Life, Love and the Revolution

Originally posted 25 June 2014. Click on image to enlarge for detail.
Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Records, 1984.
(l-r) Mark Brown, Prince, Bobby Z., Matt Fink, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin)

Dearly beloved, I am here today to tell you a story about this thing called life…

 Today, 25 June 2014, marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the album Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution. (The movie came out about a month later.)

I was 15.

I had been a huge fan for years, but nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for this. It was like hearing Stand! by Sly and the Family Stone, my then favorite album, but updated with eyeliner, underwear as outerwear and a guest appearance by a woman who literally was told to go jump in a lake.

I left home about two weeks after this LP came out. I had gotten into a physical altercation with my father after he struck my mother, and to the best of my knowledge, it was the last time he ever laid a hand on her. He and I literally tore up the apartment; I still have a scar on my nose where he was able to smash my face wide open.

When I left, I only had the following with me: a bloodied shirt, a faded pair of jeans and my copy of Purple Rain. I didn’t even have shoes or socks on. It could have easily been Whipped Cream and Other Delights. It just happened to be next to the stereo cabinet by the front door, and to this day I do not even know why I picked it up and walked out with it other than possibly subconsciously, it was the only thing in my life bringing me any kind of happiness.

I remember the night being stiflingly humid. I walked to Long Beach, about three miles, barefoot and smelling like death with the blood and sweat mixed together. It was never a safe neighborhood, day or night. Oddly, no one even stopped to ask me for change or a smoke. I am certain I gave off a “run for cover” vibe as I wandered down the street.

 I got my first apartment a couple of weeks later: a truly disgusting one-room flop that always stank of urine and was known to cater to ladies of the evening (it had hourly rates), HUGE rats in the alleyway near the rear stairwell and Godzilla-size roach-like bugs that would cover the walls leading to the communal bathroom down the hall. The one tiny window it had looked out onto the apartment across from mine that housed a older man with one leg who had just gotten out of prison and spoke to no one, a small, fuzzy blue glow always emanating from the television he had in his room on 24/7 that he emotionlessly fixed his gaze upon without fail.

Larry, an ex-con who was a friend of my mother’s back in high school in the 1960s, gave me a job at an auto wrecking yard. He also gave me a small stereo, still in excellent shape, with an 8-track player that had a cassette adapter and most importantly, a turntable with an extra stylus.

Friends would brave the winos, drug dealers, prostitutes, homeless junkies, longshoreman and other assorted denizens of the war zone that was the Los Angeles harbor area at that time to visit me. “Hey! Let’s listen to some music!” “Cool! Whatcha got?” Purple Rain was my only response all summer.

It became kind of a running joke. Thankfully, by some sheer force of bizarre luck or the most incredible chance of fate, NO ONE ever got tired of it. Most of all, me.

One time, during July, we bought some Annie Greensprings and Peach Ripple from the Pic-N-Save on Crenshaw (they never carded me as I was already 6 feet tall with a full beard at 15), got drunk and pierced our ears with Purple Rain as the soundtrack.

I still have four of the six (!) holes I somehow bravely put in my ears. Amazingly enough, none of us had to get tetanus shots.

 The music has aged well. Me, you be the judge. I do know this: I still have the album, with its original poster (which is the photo in this post), and in spite of the wear and tear it has received over the years, it reminds me that life is, and always will be, an electric word.

Love to you all.

Ben Bear

P.S. Now you know.
?uoy era woh, olleH
noos gnimoc si droL eht taht wonk I esuac’ enif m’I
.noos gnimoc ,gnimoC

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top