - Controversy
Prince - Dance 4 Me
Prince-Acknowledge Me
Prince-17 Days
Dez Dickerson and the Modernaires-Modernaire
Morris Day-Oak Tree
Prince-When U Were Mine
Vanity 6- He's So Dull
Prince - Soft and Wet (disco mix)
Prince - Private Joy
Sheena Easton - Sugar Walls
Prince and the NPG -Sexy MF
Prince - Black Sweat
Prince - Batdance (excerpt)
Prince and the NPG - Gett Off (Houstyle)
Sheila E. - Holly Rock
Prince - Let's Work

(the next set isn't necessarily in order)
The Time-Jungle Love
Tevin Campbell-Round and Round
Prince-Erotic City
Prince-U Got the Look
Vanity 6-Nasty Girl
Prince-Pussy Control
The Time-The Bird
Sheila E-The Glamorous Life
The Bangles-Manic Monday

The Jacksons-Walk Right Now
MJ-Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
The Jacksons-Shake Your Body Down to the Ground
MJ-Remember the Time

Prince-Purple Rain


Thanks again to all who came out! And thanks to Bill for sharing his photos and being on call all night.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nice video promoting what I'm sure will be one of many MJ tributes this summer:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

This post will likely be all over the place.

Shortly after arriving in Pittsburgh this afternoon, I received a text message from a friend: "Is MJ dead?" I admit I shrugged it off, especially when I found out that TMZ was the source. Then I started getting more calls and texts, with no real certaintly. Then I switched on KDKA where Mike Pintek confirmed that MJ was taken to the hospital following a heart attack (and proceeded to make an off color joke).

Shortly thereafter, friends and I were glued to CNN. After 15 or 20 minutes, the LA Times confirmed his death, followed by CBS News and then NBC.

I was shocked, and remain so. As with many of us, I've been critical of MJ's post-1980s work, particularly his two most recent albums. And of course, his personal life (or at least how he projected it) became even more surreal over the last two decades than it had been even in the 1980s.

But none of that changes those classic records, my personal associations with them, and the global pop cultural impact that Michael Jackson had for over a decade. Music, video, fashion, dance - MJs impact was arguably matched only by the Beatles in its variance and reach.


There are ways in which Michael Jackson is incredibly important to me as an artist, performer and cultural icon. You all know that I'm a self-professed music geek. Michael Jackson and Thriller marked the first moment at which I was conscious of an artist. Until that point, I had only digested songs. With Thriller, I understood the concept of an album; I understood the notion of an artist's ouvre (though certainly not the term "ouvre!"); I understood (as much as a toddler can) an artist as a multimedia enterprise. With Thriller, it wasn't just about songs. It was about the ubiquity of those songs. It was about videos and image. It was about fashion (many a mother laboring over crafting sequined gloves for their kids in the pre-Bedazzler era). It was about performance. It was about dance. It was in short, about an all encompassing pop cultural phenomenon, the likes of which I truly don't think that we've seen since, and given the state of media and the music industry, may never see again.

One of things that most strikes me is that like many, he was such a part of my childhood, my enculturation, my awareness of popular music and culture. Then I pause and think of my parents, who are mere years older than MJ - the generation who *truly* grew up with Michael Jackson, practically alongside him. It blows my mind a bit.

Without a doubt, Michael Jackson stands as my earliest memory of popular music. My mother had a copy of Thriller that seemed in constant rotation on the family turntable. I remember listening to that record while she did housework and exploring the packaging. The sketches on the inner sleeve. The cover photograph. The gatefold with that baby tiger. Of course my sister and I both taped the LP so that we could listen to it even more frequently and have the increasingly important portability. While the Thriller LP is worth nothing financially because everybody and their mother (literally) has a copy, I'd venture to say that my mom's copy of the album is perhaps the most prized item in my personal collection. My lifelong obsession with popular music can honestly be traced back to that single LP.

And this is what I think is throwing me for a bit of a loop in all of this - that there are so many personal memories attached to those songs. For example:

-dancing to "Thriller" with my sister in our basement and cracking my head open on the brick hearth.

-"We Are the World" (on 45) being the first piece of recorded popular music that was MINE. [Purchased at Century III mall, for you Pittsburghers.]

-Standing on my desk chair trying to mimic the "Smooth Criminal" video (it was the privacy of my bedroom, and the only slick surface available).

-Getting the Bad LP out of the library, taping it, and then playing the title track for show and tell the next day.

-Having nightmares about the Vincent Price rap in "Thriller"

-Captain EO being the highlight of my first trip to Disney World.

-Bad being the first tape that I ever owned

-Constantly watching Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues, a documentary which my grandparents taped off of Showtime.

-Buying Dangerous on Thanksgiving day. Watching the premiere of "Black and White" after the Simpsons; that 'controversial' end sequence

I could go on. And I'm sure you could add many of your personal memories to the list.


Admittedly, his work fell off beginning in the 1990s. And again, his personal life, or what can be labeled the celebrity freak show, took over. This is when it began to become clear that Michael Jackson was perhaps the most tragic soul in popular music.

Despite his personal and artistic fall from grace, Michael Jackson never really lost relevance. Though I'm not much a fan, his influence is apparent in the pop stars produced in the last decade (most explicitly in Usher, Timberlake). But perhaps his continuing relevance is most clear in the music. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Throw on "P.Y.T." at any dance night or house party. Or "Billie Jean." Or "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." Or "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." And on down the line. See if the dance floor doesn't fill up immediately and vibrantly come to life in a celebration of bodies and/in rhythm.


Tonight some friends and I went to an '80s night. The DJ wisely played a great deal of MJ, the first of which was "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." The floor shook. In unison we all danced, clapped, and chanted the "mama se, mama sa, mama cu sa" breakdown. I couldn't help but think that we the crowd (many no doubt children of the '80s) were paying tribute in the best way that we knew how.

While his post-Dangerous music has failed to move me he never left my (our culturally, our) consciousness. I think we always assumed Michael Jackson would be around, even if only as a pop cultural curiosity. His life story (the good and the bad, the bland and the bizarre) were all so surreal that his death seems very unreal, very strange, and very unexpected.

I'm not at all a fan of John Mayer, but his twitter posts sum it up rather well"

I think we'll mourn his loss as well as the loss of ourselves as children listening to Thriller on the record player.
Dazed in the studio. A major strand of our cultural DNA has left us. RIP MJ.

It's 4:25am. Tomorrow will be a big day. I'll end it here, and with what else but a video. RIP, MJ.

Lip-synched, but what the hell:

Friday Funk

25 years ago yesterday (6/25/84), Prince's Purple Rain album hit shelves, a month ahead of the movie. The album was preceded by the single "When Doves Cry," Prince's first number one. On the strength of that and the follow-up singles ("Let's Go Crazy," "Purple Rain," "I Would Die 4 U," "Take Me With U"), Purple Rain topped the charts for 24 weeks, selling 13 million copies in the US. (That number has since increased to 20 million.) In late July of 1984, Prince simultaneously held the number one film, album and single spots in the country, a feat previously accomplished only by the Beatles, I believe.

The album is undeniably a tour de force. Many hail it as Prince's greatest achievement. I don't know that I agree (my favorite album is Sign 'O' the Times. No, it's 1999. No wait, it's Dirty Mind). Regardless, the album's merit is undeniable, and it's impact on music and popular culture continues to resonate. Every track is a winner. From the raucous pop-rock of "Let's Go Crazy" to the nastiness of "Darling Nikki," the emotional frustration of "When Doves Cry" to the anthemic beauty of "Purple Rain" - the album remains a 20th century achievement in composition, production and execution.

Spin Magazine's Brian Raftery has a nice piece in the current issue, an intriguing (albeit brief) oral history of the Purple Rain project, including interviews from former members of the Revolution, The Time, Prince's management and others. In addition, there will be a free download of a Prince tribute album, Purplish Rain on Spin's site starting July 1. I haven't bought Spin in about 15 years, but put Prince on the cover and see if I don't buy it.

The 25th Anniversary of Purple Rain is significant. We have for years marked the anniversaries of Sgt. Pepper, Dark Side of the Moon, et. al. In terms of musicianship, skill and cultural impact, Prince is every bit as historically relevant as the Beatles, The Stones, Pink Floyd - take your pick from the rock canon. I'm pleased to see that the music press is beginning to recognize this.

As a reminder to those in the Pittsburgh area, a friend and I are throwing a celebration tonight in honor of the 25th anniversary of Purple Rain:

$1 off the cover if wearing Prince/Purple Rain-related costume.

And now onto the Friday Funk:

Monday, June 22, 2009

now playing:

A good friend and I recently bonded over this one. OK video, incredible song.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Funk

I know we had Sly last week, but this has been on a loop in my head the last few days. Has some cheese factor, but man - that bass line is slick.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I'd already resigned myself to buying the Beatles Rock Band the day it came out. This makes me wish that day was tomorrow:

The game will include 45 songs, although Abbey Road will be available in its entirety as a download. Really, if only one of the albums were to be available in full, they made the best choice there. No word on if further songs/albums will be made available for download. Also of note, I read an interview with Dhani Harrison that mentioned an unreleased song (or songs?) will be included. Hmmm.

I'll pass on the custom instruments, however cool they may look. I can't justify having more than one set of Rock Band instruments (yet).

What's really interesting to me is that unlike previous Rock Band incarnations, the Beatles game will have the capability for three-part harmonies. I imagine that requires purchasing two more microphones, but a nifty feature nonetheless.

Full release from the Rock Band forums