Shortly after Prince's sudden and tragic death early this afternoon, OnMilwaukee met up with Milwaukee musician (and OnMilwaukee contributor) Victor DeLorenzo, who had a fun story and a few thoughts to share about the late musical icon.
OnMilwaukee: Do you have any Prince stories?
Victor DeLorenzo: Well, the one incredible Prince story I have to relay is the time when the Violent Femmes were in Los Angeles, and we were working on a record that eventually became "Why Do Birds Sing?" We were working on some of the recording with Prince’s engineer, Susan Rogers, and we had a great time with Susan. We were doing final mixes over at a studio called Larrabee, and this was a studio complex – we were in one studio, and in the studio next to us, Prince was in the studio.
So, jokingly, we said to Susan one afternoon when we were working, "Hey, why don’t you go next door and ask Prince if he’s got a song for us?" After doing this a number of times, she finally said, "OK, alright, I’ll go bother him!" So she goes over there.
She’s gone about 10 minutes, and we’re thinking, "Wow, what’s going to happen? What if he wants to come over and meet us? Or if he has a song?" Suddenly, she comes back into the studio we’re working in, and she says, "Prince has a song for you. He’s sending someone over to his archive, and they’ll get a cassette over to you later this afternoon."
So this cassette arrives, and it’s a song called "You’ve Got A Beautiful Ass " (sic). And I think it did come out later on one of his collections or compilations or outtakes or what have you. We had this cassette, and we listen to it, and I can remember the chorus: "You’ve got a wonderful ass; you’ve got a beautiful ass." Or something to that effect. I think Gordon still probably has the cassette. But another mistake in a long line of many made by Violent Femmes, we never recorded it.
Did you guys consider it?
We did consider it! But at that time, we were thinking, "Wow, if we record something like this, is it going to be able to really get out there – even if we say it’s a Prince song – because of the subject matter and that?" Even though we’d had songs like "Girl Trouble" (sic) and "Add It Up" (sic) and all this other stuff, we still kind of thought, "Is that the right thing for us right now when we’re trying to get something really on the radio?"
Did you think at the time that he was messing with you?
You thought that was a song that he really thought would be great for you guys.
Yeah, and I wish I had the cassette, because the song was really cool! I really liked the song.
So he actually did put some thought into that.
Yeah! It was like what I was just reading today; he’s got an archive of I don’t know how many thousands of songs that are just finished that are just sitting there. And that’s what Susan Rogers told us too. He would come in there to the studio and just record all the time. He would be there every day, just working on stuff.
She would set up mics on the drum set; he would go out and play the drums first. Then he’d come in and play the bass to the drums. Then he’d do the guitars and do some keyboards. And then he’d say, "OK, Sue, it’s time for me to do my thing." And then she would set up a mic behind the console, and she would leave for an hour or so. And he would sit there, and he would do all his vocals by himself.
Would it have made a difference if the interaction had happened sooner? You were saying you were mixing the record by then, so basically the record was done. Would it have mattered if it could’ve been an album track?
I like to think that anything could’ve happened the moment that cassette got into our hands. But, as you said, yes, the record was in the final stages of being mixed – even though we did take that whole record and remix it here in Milwaukee with Dave Vartanian. We didn’t track anything brand new; the record itself was finished.
But who knows? If things would’ve gone another way, maybe we would’ve made time to do just a recording of that track and release it just as a single.
In a more overarching way, what does Prince leave us with? I mean, this was not your average, ordinary musician; this is a guy who made a major contribution.
I think what I most appreciate about Prince and his music is the mystery that was involved. I liked the fact that he infused so many different styles of music into his own and that he, much like a ’30s or ’40s Hollywood movie star, really banked on that persona of his, and the sexuality and the mystery surrounding it. So he was being sexy, but not in an overtly masculine or feminine way, which was very progressive at that time. Long before Madonna did her sex book or anything like that, this was something middle America had to confront.
And being from Minneapolis! How amazing that you have these two cultural icons – Bob Dylan and Prince – coming out of Minnesota.
And both craftsmen.
Right! And prolific! Both so prolific.
With Prince and Madonna, there was that commonality of the sexuality, but Madonna’s always seemed more crassly commercial. Prince’s always just seemed more artful, a little more challenging thoughtfulness to it.
And that it really came from something.
Other than a desire to be on the front page.
Right. They were both huge egotists, of course, and it’s funny because I think when they did finally get together, wasn’t there a lot of friction? I think they released a few recordings, but there was something strange about their interaction.
But Prince, his music I like to think came from purity and no artifice, whereas Madonna was very calculating from her first appearance on the world stage, I think. That’s what made her attractive. And I think the reason that Prince was so attractive was that here were the reflections of a dirty mind. Here was how this fellow thinks about sexuality. And this is how he portrays it to an audience at large – no fear and totally in the vanguard as a trailblazer.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.