STILL His Guitar Fiercely Weeps
April 29, 2021 6:06 PM   Subscribe

In 2004, George Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - but Prince TOTALLY stole the show with an epic solo during a performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". 17 years later, the original RRHOF broadcast director for that night has released a directors' cut of that performance, which puts the spotlight right smack on Prince, where it belongs.

The original video ain't bad either - it has racked up nearly 100 million views on Youtube, many of them coming since Prince's death in 2016. (Original Metafilter reaction here.) But the original video bothered director Joel Gallen. "I got rid of all the dissolves and made them all cuts, and added lots more close ups of Prince during his solo," he states, by way of explanation. "I think it’s better now."

Gallen also shared a story from the original broadcast - that Prince never rehearsed that solo. During the dress rehearsal, Prince stood back and let Jeff Lynde's guitarist take the solo instead. Gallen checked in with him after. “I sort of pull him aside and had a private conversation with him, and he was like: ‘Look, let this guy do what he does, and I’ll just step in at the end. For the end solo, forget the middle solo.’ And he goes, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ And then he leaves." Unsurprisingly, Prince delivered during the show.

This cut offers a better look at Prince's fingering, the trust fall into the audience, and Dhani Harrison's delight at his work. Only one thing is missing from the new cut - you still never find out what happened to Prince's guitar after he threw it up in the air when he was done.
posted by EmpressCallipygos (93 comments total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
 
I watch that performance about once a year - it's so incredible. The energy coming from the rest of the band as they react to Prince. The amount of fun they are having. The amount of fun PRINCE is having. A golden moment.
posted by awfurby at 6:13 PM on April 29 [15 favorites]


What can you even say? Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and a bunch of top shelf pros playing a Beatles song with a famous guitar part by Clapton... Theoretically, Prince should be one more star in an all-star band. But he outshines them all.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:22 PM on April 29 [10 favorites]


Man. That solo can go on forever. I bet Prince is still playing it in Rock N Roll Heaven.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:22 PM on April 29 [14 favorites]


This is one of my very favorite Prince live flexes. I'm also a big fan of this stomping, sexy, guitar clinic of a version of "Let's Go Crazy" from 2015 which begins with Prince noting that it's been eleven years since he's played Detroit, so he's gonna have to start with "seventeen! straight! hits! ...Until I see TEARS!" and then he does.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:28 PM on April 29 [13 favorites]


I was hoping this would shed some light on where the guitar goes at the end, but no. No idea where the guitar disappears to.
posted by migurski at 6:28 PM on April 29 [5 favorites]


Someone in the YouTube comments explained that it's a stunt Prince has pulled many times, and that one of his long-time guitar techs is stationed ready to catch the instrument. If the comments are to be believed, he then handed the guitar to Oprah (who was standing nearby); she promptly delivered it backstage. I really hope that's true!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:37 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]




Such a shame that George, Tom, and Prince are no longer with us...

Don't smoke, and stay off the opioids. Damn it.
posted by Windopaene at 6:45 PM on April 29 [8 favorites]


It's been a while since I watched this performance (the new video is great, btw), and as before, I'm left in awe of Prince's genius, his talent, his stage presence, of how he (like any truly great guitarist) handles the guitar like an extension of his own body. Absolutely fantastic.
posted by May Kasahara at 6:45 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


Prince never rehearsed that solo

I mean, it's not like he would really need to. The song has a pretty simple harmonic structure, and a guitar player with half the chops of Prince could pull out something pretty nice on a tune like this -- and with his lifetime of musical experience, I'd expect you could just put the entire Beatles catalog on, he could shred over it all night, and you could sell the recordings the next day. Nothing he does here is mind-blowing, technically speaking -- and this isn't to take anything away from the solo, because it is really, really good. It's a bunch of tasty riffs and a few crowd-pleasing rock moves, played with impeccable timing and feel, and killer tone.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:47 PM on April 29 [24 favorites]


There’s something primal, even brutal, in his owning this event. I mean, he stomped those guys. Stomped them hard. And I’m here for it.
posted by sjswitzer at 6:51 PM on April 29 [7 favorites]


Will never forget seeing this for the first time and sharing it with my best friend and brothers and the collective, utter astonishment at the entire performance from get to grins to go-flip-walk and how's that fuckin' for ya?

So happy to see it revisited and enhanced - and more happy to stumble upon it after dinner and few glasses of pinot - but chagrined I can't share it with those same folks who've moved beyond.
posted by thecincinnatikid at 6:57 PM on April 29


For most people in the crowd, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. For Prince, it was a Thursday.

How I miss him so.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:00 PM on April 29 [33 favorites]


For the once-a-year viewing crowd, I recommend you view this every six mos afterwards.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:12 PM on April 29 [5 favorites]


I like how front of the band sound like they're slowly dying until Prince jolts them briefly back to life.
I hope they understood how privileged they were to be present.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:22 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


I've heard the "true" explanation of the where the guitar goes, but I still believe that the guitar's purpose on this physical plane of existence had been fulfilled, and so Prince returned it to the radical parallel dimension from which he sourced most of his instruments (and his entire wardrobe.)
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 7:26 PM on April 29 [44 favorites]


I was hoping this would shed some light on where the guitar goes at the end, but no. No idea where the guitar disappears to.

Raptured unto heaven. Its work on this orb was done.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:26 PM on April 29 [9 favorites]


I bet Prince is still playing it in Rock N Roll Heaven.

and then two comments later ...

I was hoping this would shed some light on where the guitar goes at the end, but no. No idea where the guitar disappears to.

heaven being beyond our mortal sense of dimensional physics, I imagine he caught it five years ago and has been continuing the solo ever since, or as Phobos the Space Potato just put it ...

I still believe that the guitar's purpose on this physical plane of existence had been fulfilled, and so Prince returned it to the radical parallel dimension from which he sourced most of his instruments (and his entire wardrobe.)

anyway, halleluwah!!!
posted by philip-random at 7:30 PM on April 29 [6 favorites]


I've watched the original video so many times, always wondered about the guitar. I didn't really care for the split screen in this version. It took me out of the flow, but I love how you only start to capture glimpses of Prince's hat around 2:36 into the video. I love the anticipation of what is coming.
posted by perhapses at 7:35 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I've watched the earlier version many times, of course. I just noticed tonight: He doesn't even take a bow. Just struts off the stage and never looks back. God damn.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:37 PM on April 29 [5 favorites]


there's also what happened toward the end of The Cross on what I believe was the Lovesexy tour, featuring among other miracles John Bonham reincarnated as a Sheila E.
posted by philip-random at 7:39 PM on April 29 [4 favorites]


How much more satisfying than any mic drop is that casual guitar toss?
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:40 PM on April 29 [4 favorites]


Certainly more satisfying than a sensational bass toss gone wrong
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:45 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


>Prince never rehearsed that solo

No no no. He never rehearsed it with that band. Now I'm just saying this as a longtime Prince fan, but he agreed to do the gig about a week before. I have no doubt in my mind that The Artist went into the studio and practiced it 12 hours straight for days. I bet there's hours of tape of it in the vault. Prince didn't just wing it, he had it planned out and practiced.

What I love about this re-edit of the footage is that it shows that he was communicating with the other players to get away with it.
posted by Catblack at 7:45 PM on April 29 [17 favorites]


Dhani Harrison's delight at his work.

His huge grin at ~4:45 is still my favorite moment in this.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:46 PM on April 29 [12 favorites]


My favorite detail is Dhani, at the very edge of the fade, craning his neck offstage after Prince, turning to Tom Petty, and throwing his hands up, as if to say, "Welp, guess he's not coming back for a bow."
posted by mykescipark at 7:46 PM on April 29 [5 favorites]


I also like how Tom Petty tries not to smile too much when Prince comes in.
posted by perhapses at 7:52 PM on April 29 [11 favorites]


He still does though...

How could you not? And Prince is just having such a good time shredding the song.

I went to college with a guy from Minnesota who went to high school with Prince. Said he would skip his classes, sit in the hallways, and play his guitar. This is what that can lead to. Wish I could play 10% as well as Prince...

Also who is the dude playing Clapton's part before Prince takes over?
posted by Windopaene at 7:57 PM on April 29 [3 favorites]


who is the dude playing Clapton's part before Prince takes over? Marc Mann
posted by yqxnflld at 8:35 PM on April 29 [3 favorites]


This is the first time I've noticed Tom Petty's big smile at Prince during the solo.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:04 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


This is one of my very favorite Prince live flexes.

Just struts off the stage and never looks back.

something primal, even brutal, in his owning this event. I mean, he stomped those guys. Stomped them hard

how's that fuckin' for ya?


I'm in a tiny minority; not my cup of tea. being in a band isn't about having a giant pissing contest on stage, with the band you've been invited into. shrug. big dick contest that no one else was playing.

I'm left in awe of Prince's genius, his talent, his stage presence, of how he (like any truly great guitarist) handles the guitar like an extension of his own body.

no argument there.

the guitar toss shtick? prince is famously ambivalent about other guitarists. destroyed a one of a kind that captain kirk was playing in the roots.

this particular event aside, I'm a big OG prince fan - my fave prince record is 'around the world'.

cheers!
posted by j_curiouser at 9:10 PM on April 29 [5 favorites]


Now I have a place where I can preach about Prince's cover of Creep he played a Coachella in 2008. Granted it's a simple song (with a surprisingly long history of covers/ripoffs well before Radiohead), but Prince reinvented it and made it his own. Amazing that it was performed only one time, live, and Prince tried to keep it off Youtube until Thom Yorke stepped in to keep it up.

Anyway, if you've never heard it, stop everything and do so. It is sublime.
posted by zardoz at 9:21 PM on April 29 [3 favorites]


who is the dude playing Clapton's part before Prince takes over? Marc Mann

So, a few times, when you can glimpse Mann during Prince's solo, it looks like he is still playing.

What kind of part would he be playing at that point? I can't hear him and assume he's way down or completely out of the mix at that point, but I'm still really curious what in the world he's doing.

(For that matter, it looks like Prince is playing a little bit here and there before his solo starts. Is he just warming up by playing a few notes with his sound off?)
posted by straight at 9:29 PM on April 29


I'm in a tiny minority; not my cup of tea. being in a band isn't about having a giant pissing contest on stage, with the band you've been invited into. shrug. big dick contest that no one else was playing.

I do hear what you’re saying.

But there’s something incredibly satisfying about a virtuoso Black musician coming into a group of white dudes who got rich playing music invented by Black people, leaving everyone else in the dust with his playing, then walking away without giving a fuck about what these guys think.
posted by corey flood at 9:34 PM on April 29 [31 favorites]


Thanks for the post, but I guess I'm not a fan. Whether he'd spent days practicing for this or was doing it totally off the cuff, Prince doesn't really play in the spirit of the song. I mean, it's this extremely beautiful and melancholy song and Prince provides this kind of gonzo shreddding-ish solo above it. As if one of the things he doesn't care about is the song itself. A couple of string bends high on the fretboard does not a weeping guitar make. And, cause I've been listening to a lot of blues and jazz guitar lately, I feel safe saying Prince's guitar playing here is not really particularly spectacular, whatever the degree of fitness to the musical context. A solo taken at random from the catalog of the likes of a Buddy Guy or Pat Martino -- to take two great guitarists at random -- is going to put Prince's playing here to shame. So maybe he gets points for flippancy, but...

Also I do love Tom Petty, but I don't think he's shining here particularly either, have to say. Altogether, a thrown together and routine performance is my take. :(
posted by bertran at 9:58 PM on April 29 [7 favorites]


it's this extremely beautiful and melancholy song...Prince provides...gonzo shreddding...above it. As if one of the things he doesn't care about is the song itself...string bends high on the fretboard does not a weeping guitar make.

thank you so much. i tried to get at this but couldn't find the right words - deleted that bit before posting.

it was good. it was hot. it had style. but it didn't fit.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:22 PM on April 29


I think context is important here. Prince was the only person on stage who was being inducted into the Hall of Fame that night. I think it was entirely appropriate for him to come in at the end of the song and take it to a different place by doing his own thing.

That sort of moment, starting the song in tribute to Harrison and kind of panning the spotlight over to Prince (both literally and musically) is the kind of thing an awards show programmer dreams of but can seldom pull off so well.
posted by straight at 10:36 PM on April 29 [24 favorites]


aside: if you want to see clapton get owned in a dueling guitars context, check out robbie robertson in 'further on up the road' in The Last Waltz. Clapton's face at about 3:00. Too bad robbie's down in the mix.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:36 PM on April 29 [7 favorites]


I think context is important here. Prince was the only person on stage who was being inducted into the Hall of Fame that night.

Fair point; I did not know this. The solo does have a triumphal quality that is part of what seems to me incongruous with the song but which makes more sense knowing he was an inductee. (Though still, I'm not sure that reflects well on him. I would have wanted more respect in his playing for his co-inductee Harrison.)
posted by bertran at 11:42 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


puts the spotlight right smack on Prince, where it belongs.

I disagree. I thought it was tasteless for Prince to hijack the performance and make it about himself instead of Harrison.
posted by Beholder at 11:53 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


Now see - I had completely the opposite reaction to Beholder - here is the only guy who is making an effort to show respect to the audience and the event.

He's got the hat, he's got the clothes, he's got the attitude - the other blokes look like they got out of bed and scrambled through the clothes on the floor to make it there on time.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 12:27 AM on April 30 [15 favorites]


I disagree. I thought it was tasteless for Prince to hijack the performance and make it about himself instead of Harrison.


err its 'the rock and roll hall of fame' not the 'quiet librarian awards'
posted by lalochezia at 12:46 AM on April 30 [24 favorites]


Was Prince arrogant and ostentatious? What a question! Prince was specially invited to do Prince, and he did Prince. Music at its highest level is to touch the divine. Here's a breakdown.

3:33 He opens with a sustained high E, bends down to a dissonant D, and then stays close to the A minor chord; a warm-up to get in sync with the emsemble

3:45 The second time, over the same chords and bassline, he opens with a sustained G, going through F# to E; over the bassline A-G-F#-F; he holds the dissonance (the major 7th of the G over A) then turns it up even more (augmented 7th of F# over G), with his ear closely on the band, stretching it until it's almost uncomfortable, then syncs back up with a nice A over the F for a reassuring major third. This puts the band on alert that he's about to Prince.

4:00 This time he starts with a low E and riffs only on E, varying in rhythm and register, then resolves to A in an anthem-like unity. This is a quieter interlude.

4:15 Back to bravura, and he takes it up a notch with a long leading note on G introducing the high A again, then up to D, the highest note yet (a dissonant 4th over A), complete with funny faces. The band knows he's preparing for launch and they are enjoying it.

4:30 They don't sing in this one, to let him do his thing. He goes low again, ascending in E Dorian in steady quarter notes

4:47 He does the trust fall in the audience, so that he faces the band and trades shit-eating grins with them while playing very fast riffs; they sing again in this one, and after a long vibrato on A, he takes a break for the last few measures. At 4:59 he trades sly nods and grins with the band, ; they know he's soon to take off.

5:01 He's amping up with even more bravura, and the band doesn't bother to sing. Two of the band members move closer, he coyly looks at them over his shoulder with a goofy mug; they are enjoying the delicious secret of musical communion. He does windmill arms repeating a high E off the main beat in jaunty syncopation, bleeding into the start of the next repeat at...

5:16 They sing again as they plateau in energy, taking a bit of a rest. A difficult thing to do as an ensemble is to build a gradual crescendo together. You can hear the drummer's fancier flourish at the end here building up to the next one.

5:32 He plays parallel octaves starting at a low G, a C pentatonic, but at a lower energy; the band is foregrounded as they turn up their collective intensity, as the previously static red screen is replaced by bright, white lightning flashes

5:46 He plays a few notes then stops, reorienting to the band. An agreement, this is the last one. He comes back in after his pause, then they all stay together to a strong finish. Having a good, emphatic, satisfying ending is another hard thing for a band to do together. He is facing away from the band, eyes closed, mouth open with concentration - but then how does he sound in sync with the drummer? He does this with his ears. He holds his finish, then trails off, and as soon as he hears the drummer's last beat, he immediately, throws his guitar into the air - it's done musically!

There's tremendous artistry in going where he went, and *taking* the ensemble with him. It was a wild and crazy ride, but it was far from random, and their onstage interaction show that they loved every minute of it.

Note: not a guitarist, so apologies for not using guitar-specific terms
posted by dum spiro spero at 1:00 AM on April 30 [53 favorites]


Kinda feels like there's an attempt made in the linked piece to try and build the too familiar mythos around "genius", Prince didn't even rehearse the solo, this was entirely a in the moment display of his brilliance, which is silly since Prince obviously has rehearsed his sound for a long, long time and knows the song well enough to understand when he'll come in and what he'll more or less do. The band was clearly expecting Prince to put on a show as they set up the piece to build to that, following the recorded version of the song fairly closely, the early guitar solos not straying far from the familiar at all, and by how they extended the song at the point Prince was expected to enter. That Prince's guitar was wired to "fly away" at the end shows they expected him to, essentially, take the song over and "shred" and use the guitar toss as punctuation for that. It was intended as a Prince showstopper from everything I can see.

Prince's solo, while pushing the "gently" weeping towards an understatement, doesn't seem to me to at all do disservice to the song, holding as it does to the general concept of the crying guitar, just extending it to wailing and feels a lot more alive than the relatively anodyne performance of the song to that point, leaving it more like a museum piece encased in glass rather than something that might continue to be vital and interpreted anew. Comparing this version to the Harrison and Clapton version recorded live that youtube had as a link, and this one seems both more vital and Prince's solo more connected to the spirit of the song than Clapton's more meandering solo. Harrison's work is better served by keeping it fresh and new than by entombing it with him as a thing of the past that shouldn't be touched.

Edit: or what dum spiro spero said
posted by gusottertrout at 1:08 AM on April 30 [11 favorites]


Note: Before Prince prince'd, the band alternated the refrain (in A minor) with the chorus ("I don't know why..." in A major ). Once he starts, they just stayed on the refrain and didn't do the chorus again. They are all on the same page. This is the time for prince-ing.
posted by dum spiro spero at 1:09 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


sjswitzer: "There’s something primal, even brutal, in his owning this event. I mean, he stomped those guys. Stomped them hard. And I’m here for it."

This whole thing reminds me of a "first contact" moment: here's this ancient civilization, at the height of their artistic development, grinding along beautifully and hitting every note to emotional perfection in homage to the old gods with their human tools

and then ...

the alien arrives & takes them all to a new level they'd never even imagined.
posted by chavenet at 1:20 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


The song as originally recorded is a guitar solo showcase itself, so I’m voting yes, it fits. The trust fall is also a planned Prince bit; in the new video you can see his guys retreating into the crowd after they did their job. And you can see the person who caught it at the end of the new cut. Always a fun thing to watch; thanks!
posted by transient at 1:35 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


What this video brings that the previous version didn't was Prince's interaction with the band, how active it was, how connected they were - his smiling at (Petty?) and Petty's smiling at him. The first time I saw this video (_how_ many years ago? yikes) I thought Prince was schooling the band - in this version he is clearly jamming with the band - to everybody's benefit.

The song isn't sacrosanct. The recorded version isn't the 'only' legitimate version, Clapton's is not the only solo. If I were smarter I'd stick in quotes from Gould and Richter - the one who loved recording and hated performing and the other who hated recording and loved performing.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:35 AM on April 30 [8 favorites]


>>(Though still, I'm not sure that reflects well on him. I would have wanted more respect in his playing for his co-inductee Harrison.)

>I disagree. I thought it was tasteless for Prince to hijack the performance and make it about himself instead of Harrison.

Yes, he was so uppity on this night of being inducted into the Hall of Fame! He definitely should have played a watered down solo that nobody would remember, instead of an epic, mind-melting one that has us all talking about it (checks date) 17 years later.
posted by jeremias at 2:42 AM on April 30 [18 favorites]


Yes, he was so uppity

You know, I was gonna say, "You all sound like you're saying he was being uppity..." but I backed off. But maybe I shouldn't have. And if you think, "What! No! That's not what I meant at all!" I want to humbly (as a cis, white, born-on-second-base- er) suggest that you sit back for a sec and reconsider what you wrote. It's a good thing to understand, why it reads that way, and understanding that has only upside.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:52 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Kinda feels like there's an attempt made in the linked piece to try and build the too familiar mythos around "genius", Prince didn't even rehearse the solo, this was entirely a in the moment display of his brilliance, which is silly since Prince obviously has rehearsed his sound for a long, long time and knows the song well enough to understand when he'll come in and what he'll more or less do. The band was clearly expecting Prince to put on a show as they set up the piece to build to that, following the recorded version of the song fairly closely, the early guitar solos not straying far from the familiar at all, and by how they extended the song at the point Prince was expected to enter.

When I quoted the "he didn't rehearse" bit, it looks like I left out some contextual info - he didn't rehearse with the band, and he didn't rehearse for the benefit of the director/producer. There was a dress rehearsal for this performance, at which what was supposed to happen was that the whole gang of them would run through the song together, with the director watching, so they'd all get a feel for what they would do on the night - okay, here's where Tom Petty sings a verse, and here's the bit Jeff Lynde is gonna sing, okay Dhani is standing here, and here is the guitar solo Marc Mann's gonna do in the middle, and here's the solo Prince is gonna do at the end - okay, got it, thanks, now we have an idea where to put all the cameras and the shots to take, perfect. And also, "okay, now we kind have an idea how Prince is gonna shred here, but not here" and "okay, yeah, Jeff's better on the high notes in the middle, yeah that'll work, perfect."

But during that rehearsal, Prince let Marc Mann do the solo at the end as well; he hung back and kept up with the others doing rhythm guitar. That's why the director went over to him to check in, because if Prince was just gonna blend in with the rhythm guitar, they would suddenly have to give the sound guy some updated notes that "yo, Prince actually AIN'T gonna do a solo, just so you are prepared when you're doing the mix for this."

That's what struck me about the "He didn't rehearse" story. He is a virtuoso musician in his own right, yes, but he didn't rehearse with this band, for this performance. He kept that under wraps and a surprise for everyone. They trusted that it would kill because come on, it's Prince, but they didn't get to hear it beforehand, they would have to take it on faith until they were live.

Which on the one hand, now that I think about it, is kind of a dick move - but on the other hand, it's Prince, so everyone else probably trusted that "yeah, we're gonna be okay with this when this is live."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:58 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Oh, and to address the "Prince is stealing George Harrison's thunder, what a dick move" grumbles -

I think that if anyone was going to be fussed about Prince stealing the show from George Harrison, it would be his son Dhani. But Dhani has an enormous grin plastered on his face throughout the whole of Prince's solo, and even starts smiling before Prince even begins. So if Dhani doesn't feel like his dad's memory is getting shat on, maybe we shouldn't be fussed either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 AM on April 30 [27 favorites]


I always felt like you knew Prince meant business when you saw that Telecaster come out. But yeah, my favorite part of these videos is the look on Dhani's face. Nuff said, no?
posted by kram175 at 4:46 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


I think there are songs, and a lot of them are Beatles songs, that don't really require much rehearsing for a certain caliber of musician. For an event like that, live in front of an audience and also televised, I imagine that a major reason for the rehearsal is for the technical side—camera angles, lights, sound. When they got to the rehearsal, I'm sure Tom Petty didn't turn to Steve Winwood and say, "Hey, man, did you learn those chords yet?"

I was in Cleveland 4 or 5 years ago and got to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum there. As a huge Beatles fan, I was walking around with my mouth agape, up close with Ringo's kit from the Ed Sullivan show appearance, John's mellotron, handwritten lyrics, etc. Prince's outfit from that jam session was in a display case. There was an auditorium where they showed a retrospective of Hall of Fame award show jam sessions, mostly just clips until the one with Prince. For that one they cranked up the volume and played the whole thing.
posted by emelenjr at 4:56 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


When I quoted the "he didn't rehearse" bit, it looks like I left out some contextual info - he didn't rehearse with the band, and he didn't rehearse for the benefit of the director/producer.

Oh sure, I get that but one of the things that keeps this performance at some level of continued notice is this mythology around it and Prince, where the rebel genius just wanders in and spontaneously destroys the band with his playing rather than everything being fairly well planned out and stage managed with all onboard.

The legendary narrative is part of what helps keep this clip coming up by shaping expectations on what it contains and how people respond to it. Prince plays an exciting solo, but there are no shortage of such things out there for people to watch and listen to. This one stands out because it was designed to feed a narrative. While in this case it's relatively harmless perhaps, that kind of myth making isn't a great thing for the culture, as one can see with how so many artists and other famous types get away with shit because they're seen as special and therefore better than everyone else.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:23 AM on April 30


It's showbiz. As far as the musicians are concerned, not much rehearsal is needed - rehearsals are for communicating things that the musicians might need to know in a advance, and I think it can be assumed that they all knew everything they needed to know. The band knew they could trust Prince to know what he was doing, because the spotlight was on him. TV producers might want to know exactly what you're doing so they can write it down and draw maps for the camera operators, but they're a secondary consideration at best.

And it was a celebration, and the best way to celebrate was for Prince to bring his A-game, operatic, showbiz guitar solo. He didn't need to know exactly what he was doing in advance - a solo like that is all grand gestures, and he could probably solo over a tune he'd literally never heard before, as long as it didn't modulate too bizarrely. Even a middling guitarist like me could do that. What was the greatness, though, was spinning this glorious theatrical event out of it in a way that very few people could do.
posted by Grangousier at 5:54 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


It is showbiz.
The first time I saw the original video, with people talking about the great guitar solo, I thought "yeah, Mark Mann really nailed it."
The Prince stuff was OK, but it was a show, and I'm not much into show when it comes to music.
Love the new video, especially Dhani.
posted by MtDewd at 6:03 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Still no love for the bass player. ^_^

But seriously, thanks for posting this clip!
posted by Gelatin at 6:14 AM on April 30


Oh, I didn't mean it as a dismissal - I think showbiz is great, and all great guitar solos - all the ones people remember - are about drama rather than technique. A great solo is a huge thing. Think of Dave Gilmour's Comfortably Numb solo (usually #1 in lists of such things). Now, Gilmour is not a physically demonstrative performer, but the Floyd knew that that solo was a dramatic thing - when he played it in the Wall show he was standing right at the top of the Wall itself, with a light behind him, and it was enormous (literally - his shadow stretched all the way to the back of the arena). Also showbiz. Showbiz is a frame. The picture and the frame complement and amplify each other, and a big picture needs a more capacious frame.

(Currently watching a live stream from Julian Lage, probably at Prince's level in terms of musicianship. He doesn't run around, even at the best of times, but doesn't need to, because the contexts in which he plays are more intimate. The gestures are much smaller, and the performance looks uncomplicated, but there are still tiny coups de theatre. The frame is smaller, and appropriate for the context.)
posted by Grangousier at 6:21 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I wake up early today only to learn that people have issues with Prince’s performance at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction show?

Headed back to bed
posted by lumpy at 6:26 AM on April 30 [13 favorites]


Nothing he does here is mind-blowing, technically speaking -- and this isn't to take anything away from the solo, because it is really, really good. It's a bunch of tasty riffs and a few crowd-pleasing rock moves, played with impeccable timing and feel, and killer tone.

I've always thought this is what separates the true greats from extremely skilled players. Mindblowing technical playing usually turns into something like smooth jazz or really noodly music. It's impressive to others players, but doesn't equate to great music that I (or many others) want to listen to.

The greats know how to play things just right for what the emotion they're trying to communicate with the music. Often that can be dead-simple technique (or even bad technique, if a purist is judging) applied perfectly to achieve the sublime.

I'm not a musician, but in my creative profession (photography) there are plenty of practitioners who do incredibly complicated and technical lighting set ups that result in very mediocre photography. If you know what you're looking at, the technique is astounding and very difficult to achieve even if you've got access to the tens of thousands of dollars of equipment they used. But the end result is boring. Then there are others who can create visual poetry with nothing but a bare 60 watt light bulb.
posted by msbrauer at 6:38 AM on April 30 [12 favorites]


Dhani really is the most fun thing in this new edit. In the first half of the song he looks so earnest, so serious... I mean he's a working musician, sure, but he's on stage with Tom Petty and Steve Winwood and Jeff Lynne and he's got a bit of fright in his eyes, like "oh god don't fuck this up I'm playing my father's famous song with some guys way, way above my level". To his credit he hangs in fine.

And then at 3:25 he looks off stage left with this sort of puppy dog look of joy. He's seen Prince, who's about to strut on stage and lay down some serious shit. For the next three minutes he just gets happier and happier, smiling and then beaming as he watches Prince just totally own the stage. Dhani starts jamming harder around 4:40, trying to match Prince's energy. And then at 4:45 there's Dhani with this look of slackjackwed wonder as Prince does the trustfall into the audience. He looks like a 12 year old boy in this moment, pure delight at the insane thing Prince has just done on stage.

But my favorite part is just after that, at 4:57, when Prince notices how much fun Dhani is having. And gives him this private smile of pure Prince eye-fucking, "oh yeah, I see you there seeing me, and we are doing this together and it is as good as you are thinking it is." And Dhani smiles excited and looks away to his right, like "you guys you guys did you see? Prince eyefucked me!"

Everyone on stage is a professional musician. They all did great (Petty's vocals are just perfect). Sure, they all know Prince upstaged them but probably they expected it, that's what Prince does and they'll have plenty of other moments. Dhani though, Dhani just had the time of his life because he got to share the stage with Prince and it was the best day ever.
posted by Nelson at 7:10 AM on April 30 [35 favorites]


Let me preface my question by saying I really like Prince's guitar playing, so there's no intent to do any kind of "yes, but.." here...

Has Prince ever done any more toned-down, slow...bluesy...guitar work? I'm only used to his flashy stuff, like this.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:11 AM on April 30


I like around 5:04 when he looks at the other stars, as if asking permission to keep going, and they're all just grinning at him.

Holy smokes, gone too soon doesn't begin to describe it.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:12 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


You know, when I get posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I dearly hope some talented upstart disrespects me the same way Prince "disrespected" George.
posted by signal at 7:18 AM on April 30 [14 favorites]


he holds the dissonance (the major 7th of the G over A) then turns it up even more (augmented 7th of F# over G)

Enthusiastic breakdown of the solo, love it, two comments though: note that G above A is a minor 7th, and F# above G is a major 7th; also, tread carefully when contextualizing this music in a context of common practice tonality. The basic ideas of, e.g., dissonance/consonance, instability, cadential movement, are all fairly different in the harmonic practices of Black American Music (i.e., blues). And a P4 (D over A, for example) is never dissonant, it's a perfect interval (interference rhythm of two cycles/second, as opposed to modal intervals--3rds & 6ths--at 4 cycles/second, or dissonant intervals--2nds & 7ths--at 8 cycles/second), though it is typically an unstable interval; but to my point here, Black American Music applies aesthetic interval qualities very differently than common (European) tonal practice, and typically dissonant and/or unstable intervals are not necessarily treated as such.

(CPE Bach would be deeply enamored, I expect. And this is something that is only just beginning to be formally addressed in collegiate music curricula in the U.S. My hope is that we are able to devise a basic theory/ear training sequence for developing musicians that teaches common practice tonality alongside blues practice tonality alongside basic structures and processes of music built on beats/samples/etc. Those are three distinct, essential musical practices, that use and mix most of the same ingredients, which should be part of every music student's foundation.)
posted by LooseFilter at 9:03 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


The song as originally recorded is a guitar solo showcase itself

And yet. . .

Aside: Thank you, MeFi from a million years ago, for introducing me to this incredible cover.
posted by The Bellman at 9:23 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Regarding the rehearsal factor, I recall reading one of the band members recounting that they had in fact done a run-though, at least. But Prince's rehearsal solo was rather restrained and the band was left understanding he was going to do something more there. So their energy is as much of a first-impression as anyone in the audience.
Much like the YT song-reaction videos, a surefire trigger to most every human's neuro-mirroring cuircuitries.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:31 AM on April 30


I'm not sure that reflects well on him. I would have wanted more respect in his playing for his co-inductee Harrison.

I suppose you could see this sort of thing as disrespectful of the music, but it's pretty common in stuff like a Super Bowl halftime show or an awards ceremony to shift gears in the middle of a song from focusing on one artist to another. This feels a lot more artful than mashing multiple songs into a medley like they often do.
posted by straight at 10:04 AM on April 30


There is maybe a worthwhile sidebar here about how internet culture loves describing superlative performances using words/phrases like "destroy," "annihilate," "embarrass," "humiliate," "blow away," etc. None of that is happening here.

This is, as noted above, a song meant to showcase amazing guitar playing, and Prince comes on at a point in the song dedicated to a flashy display, on a stage full of people known for collaborating with stars, who are all visibly enjoying the heck out of it.

Nobody's embarrased here. They love it. One part I love is when Lynne's guitarist visibly leans out to get a better view, grinning. They invited Prince to do this. He was supposed to do this. They're excited to be there for it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:07 AM on April 30 [31 favorites]


While in this case it's relatively harmless perhaps, that kind of myth making isn't a great thing for the culture, as one can see with how so many artists and other famous types get away with shit because they're seen as special and therefore better than everyone else.

I think if you're watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show, that horse has left the barn.
posted by straight at 10:11 AM on April 30 [7 favorites]


About 20 years back I was living in Colorado, talking about music with friends, and I was probably going on a bit about Prince. "You Minnesotans are so WEIRD about Prince," random dude said. "Why is that?" I had no answer to that then, and I still don't. How can you NOT be weird about Prince? Actually, how is Minnesota's general love and awe and respect for Prince not the normal state of being worldwide?
posted by Gray Duck at 10:18 AM on April 30 [7 favorites]


I'm legitimately confused by people who worry that a stage largely peopled by the members and backing musicians for The Traveling Wilburys might be threatened sharing the stage with starpower.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:18 AM on April 30 [15 favorites]


The song as originally recorded is a guitar solo showcase itself, so I’m voting yes, it fits.

Yeah, I mean, George got Eric Clapton for it. Without Prince the whole performance has the feeling of too many cooks. Too many stars, not enough shine. And it’s not like he’s playing Yngwie sweep-picking exercises - it’s flashy but it ain’t outside the rock/blues paradigm at all.
posted by atoxyl at 10:36 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Oh oh wow, Price has a lot of panache and charisma. WOW.

(I've never seen a video of him performing before. Damn. He is hot.)
posted by Canageek at 10:39 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


A further bit of context: not only was he inducted into the Hall of Fame that day, but also the Rolling Stone list of 100 best guitarists had recently come out and he wasn't on it...
see here
posted by secretseasons at 11:35 AM on April 30 [9 favorites]



There is maybe a worthwhile sidebar here about how internet culture loves describing superlative performances using words/phrases like "destroy," "annihilate," "embarrass," "humiliate," "blow away," etc. None of that is happening here.


Yeah i wanna second this, this was pretty weird
posted by ominous_paws at 11:48 AM on April 30


Such a titan. I've seen that original version a bunch of times over the years, and this one is even better.

I feel like Prince got, rightfully, an awful lot of credit and notoriety for being PRINCE - the songwriter, the performer, the empresario, the icon, the symbol - that somehow it got a little lost among the general public how much of a brilliant, just face-melter of a guitar player he was. The being left off that "top 100 guitar players list" is the kind of thing I'm talking about. I mean, come on. Incidentally, at some point RS updated that list and he now sits at 33. But still.

To me he is doing it exactly right in this solo - he's being showy but tasty, building it and tearing it down, serving the song but also serving the giant stage and staking, ferociously, unrepentantly, and irrevocably, his claim to it. Remember the whole story about him getting more or less booed off stage when he opened for the Rolling Stones back in 1981? I would imagine he had some little slice of that motivating him as well. Here I am.

And he was ALWAYS a staggering guitarist! I never get tired of recommending his Why You Wanna Treat Me So bad which is just an absolute barnburner of a pop song, and his solos in it are among my favorite. God, just lyrical and fun and great. Indelible. 1979!

But of course, there's no accounting for taste, and this sort of thing doesn't work for everyone. For me it really works.

j_curiouser - IMO the coolest thing in that performance is that after the intro Clapton was probably about to sing the verse but his guitar strap pops off, he says "Fuck!" and then Robbie just jumps in cold. Amazing.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:21 PM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Coincidentally, the first rock person who I heard say that Prince was a great guitarist, period, was Eric Clapton, in a magazine interview back in the late 80's or early 90's.
posted by thelonius at 1:15 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I feel like some people here are missing the context. The "jam" part of the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame induction ceremony has always been an opportunity for disparate artists to get on stage and mess with music, show each other up, have a good time, and generally be awesome. There is nothing about Prince's performance that is out of line with that.

I am honestly not a huge Prince fan, but I consider his solo in this performance to be absolutely transcendent, for a lot of the reasons already stated in this thread. He was a master at the top of his game, and everyone on stage looks like they are having a great time.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:23 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Oh oh wow, Price has a lot of panache and charisma. WOW.

(I've never seen a video of him performing before. Damn. He is hot.)


I envy you, seeing him perform for the first time! I remember exactly that feeling you're describing and it's a great one. (Which isn't to say that I'm not awed every time).
posted by treepour at 1:59 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


(A few fresh covers of the tune I found on youtube, without any particular endorsement:

Santana -- a contemporary R&B-ish take

Regina Spektor -- Asian fusion

One Emily Hastings -- sort of over the top

A guitar and violin instrumental

And, of course, an impeccable performance on the Ukulele)
posted by bertran at 5:39 PM on April 30


me earlier before I thought of a funny:

the Rolling Stone list of 100 best guitarists had recently come out and he wasn't on it...

so you might say...
he had
an axe to grind

😎
posted by secretseasons at 5:43 PM on April 30 [11 favorites]


The original has been, without a doubt, my favorite piece of media in the world, and yes, that includes Cass Elliot and John Denver singing Leaving On A Jet Plane
posted by mikelieman at 6:10 PM on April 30


I love the wide shots, and OMG the lighting director keyed the red washes to Prince's suit!
posted by mikelieman at 6:19 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


About respect: I don't know much about music/rock culture or really any of the personalities involved, but I think giving your all at a tribute to someone is exactly respect.
posted by trig at 6:22 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


He doesn't run around, even at the best of times, but doesn't need to,

Yeah, Jerry Garcia pretty much just stood there, too.
posted by mikelieman at 6:38 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Remember the whole story about him getting more or less booed off stage when he opened for the Rolling Stones back in 1981?

My wife saw Madonna at MSG w/ the Beastie Boys opening -- Virgin tour, 1985 I guess.

She reports that the Beastie Boys were also NOT well received.
posted by mikelieman at 6:48 PM on April 30


There is maybe a worthwhile sidebar here about how internet culture loves describing superlative performances using words/phrases like "destroy," "annihilate," "embarrass," "humiliate," "blow away," etc. None of that is happening here.

That's not internet culture, though. That's music culture going back to at least the 1920s:
Guitar battle
Cutting contests
posted by davidwitteveen at 2:47 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Prince can disrespect me any old way he wants to.
posted by OmieWise at 3:44 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Prince fan. But this whole performance, especially his solo, was genius. Thank you for posting it.
posted by lhauser at 7:55 AM on May 1


I hadn't seen this before. It was good! I remember watching one of those PBS fundraiser perennials, a tribute to Roy Orbison, where this young punk upstaged Orbison, and I was torn between outrage and joy at the young Bruce Springsteen. Here, no contest: joy.
posted by acrasis at 3:08 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


There is maybe a worthwhile sidebar here about how internet culture loves describing superlative performances using words/phrases like "destroy," "annihilate," "embarrass," "humiliate," "blow away," etc. None of that is happening here.


I would honestly be kind of surprised if that weren't happening here on some level, considering that he's playing a guitar part written for Eric "Enoch Powell Was Right" Clapton.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:36 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]


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