- From Faith Current: “The Sacred Ordinary: St. Peter’s Church Hall” - May 1, 2023
- A brief (?) hiatus - April 22, 2023
- Something Happened - March 6, 2023
One of the things that I love about The Beatles is that all their songs—even all the parts of their songs—sound right to my ear. Other people can cover a Beatles song and their version might be interesting, or even good, but it won’t sound as perfect as the original. Eric Clapton’s solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is definitely like that—the magic was so strong, it even extended to session men (Billy Preston is another example of this).
Then I listened to this 2004 solo by Prince at George Harrison’s induction ceremony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s nothing like the Clapton original, it’s very much Prince, and it sounds…right. The director has re-cut the performance with some new footage, and I’ve pasted it below.
Some people call this the greatest solo in the history of rock, and I can’t think of one I like better. Here’s a whole NYT article about it. I wish I could do anything—breathe, beat my heart—as well as Prince played guitar. This solo is also reputed to be the one that caused the following exchange:
INTERVIEWER: “Mr. Clapton, how does it feel to be the greatest guitar player on Earth?”
CLAPTON: “I dunno. Ask Prince.”
Thanks for this Michael! I remember watching this over and over in 2004, and then again after Prince died.
I love the look on Dhani’s face when Prince falls backwards into the audience! It’s priceless!! Also, where does Princes’ guitar go at the end, when he throws it up in the air?
What a genius he was.
Here’s an article from Guitar Player on that performance with Tom Petty, and others who were there.
” where does Princes’ guitar go at the end, when he throws it up in the air?”
I wonder this every time I watch the clip!
The animator Mike Judge has series called “Tales From The Tour Bus” and he did a few segments on Prince. It’s an interesting series. Judge covers everyone from Waylon Jennings to Rick James, and works from live interviews with musicians who were there. Some of the tales are on youtube.
Prince reminded me of McCartney because they both had talent that would spill over into side projects like mentoring other acts.
I always preferred Prince to Michael Jackson. I remember when Say Say Say came out, I wished Paul had collaborated with the Purple One instead. But I’m never consulted for these decisions.
I love the music of both, but Prince is a much, much more interesting musician (and person) than Michael Jackson. Jackson’s biggest hits were massively helped by Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton, whereas Prince was quite literally a one-man band.
Plus, as a person, Prince had lots of interests that suggest he was somewhat more connected to reality than his image suggests. He liked mustard, played basketball, etc. Prince–like Lennon at his best–seems to have had the knack of both being incredibly famous, but also holding that fame at a slight ironic distance which made him very lovable.
I haven’t read about him, because I have an aversive sense, but I think there’s something fundamentally busted inside Michael Jackson. This imparts a sense of artificiality to his work similar to Andy Warhol’s, and probably for the same reasons. Warhol hated his face and body, had a phobia of being touched, and an inability to connect with his peers in sexual/romantic ways. In Warhol’s work that basic alienation comes out as a kind of artificiality; it is icy. Music is very emotional, so even when I like the groove, Jackson’s music strikes me as quite artificial, like an alien using common phrases so we think he’s a human in love.
I haven’t read about him, because I have an aversive sense, but I think there’s something fundamentally busted inside Michael Jackson.
As someone who was in Michael’s orbit in the last years of his life, you don’t know the half of it, buster, and, keeping your aversive sense in mind, you probably don’t want to.
Wow, thank you for sharing, and also for keeping it to yourself! 🙂
To reveal as much as I can without unduly upsetting anyone, I’ll simply say it’s nothing people don’t know or haven’t suspected based on the nature of the allegations he faced during his lifetime. As Katt Williams succinctly put it, “Don’t nobody say the same shit about you for twenty goddamn years” …
For the most part, I cherish the good memories. The producer side of me is also glad that the project we created for him still has legs even though he’s gone, and we’ll see how that goes.
You are Quincy Jones and I claim my five pounds.
If only! It would make a number of things much easier…
This, like Van Morrison doing ‘Caravan’ at The Last Waltz, is an example of someone shamelessly showboating and deliberately setting out to upstage everyone – but pulling it off so thoroughly and confidently you can’t help but love it. The Beatles’ influence on Prince isn’t commented on too often, but he was a big fan, so I’m sure this solo came from the heart as well as being flashy as hell.
I haven’t watched the clip in ages but I remembering thinking at the time I originally saw it that it’s probably a good thing George wasn’t around to critique it. George,
to put in kindly, was not the type to mince words, generously throw out compliments or care for flashy musical theatrics, I could only imagine the field day the British tabloids would have had resulting from George not returning a compliment Prince’s way about the musical tribute.
Prince I acknowledge as an all time great genius. Absolutely it has to be said. But for whatever reason…his music never resonated with me. He just doesn’t have too many songs I find appealing. But this was a spectacular performance
I often think of Prince as more like Paul McCartney, musically. They’re both kind of insanely musically multi-talented, both eccentric, and both have had finite, blazing collaborations that established them forever (and lots of people who think he needed a good collaborator to stay at the top of his game). My favorite Prince era is with the Revolution — specifically Wendy and Lisa; the music they all made then together sounds like nothing else to me and can’t imagine anyone newer approaching their particular sort of sound and thematic elements organically. I liked plenty of Prince’s stuff afterwards but nothing will top Prince and The Revolution for me.
I also have to admit to a small, private wonder if Prince felt any satisfaction insanely reinventing the guitar solo of someone who was known as a racist.
With Clapton’s musical influences, and this being the first time I’ve heard that, I found it hard to believe that he’s racist so I googled it. I have now lost all respect for him. Muddy Waters and BB King must have been proud. Gross.
I believe they both continued to associate with Clapton afterwards too. King even cut an album with him in the late 90s
Yeah. He probably used drugs as an excuse for his rant.
It looked to me like he’s solo’d over this song many times in private. I love the way he keeps looking at Tom Petty and saying, with his eyes, “I got more :)”
The last paragraph though????
Take it up with Eric! 🙂
Ah yes. I had to re-read it to realize Eric was the person in question, now it makes sense.
And honestly I don’t want to take anything up with Eric!
I just started watching Paul McCartney and Rick Rubins documentary/interview and in the first episode they listen to Guitar Gently Weeps and it was kind of heartwarming how proud Paul sounded about George writing this song. They also play the guitar parts isolated and it’s crazy how when you isolate the bass from the acoustic guitar how it sounds like two totally different songs.
I watched the whole thing in one sitting. The six parts are about 3 hours total. Some well-trodden material but overall pretty good. Paul never saw that great compliment of his bass playing that John once gave? I find that hard to believe. It was from the 1980 Playboy interview, if I’m not mistaken. It was known to a lot of people, but not Paul? He practically begged a BBC reporter who had interviewed John in the days leading up to his death what John thought of him, but he didn’t hear that “most innovative bassist” quote? He didn’t look like he was hearing something for the first time.
I suppose he may have forgotten, but, yeah, he’s heard it before. That said, I think he was more concerned with what John thought of him personally than as a musician.
As for the show, I also enjoyed it, but channeled my mom in saying he shouldn’t be chewing gum. Nice of Rubin to get dressed up (my mom made me say that too).
That’s true. Andy Peebles, the reporter in question, said something like: “Forgive me, Paul. But I think what you wanted to know is if John loved you.” My thinking was that he probably hung on every word that John said about him towards the end of his life. The chewing gum thing was surprising. I think the whole setting was supposed to be laid back.
I couldn’t help feeling like the response “he never told me that but I’m glad he told someone” carried some weight.
Overall I really enjoyed the doc. I thought it might be the first documentary where Paul didn’t say the exact same thing hes said before in terms of stories and was sadly mistaken, but I really enjoyed where they went into the actual technical aspects of the music the most.
Mostly I just appreciated the whole vibe of seeing two people so jazzed by music and the Beatles and how charming Paul was.
Also I saw someone say that Paul saying “you can control the band with a bass” as being the most Paul McCartney thing ever and having a chuckle at how true that is lol.
@LeighAnn wrote: ‘Overall I really enjoyed the doc. I thought it might be the first documentary where Paul didn’t say the exact same thing hes said before in terms of stories and was sadly mistaken…’
There has to be many who interview Paul that are fans and know these stories by heart. What I do with people who retell the same stories often is I blurt out the punchline as soon as they begin the story. When Paul mentions that he and John complemented each other, I would say, “Right, it can’t no worse!” Or instead of asking him how he wrote Yesterday, I would say, “So Paul, how did you dream Yesterday?”
Definitely. That’s something I always loved about Paul’s and George Martin’s contributions. I’d find myself humming along with Paul’s bass parts and Martin’s orchestrations because of the catchy melodic counterpoints they created.
And George Harrison, being a composer himself, often made his guitar solos for Lennon/McCartney compositions into little songs in their own right.
It really was the perfect team.
Absolutely agree. I think that’s why enjoyed the doc so much because musically speaking I’m not super savvy when it comes to hearing the technicality in a song. I know if a like a song because it’s a good song. But when they went into the technical aspects of the music it was like okay I get it now.
This was me, too. LeighAnn. I love hearing about the music. I think that’s why I enjoy Beatlegs so much is heat g how a song comes together. To a non-musician it is just magic.
Not sure where else to put this but much like RS updated their 500 greatest albums they have now updated their 500 greatest songs and their has been significant change on where the Beatles formerly ranked. In the 2004 list I think A Day in the life was number 3 from memory- that’s now moved to 24. Imagine was ranked number 2- that’s now moved to number 19 and they have credited it to Yoko and John.
But funny enough I want to hold your hand has moved to number 15 I don’t even know where that ranked on the last list.
And Strawberry Fields Forever is the highest Beatles entry at number 7.
For the record Respect by Aretha Franklin is now number 1- which I’m not wholly against since that is a song I will always sing along to whenever I hear it.
Also like the greatest albums list where they ranked Pet Sounds higher then any Beatles album they also ranked God Only Knows as higher then any Beatles song. Which I found interesting.
Funny how tastes have obviously adapted or changed with the times.
Is it just me, or do they not play the Beatles on the radio as often as they used to? Not that long ago, maybe a couple years, I would hear their songs on every station, even college radio. And not just the greatest hits. Now I rarely come across a song of theirs on the radio. Occasionally they will play solo John or solo Paul. It seems very sudden to me. I used to be proud of the fact that they only ever played the Beach Boys on oldies stations, but the Beatles were on almost every station. Not that I don’t love some of the Beach Boys music.
Rolling Stone magazine and their lists are a joke, and I’m not the only one that thinks so. While I disagreed with their white, male rock star lists of yore, they have gone completely the other way in their desperation for relevancy. Of all time? They’ve obviously never heard of Gershwin et al either. There is no such thing as best song lists; they are entirely subjective. Respect is not even Aretha’s best song and I Want To Hold Your Hand is up there because only America thought and still thinks it was the song that heralded Beatlemania. It didn’t.
She Loves You is the far superior song but that’s just my opinion! That ferocious energy and jangly guitars made the Beatles. Yeah, yeah, yeah! About time Rolling Stone and the silly and pretentious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were consigned to the dustbin of history.
Lara, here’s my take on the new “Rolling Stone” 500 songs list: it’s become so expansive, in terms of both genre and time, that it’s pretty meaningless. There’s always been an argument that ANY “best of” list is subjective and not helpful, but in my experience the narrower the field being considered is the more likely the list is to be useful.
“Best Hip-Hop,” “Best 60’s Rock,” “Best Singer-Songwriter,” “Best Electronic” — all those could be interesting lists, where at least you’re considering songs that share enough qualities to make them roughly comparable. The songs on the “Rolling Stone” list are so diverse in terms of genre and time that comparing them is, in my estimation, ridiculous.
I really don’t care for Respect all that much. I may have liked it when I was just discovering the Golden Oldies as a kid, but to put it ahead of Beatles classics or Like a Rolling Stone or any number of powerful songs is a bit ridiculous to me. Natural Woman (Carole King) is a better song IMO, among others in Aretha’s songbook. I agree with Nancy that you have to narrow it down by genre, era etc. to be of any use. There is also a difference between songs that are significant for their influence, and songs you would rather listen to.
@Lara, I can’t agree that She Loves You is better than I Want to Hold Your Hand! She Loves You is awesome and infectious of course, but Hold Your Hand is a step up, more complex to my ears, which is what the Beatles did – get better and better. The beginning alone, with John’s forceful rhythm guitar, and the middle eight is killer. But maybe our difference of opinion has to do with my being American and your being British (from what I recall from past posts!)
Very late to the party but I’ll still put my 1 cent about my impressions on Prince’s playing at this gig.
After, some years ago, having learned of Eric Clapton’s disgusting remarks during his 1976 concert, adding to offence his bland and ambiguous answers years after the incident every time he was asked about, which sadly has pretty much tarnished my appreciation for his early work up to the very early seventies.
Either way I won’t be dumping my Cds from that era that contain Yarbirds, Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Dominoes and The Rainbow gigs. So with some effort I’ve grown to be able to disregard the artist and just take the art.
Some years ago I used to gather with other fellow musicians, myself I’m a guitar player, and discuss these topics, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not a lot, and others no consensus. Duirn one of these meetings we talked tons about Clapton’s skills, significance at the time, influence, possible “overratism” and so forth, but when it came to his guitar work in WMGW it was unanimous this was his best solo in his whole career.
Much, or maybe all, has to do with Eric being a great improviser on Blues-Rock stylistics, highly skilled (in that specific aesthetics), an certainly far out of reach of George in said depàrtments, however when it comes to crafting solos he can’t hold a candle to George, mainly because George had a much wider musical vocabulary.
I won’t go so far as to say that every note, every string bending, every silence, was dictated by George, as I still find a fair share of Claptonisms in his guitarwork throught the song, but the overall structure is unmistakably Harrisonian. For a great example of Harrison himself playing some structurally similar solo, go for Let it Be, album version, and preferably the original 1970 mix. Both the main solo and his fills towards the last few bars of the song, IMO, show how much of a genious he was at that stage of his career.
Al this blah blah blah I’ve just written was just to point that Clapton’s original solo with whatever little help from l’angelo misterioso which anyway I think was vast, is very hard to top, let alone improve it. Thus, despite how much I respect Prince as an extremely talented guitar player and songwriter, his performance left me unimpressed, too much gimmick, too much posturing and little essence, not even close to a weeping guitar like Clapton masterfully pulled of back in 1968, still nice though.
Great blog, by the way, truly excelling and informed writing. Keep on the great work people.
P.S. I’m chilean, so I apologize beforehand for any grammatical or other kind of mistakes I might have made