November 27, 2009

Nothing Compares 2 Purple Rain


Jon, "How does Bob Saget play Purple Rain?"

Tyler, "Justin Tiemeyer tells him to. That's how."


* * *

There is a measurable difference in awesomeness between me and your normal concert-goer. For example, I know that you don't even think about leaving a concert until they raise the house lights and play somebody else's music on the house speakers. I don't get fooled by the whole "Thank you, good night!" charade.

More importantly, your normal concert-goer still thinks it's cool to yell out "Stairway!" or "Free Bird!" When these shouts arise I think to myself, "Fools! Have you no popular culture sensitivity?" After all, the 1992 film Wayne's World closed the book on "Stairway to Heaven," with the following line, "No Stairway? Denied!" Similarly, the 2005 film Devil's Rejects gave us the closure we've always been seeking for the tragic plight of Lynyrd Skynyrd when a gruesome gunfight went off with "Free Bird" playing in the background (kudos to Rob Zombie for not playing "Blaze of Glory"). In summary, if you know your history, then you know it's not cool to yell out "Stairway!" or "Free Bird!"

Unfortunately, however, there is a kind of human need that is expressed in yelling stupid things to musicians at concerts. Just as there are checks and balances in the United States constitution to prevent the tyranny of one individual or group of individuals, yelling out "Stairway!" is a way of placing checks and balances on the possible tyrannical power of a performer. If it's no longer cool to yell out the names of these two classic songs, then how are we to regain our democratic right from these bullies up on stage? It was in response to this question and in light of my obsession with Prince that I began shouting out "Purple Rain!" at concerts.
More After the Jump



"Purple Rain!" is golden. It's a song with which everyone is familiar. Just as importantly, it is still uncommon to hear as a request at a concert. That means it's still cool to shout out. Every performer prepares his or her response to the inevitable "Stairway!" or "Free Bird!" But now there's a new level of measuring the coolness (and thus the power) of a performer: the performer has not prepared for the "Purple Rain!" contingency, so if said performer can deal with this request in a cool way, this performer is officially cool.

* * *

Two nights before seeing Bob Saget I went to a Pete Yorn concert at the Dallas House of Blues. At this point I have been shouting out "Purple Rain!" at concerts for somewhere over a year, and nobody has satisfied me with a really cool response. That night I requested the tune twice.Pete Yorn didn't even bat an eye at the request, even though I was directly in front of him in the first row. His opening act Isaac Russell did more than bat an eye.

"Purple Rain?" Isaac Russell asked, and I shouted "YEAH!" Russell then proceeded to look from his guitar to his microphone and back for about thirty seconds, a look of mischief in his eyes. Finally, as if he shook off his shoulder devil, he said to me, "No, I'm not going to do that song."

The deck was further stacked against me when I saw Bob Saget. For normal concerts, the general admission tickets admit one to the floor of the Dallas House of Blues. There are no chairs on the floor, and if you get to the House of Blues on time you can go right up to the front. At the Pete Yorn concert, a woman with a cheap general admission ticket received Yorn's harmonica. He walked right up to her, kneeled down and placed it gently into her hands. For the Bob Saget show, chairs were set up on the floor and those were the expensive tickets. The general admission tickets pushed us back toward the bar, an area with loads of pillars and douche bag college students to obstruct ones visual and auditory lock on Saget. I was so far away from Saget that a Wayne's World line paraphrased itself in my mind: "No Purple Rain? Denied!"

What's this? Someone is handing Bob Saget an acoustic guitar, and to me this is like some divinity handing me a second chance at greatness. My first chance at greatness was during a Justin Timberlake concert in Dallas a couple of years earlier. It was at this concert that I mastered surfing on the sound waves of the crowd. What I mean by this is that I was silent when the crowd was shouting, but just as soon as the crowd got to its quietest point waiting for Timberlake to say something else, I'd shout something. In this instance, I was against the back wall of the American Airlines Center, the nosebleed section, if you will, and in the relative silence I let out a lion's roar of a request: "DICK IN A BOX!" After about three requests Timberlake played a verse from said song: "Not gonna buy you a diamond ring / That sort of gift don't mean anything." Of course, his entire family was in the audience this night, so he looked up in the general direction of my hollering and asked, "Is it cool if I play another song?"

Saget was even more difficult than Timberlake. With Timberlake, I knew that he at least knew the words and tune to the song I was requesting. Also, there were more moments of silence. Saget just keeps talking and talking forever. I think he may have been adjusting his guitar on his lap when I shouted, "PURPLE RAIN!" His head stuck bolt upright and he said, "What?" I shouted again, "PURPLE RAIN!" After this, Saget starts rambling again. He's asking if we've met before, asking my age, probably insulting me also. I didn't catch all of it. But then he starts strumming the chords I know and singing that beautiful Prince tune. It went on for at least 30 seconds before he said "This is a really long song," and stopped.

* * *

In the aftermath of living the coolest story you've ever heard, I'm left with the question, "What's next?" Is there any point in requesting "Purple Rain" if it'll never be more unique and insane than potty-mouthed Bob Saget - a comedian, not a musician - singing it for me? Ought I to move on to another song? And if so, what could compare? To paraphrase another Prince song, "Nothing compares 2 Purple Rain."

Though I'm largely in the dark as to how to respond to this situation, I know two things for certain. First, I know that there is some strange and dark Dickensian moment in the past that connects Bob Saget to the song Purple Rain, and I intend to find out more about this. Second, I know that there is still at least one person who might surprise me more than Saget doing "Purple Rain."

So, look out, Mr. President. Pack your guitar, Mr. Barack Obama, because I'm coming at you with a personal request.

And it sure ain't "Free Bird!"

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