Prince’s Passing

It was a shock to hear yesterday about the death of Prince, at age 57.  The musical star was found dead in an elevator in his home, and the cause of his death is not yet known.  It’s a huge hit to the music world, which has been reeling in the wake of a series of deaths — David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, and now Prince — that make it seem like 2016 is the Grim Reaper’s year to swing that scythe of his through the ranks of iconic figures in different branches of the music world.

I first heard of Prince and his music back in the ’80s, during the early days of MTV, when that channel still played music.  During Richard’s infant days I spent some nights sitting in our rocking chair, with Richard’s belly pressed against my shoulder, rocking during the wee hours of the early morning and hoping he would fall back asleep.  Richard seemed to do better with some background noise, so we often turned the cable channel to MTV and listened to the music of the mid-80s.

prince-ctcOne of the frequent songs on the MTV late night/early morning playlist in those days was Prince’s Raspberry Beret, and another was the Bangles’ Manic Monday, which the MTV VJs noted was written by Prince. They were both frothy pop songs, catchy but lightweight, the kind of songs where the melody and lyrics seemed to get injected directly into your brain cells and you can’t get them out no matter how hard you tried.  Those songs defined and informed my views of Prince, and I dismissed him as a talented but somewhat insubstantial pop star.  When Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and started to get into battles with record companies and others I added egotistical to the list of adjectives I associated with him.

Ironically, it was Richard who reintroduced me to Prince.  Perhaps it was his exposure to Raspberry Beret during his infancy — OK, maybe not — but Richard became a huge fan of Prince, and during his college days at Northwestern he hosted a weekly, multi-episode show on the campus radio station that was devoted to Prince’s career and songs.  Perhaps fittingly, it was broadcast during the wee hours in Evanston, and aired, I think, during the 5-6 a.m. slot, Eastern time.  If I woke up early, as I usually do, I could catch it live via web radio.  It was fun and sort of weird to hear Richard’s voice on radio first thing in the morning, so I tried to listen to the show whenever I could.

Through Richard and his radio show I learned a lot more about Prince — and realized that my casual dismissal of him on the basis of two songs was far off base.  His music was a lot more thoughtful and interesting and ground-breaking than I had given him credit for, and I added a lot of it to my iPod playlist where it has stayed ever since.  I’m sorry to hear of Prince’s untimely death, and sorry to know that Richard has lost a favorite artist — and I’m also sorry that I didn’t appreciate a great talent for so many years.  The creative world is poorer without Prince in its ranks.


Jersey Shore Can Bite Me

Today JV, the Domer, and I went to lunch.  On the walk, JV mentioned Jersey Shore and I responded that I didn’t know what he was talking about.  He professed astonishment.

I admit, my response wasn’t entirely true.  I first became aware of the program when the President was criticized for claiming he did not know who “Snooki” is.  Russell watched the show when he was here before returning to college, and as a result I saw a few snippets.  The parts I saw consisted of shirtless guys who look like they work out constantly and absurdly overtanned, scantily clad women walking around, whispering about their problems, talking earnestly to the camera about supposedly important relationship issues, and similar activities.  The parts I saw, at least, looked hilariously insipid.  I really don’t give a crap about body-proud twenty-somethings strutting in front of the camera, getting drunk, making out, and wrestling with their obscure and uninteresting personal issues, and it is hard for me to believe that anyone else does, either.

I was amazed to read recently that this pathetic excuse for entertainment has been one of the most popular TV shows of the summer.  Obviously, I don’t appreciate modern popular culture.  Does this make me uncool?  Sure, but then, I’m 53 years old.  To the extent I ever could be cool, those days are long since behind me.  In my dotage I’ll just settle for being entertained — which means I won’t be watching Jersey Shore.

Obscure Bands And Great Songs: Wang Chung And Everybody Have Fun Tonight

The scene is a small, sparsely furnished two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Alexandria, Virginia, just off Little River Turnpike.  It is the early summer of 1986, about 2 a.m. on any day of the week.  In the combination living room and dining room, I sit on a rocking chair, rocking and holding a squalling infant so that his belly presses against my shoulder.  Every light in the apartment is turned off, but my face is lit by the dim glow of the TV screen, which is tuned to MTV. The baby finds the noise of the music videos — because this is back in the day when MTV actually played music videos — to be strangely soothing, and listening to the sounds helps him to fall asleep.

One of the videos that seemed to play every night was Everybody Have Fun Tonight by Wang Chung.  It was one of those iconic, instantly and forever memorable productions that popped up occasionally during MTV’s heyday.  (Another was Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, for example, and yet another was Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing.)  The video featured a constant series of quick cuts that created a herky-jerky, strobe-like effect.  The band members (one of whom looked vaguely like Sting) stood there while chaos occurred behind them.  I always wondered whether watching that video posed problems for people with seizure disorders.  The song was good, with its bouncy beat and strong drum backing, the lyrics seemed to have obvious sexual overtones, and the aside “Can you tell me what a Wang Chung is?” was funny — but the video took a good song and made it a classic.

By the time they recorded Everybody Have Fun Tonight Wang Chung had two members, Nick Feldman and Jack Hues.  The group had been around, in some incarnation or another, for a number of years and had changed its name a few times.  According to Wikipedia, Wang Chung was supposed to be a phonetic spelling of the Chinese words for “yellow bell,” which was used to describe the sound of a bass note, but it also had the slang sexual connotation everyone expected after hearing the song.  The group recorded a few other popular songs in the mid-80s — Dance Hall Days was one of them — but it split up within a few years and never again reached the heights it enjoyed with Everybody Have Fun Tonight.

Is There Anything a Person Won’t Do For Money ?

Yesterday I was killing some time before I went in to work at Windward Passage and ran across a show on MTV called Silent Library that tests the premise, is there a limit to what a person won’t do for cold hard cash ? I have to admit MTV has changed from the old days when it began back in 1981 with the specific intent of playing music videos 24/7 guided by on air hosts known as VJ’s.

I’m sure some people might find this type of show a waste of time I actually kind of found it sort of entertaining. The episode that I watched had six girlfriends who were playing the game and some were selected to perform insane tasks.

One task was similiar to the one in the trailer above where the girl had to find and eat thirteen cheetos that were hidden on a sweaty fat man’s body in a specified amount of time. The girl went about her business of finding the cheetos (one was in the man’s arm pit and one in his belly button) and tried to gulp them down while gagging as her girlfriends looked on and laughed.

I think this show probably proves that there isn’t anything that some people won’t do for the almighty dollar !