Prince: An Appreciation

I’m not sure I could have written this post a year ago.

It was an early Thursday afternoon on April 21st last year when I got a call from a colleague. A body had been found at Paisley Park. Those were the extent of the details known at that moment.

I remembered nearly seven years earlier that TMZ had been the first entity to report the news of Michael Jackson’s passing. They had it before CNN and the AP, etc…

My thought process immediately had me typing in that website to see what was happening. And there it was. Prince was dead.

For me, this was not your typical announcement of a celebrity’s passing. It was far more than that. To those who read this blog, you know I’m a huge movie fan, as well as a music lover. We all are in our own way (at least most of us).

As I’ve stated before on here, there are casual movie watchers and there are casual listeners of the songs playing on the radio. And good for you! I’m not wired that way. From a young age, I was transfixed by the world of film and continue to be right now.

When it comes to music, I come from a family that loves it. From hearing James Brown and Ray Charles and Chuck Berry from my dad to hearing the pop icons of the 1980s like Michael Jackson and Madonna and so many others from my older siblings, it’s always been part of my life. When the music of the early to mid 1990s was popular in my formative years, I was right there along with it. Mildly obsessive about it. The exploding genre of hip hop music at the time was a gold mine of greatness. Artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan and 2Pac and Biggie and Outkast. Bands like Nirvana that upset the apple cart of rock and roll. Even the 90s R&B artists like Boyz II Men and TLC and Mariah Carey were busy spinning their gems on my CDs (which at that time was best kept in a giant case you lugged around everywhere).

And then there was Prince. As much as I adored all the aforementioned artists and bands and many more that I haven’t mentioned, Prince Rogers Nelson was and is in a category by himself. This applies to the man as an artist in general and what he meant to a young kid growing up in Northwest Ohio.

On the day he died, I wrote this on Facebook:

It’s difficult to describe what it’s like when you feel a connection with an artist. My brother and sister Troy Thatcher and Dawn Hammer are responsible for allowing me as a young lad to grow up listening to Prince. I saw him in concert 14 times and it was a connection shared with my siblings and sister in law Nicole. I remember certain times according to which albums of his were out. Young years with Purple Rain, Sign O The Times and Batman. Grade school jamming to the Diamonds and Pearls and Symbol album. High school parties putting on P. Control. My high school graduation cake had a rendering of Prince on it. It is honestly a family bond that my brother and sisters and I share together. Because of him. You know how those security questions ask you favorite musician? I’ll give you one guess. His creativity and his musical talent is in a class of its own. He is the greatest live performer… Period. For those not as familiar with his music, just pay attention to what other musicians say about him today. He had given me hours and hours and hours of joy, both on stage and with earbuds in. Some of my greatest memories with people I love involve Prince. He taught me growing up that being creative and even a little strange and different from your peers is cool. I love the genius that is Prince. There’s no past tense. His legacy and his music and his influence will go on forever.
That explains it pretty well. There have been a number of days over my life dedicated to watching Prince perform live. In Columbus. In Cleveland. In Detroit. In Las Vegas. In high school, his albums The Gold Experience, Chaos and Disorder, and Emancipation were released. No matter what was happening that day, I’m confident all I could think about was getting to the music store and buying them. I remember in grade school and junior high is when Diamonds and Pearls and the Symbol album were giving us classics like “Cream”, “Gett Off”, “My Name is Prince”, “Seven”, and “Sexy MF”. To a 12 and 13 year-old, this stuff was risque, funky, and I couldn’t stop listening. Even at that age, I also knew it was genius. It was really that era that caused me to look back at his past releases, which is rightly considered the golden era of his discography. You know, stuff like Dirty Mind, 1999, Purple Rain, Parade, and Sign O The Times. It was then I realized why my brother and sister loved him so much in the 1980s.
The first time I saw him in concert was December 27, 1997. This is the setlist from the show in Auburn Hills:
Note that he did two encores and played 34 songs. I was transfixed from the moment he walked out onstage. As mentioned in my Facebook post, he was the greatest live performer to ever grace a stage.
The last time I saw him was November 10, 2006 in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel on the second night of a residency that went on for months.
Here’s that setlist:
It was a smaller venue and we were right up against the stage. During a guitar solo, I will sheepishly confess that I may have taken the opportunity to give him a friendly pat on the leg while he ripped away on the chords. There was also a moment during a guitar solo where he bent down and came face to face with my sister. I thought she was going to faint.
So… there was a family connection with Prince. With my sister and brother especially. Everyone in high school growing up knew I was rather obsessed with him as well. At the time, he was going by that unpronounceable symbol that I used to constantly doodle on my notebooks. O ( + >
And at that time especially… he was considered pretty damn weird. He was not at the peak of his record sales. That time had passed. He had confounded many fans with the name change. In some ways, I’m almost glad I wasn’t at an age during the Purple Rain era where I would have followed him religiously. To me, the era where he came most vividly into my consciousness was just as important. I was able to cherish what he’d done before and breathlessly look forward to what was next. To me, the name change wasn’t that bizarre. And years later, recognizing that he basically did it to get out of a record contract he deemed unfair adds to the cool factor of the whole thing.
So let’s go back, shall we? He was considered pretty damn weird. I know I didn’t realize it at the time, but we all feel pretty weird in our teens. And here was a guy that embraced his persona and didn’t seem to care what anyone thought of him. He was around to make amazing music and play it live better than anyone else.
Here was someone who could somehow and someway pull off wearing high heels and make every woman desire him (at 5’2″ no less!). Here was someone whose beef with his record company is that they wouldn’t let him release more music. How cool is that? Here is someone who embraced (and later rejected) the Internet as a source of releasing his material. He was way ahead of his time in that respect.
Prince is someone who could balance funk, rock and roll, ballads, R&B, and about every other genre all into one album and it was shockingly brilliant.
In junior high and high school, I didn’t fully know it. Yet he was an inspiration. He was an inspiration to be yourself. He was inspiration to embrace a weird idea that being a 16 year-old more into writing movie reviews than being into sports was actually cool. And it helped me embrace the way I was at the time and am today.
So… in case you can’t tell, I’m more than just a casual Prince fan.
On April 20, 2016 – if you’d told me I’d be visiting Paisley Park in the fall, I would have said you’re crazy. And then April 21st happened. This led to his recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota being turned into a museum. In November of last year, my sister and I found ourselves inside Prince’s inner sanctum. We saw all three of his recording studios, his two concert venues inside the facility where he would entertain, and even his Ping Pong table. Everywhere you looked there were gold and platinum albums. And the first item we saw was a miniature model of Paisley Park located in the Atrium where his ashes are contained inside a small purple box. It was emotional and it was also a joyous celebration of his existence.
Prince died too young. The circumstances of his passing are truly sad. I have found myself on several evenings since April 21st with my earbuds in reminding myself of his work. I have found myself glued to YouTube now that it’s not too difficult to find videos and concert footage. I have smiled at the realization that some of the concert footage (Detroit 2004, performance of “DMSR”) is from a show I was at.
I remember in high school, some of my friends thought it was weird that I was so into Prince… or The Artist Formerly Known as Prince at that juncture. There was some teasing here and there. I couldn’t help it. At that vulnerable teenage time, I think I even got into little arguments with them: “But he’s so great!! You don’t understand!”
The funny part is… I’ve talked to some of my peers that may have teased and joked with me back then. To a person, they pretty much now say – “Ugh, you were right!”
I don’t say that to pound my chest at all. It has nothing to do with me. As I see it, it just took some folks a little while to realize how amazing Prince is.
And we saw how much people loved him on April 21st last year. Some of the tributes were remarkable. Many of them were more poetic and musically beautiful than anything I could create.
Creativity is what fueled Prince. His creativity created a body of work that has entertained and entranced millions around the world. In my case, Prince helped teach me that being creative and a little weird sometimes in is OK. In fact, it’s more than OK. As I said a year ago, it’s cool.
And Prince was the coolest inspiration this guy could have.
Prince Rogers Nelson:
June 7, 1958-April 21, 2016

My Top Ten Prince Albums

Well this wasn’t easy! Prince had nearly 40 studio albums in a career that didn’t even span 40 years. Pretty much every release he put out has at least three (in most cases more) genuinely great tracks.

Yet for those looking for the starter kit on his cream of the crop works, here’s my personal top 10 Prince Albums of All Time:

10. Diamonds and Pearls (1991)

Key Tracks: “Diamonds and Pearls”, “Cream”, “Gett Off”, “Money Don’t Matter 2Nite”, “Strollin”

9. Lovesexy (1988)

Key Tracks: “Anna Stesia”, “Alphabet St”, “Glam Slam”, “When 2R In Love”, “I Wish U In Heaven”

8. Around the World in a Day (1985)

Key Tracks: “Raspberry Beret”, “Pop Life”, “Paisley Park”, “America”, “Condition of the Heart”, “The Ladder”

7. The Gold Experience (1995)

Key Tracks: “Dolphin”, “Gold”, “(Eye) Hate U”, “P. Control”, “Endorphinmachine”, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”

6. Dirty Mind (1980)

Key Tracks: “When You Were Mine”, “Uptown”, “Dirty Mind”, “Head”, “Partyup”, “Gotta Broken Heart Again”

5. The Symbol Album (1992)

Key Tracks: “Seven”, “My Name is Prince”, “Sexy MF”, “The Morning Papers”, “The Max”, “Damn U”, “The Continental”, “Love 2 the 9’s”

4. Parade (1986)

Key Tracks: “Kiss”, “Sometimes It Snows in April”, “Mountains”, “Anotherloverholenyohead”, “Girls and Boys”, “New Position”, “Under the Cherry Moon”

3. 1999 (1982)

Key Tracks: “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Delirious”, “DMSR”, “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)”, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, “Free”, “Lady Cab Driver”, “International Lover”

2. Purple Rain (1984)

Key Tracks: All of them… “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Take Me With U”, “The Beautiful Ones”, “Computer Blue”, “Darling Nikki”, “When Doves Cry”, “I Would Die 4 U”, “Baby, I’m a Star”, “Purple Rain”

1. “Sign o’ The Times”

Key Tracks: “Sign o’ the Times”, “Housequake”, “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”, “U Got the Look”, “Forever in My Life”, “Adore”, “Hot Thing”, “Strange Relationship”, “The Cross”, “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”, “Starfish and Coffee”, “Slow Love”

 

Prince: Deep Cuts 2

Continuing on with a series of blog post that began yesterday as I celebrate the life and work of Prince, here are five more deeper cuts from the artist’s extensive catalog for your listening enjoyment! Oh what the heck? I threw in a bonus one…

“All My Dreams”

“Beginning Endlessly”

“Desire”

“Let’s Have a Baby”

“Purple Music”

“Ripopgodazippa”

Prince: Deep Cuts 1

For the next day 10 days, my little movie blog is going be celebrating the world of music much more than normal. In particular, a certain artist named Prince Rogers Nelson. April 21st will mark one year since his passing.

Those who know me know that Prince is my favorite musician and is so by a mile. I saw the man 14 times in concert, am very familiar with his entire discography, and look at him as an inspiration of being uniquely yourself in life.

I don’t know what all content will be generated over the next few days on the blog as I reflect on his life and work, but I began today by simply giving you five deeper Prince cuts. These are either unreleased tracks or songs from albums that didn’t receive as much attention.

Enjoy!

“In a Large Room With No Light”

“When I Lay My Hands on U”

“Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me”

“Love Sign”

“Wasted Kisses”

There will be plenty more in the coming days!

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael

On Christmas Day – the world lost another musical icon in 2016 when George Michael passed at age 53. I’ve been a huge fan of the singer for whole life and I wanted to provide my personal Top 25 list of my favorite GM tunes. The listing also includes songs from his work in Wham! prior to him going solo in 1987. I did make the choice not to include covers. However, check out his covers of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and Queen’s “Somebody to Love” in particular.

For those not intimately familiar with this brilliant singer’s work, I urge you to explore your Apple Music or other streaming service to appreciate just how remarkable he was. And these 25 songs represent a solid start.

RIP George Michael.

25. “Monkey” from Faith (1987)

24. “Spinning the Wheel” from Older (1996)

23. “Outside” from Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael (1998)

22. “Fantasy” – B-Side Single (1990)

21. “Move On” from Older (1996)

20. “Amazing” from Patience (2004)

19. “I’m Your Man” from Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986)

18. “I Want Your Sex” from Faith (1987)

17. “Too Funky” from Red Hot + Dance Compilation (1992)

16. “A Different Corner” from Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986)

15. “The Edge of Heaven” from Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986)

14. “Hard Day” from Faith (1987)

13. “One More Try” from Faith (1987)

12. “Freedom” from Make It Big (1984)

11. “Kissing a Fool” from Faith (1987)

10. “Father Figure” from Faith (1987)

9. “Last Christmas” from Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986)

8. “Praying for Time” from Listen Without Prejudice (1990)

7. “Wake Me Up Before You Go -Go” from Make It Big (1984)

6. “Careless Whisper” from Make It Big (1984)

5. “Faith” from Faith (1987)

4. “Fastlove” from Older (1996)

3. “Cowboys and Angels” from Listen Without Prejudice (1990)

2. “Everything She Wants” from Make It Big (1984)

1. “Freedom ’90” from Listen Without Prejudice (1990)

Blond Ambition: Who Should Play Madonna?

There’s a well known thing in Hollywood referred to as The Black List, a compilation of screenplays that have yet to be produced. Executives in the film industry vote on which ones that they think are the best. Since the inception of the list in 2005, some that have made it on there eventually became awards worthy material. This includes eventual Best Picture winners Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Argo, and Spotlight. There’s Best Picture nominees like Babel, Juno, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Whiplash, American Sniper and The Revenant. We have hit movies of all genres including Superbad, The Fighter, The Hangover, Arrival, and John Wick.

The 2016 Black List was released today and the pic that received the most votes caught my eye. It’s Blond Ambition, a biopic about Madonna that’s set in the 1980s as she was a struggling artist in NYC before becoming the world’s most famous Material Girl. Elyse Hollander is the screenwriter and it’s probably safe to assume this will be on the silver screen in relatively short order.

A well made Madonna biopic (paging Damien Chazelle to direct) could be quite a sight to behold. And, of course, it got me thinking. Who should play her? There’s always the option of casting an unknown. After all, taking on the role of music’s most successful female artist might work better with a performer unfamiliar to our eyes.

Yet one name in particular entered my mind when I read the news today: Chloe Grace Moretz. I think she could pull it off. Even if the film took a couple of years to get off the ground, she’s only 19 right now and would certainly fit the age appropriate timing of that are in its subject’s life. I also thought of Greta Gerwig and she could be interesting, but she’s in her early 30s and Madonna would be in her early to mid 20s here. It could still work though.

What say you? What other actresses could potentially do justice to Madge?

My Top 25 Kanye West Songs of All Time

This Sunday, I will see one of the most controversial and lauded and loved and hated artists of the 21st century in concert – Kanye West. As a music lover and hip hop fan, there are few rappers and producers that have been more influential, exciting and sometimes frustrating. Musically, I agree with his own assessment that he’s a genius.

In honor of Sunday’s concert, here are my personal top 25 Kanye tracks from his eight album discography that began in 2004 with The College Dropout and currently ends with this year’s The Life of Pablo.

Here goes:

25. “Everything I Am” from Graduation (2007)

24. “Fade” from The Life of Pablo (2016)

23. “Two Words” from The College Dropout” (2004)

22.  “New Slaves” from Yeezus (2013)

21. “Last Call” from The College Dropout” (2004)

20. “Amazing” from 808s & Heartbreak (2008)

19. “All Falls Down” from The College Dropout (2004)

18. “Blood on the Leaves” from Yeezus (2013)

17. “We Major” from Late Registration” (2005)

16. “Stronger” from Graduation (2007)

15. “Famous” from The Life of Pablo (2016)

14. “Power” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

13.  “Heard ‘Em Say” from Late Registration (2005)

12. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” from Graduation (2007)

11.  “Gone” from Late Registration (2005)

10. “Roses” from Late Registration (2005)

9. “Monster” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

8. “Flashing Lights” from Graduation (2007)

7. “Black Skinhead” from Yeezus (2013)

6. “Through the Wire” from The College Dropout (2004)

5. “N****s in Paris” from Watch the Throne (2011)

4. “Gold Digger” from Late Registration (2005)

3. “Runaway” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

2. “Jesus Walks” from The College Dropout (2004)

1. “All of the Lights” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

My Top 16 Electric Light Orchestra Songs of All Time

When the greatest bands are mentioned in general conversation – many of the obvious pop up. The Beatles. The Stones. Zeppelin. And those are three of my absolute favorites, make no mistake about it.

Yet there’s another one that doesn’t get mentioned as often and in this blogger’s mind, they really should. I give you the absolute genius of Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne’s exquisite group of pop/rock perfection that has given us gem after gem. For a number of years now, they’ve easily maintained a place in my top 5 favorite bands.

They’ve been on my mind lately after touring the United States for the first time in several years. ELO (as they’re commonly referred to) played three nights at the Hollywood Bowl last weekend and play two shows at Radio City Music Hall tonight and Sunday.

For those unfamiliar with their sound — their amazing sound with the greatest strings section in the history of rock and roll — I give you my personal top 16 (for 2016, you know? ELO songs of all time. And it was not easy getting it to just 16…

16. “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” from Eldorado (1974)

15. “The Lights Go Down” from from Time (1981)

14. “Confusion” from Discovery (1979)

13. “Don’t Bring Me Down” from Discovery (1979)

12. “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” from Out of the Blue (1977)

11. “All Over the World” from Xanadu (1980)

10. “Telephone Line” from A New World Record (1976)

9. “Livin’ Thing” from from A New World Record (1976)

8. “Wild West Hero” from Out of the Blue (1977)

7. “The Diary of Horace Wimp” from Discovery (1979)

6. “Shine a Little Love” from Discovery (1979)

5. “Last Train to London” from Discovery (1979)

4. “Strange Magic” from Face the Music (1975)

3. “Evil Woman” from Face the Music (1975)

2. “Turn to Stone” from Out of the Blue (1977)

1. “Mr. Blue Sky” from Out of the Blue (1977)

 

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 2006: A Look Back

Today on the blog, we look at the top ten tracks that were monopolizing the airwaves ten summers ago. Last week, I gave you the top tunes from 1996 and two weeks ago – from 1986. You can read those posts here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/26/top-ten-summer-music-hits-of-1986-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/06/07/top-ten-summer-music-hits-of-1996-a-look-back/

As I did with the previous posts, I’ll rate the song on a scale of 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (seasonal masterpiece) and answer the most important query: is it on my iTunes?

Let’s get to it!

10. “Snap Yo Fingers” by Lil Jon feat. E-40 and Sean P.

The middle of the previous decade was heavily dominated by club bangers when it came to hip hop. “Snap Yo Fingers” is basically, well, another one with Lil Jon’s signature shouts and a solid assist from Bay Area legend E-40. For what it is, it’s decent.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My iTunes? No

9. “Over My Head (Cable Car)” by The Fray

I’ll be totally honest here. I completely forgot about this song – the debut single from the Colorado based rock group. Verdict? Pretty good, though it probably says something that I forgot its existence.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My iTunes? No

8. “Unfaithful” by Rihanna

Written by Ne-Yo , this slow track from Rihanna’s second album shows off her fine vocals. It’s not at the very top of her slow tempo ballads, but it’s memorable.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

7. “Buttons” by The Pussycat Dolls feat. Snoop Dogg

With an assist from The Doggfather, The Pussycat Dolls had a smash hit here. It’s no “Don’t Cha”, but it’s catchy.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My iTunes: Yes

6. “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire feat. Krayzie Bone

The Houston rapper had a phenomenon with the most smooth ditty ever about the issue of racial profiling. I’ll give it a 7 and a half. It might deserve more, but it really wore out of its welcome.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No (but it would’ve been in 2006)

5. “It’s Goin’ Down” by Yung Joc

Atlanta rapper Joc had a club smash here. Like “Snap Yo Fingers”, it belongs in that danceable, yet easily forgettable sub genre of hip hop.

My Rating: 5 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

4. “Me & U” by Cassie

Bad Boy artist Cassie had her only major hit here with this club friendly and pleasing track. No more, no less.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

3. “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley

Who knew a collabo between Danger Mouse and CeeLo Green would mark one of the most fantastic pop creations in years? It might have been overplayed, but this song is a masterpiece.

My Rating: 10

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

2. “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira feat. Wyclef Jean

Columbian singer/dancer Shakira had her largest hit (and her best) with this instantly dance-worthy creation with an assist from Wyclef.

My Rating: 9

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

  1. “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado

Timbaland was at the top of his game in 2006 and it shows with his production here on Furtado this groovy Furtado song.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

And there you have it! This list will return next summer with 1987, 1997, and 2007…