Partyup Prince

6 05 2010

Prince, formerly “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” (aka TAFKAP), played at the TIMES 100 Gala here in NY the other night. I just heard that they used the nearby Village Underground on W 3rd St in the Village as their practice space during the day. After the gala on Tuesday, they then returned for a short set that evening. Now, those are exactly the types of things you live in NY for. You just never know. One night Prince just drops by and plays for an hour… how cool is that? You got to love this city.

Anyway, with the viral nature of things these days, I saw a surprising amount of negative things being said about Prince. In the face of such negativity, I would like to officially stand up as a long time Prince fan and supporter. Sure, he’s a little weird but the guy’s a genius. He’s a modern day musical prodigy who writes, produces and plays almost all the instruments. As one of the most prolific artist of the last three decades, he has written over 1,000 songs. Sure, I only enjoy a handful of them but that collection of hits is unstoppable. It’s not just “1999” and “Purple Rain”. How about “I Just Want To Be Your Lover” or “Partyup” or “Delirious”. The list goes on and on (and on) because you can find a ton of GREAT material amongst his huge catalog of deeper cuts.

My allegiance to this pop legend goes back to my youth. I recently found the very first album (it was actually a cassette) that I ever bought myself. And, guess who it is? That’s right… Prince. Well, technically it’s Prince & The New Power Generation. My first purchase was the 1991 release Diamonds & Pearls. It was his 13th album and was a bit of a turning point for Prince. It was his first to be co-credited and marked a new hybrid of styles by including hip hop into his funky blend of Pop and R&B. I was about 9 years old when I bought this beauty…

How did I even know who Prince was? I remember first hearing the singles “Cream” and “Gett Off” on a friend’s stereo and I guess the next time I had the chance I bought it. I don’t know, the details are very cloudy. Ok, so maybe I wasn’t that cool back then, perhaps it was actually the hologram on the cover that played a big part in the allure. Who’s to say? It was either that or the look of those guys on the inside cover. For the early 90’s, that was about as cool as it could get. I mean, Prince was like the Miles Davis of 1991.

Of the 13 tunes on Diamonds & Pearls, here are a few of my favorites:

Willing & Able


Walk Don’t Walk

Gett Off

Diamonds & Pearls

For any of the naysayers out there, I beg you to watch this video of Prince playing in a tribute to George Harrison at the 2004 Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He plays lead guitar and takes the solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. With all the immense talent on this stage it’s like he’s the only guy up there. His presence is just amazing. Clearly, the guy is an icon.

*If that’s not enough, there is always THIS CLIP from Batman. Apparently, when the The Joker is feeling mischievous he loves to listen to Prince’s “Partyman”.

Listen Online:

“I Want To Be Your Lover”




“Purple Rain”


More info on Prince

More info on The New Power Generation

More info on Diamonds & Pearls

Prince’s complete discography

Download the set from The Village Underground

The Cream of Clapton

4 02 2010

If I see this T Mobile commercial with Eric Clapton one more time I think I will lose it. Besides the fact that the song is lame and the product makes zero sense (I mean, I love guitars but not a phone that slightly resembles a guitar), it just reminds me of the fact that Clapton has been on a slow decline for decades. Some will disagree given the 18 Grammys and three (3!) inductions into the Hall of Fame but I think I can prove it… Just look at this guy’s bio.

He had a normal rise into the business with his first big gig being with the Yardbirds in 1963. That’s the same band that “broke” both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page (although Page had an impressive career as a session player before joining the group). The Yardbirds can even be considered the early Led Zeppelin as they slowly morphed into the line up of Page, Plant, Jones & Bonham before changing the name for legal reasons. That is actually an entire post in and of itself so, back to Clapton… It was in those early days with the Yardbirds that he got his ironic nickname “Slowhand”. The story says that whenever he broke a string on stage he would change it himself right there while the audience waited. As they grew impatient, they would start a slow clap or a “slow hand”. The name stuck given Clapton was anything but slow as he ripped through blues riffs each night on stage. Clapton then left the Yardbirds in protest once they began to move away from the Blues-based Rock he loved. That was 1965 and unfortunately for him, it was just before their first big hit, “For Your Love”

He then went on to join John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, which is where he met bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce. John’s band eventually became known as a training ground for many young players. Some of his sidemen later went to form big time bands like Fleetwood Mac, Canned Heat and, of course, Cream. Clapton left the band after just a few months and only one album, taking Bruce with him to form (the) Cream. You can really hear his sound coming out on the track below…

In my opinion, Cream is the beginning of the high point of his career. This band is one of the first supergroups of the time. Many would argue that the band was primarily fueled by Jack Bruce as he took most of the singing parts and developed a large part of their material. As evidenced by this video, that is a pretty accurate assessment but what it also shows is Clapton’s really strong playing in the new “power trio” format, a style that requires some real presence in order to fill out the otherwise stripped down sound. Cream rose to insane popularity in just a year, selling millions of records and doing extensive tours in both the US and Europe. It really established Clapton as one of the greatest guitarists of the era and perhaps all time. With all those egos and some rampant drug use, the band broke up by late 1968.

In 1969, Clapton joined what would be another supergroup with a short lifespan, Blind Faith. The band was made up of Traffic‘s Steve Winwood, Family‘s Ric Grech and ex-Cream member, Ginger Baker. Winwood and Clapton started jamming in the latter’s basement and the rest is history. Clapton brought in Baker and then Grech joined shortly thereafter. The sound was very much a blend of the Cream and Traffic’s sound. Perhaps, a bit more Traffic with Winwood’s vocals and keyboards playing a large role. They made one self-titled album and then disbanded within the year. Baker tried to keep it rolling with the other 2 members but then Winwood and Grech left to re-form Traffic. Clapton briefly went on to be a member of the Plastic Ono Band and then Delaney & Bonnie and Friends which afforded him the ability to get out of the limelight for a few years.

Live footage of Clapton with Delaney & Bonnie.

In 1970, Clapton took Delaney & Bonnie’s rhythm section and formed Derek & The Dominos. A number of his hits came from this band, many of which stem from the love triangle between him, good friend George Harrison and George’s wife, Pattie Boyd. The most notable of these is “Layla” (the original, not to be confused with that wimpy acoustic version done later in his career). This period is incredibly rich for Clapton and proves to be some of his best “solo” work.

That was really the beginning of the end. Clapton had some real issues in the early 70’s. He had a serious heroin addiction and numerous troubles in his personal life as a result. As he got over such things, his life turned around. He eventually married Pattie Boyd and reignited his career. He produced a slew of hits throughout the 80’s but none ever rivaled the power and magnitude of those Cream and Derek tunes. Throughout that time he was still a little shaky battling alcoholism but he managed to keep it together for the most part. Later he did a bunch of live performances and benefit concerts but had not done much in the way of songwriting for a few years. Shortly thereafter, came the dreadful white suit years. That was a particularly shameful time where his look was terrible and the music was not much better. In the mid 90’s he had experienced some terrible personal tragedy with the loss of his 4 year old son, Conor, which was then followed by the Unplugged album. I think there are most certainly 2 camps on this one: the Likes and the Don’t Likes. I, personally, am not a fan. Although it’s charming work, it’s too light and reserved for a guy who had commanded so much at an earlier age. Up to present he has looked back to his roots a bit, remaking some old Blues classics but it’s nothing too compelling.

Now back to the point at hand… the commercial or should I say commercials. So there is the T Mobile one I can’t stand. Then there is a 1988 Beer commercial using “After Midnight” and finally a 1989 Honda commercial. All are pretty bad, though amusing for all the wrong reasons. The latter 2 are posted below but all 3 beg the question: Better to burn out or to fade away?

Here are a few links that tell the full Eric Clapton story. It is really so detailed that I cannot possibly cover it in the one (looooong) post)… also read his Autobiography for the real nitty gritty. Something to note, there is a REALLY good interview with Eric from the Cream Farewell Concert in 1968 that I can’t find anywhere. If anyone has it, please post it in a comment.

1967 Interview

George Harrison Interview

Japanese interview with both George & Eric: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Solo from While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Interview about Concert for Bangladesh

***Interview on the Today Show

Wiki Bio

Official Site

The dreaded WHITE SUIT!

Lame smooth jazz version of Layla… with Marcus Miller.

Dirty Mac

3 02 2010

This is a really cool video of John Lennon’s super group, Dirty Mac, playing “Yer Blues”. They only performed together twice, this being the first time. John assembled the group for a 1968 Rolling Stones TV special called The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus. This was the first time John had played publicly without the other Beatles. What makes it interesting is who else is in the band. It includes Eric Clapton on guitar, Mitch Mitchell at the drums, Keith Richards on bass and, of course, Lennon singing and playing rhythm guitar. The setup with Mick is a little goofy, note John’s stage name: Winston Leg-Thigh, but it’s a great video. They continue on to do a long blues tune with Yoko called “Whole Lotta Yoko” and then never officially played together again. One might say Yoko had a hand in breaking up this band too.

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