Category: The Daily Loper

Certain Songs #522: Prince – “Endorphinmachine”

Prince The Gold Experience Album: The Gold Experience
Year: 1995

After Sign o’ the Times, I had another Prince blackout, finally checking back in with 1995’s The Gold Experience.

Of course, I didn’t ignore Prince completely: that was impossible for any lover of music. And from 1988 – 1995, his music was only slightly less omnipresent despite — or because of– his ongoing battles with Warner Bros and antics like changing his name to an emoticon or writing “slave” on his face while performing in public.

And I don’t know why I decided to check back in with The Gold Experience. I guess I was just curious again. Which, in retrospect was good timing: The Gold Experience had a bunch of terrific songs, jams like the funky rap “P Control,” the wistful “Dolphin” and the foot-stomping “Endorphinmachine.”

Opening with a big rock riff that circled back upon itself while being powered by cowbells, “Endorphinmachine” turns out to be one Prince’s most clever fucksongs.

You’ll believe in somethin’ before this night is through
Press one for the money, press two for the dream
And get ready for somethin’ that you’ve never seen
The Endorphinmachine

And when he follows a wah-wah guitar solo with a breakdown rap which slams back into the main riff which stops again so Prince could scream “yeahhhhhhhhh” I suddenly remembered just how much fun Prince can be when he’s jamming a shitload of musical styles together in the service of fucking you all night long.

There’s also a now-chilling spoken word moment at the end of the song where a female voice intones “Prince esta muerto. Prince esta muerto.”

Of course, it had everything to do with the Warner Bros fight, and it’s quickly followed with “Long Live The New Power Generation” in Spanish.

At the time, it didn’t even cross my radar, because in 1995, it was obvious that Prince — no matter what he wanted us to call him — had too much life to ever die.

“Endorphinmachine”

“Endorphinmachine” performed live on French TV, 1994

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Certain Songs #521: Prince – “The Cross”

prince sign o the times Album: Sign o’ the Times
Year: 1987

I realize that nearly every one of the previous Prince songs I’ve written about were all huge iconic songs, so here’s a (relatively) deep cut for all y’all.

Coming out of nowhere to open side four of Sign o’ the Times, “The Cross” is probably my favorite Prince song, despite (or because!) The fact that it’s one of his most overtly religious from the get-go, as over a whisper-quiet acoustic guitar, Prince sings:

Black day, stormy night
No love, no hope in sight
Don’t cry, he is coming
Don’t die without knowing the cross

As a bare, near-psychedelic guitar starts weaving its way through the song, he continues:

Ghettos to the left of us
Flowers to the right
There’ll be bread for all of us
If we can just bear the cross

Near the end of the second verse, a kick drum — a live one! — comes in on the 1’s & 3’s, every-so-slightly adding intensity.

We all have our problems
Some big, some are small
Soon all of our problems
Will be taken by the cross

And wham! A big crunchy electric guitar comes in, playing a rolling primitive riff over a suddenly full but still incredibly simple drumbeat and it’s like nothing else on any Prince album ever before. Somehow Prince has reconfigured The Velvet Underground’s “Jesus” as a, um, Velvet Underground song.

Worlds! Colliding! Meanwhile, as the rhythm guitar gets ever more full and noisy, the psychedelic guitar lead transmogrifies into what sounds like a sitar, but it couldn’t be a sitar? Though as tablas come in to play over the beat as well, it could actually be a sitar.

“The Cross” totally blew my mind in 1987. Not because Prince was doing a rock song, per se, but because he was doing a gospel song as indie rock. Or an indie rock song as gospel, as near the end, a huge choir of multi-tracked Princes gorgeously sang “The crosssssss” over (and after) all of the cacophony.

Obviously, I have no idea if Prince ever went down this musical path again — I certainly haven’t heard any other songs as rock raw as “The Cross”, but I would have loved a whole album of Prince doing garage rock with gospel harmonies.

For the longest time, I was conflicted about the fact “The Cross” was my favorite Prince song. That was because it was the Prince song that most sounded like a lot of my other favorite songs, and felt like a bit of an anomaly in his catalog.

But now I don’t think that matters: I’ve come to realize that Prince tried so many things that he’s probably written at least one song that crosses paths with pretty much everyone’s taste in music. Hell, I’m guessing that he’s even got a full-out country album somewhere in the vault. A good one!

“The Cross” performed live in 1987

Fan-made video for “The Cross”

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Certain Songs #520: Prince – “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man”

Prince I Could Never Album: Sign o’ the Times
Year: 1987

While 1999 broke him into the mainstream and Purple Rain was his biggest record, if there is a consensus “Greatest Prince Album,” it’s 1987’s Sign o’ The Times.

Not only did it feature aspects of everything that he’d done before, it added some new wrinkles to boot. It also spawned three massive singles and was also rapturously received by the critics. And nearly 30 years later, it sounds as much of a tour de force as ever.

I mean, look at “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man,” which starts out as a pure power-pop song with the keyboards and guitar playing call-and-response over handclaps, and then just builds and builds with noisy guitars and harmonies.

Lyrically, it’s ground-breaking as well, as Prince — for the first time in history — turns down a one-night stand. Growth!

And a bit of sadness:

She asked me if we could be friends
And I said, oh, honey baby that’s a dead end
You know and I know
That we wouldn’t be satisfied
No

And I said, baby don’t waste your time
I know what’s on your mind
You wouldn’t be satisfied (wouldn’t be satisfied)
With a one night stand (uh, uh, uh)

And I could never take the place of your man, oh
Yeah, yeah, the place of your man (uh, uh, uh)

But you might not even notice the sadness, because Prince so overloads the line “Oh honey baby that’s a dead end” with maybe his purest pop harmonies on record.

So instead of fucking, he’s gonna play his guitar!! Which might not have been as satisfying for Prince, but Prince playing his guitar always works for us.

So first off, a long fast conventional solo, and then a surprise, as the song suddenly breaks down, and Prince is left just playing almost jazzy notes over the straight-ahead beat. After filling up all of the space, he’s now leaving oceans of space between every little run, even as you start realizing that he’s now overdubbed a second lead guitar.

Of course, eventually the riff thats that started the song kick back in, but only for a moment, and it just kinda stops.

The video below is a live version from I don’t know when, and is heavy on the guitar pyrotechnics while downplaying the pop aspects of the song.

“I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man” performed live

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Certain Songs #519: Prince & The Revolution – “Kiss”

Prince kiss Album: Parade
Year: 1986

It took Michael Jackson five years to follow up Thriller. It took Bruce Springsteen three years to follow up Born In The U.S.A. It took Madonna two years to follow up Like a Virgin.

It took Prince ten months to follow up Purple Rain.

That said, after I heard the underwhelming (despite the pure pop glory of “Raspberry Beret”) Around The World in a Day, I started a pattern with Prince that I’ve kept up for three decades: I started dipping in and out of his discography.

Basically, if the critical & cultural buzz was that I needed to check a Prince album out, I did. If not, then I didn’t. After all, there was always a new one right around the corner. For 30 years!

The good and bad news is, of course, is that there are two major swaths of Prince’s career I’ve never (or barely) heard. The Black Album Come. EmancipationN.E.W.S. And while Musicology got me interested again, and I flat-out love Planet Earth I’ve still missed at least half of his output from the last decade.

What all of this means is that I pretty much ignored “Kiss” during its heyday. To be slightly fair to me, the spring of 1986 was a relatively chaotic time in my life, so I didn’t have as much time to devote to anything musically but my core 1980s people.

So I didn’t even really hear “Kiss” until I bought The Hits, the crazy-making singles compilation that shoots itself in the foot by not being in chronological order.

In any event, I’m not even sure I was ready for “Kiss” in 1986. With its spare structure, super-funky guitar and throw-back falsetto, I’m not sure my reference points were there yet.

All these years later, after a couple of decades of digging into the classic soul and funk songs that clearly inspired “Kiss,” I totally get how awesome it is.

Combining one of his most melodic choruses with a free-flowing, slightly off-beat beat and a — for Prince — love > sex lyric, “Kiss” is the primary reason that Parade was the first of the Prince albums that I bought to start filling in the gaps.

Official video for “Kiss”

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Certain Songs #518: Prince & The Revolution – “Purple Rain”

Prince purple rain Album: Purple Rain
Year: 1984

Literally don’t even know where to start here. How about this: this was Prince’s signature song. Sure, he had bigger singles (and in fact, cutting the “Purple Rain” down to 4:05 for its single was as stupid as when The Who cut “Won’t Get Fooled Again” down to 3:36, I mean why even bother?), but I don’t think he had a bigger song. On every level.

I mean, you could imagine going to a Prince concert and not seeing any other song, but going to a Prince concert and not seeing “Purple Rain” seems totally unimaginable.

I don’t know, of course, because the only Prince concert I ever saw was when Tim & I saw the infamous opening set for the Rolling Stones. You know, where the fucking “only one way to rock” assholes booed and booed and threw stuff at him.

I don’t think I had heard Prince yet, but I certainly had been reading about him in the wake of Dirty Mind, and I was dead curious. At the time, I was more dismayed at the booing, and I seem to recall that the sound volume was underwhelming, to boot. All in all, all I knew for sure was that Prince in 1981 was a thing I didn’t quite get.

But as always, I assumed that was on me.

Meanwhile, I’ve often wondered how many of the bros who booed him ended up loving him just a few years later. I’d like to think all of them, but that’s probably optimistic. At least some of them, right?

I mean, how can you not love “Purple Rain?”

First off, it’s got that big, repeaty gospelish chorus, with a shitton of reverb on Prince as if he’s preaching from a radio station that’s beaming god’s own word directly into our souls.

And then there’s the guitar solo, which — along with the equally transcendent “whoooo-hooo-hooo-hooos” — dominates the back half of the song.

I’ve just now made up a theory that iconic guitar solos often fall into one of two categories. There are the ones that build and build into they climax: you know, like “Stairway to Heaven” or “Rock Bottom.” Then there are those ones that kind of meander out ahead of the song for a while until the song catches back up with them, like “Down by The River” or “Marquee Moon.”

While “Purple Rain” is closer to the latter than the former, it charts a different path. It starts off wandering around, flirts with the conventional “deedleley-deedlely-deedleley” for a bit, but settles instead for a repeating phrase that anchors the rest of the song.

It is, of course, the sound of the purple rain falling from the skies. What else could it be?

That’s what’s on the album, and the film. And, of course, the performance in the film was transcendent enough to justify all of the self-indulgence that preceded it.

One of the tropes that’s been resurrected in the wake of Prince’s passing was that 1984 was one of the greatest years ever for pop music, what with the waning of Thriller coinciding with Purple Rain, Like a Virgin and Born in the U.S.A., to say nothing of Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner, The Police and Van Halen.

All I can say is, sure why not? These things are nearly impossible to quantify, but there was great music everywhere in 1984, coming from every part of the dial and still spewing 24 hours a day from the MTV, and it sure seemed like the confluence of “good” and “popular” was extremely high that year.

So if you could somehow create a graph of 1984 in music with “Good” as the X-axis and “Popular” as the Y-axis, there would probably be an abnormally high number of entires in the upper right-hand quadrant. And uppermost, of course, would be Purple Rain.


“Purple Rain” from the film


“Purple Rain” live at the American Music Awards, 1985

“Purple Rain” performed at the Super Bowl, 2007

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(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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