Context – window shopping with my tax refund
I haven’t felt this stupid and out of touch since 2014. Maybe 2015. I don’t remember exactly when this story takes place, but it was at least 2 years ago.
I had heard a lot about the joys of collecting records throughout 2014–not only about the “improved” sound quality (I’m not 100% convinced on this; if I played CD’s through the system my turntable is connected to they’d sound awesome as well. Never underestimate how much a receiver makes a difference in your sound, folks), but about the tactile nature of records: about how they felt, about the extra intentionality you need to properly take a record out of its sleeve and place it on your turn table, about the experience of going to record stores and digging through crates to find whatever it was that was speaking to you in that moment.
I used to spend a lot of time and a lot of money in record stores. Or more accurately, CD stores. I could never get enough. I would buy a CD based on the cover art. I would buy a CD because it was from a record label I trusted. I would buy a CD because it just came out that week and I’ve been waiting for months for it to arrive. I was excited for the opportunity to relive some of those glory years, but this time through vinyl.
That year for Christmas I asked for a turn-table. Now, I’m a serial hobbyist. If I’m not playing video games I’m reading or writing or playing the guitar or learning to solder or playing Magic: The Gathering or starting a podcast or daydreaming about whittling. I’ve started [pick an arbitrarily large number] of hobbies, so I didn’t go hard in the paint on this one. I asked for a Jensen turn-table that was about $65. If this hobby was going to die in a few months I wasn’t about to ask my parents for more than that, even if it’s a gift.
Fresh from the excitement of my gift, I was eager to get my first records. I had asked for a handful for Christmas as well, but I can’t remember what everyone got me when I simply asked for “your favorite record(s).” I can remember one of the first times I went crate digging, though. I had 3 targets: something by Coheed and Cambria, some old-school blues music, and something that appealed to me in the moment. I struck out on Coheed so I doubled up on the blues. And then it hit me.
David Bowies Let’s Dance album. As soon as I saw it I thought of the movie Zoolander. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, fix that immediately. Come back in 90 minutes and continue the article.
All caught up? Good.
As soon as I saw the record I thought of Bowie’s introduction in the movie, which happens to be just the line “Let’s dance…” before Hansel and Derek begin their walk-off. I knew then and there this was the album that was speaking to me.
And from the moment the needle hit the wax I couldn’t believe how wonderful it was. I know everybody else and their mother had already formed an opinion about Bowie, but it took me until I was in my late 20’s to figure this out on my own. I was immediately hooked.
All of which is just to say, this is exactly how I feel 2-3 years later upon finally coming around to listening to Purple Rain: supremely foolish for putting this off for as long as I have. For whatever reason Prince has always felt cheesy to me. Even as I got older and began to respect his talent with each additional performance of his I saw, I could never pull the trigger and give him the fair shake he deserves. Even after his death last year I couldn’t ever bring myself to listen to any of his music.
After the Super Bowl, there was a lot of talk about past performances. Trying to rank them, putting them into context, trying to establish a bar that Lady Gaga had to transcend in order to be remembered, let alone exalted.
And then I saw Prince’s show. I vaguely remembered seeing it 10 years ago when it aired live, but now it was like I was seeing Prince for the first time. Who else but Prince had the balls to sing someone else’s songs during their 15 minute performance in front of the largest TV audience we can muster? I was in awe.
So today I decided it was finally time to give Prince he propers. Shit’s so good I listened to it twice today. I’ll probably listen to it one more time while cooking dinner or some shit.
A lot has been written about Purple Rain. Most of you have probably listened to it already and are rolling your eyes at my 30 years’ worth of tom-foolery. But if, like me, you’ve been putting off Prince until now, you should stop reading this article and go check it out. Then re-read this to see if, like me, you should be ashamed of yourself for putting it off for so long.