Category Archives: soul

#154 – When Doves Cry

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#154 – When Doves Cry by Prince

Prince

– When the film Purple Rain came out in 1984, Prince kicked up his popularity a major notch by adding a Movie Star credit to his resume. With the soundtrack single When Doves Cry hitting the top of the music charts and the video in high rotation on MTV, it would be easy to make a case that Prince ruled the music scene.

I was living in New York City and had heard of Prince a few years earlier when a musician pal of mine saw his first-ever (I’m assuming) NYC show in a small venue near the East Village. My friend’s after show review raved about his music and performance, while not sparing any descriptive shock value about Prince hitting the stage wearing women’s stockings, garters and high-heels.

He sounded like a combination of Jimi Hendrix and The New York Dolls.

Purple Rain was a huge hit in NYC – even outside of the East Village. But for some reason, possibly to avoid the long lines and crowded theaters, my girlfriend (at the time) and I never made an effort to see it.

In the theater anyway…

When you live in NYC things just seem to happen. Of course, I have tons of stories that I can refer to as life adventures to back up that boast, but not all of them could be called legit.

What do I mean by that?

Reigning Purple

I consider myself to be a pretty honest guy. Okay, I’ll admit to some minor discretions over the years, but nothing too crazy. In fact, I can’t even think of anything at the moment that can be called really bad, other than having a fake ID to buy beer when I was underage. Oh wait… There was a situation when two girls I was dating at the same time sat next to each other in the NYC restaurant I was managing and started comparing notes about their “boyfriend.”

That wasn’t a fun life adventure – and that’s a legit statement.

As mentioned, my girlfriend (and the only one at the time – I swear) and I didn’t make it to a theater to see Purple Rain when it came out in July 1984. But we still saw it that summer. It just so happened the head chef in the restaurant where I had played the failed version of The Dating Game loaned us a videotape of the film.

I know ignorance of the law is no excuse, but we didn’t think there was anything non-legit about watching a VHS tape of a movie WHILE the movie was still in theaters. Maybe that fact should’ve set off an alarm, but it failed to ring in either of our heads as we settled on the couch in our apartment to watch Purple Rain – even while fans were still lining up outside first-run theaters to view the same flick.

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Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until part way through the film someone stood up. What made it noticeable was that this action didn’t occur as a scene featuring Prince or any other cast members within the movie. Instead, it was someone in a theater getting out of his seat, moving to the end of a row and walking up an aisle until he disappeared from our television screen.

In other words, we were watching a bootlegged version of Purple Rain that some crook had filmed with a handheld camera from the back of a movie theater. It was copied onto VHS tapes and hustled on the streets of New York City, along with other first run films. This was a common practice for bootleggers and money-grabbers that we saw all the time, but never considered buying anything from them.

Obviously, our restaurant chef felt differently. He soon learned a lesson in NYC street smarts

Flying Doves

But first, When Doves Cry became morning smarts by joining this Dream Song list on October 24th. As a huge Prince fan, it’s a no-brainer to confess I own a copy and had just heard it – which makes it a legit member of the recent memory category.

Sometime after Purple Rain had finished its theater run and probably just getting ready to come out on legit VHS tapes, I was working behind the bar of the same NYC restaurant while the same bootleg-loaning chef and his crew closed the kitchen. It was around one o’clock in the morning and though we were done feeding our patrons, the drinks could flow – legitimately – for another three hours.

As usual, a few of my buddies were hanging around trying to scam me into giving them free drinks and we all yelled “Goodnight” to the kitchen gang as they walked out the front door and headed down Third Avenue.

About twenty minutes later the chef came back into the restaurant. He was out of breath from walking fast and carrying a big box advertising a video camcorder inside.

This was a large and expensive piece of equipment in the 1984 VHS era and we all knew it. In fact, I don’t remember anyone in our tight group of friends actually having enough money to afford a video camera – especially the pals that couldn’t scam me for free drinks.

And speaking of scams…

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Our on-the-street-shopping, bootleg-buying chef also knew this was a high priced item and was all excited to brag about buying it only a couple blocks away for the cheap, under-the-table price of $50 in cash. He placed the box on top of the bar, ran back to the kitchen for a knife to cut away the plastic wrapping and told us about the guys selling these “hot” cameras from the trunk of a car. He knew there was nothing legit about the transaction but didn’t seem to care since he was now the proud owner of a camcorder he couldn’t wait to unpack and show us.

The first clue something was wrong happened almost immediately.

Once he cut through the plastic, images of the valuable camcorder that should have been part of the packaging fell off with the wrapping, leaving a plain, brown cardboard box. I can still hear his gasp and the half-laughs from my buddies around the bar watching this major unveiling. He ripped through tape sealing the top of the box, pulled out a pile of crumbled-up newspapers, reached in and pulled out…

Another brick in the wall

A brick.

Yeah, just like you would use to build a house or a brick driveway. Cursing, he ran out of the restaurant to “get these guys,” but as can be predicted, they were long gone – with his fifty bucks – and probably in search of more customers with not-so-street smarts.

Okay, to be honest (legit) I don’t remember When Doves Cry being a soundtrack for this particular life (learning) adventure. But when I think of the song, I think of the movie. And when I think of the movie, I think of the bootleg film. And when I think of the bootleg film, I think of the chef. And when I think of the chef…

Well actually, I don’t need to think of the chef. I can pretty much look at any brick house and be reminded of my own street smarts. Never buy unless it’s legit.

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Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!

Here’s the video of When Doves Fly that should remind Prince fans when MTV was truly Music Television.

 

 

To purchase the Purple Rain soundtrack with When Doves Fly visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

 

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#164 – Soul Finger

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#164 – Soul Finger by The Bar-Kays

 – This song has me running in my mind. Notice the wording of that sentence. It’s not running through my mind, though it is at this moment. But I’m talking about running, like on a track team, which is something I haven’t done since Soul Finger was running on a regular basis on AM radio when it was released in the spring of 1967.

Thinking back to our favorite Top 40 stations in the 1960’s, instrumentals didn’t get a lot of respect from the deejays. Yeah, some were huge hits like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by Hugo Montenegro released in 1968 (not the same as the 1966 Clint Eastwood movie soundtrack version) and Love Is Blue by Paul Mauriat also in 1968.

But these hits were treated differently by our on-air hosts. They were played all the way through without deejay patter over the top.

What does that mean?

Radio deejays’ personalities were almost as popular – and sometimes more – than the songs they were playing. Murray The K, Cousin Brucie and Wolfman Jack are the first names that come to mind and were nationally known. Fans would tune in to hear those voices from those guys as much as the hit songs they’d play during their shows.

It was the same in local markets where competing Top 40 AM stations featured deejays fast-talking to be the most popular and listened-to. It would definitely be obnoxious and turn off listeners if they talked (patter) over songs with lyrics and we were trying to hear the words. So they’d normally hype their personalities and talk between songs and over instrumentals.

Memphis based soul

But even while playing songs with lyrics, there were still ways for deejays to get around this. Especially when they were playing a new release billed as exclusive to their station. That would be a big promotional scoop and it was important for their listeners to know.

This is how it would work:

Supposedly, the fantastically popular deejay would be given the next BIG hit by a current BIG artist before the record was sent to rival stations. His job was to make sure we knew that, while also preventing another station from taping the song and scooping this exclusive by also playing it on air.

What do I mean by that?

Two examples come to mind. When The Byrds released Turn! Turn! Turn!, a station in my northern Ohio listening area had the exclusive. During the song’s instrumental break, the deejay would announce, “You’re listening to this exclusive on…” and mention his station.

Before The Beatles’ Nowhere Man hit the stores, the same station was granted the exclusive rights in our region. But instead of waiting for the instrumental break, this is how I remember it coming from my transistor radio:

  • Beatles (singing): He’s a real nowhere man…
  • Deejay: “The Beatles!”
  • Beatles: … sitting in his nowhere land…
  • Deejay: “Only on (mentioned the station)!”
  • Beatles: … making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

Yeah, it was a bit annoying, but didn’t stop us from listening. Especially since tuning in to this station was the only way we could hear it. At the time I was a preteen with a small reel to reel tape recorder. I knew the song would be played at least once every hour, so I’d hold the tiny microphone in front of the tiny transistor radio speaker so I could have my own exclusive copy before my friends. I’d hit record when I knew the next song was about to play. If it wasn’t Nowhere Man, I’d stop the tape, rewind and wait for the next song.

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I didn’t know the definition of bootlegging, but it wouldn’t have stopped me anyway. Eventually within the hour, I scored a decent copy. After that I kept the play – rewind – play – rewind cycle going on my tape recorder until it hit the stores a week or two later and I could get my hands on a vinyl 45 rpm copy.

But that bootlegged version made a lasting impression. Every once in a while, all these decades later I’ll hear Nowhere Man and unconsciously add the deejay’s patter between the opening lyrics as if that’s how The Fabs recorded it in the first place.

And yeah, sometimes it’s a bit annoying.

The Bar-Kays released the instrumental Soul Finger in April 1967. It became a legitimate hit and not only because it’s a catchy tune, but like the exclusive Nowhere Man we probably heard it every hour. But for a different reason.

Deejays could lay down their fast-talking patter over it.

Soul Finger was a song deejays weren’t afraid to talk over. So, when they’d segue into the news and weather report every hour, which was a common break on AM radio back in the 60’s, they’d play The Bar-Kays hit. Most of the time the entire song wouldn’t be heard because there may have been less than a minute before the break, so it was used as an instrumental lead-in.

During this time, they’d fast-talk announcements about upcoming concerts, benefits, promo for stores, restaurants, car dealers – whatever. The song would fade out – wherever – and the news report would begin.

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Since we were still glued to our AM dials, multiple listens of a catchy tune is a sure way to have it burned into your mind. That’s the only explanation for Soul Finger joining this Dream Songs list on September 14th. I can’t remember the last time I heard it and since I don’t own a copy, it goes onto the subliminal memory chart.

Fortunately, there was no fast-talking deejay patter included.

Other than that annoying programming habit, Soul Finger brings back one specific memory that rewinds us back to the beginning of this Classic Rocker rambling. You remember, where I’m running in my mind…

When Soul Finger was running us into hourly AM radio news breaks during spring 1967, I was in my last year of junior high and running on the eighth grade track team. As an athlete I had two natural abilities. I could run fast and jump high, which is also how I scored a starting position on our junior high basketball team. I know for a fact that was the case since dribbling or shooting a basketball was never priority after I scored my first guitar.

Off the blocks!

There was a guy on the track team who was supposedly my friend. I don’t remember how that came about since we really had nothing in common. But that’s not important because we were just kids and by high school had moved on to different cliques.

Anyway, there must have been some type of envy (jealousy) on his part. He wanted to be an athlete while I wanted to be a rock star. But I had beat him out as a starter on the basketball team and was doing the same at track. I found out he hadn’t been too pleased about either.

We were getting ready to run against a rival school in the fifty-yard dash. This was my main event and I honestly don’t remember anyone else on our team that could beat me – especially this friend. If you know anything about sprint races, we used starting blocks, which were metal contraptions you placed on the track behind the starting line. Runners would crouch down, put their feet against the blocks and use them to push-off at the start of the race.

Maybe most of the blocks were being used in other events, but when we were getting ready for mine this friend grabbed the last contraption before I could. When I said something about this, he gave me a pretty hard look and said, “I’m faster than you,” and took a running lane with the other starting block sprinters. I had to take an outside lane and an almost standing position waiting for the starter’s gun to kick off the race.

And yeah, I kicked it during the race – meaning that friend’s butt. I don’t remember if I actually won the race against the other school, but I smoked (athlete’s term for winning) him. Afterward I just remember him storming away from me like a bad sport. He wouldn’t talk or even look at me. It’s probably best he didn’t because I might have flipped him a soul finger.

If you know what I mean.

Otis Redding & The Bar-Kays

On a very sad note, this was the only hit by the original members of The Bar-Kays.

That same spring, they were picked by the legendary Otis Redding to be his touring backup band. On December 10, 1967 following a television appearance on Upbeat and a concert in Cleveland, four of the six members lost their lives with Redding when their plane crashed into Lake Monona near Madison, Wisconsin.

The only survivor was trumpet player Ben Cauley. He later reformed the group with bass player James Alexander who had been on a different plane.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video of the original Bar-Kays performing Soul Finger.

 

 

To purchase Soul Finger (the album or single) by The Bar-Kays visit Amazon.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing