“He wants to know if you can make it rain harder.”
January 31, 2020 8:06 AM   Subscribe

The oral history of Prince's XLI Halftime Superbowl Show.
posted by carrienation (26 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Best halftime show ever. I'm cautiously optimistic about Shakira - J. Lo being above average, but they're not going to touch the gold standard.

Thanks for posting, time for a rewatch!
posted by the primroses were over at 8:22 AM on January 31, 2020

Amazing how all these years later when he starts in on the first verse, with the rain pelting down by the bucketful, the hair on the back of my neck still stands up.

Also, man, when he pulls off that head wrap and throws it into the crowd….
posted by ob1quixote at 8:52 AM on January 31, 2020 [5 favorites]

Seeing Prince perform still makes me tear up, and looking back on these last few shitty years I truly feel that his death marks the dark turn for the US. He was a flawed person but so incredibly talented and gifted and visionary, and every time I read behind the scenes accounts of him like this I see how incredibly ambitious and hard working and exacting he was. I'm continually impressed by his singular vision that embraced and promoted (in very concrete ways) skilled women performers, sexuality in all its weirdness, gender ambiguity, and black music traditions and performers, and how through sheer baddassery he convinced all kinds of audiences to embrace these values too.

Re this piece: enjoyed the side link to this piece about his cobbler. Did he really wear women's size 5.5 or 6 shoes?? I'm 5'3" (supposedly his height) and I wear 8.5! He was truly an elf or some other mythical creature.
posted by latkes at 8:59 AM on January 31, 2020 [11 favorites]

The show plays on a loop in the gift shop at the end of the tour of Paisley Park.
posted by dismas at 9:05 AM on January 31, 2020 [6 favorites]

That's an amazing story, thanks for linking.

The portions of the halftime show in that video are amazing, but the voiceover commentary and cuts to white guys patting themselves on the back for having Prince on there just takes me out of it.
posted by pianoblack at 9:33 AM on January 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am sitting here in the year of our lord 2020, just screaming as I watch these clips because everything that man ever did on the guitar is extremely fucking sick.
posted by Maaik at 9:43 AM on January 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

Ah, the demon phallus, how quaint. Jimi Hendrix definitely would have approved.
posted by e1c at 10:14 AM on January 31, 2020

I am sitting here in the year of our lord 2020, just screaming as I watch these clips because everything that man ever did on the guitar is extremely fucking sick.

Seriously. I didn't realize until rewatching years later (I was 12 when I watched this live in '07) that Prince can fucking shred.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 10:26 AM on January 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

i feel like i have read this before, or at least interviews about it around the time he died? but i see it is from 2020. anyway, this WAS a great performance, and i don't think anyone will be able to beat it. so many great things came together.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:30 AM on January 31, 2020

Sometimes I think that humans didn't deserve Prince and other times I think he was some form of the best parts of us all distilled and reflected back at us.
posted by entropone at 10:33 AM on January 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

> Prince can fucking shred.

I have pointed many to the tribute show for George Harrison where a bunch of old rockers (eg Tom Petty) are plodding through a turgid version of Where My Guitar Gently Weeps as Prince tries to restrain himself in the shadows on the stage. But then it gets to the solo and he's unleashed, rips the guts out of the song, destroys every living being in twenty yards with his guitar, flings the instrument up into the air where it rises to the heavens, and walks off. It is one of the Great Moments.

3:30 into the video linked above but it's worth trying to sit through those minutes prior just to face the full power of his destruction in contrast to what came before.
posted by humuhumu at 10:39 AM on January 31, 2020 [39 favorites]

Was just about to post the same link as humuhumu. Hands down my favorite guitar solo of all time. I've watched this clip so many times. Dhani Harrison's reaction at 4:45 says it all.
posted by Roommate at 10:44 AM on January 31, 2020 [6 favorites]

OK, now someone link the MeFi comment explaining how Prince did that HOF appearance and owned that solo in revenge for Rolling Stone (?) leaving him off the list of the greatest guitar players of all time.
posted by axiom at 10:50 AM on January 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

... that Prince can fucking shred.

An he's pretty fucking great with the subtler stuff too!
The Ride, Prince live @ the Aladdin, Las Vegas, 2002

(Just wish the camera would show some of what he's doing with the pedals.)
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:00 AM on January 31, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think the saddest thing about Prince's death is that we never got to see the MasterClass he was supposed to teach. Looking at the leaked script for the YouTube commercial, we can only imagine what might have been. I don't think it's been widely shared, but I have a copy kicking around that I can transcribe.

Title Card:

PRINCE looks directly into the camera and speaks.

[Inhales deeply] The whole time, people were always like what's inside? What's inside your guitar?

Editing note: Cliffhanger question is timed to drop a millisecond before the "Skip this ad" button becomes visible.

Title card:

Close-up of PRINCE's gloved hands pulling something out of a guitar.

PRINCE: (voiceover)
And the answer is paisley. All of my guitars are full of paisley.

Intense string music begins to play as PRINCE removes a large amount of synthetic paisley fill from the body of his guitar.

PRINCE: (v/o)
You have to be really careful, this stuff gets everywhere.

Title Card:

Prince speaks directly to the camera.

PRINCE: (softly)
If you don't know how to play guitar the first thing you need to do is stop learning...

Extreme close up on PRINCE's face.

PRINCE: (softlier)
... and start loving

String music intensifies as we cycle through several cool clips of PRINCE music videos.

PRINCE: (v/o)
Only then you can learn the guitar and other advanced skills like cufflink selection and adding the right amount of puffy things to the visible parts of your shirts.

Int. Paisley Park, PRINCE's guitaratorium

This guitar has a thousand strings.

Close-up on neck of guitar. It looks like there are no more than four hundred strings.

PRINCE: (v/o, softly)
Six hundred of them are only visible in the purple spectrum.

Now PRINCE is talking to the camera again

I'll show you how to play a duet with my close personal friend, TOM PETTY.

Pan right to TOM PETTY.

Growing up in Florida, the orange groves—

Smash cut to close-up on PRINCE's face. He is wearing way more eye makeup than before.

PRINCE (extremely softly):
You will make Tom Petty's guitar weep salty tears.

Cut back to wide shot of PRINCE and TOM PETTY. Prince still wears excess eye makeup. The implication is that PRINCE somehow applied an extremely large amount of eyeshadow in the fraction of a second it took to cut to his last close-up. Doves fly out from behind their chairs.

PRINCE (hushed but normal PRINCE volume):
I felt bad, so I called my friend KEVIN and said "Will you put TOM PETTY in your apocalypse postman movie?" KEVIN said yes, so that night I wrote TOM's lines on my guitar.

Cut to a clip of TOM PETTY in The Postman. The string music gets whimsical and upbeat. TOM PETTY lives on an abandoned dam in California. He shows KEVIN COSTNER a zipline.

PRINCE: (v/o, very soft)
I will show you how to make your guitar do sounds just like TOM PETTY's voice. You can hire TOM for your movie and all his dialogue will already be done on the guitar. He just has to mouth it.

The string music stops. Cut to Prince. He is in a lifeguard chair by a pool full of purple water.

Everything is a guitar.

Cut to aerial drone shot of the pool. It is shaped like a guitar. The swim lane markings are like strings. PRINCE is swimming back and forth across them. It makes beautiful guitar music.

PRINCE: (v/o)
And I will teach you how to play it.

Wide shot of the solar system on a paisley starfield. The orbits of the planets vibrate as if in song, and emotional string music swells for a moment, then ends.

PRINCE: (v/o, the quietest yet)
I will teach you how to shred.

Fade to black.
posted by compartment at 11:12 AM on January 31, 2020 [31 favorites]

Prince was one of a kind. When he performed you could feel how much he loved and appreciated the care the whole world had for him and he reflected it right back. His art was genius but he never saw the need for acting like it was only for a chosen few appreciators, like being esoteric was the only way to be special. Even for an artist whose image was part of his creation, you could feel that he never forgot what was going on for everyday people and the people listening to his music that weren’t the same demographics as rock critics (ahem). I’ll never forget how quick he was to come to Baltimore and play for the city after the police killed Freddie Gray. Prince used his abilities for people, whether a kid watching the Super Bowl on tv or the President, the way you take care to pick out a gift for someone you really love.
posted by sallybrown at 11:35 AM on January 31, 2020 [4 favorites]

I feel a direct line can be drawn from overprescribing opioids to Prince's death. I would like the people responsible for the former to be forced to live the rest of their lives completely without music.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:12 PM on January 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

See also: Tom Petty
posted by Windopaene at 12:25 PM on January 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Pharma companies have a responsibility to produce safe drugs and sell them honestly and clearly they have not! But this kind of stuff verges on reproducing an old, simplistic understanding of addiction that never really helped people much. And, uh, it's not as if rock stars dying from opioid overdoses is a brand new phenomenon - I know Tom Petty had a prior history with heroin. I don't think anybody really knows about Prince.
posted by atoxyl at 4:12 PM on January 31, 2020

I am a fan and I greatly enjoy this link but in the interest of um, problematizing people's legacies as we've discussed elsewhere on Mefi, I think we should also acknowledge that Prince also had a murky relationship with young women and (IMO) inappropriately "muse-ified" the teenager who later became his wife. I hope this isn't taken as threadshitting, more that we can have nuanced discussions here and that most of our faves are problematic.
posted by nakedmolerats at 4:26 PM on January 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

Good point.
posted by latkes at 5:00 PM on January 31, 2020

WRT Prince's opioid overdose, apparently the wrongful-death suit has been dismissed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:40 PM on January 31, 2020

That halftime show, I watched it live... and I watch it today still trying to absorb its greatness. This oral history only makes it even more great because every possible thing lined up NOT to make it happen and yet it did.

What I want to know is, how did they mike the marching band? In the rain? And mix it all in so well?

It's truly a pinnacle of its art and it should be broken down and studied in masterclasses across disciplines. Major level stuff happening here that is nearly impossible to achieve, yet alone in adverse conditions.
posted by hippybear at 10:43 PM on January 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

When it originally aired, I wondered how Prince wasn't electrocuted (wireless instruments, so the circuit was happening inside the devices they were playing/using). But then there's this hero. Wow. Tony Ward went above and beyond!
posted by droplet at 10:57 AM on February 1, 2020

Do events like this have a show runner? I didn't pick that up from this history.
posted by latkes at 2:06 PM on February 1, 2020

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