Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"The Joint I've Been Layin' For" - Favorite Prince Songs (Part 1)

Even though my book is about Prince's spiritual journey, it was his music that attracted me. I was a fan before I wrote one word about him. I will always have respect for him and I truly believe he is a musical genius.

I was familiar with a lot of Prince music before I began this project, but this process has really exposed me to even more songs. I love that I am still discovering new musical gems in his discography at this stage, and I've been a fan for 14 years now! He is one of the most prolific artists in popular music.

With that said, I thought it'd be fun to list my favorite song from each Prince album that I've researched so far. This was a very difficult task; I really wanted to include "ties" between two songs in many cases. However, I asked myself which song I would take with me on a deserted island.

  1. For You (1978): "Soft and Wet." It's just so funky, and I love the layered vocals.

  2. Prince (1979): "I Wanna Be Your Lover." I know it looks like a cop out because it's the single, but it's a classic. I really enjoy the extended instrumental section at the end (extended instrumental sections are kinda my thing).

  3. Dirty Mind (1980): "Head." I'm so embarrassed, but it's the funkiest track on the album.

  4. Controversy (1981): "Controversy." I really, really wanted to say "Annie Christian," but I just feel the funk of "Controversy" in my bones. "Love you, love baby." 

  5. 1999 (1982): "D.M.S.R." Ok, this is becoming a pattern; I'm a funk head.

  6. Purple Rain (1984): "Computer Blue." This is the song that made me pay attention to Prince as a rock star. I am obsessed with the B section.

  7. Around the World in a Day (1985): "America." You guessed it.

  8. Parade (1986): "Anotherloverholenyohead." Surprised? That was hard because the piano solo on "Under the Cherry Moon," though very brief, gives me chills.

  9. Sign O' the Times (1987): "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man." Ok, no one should ever have to choose a favorite from this album. How did I do it? The extended instrumental section strikes again...

  10. Lovesexy (1988): "Glam Slam." Many would say that this is one of the weakest tracks, but the melody just gets to me every time. I hope I made the right choice; it's hard to ignore the vibrant, positive explosion that is "Eye No."

  11. Batman (1989): "Vicki Waiting." I talked about this in a recent blog post. I can't get this melody and Prince's vocals out of my head. I had this on repeat in my car practically all month.

  12. Graffiti Bridge* (1990): "The Question of U." What a bloody fight between that, "Joy in Repetition" and "Elephants & Flowers." "The Question of U" is just so intriguing due to the dark mood, voice effects and hand claps. 
*I haven't studied this album in depth--I put it on my calendar for next week. I wanted to motivate myself. 

What are your favorite songs on Prince's first twelve albums?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"The End of the Journey's So Clear" - Plans for 2016

In my last blog post, I decided that I wouldn't get hung up on due dates. I supposed I've changed my mind...sort of. While I'm no longer promising my audience a specific time frame, I would like to stick to a schedule in 2016.

What if I tried to finish my book next year? Even if I don't reach that goal, I think striving for it can only help me. So, I'm bringing my content calendar back!

In addition to scheduling my day-to-day tasks, I've also created a high-level calendar based on Prince albums. Take a look:

  • Jan 2016: "Batman" + "Graffiti Bridge"
  • Feb 2016: "Diamonds and Pearls"
  • Mar 2016: "Love Symbol"
  • Apr 2016: "Come" + "The Black Album" + "The Gold Experience"
  • May 2016: "Chaos and Disorder" + "Emancipation"
  • June 2016: "Crystal Ball"
  • July 2016: "The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale" + "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic" 
  • August 2016: "The Rainbow Children" + "One Nite Alone"
  • September 2016: "Xpectation" + "N.E.W.S."
  • October 2016: "Musicology"

I'd like to spend the remainder of the year writing the conclusion and epilogue, and editing the entire book.

Additionally, I have outlined my blog topics for the next five weeks so I can stay on track! Next week, I'm going to talk about my favorite Prince songs. 

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Last December" - When Will My Journey End?

I was so energized and productive last week. This week has been a bit of a drag. My spirits have been low, and I'm blogging a day late, but I'm going to push through!

As 2015 comes to a close, it's time for me to review my progress on the Prince book. I'm not where I want to be, but I've certainly come a long way.

When I started my blog in 2010, I wanted to expand my book and meet Prince by December 2011...and then by 2012. Next, I decided that meeting Prince was not mandatory for my book, and I set a goal to secure more interviews and add 80 pages--as part of my thesis for grad school--by December 2015. I'm proud of myself for adding well over 80 pages, completing a ton of interviews, and graduating from Ohio University before my deadline!

My next goal is to complete and publish the book. I would love to finish writing by December 2016, but I'm not going to get caught up on anymore due dates right now. I'm just going to continue to do my best. So, let's just say I'll be done on a purple day in December!

I am going to make a rough writing schedule for myself, though. I'll share that next week.

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"All is Well in Gotham City" - the Batman Album

I finally listened to the "Batman" soundtrack by Prince. I didn't think I would enjoy it, but I did! As I mentioned last week, I really like "The Future" and "Trust."

However, the best song on the soundtrack is, by far, "Vicki Waiting." I just love the melody, and the joke that Prince tells on the track is hilarious! I would repeat it, but...well, just listen to the song.

"Vicki Waiting" also provides some insight into Prince's romantic relationships. According to other biographers, the song was originally titled "Anna Waiting," and it's about Prince's ex-girlfriend Anna Garcia (by the way, I've been waiting for over two years to interview her. Maybe it'll happen one day). The lyrics confirm some things that Jill Jones shared with me in my interview with her. I can't wait to write about the song in my book!

I think my next favorite song is "Partyman." It's just great fun! My least favorite tracks? "The Arms of Orion," followed by "Batdance." 

I still have to do a close reading of each song's lyrics, but "The Future" seems to be the most spiritual song on the album.

Be back next week! Thanks for reading!

What is your favorite track on the Batman album?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Black and White, Red and Green" - the Batman Movie

I've been planning to start researching the "Batman" era of Prince's life and career, and I finally watched the 1989 Tim Burton film on Sunday. I hadn't seen it since I was little, and I didn't remember much. I figured I'd watch the movie and then listen to Prince's soundtrack.

It was really cool seeing Prince's name high in the opening credits. I felt really excited for him; landing the opportunity to do the "Batman" soundtrack was likely a huge deal.

I thought the movie was decent. Jack Nicholson did a superb job as the Joker; he definitely stole the show. The "Partyman" scene was great. I wonder how much of the scene was conceived prior to Prince's involvement. I also appreciated the purple outfit. I don't know enough right now to determine the extent of Prince's influence on Nicholson's character; I still have a lot of research to do.

I didn't see any themes in the movie that might relate to the subject matter of my book. Some say that there are parallels between the Joker character and Prince. I don't know enough about the Joker's psychology to offer an opinion. Burton's movie didn't really provide a detailed character analysis.

I'm looking forward to listening to the soundtrack from beginning to end. Prior to watching the movie, I was only familiar with "The Future," which I love. "Trust" also stood out to me while I watched the film. I also can't wait to listen to Peach & Black's analysis of the album.

Do you like Tim Burton's first Batman movie? 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Now, There Must be a Wedding" - Interview with Ali Zampino

Happy Monday! I typically post on Tuesdays, but I will be in Cleveland all day tomorrow for a business trip, so I thought I'd publish a little early. I'm so pleased to announce that I interviewed Ali Zampino, a flower girl in Prince's 1996 wedding to Mayte Garcia!

Zampino was only seven years old when she participated in the wedding, so she doesn't remember much, but our conversation was still valuable. I found out why Prince and Garcia had a total of six flower girls in their wedding. While Zampino didn't have much contact with Prince, she did interact with Garcia. It was nice to hear her impression of Prince's now ex-wife.

Zampino has generously agreed to share pictures with me and put me in touch with other sources who might be helpful for the book. It's so important to talk with everyone regardless of how close they are to Prince--you just never know whom they know and what doors they can open for you.

I wish I could share more, but I can't give everything away before the book comes out!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Will You Play With Me?" - Interacting with other Prince Fans

Last week, I revisited my most popular blog posts. I'm really inspired to get my views back to where they used to be. Part of doing that means interacting with other Prince fans.

Prince.org: I haven't been on this fan site in almost two years! I posted about my blog and someone told me, in so many words, to shut up. It's funny now (kinda), but it stung a little. Guess what? I'm going to start posting on there again tonight! There are some nice people on the website, after all. So there! 

Princefams.com: I stopped posting on this site when I stopped posting on Prince.org, but I started a new forum topic tonight!

Drfunkenberry.com: I miss the days when Dr. Funkenberry hosted Prince "spreecasts." Since then, I haven't checked in with the doc, but I'm going to start interacting with his tweets again! 

Peach & Black Podcast: I love these guys! I've been catching up on their shows, and I think I've been doing a pretty good job of interacting with them on Twitter. However, I'd like to start posting in their forums.

Are there any other Prince-related sites that I should check out?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"7" - Top Blog Posts

I've been blogging off and on for nearly five years. I thought it would be interesting to look back at my top seven blog posts. Hopefully, it will give me some insight into what works best for my audience.

Number Seven: "The Light of God" - Interview with Roy Bennett (371 views). This was one of my most valuable interviews for the Prince book. I shared some of the subjects that I covered with Bennett, who worked as Prince's lighting and set designer. 

Number Six"She's Always in My Hair" - Interview with Jill Jones (385 views). This was another extremely important interview. I have some Prince stories that no one has printed, thanks to Jones, who worked with and dated Prince. 

Number Five: "Do I Believe in God?" - Rolling Stone Journalists' Thoughts on Prince's Spirituality (424 views). I had the opportunity to discuss Prince with some music journalists whom I admire: Anthony DeCurtis, David Browne and Tom Moon. I summarized what I learned from those conversations.

Number Four: “Why Should You Wait Any Longer?”—Getting Back On Track (446 views). I wrote this blog to let people know what I was up to after taking a break for a few months. It's cool to see that so many people read it! I included a TON of links, so I'm sure that helped.

Number Three: “Gotta Tell the Truth Y'all” - Interview with Gayle Chapman (1,368 views). This post was about my very first interview! So many biographers have written about Prince's former band member without talking to her. I was able to get the truth straight from the source.

Number Two: "Interactive" - Prince Twitter Chat (1,912 views). This is a summary of the Prince Twitter chat that I did back in the day. How fun! I have to do another chat...

Number One: "Think About the Future!" - Upcoming Projects from Prince's Protégés" (2,071 views). I can't believe this is number one! I just wrote about a few performers who used to work with Prince. I must have done some really effective promotion for this post, but I can't remember my strategy. What a mystery!

Well, I'm inspired to top my number one post! Let's talk more about promotion next week.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Do You Like What You See?" - Prince's Music Videos

For my book, I analyze Prince’s albums, performances and music videos. I think I’ve been doing a decent job keeping track of the latter, but I think I’ve missed some. As many Prince fans know, the artist has shot a ton of footage; some of it was released to TV networks or online, and some of it was released only on DVD or through special subscriptions. So, it takes a lot of effort to keep up.

On several occasions, I’ve listened to the Peach & Black Podcast (shout out to the fellas—I LOVE their reviews), and heard them reference a music video that I didn’t even know existed. So, I’m going to have to go back and revise my running list of Prince’s music videos.

While I’m on this topic, I thought it would be fun to share my favorite Prince music video. It took me a while to figure it out, not because there are so many that I love (sorry, P), but because I never really got into them. I prefer polished productions by artists like Michael Jackson (my favorite “short film” is "Smooth Criminal").

However, I do appreciate the “live” feel of Prince’s music videos; most of them show him performing in concert. This makes sense; he’s a superb instrumentalist, and that quality should be emphasized. My favorite is “Willing in Able,” from the "Diamonds and Pearls" era, circa 1991. I didn’t see the video until my mom bought me the "Prince and the New Power Generation Diamonds and Pearls Video Collection" on DVD for Christmas a few years ago.

"Prince and the N.P.G. Diamonds and Pearl Video Collection" DVD

I adore the album version of the song, but the video includes a slightly different arrangement. The live performance is electrifying! Prince’s vocals are incredible, and the NPG band and The Steeles are on fire! I also love Prince's dancing and his appearance (when I forced my boyfriend to watch it, his first words were, “What is he wearing?”). I would embed or link to the video, but I don’t want to get myself or anyone in trouble. You should be able to find it, though. ;)

What is your favorite Prince music video?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Work 'til the Morning Comes" - Improving the Blog

I mentioned that I wanted to improve my blog in a previous post. This week, I took steps to put my plan into action.

1) I used lynda.com to research search engine optimization (SEO). "Blogging Strategies for Musicians and Bands" is an extremely helpful course for all types of bloggers. One takeaway that I will implement right away: using alt and title text with my images in case they don't load for some readers.

2) I applied for a Google AdSense account, and I was approved! Now, I can monetize my blog by featuring ads on the site.

3) I started researching RSS feeds. I tried to put an Atom feed on the site, but I noticed that it is not compatible with the Chrome browser, Then, I tried Feedburner, but I'm still having issues. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

I still can't afford a new computer, but I did purchase a beautiful new printer!

An HP Officejet 4630 printer

Now, perhaps I can do some actual work on my book this week...

Do you have any advice regarding SEO, AdSense and/or RSS feeds?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Switch Up the Groove" - Getting Focused Again

Honestly, I am in a challenging space. For the past couple of weeks, I have not been able to focus on my book (or this blog, for that matter). I think it's a combination of things, including stress and sleep deprivation.

I'm also going through a life transition. Before I graduated, I would spend hours each day on my book. I put that project before other things in my life. Now that the pressure is off, I've been trying to revive my social life. For example, I joined a book club and recently spent a weekend in Columbus with my best friend from high school. I've also been exercising and paying more attention to my appearance. All of these things take time.

Basically, I need to find balance. I'm really committed to publishing this book, but I don't want to neglect other areas of my life. It's going to take some time to figure it out. In the meantime, I'm encouraging myself with these tips:

1) Stick to a Schedule. I love organizing my time with lists. In fact, I have a dry erase board in my kitchen for this very purpose. I would like to carve out consistent times for writing and blogging. 

2) Don't Over-Do It. It's important that I don't go overboard, scheduling a huge number of hours for my projects. I need to start small--maybe even just an hour here and there, and then build up.

3) Don't Beat Yourself Up. Sometimes, I'm going to fail. I may not write as much as I want to on a particular day, or I might miss a week of blogging. Also, I might face criticism (internal and external) because my book isn't done, yet. However, I have to remind myself that I'm not giving up on my goal and I've already accomplished so much regarding this project. I know I can do it! 

How do you motivate yourself to get focused? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

"Round and Round" - Research Pattern

I'm finally starting to edit chapter nine, which covers the Lovesexy era. I have a specific process that I follow each time I work on a chapter. One particular step involves consulting the same set of "sources." They include:

Publications: I focus on a few magazines and newspapers that consistently covered Prince's career. I look through all of the relevant articles that were published during the chapter's time period.

Interviews: I go back through the transcriptions of relevant interviews that I've done.

Notes: I have a really long, scary document full of notes that I take. For example, when I'm working on a chapter, I may have a thought that I'd like to explore later in the book. So, I write it down and I make sure I review my notes periodically.

Previous Drafts: I started this project back during my undergraduate studies, so I have several old drafts of the book. I like to look back at them for things to include in this new draft.

Previous Biographies: I have a few go-to Prince biographies that I consult to help me with my book. I often use them as a base, and then add my own research because my angle is very different.

Music and Performances: I always analyze Prince's relevant lyrics, videos and concerts.

Liner Notes: I study the liner notes in the relevant album.

Award Shows: I pay attention to speeches that Prince has given at relevant award shows.

Fan Magazines: This is actually a new "source." There were several Prince fan magazines that popped up in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I intend to start reading them after I finish chapter nine.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mr. "Tambourine" Man - Bob Dylan's Spiritual Journey

I've talked a lot about my research on the spiritual journeys of other popular artists. Several months ago, I singled out D'angelo. Lately, I've been thinking about Bob Dylan.

Like Prince, Dylan had a "born again" period. He released two Christian albums, embarked on a Gospel tour and refused to sing his previous material.

I read Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One, but it didn't contain any commentary on the singer's religious journey. So, I have some of the same questions people ask about Prince:

Was his "spiritual awakening" real?

Why did he eventually go back to performing his previous work?

Did he truly have an internal struggle between the sacred and the secular, and how long did it last? Does he still grapple with this today?

I think I'll reach out to Bob Dylan fans on Twitter and see what they say. In the meantime...

Do you think Dylan's Christian songs were genuine?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Take a Picture, Sweetie!" - Odds and Ends from the Past Week

It's been a long time since I've done one of these entries. Here are some relevant pictures from the past week...

These are my preferred teas when I'm writing.

As you know, I'm obsessed with music biographies. I'm currently reading this one in my free time (which is usually at the hair salon). I like it so far!

My file cabinet is overflowing, so I had to stuff some more Prince-related material into this box. I'll have to do some organizing in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"Upload" - Computer and Web Issues

This is going to be a quick blog entry. I just got home from Zumba class and I have a ton of work to do. Sometimes I like to write about the more technical aspects of my project (the computer crash of 2012 and the site remodel come to mind). Here are three things that I want to accomplish in the next year:

1) I need to get a new computer. My old Toshiba is running so slow and I can't handle it. I got the computer from a repair shop in Brooklyn when I lived there years ago. Ah, memories.

2) Confession: I've been blogging for almost five years and I have not developed an SEO strategy. It's really sad. I need to make that happen. I plan to take an SEO class on lynda.com. I also need to start generating revenue through ads.

3) I designed this beautiful blog myself (it also lives on my Wordpress site), but I need to hire a web developer to take it to the next level.

Does anyone have any recommendations for laptops? I'm still a PC girl. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"Questionnaire" - Thesis Defense Preparation

To prepare for my thesis defense, I wrote out a list of questions and answers about my book. Below is a snippet from my notes. Perhaps it will provide some more insight into my project.

Why did you choose this topic?

I've always loved reading artist biographies, and I've wanted to be a music journalist for a very long time. I became a Prince fan in high school, and his spiritual music really intrigued me. I used my undergraduate biography class as an opportunity to write about his spiritual journey using research by other scholars. In graduate school, I conducted my own interviews, and completed a closer study of his music.

What was your biggest challenge?

Getting interviews was especially challenging. I had to deal with non-disclosure agreements, and it took a really long time to track some people down (for example, I waited a year to talk to Jill Jones). I’m glad that I didn’t give up. I learned that you just have to keep trying periodically.

Describe your interviewing process.

I created a list of sources by using previous biographies, liner notes, film credits and recommendations from other sources. I wrote down my questions before I contacted each source just in case they were ready to talk on the spot. I kept most interviews to an hour or less unless they wanted to talk longer. Most interviews were done over the phone. I tried to transcribe interviews as soon as I finished them. I have a running spreadsheet of all of my sources with contact information.

Describe your writing process.

After I wrote about Prince's childhood, I approached each chapter in the same manner. First, I analyzed his music, videos, and movies (if applicable). Then, I shared what journalists and his audience thought of his music, videos and movies (if applicable). Next, I analyzed his tour/performances, and shared what journalists and his audience thought about them. Afterwards, I wrote about what was happening in his life. Finally, I summarized the chapter and wrote about what was coming up in the following chapter.

If you have any other questions, please ask them in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Bring to Life a Vision" - Adding to the Book

Last week, I mentioned that my thesis committee reviewed the first nine chapters of my book. Yesterday, I went through their edits and suggestions and thought about what I would keep in the final version.

A lot of the professors' points were really interesting. Because I am so close to the book, there are a lot of things I didn't consider. I plan to move on to chapter ten as soon as possible, but I might go back and address these questions once I finish the book:

1) What other artists, if any, had similarly risqué album covers during the 1980s?  Would it help to point to some of these to support how Prince's album covers were over-the-top even compared to peers/other rock stars?

2) Is it typical to have so many different bands work with a solo artist over the years?

3) As you discuss the release of different albums, and often refer to Prince's changes in different decades, would it be hard to tell us what is going on in the world for historical context?  

4) Was there more openness about men having feminine sides? Or can you point to the fact that Prince was ahead of his time here, and that it wouldn't be until later that the press and others would talk about these gender issues more openly?

I'm getting back in the habit of designating certain days of the week to work on my book. I'm looking forward to doing some more revising on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Teacher, Teacher, What You Say?" - Graduation!

I'm back! I forced myself to start blogging again, and I have good news: I'm graduating! I presented my nine chapters (approximately 300 pages) to my thesis committee at Ohio University back in February. I have been approved to receive my master's degree in journalism!

I should receive my diploma in the mail sometime this summer. I don't plan to walk in the ceremony; I live a few hours away and I'll just be happy to finally have my "piece of paper."

What's next? I have a lot more writing to do before I start sending query letters to agents and publishers. I've finished covering Prince's life from 1958 to 1988. I'd like to continue working until I reach 2004.

I would love to finish the book by December 2015, but deadlines are always changing (at least mine, anyway). Here are the tasks that I hope to complete during the next few weeks:

1) I'm going to organize the many drafts of the book, and determine which one I want to use going forward. I have made a lot of changes to meet the standards of my thesis committee. I probably won't keep all of those changes in the final version.

2) I'm going to revisit my "Interviews" spreadsheet. I need to identify the sources I'd like to pursue before I begin writing chapter ten.

3) I'm going to rewrite the end of chapter nine so that it is more of a transition to chapter ten rather than a conclusion for the book.

4) I'm going to (finally) start researching the Batman era.

My goal is to be back next week!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Tell Me, Am I Qualified?" - Looking for Agents and Publishers

A few weeks ago, I started searching for agents and publishers. I used two terrific resources: the 2015 Writer's Market, and Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents.

I looked for independent and university publishers that specialize in music biographies, as well as religion and popular culture. Many of those publishers don't require agents. I made a list of approximately 10 prospects. I plan to contact them directly with a proposal in the near future.

Similarly, I made a list of 10 potential agents to contact. I targeted agents who had experience publishing books similar to mine. Having an agent will allow me to pursue larger publishers that do not accept unsolicited materials from writers.

I'm excited to see if I gain interest from a publisher, an agent or both! I will keep you posted!

Friday, January 9, 2015

"What My Drummer Wanna Say" - Sheila E.'s Memoir

I read Sheila E.'s memoir, The Beat of My Own Drum, several months ago. Well, I skimmed a lot of it and focused on the Prince-related portions. Still, I think I was able to get a general impression of the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here are three things that stood out to me:
  1. Sheila E. is extremely accomplished. I was very impressed with her resume, which includes touring with Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie. 

  2. She shared some Prince stories that I hadn't heard. When the book was released, the media quickly picked up on her story about getting engaged to Prince. However, there are a few more events that I was able to include my book. I was disappointed by the lack of Prince pictures, but it wouldn't surprise me if she had a difficult time getting clearance from the Purple One.

  3. She has her own spiritual journey. I knew about her faith from her Usung feature, but it was nice to learn more by reading her book. She is yet another one of Prince's colleagues who went on to embrace religion. 

What was your favorite part about Sheila E.'s memoir?