Spectral Display – It Takes A Muscle [To Fall in Love]

Michael Mulders was the primary engine behind Spectral Display when they were signed to a contract with EMI in 1980, though it wasn’t until he collaborated with Henri Overduin that they were able to put together this driving synth-heavy tune. Overduin wrote most of the lyrics and provided the vocals for It Takes A Muscle, which was recorded in Mulder’s home on his own equipment with the help of a few studio musicians. One notable if odd connection: the percussion for Spectral Display come courtesy of Kim Haworth, who did the drums on the America song A Horse With No Name. Though the song never achieved widespread success at the time, the group did follow up their 1982 self-titled debut with one more record in 1983 called Too Much Like Me. According to their site they are be recording new material, though that was in 2012 so I wouldn’t hold your breath. It was covered by M.I.A for her 2010 album Maya, proving once again that most of the things that have been good about mainstream music today can be found in even better form in the 80s.

Though I will probably never get to meet the men behind this jam, this fact from a section of their site called 5 Things You Did Not Know About Your Body suggests we would get along swimmingly:

“3 -The Storage capacity of human brain exceeds 4 Terabytes. (That makes 400,000 MP3’s. So, there’s no way to learn the entire Prince catalogue by heart).”

If only all click-bait was this relatable.

Mind & Matter – Sunshine Lady

Mind & Matter coalesced around James Harris III, better known to fans of the Minneapolis Sound as Jimmy Jam, in the late 1970s. Though Jimmy Jam is perhaps best known as a producer, his work with Mind & Matter is a high point of the excellent Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound compilation from Numero Group. In addition to appearing a few times on that release, Numero also put out a separate collection of just Mind & Matter material called 1514 Oliver Avenue (Basement) that is just begging for heavy rotation this summer and any future summers. Sunshine Lady was the b-side to I’m Under Your Spell, the only single Mind & Matter put out while active, which was also reissued by Numero Group. That should be good news for collectors since the original single is currently listing for around $650 on Discogs. You can watch the group perform at Uncle Sam’s, the precursor to First Avenue in Minneapolis, in this awesome video that the heroes at Numero Group found during their research for their compilation. As the title of their comp suggests, this material foreshadows a lot of the Minneapolis Sound that would gain popularity later in the 1980s, particularly the use of synths and other electronics in otherwise more traditional R&B forms. That video confirms what I’ve always a suspected as a Minneapolis-born music fan: Minneapolis will never be cooler than it was in the late-70s and early 80s. If you dig this track I’d encourage you purchase the entire comp over at Numero Group site because it is a treasure trove. I purchased the LP set during a recent sale and not only is the music great but the supplemental book that comes with it is full of archival pictures and other goodies that are more than worth the price.

Martika – Love…Thy Will Be Done

I’ve seen a number of pieces written since Prince’s sudden passing that list some of the songs he wrote that people might not be aware of, like Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” or The Bangles “Manic Monday,” but I don’t recall anyone mentioning this track. Though certainly not as well-known as those examples, “Love…Thy Will Be Done” was composed and produced by Prince for Martika’s second studio record Martika’s Kitchen. For some reason he is credited as Paisley Park instead of as Prince though working under different names was common throughout his career even beyond his widely-publicized name change. He also produced the title track for Martika’s Kitchen and anybody who has listened to a lot of Prince can probably detect some of the Purple One’s sonic trademarks in that one as well. I heard a version by Prince himself over at WFMU during a Prince tribute block and while that version isn’t available online this one pretty closely mirrors it with some more refined production when compared to the demo Prince recorded. In the days since Prince’s passing there have been many stations paying tribute to Prince and I’d only encourage them to make this their normal programming because many stations dramatically improved when they started broadcasting wall-to-wall Prince.

Edit: link replaced

Sign “O” The Times

In my high school there was a rumor that would occasionally circulate that Prince attended for one day before switching to Minneapolis Central. It’s almost certain that this is not true, but it speaks to just how badly people wanted a piece of him to belong to them. What makes him so remarkable is just how hard that was to do. He gave up only what he wanted to and nothing more and got away with it. As one of the most prolific, popular, and respected artists of the last four decades he could have done whatever he wanted. So he built his own studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota and recorded material that we might not hear for another decade, if at all.

It’s not enough to say he was prolific. He was on a mission, and only he’ll know if he completed it or even what it was. I’m sure a lot of remembrances will mention his dogged efforts to keep his music off the internet, some painting it as a quixotic crusade and others as evidence of his desire to truly own his art forever. People might snicker at his DMCA complaints against Vine clips featuring his work, dismissing it as a bizarre power grab from an artist past his prime. But is he wrong? Is it really that crazy for someone with a work ethic most people would kill for to work to prevent its passive consumption?

Another comment people might bandy about is his view of the internet being “over”. Again, people can laugh him off as quixotic but is he wrong? I’ve read more thinkpieces than I care to mention that make the same basic point: “the internet will kill music”. I don’t agree that the internet will kill music and I don’t really think Prince would either. Because he didn’t fight that stuff to protect himself from us. I think he did it to protect us from ourselves. He labored for it because it had a value that is wholly separate from streaming revenue or record deals or intellectual property. He gave a shit, and he wanted everybody else to give a shit too.

He didn’t have his team of “female black lawyers” take down Vines because he didn’t want people to enjoy his music without giving him money. He did it to try and get people to focus on that ineffable quality that he spent his whole career trying to put out into the world, and the outpouring of grief and remembrances tells me he more than achieved that aim. He recorded under different names and assembled new groups because the market couldn’t support the amount of material he wanted to release. I suppose it’s reasonable to snicker about his idiosyncrasies, but there’s a lesson that is as universal as he was unique: music is not its delivery mechanism and art is supposed to matter enough to people that they devote their lives to it, not consume it in the most convenient way possible or refuse to create unless it’s economically viable. When people say the internet is killing music what they really mean is it’s killing the music industry, an industry Prince spent a career bending to his will through work ethic, determination, and the kind of talent that people usually only get through deals with the devil. I’m certainly in no position to know or guess how music will reach people in ten years, but I’m guessing people will want to listen to Prince on it and I have a feeling that if we can hear his music it’ll be on his terms. RIP.