A bass guitar in spider webs, longing for the funk
I make no apologies whatsoever for returning repeatedly throughout the pages of A Story To Tell to the purple genius that is Prince Rogers Nelson. After all, a man with a reputed virtual lifetime’s worth of songs, hidden album projects, videos and god knows what else in his vaults Is surely worthy of our attention every now and then. And that is the thing with Prince, his output is so prodigious that there is just so much to say about him.
And I don’t even count myself to be particularly knowledgeable, certainly when compared to the reams and reams of information that can be unearthed on fan sites across the world wide web. Seriously, the amount that has been written on forgotten bootlegs, rumoured side-projects, lost albums is itself a sight to behold. I came across one the other day which is all about a rumoured song that can only be found in the vaults of the US Library of Congress, a song written but rejected in 1988 for Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” album, entitled “By Alien Means”. Almost worth a trip to DC for. I say almost, but trust me there are plenty of fans who would have made that crazy pilgrimage, and more power to them I say. That is truly dedication. But I wanted to talk briefly here about a song which is one of those that is fully released and available, indeed featuring on 1988’s incredible “Lovesexy” album, but rarely heralded or commented upon.
To me however it epitomises much of what there is to love about Prince, through it’s obvious musical accomplishment, but also the innovation that lies behind it and seeps out of the speakers on each listen. The song in question is the skittering funk of “Dance On”, a tune that continues the social commentary of “Sign O The Times” in terms of its subject matter, but which does so to a syncopation of stunning complexity. For some this jars as an aural experience, the amalgam of a frenetic drum pattern interspersed with some rock guitar licks and a driving bass (indeed the running bass throb sounds remarkably like the source for Q-Tip’s solo stormer “Breathe and Stop” but I am unsure if this is truly the case).
Whatever the case, for me this song does something that perhaps even the master of 80s funk didn’t set out to achieve. Because “Dance On” is a song that packs so much funk per ounce into its tiny body, that it almost transcends the music that it is rooted in. If funk is the groove that gets into your soul and shakes your booty in a primeval sex-swamp, then “Dance On” is a record that is so damn funky it goes over the precipice and takes the funk a step further in evolution, into a place where the usual rules don’t apply. It is a dance record with so much groove you can’t actually dance to it. Now that, my friends, is the true source.
An over the top appraisal you may feel, but it is a point worth making in urging a repeat listen to this tune, and indeed the whole of the “Lovesexy” set, an album which commercially marked a slight downturn for Prince, but which is a stunning collection for all sorts of reasons, some of which we have mentioned, and some we will doubtless return to. For now though, if you can catch the groove, just dance on, dance on*