Up All Nite with Prince, Episode Two: It Ain't Over!

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Up All Nite With Prince: Episode Two
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Up All Nite With Prince is a new documentary from The Current! Host Andrea Swensson will explore Prince's prolific and reflective period of 2001 and 2002, the era when he launched his trailblazing NPG Music Club, released The Rainbow Children, One Nite Alone..., and put out a collection of live recordings from the One Nite Alone Tour.

This two-episode special was produced in partnership with the Prince Estate and Legacy Recordings, and coincides with the reissue of Prince's early 2000s material, out now.

The series is also available as a podcast on multiple platforms (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher. Episode One of Up All Nite With Prince is available here.

Transcript

Audio: "Xenophobia"

VO: This is Up All Nite with Prince, a two-part audio documentary about Prince's prolific and experimental period of 2001 and 2002, brought to you by The Current in collaboration with the Prince Estate, Paisley Park, and Sony Music Entertainment.

Audio: "Xenophobia" cont.

VO: I'm Andrea Swensson. In the first half of Up All Nite with Prince, we talked about what Prince was creating in the studio in the early 2000s. This second installment is all about what Prince and his band were brewing on stage.

The One Nite Alone Tour that Prince embarked on in 2002 was remarkable for a few reasons: it was a rare chance to see Prince in a smaller theater setting, rather than his typical arenas; it was his first tour to cater to his longtime fans by offering exclusive levels of access to the members of his NPG Music Club; and it was all recorded, from the soundchecks to the regular shows to the early-morning afterparties. Those recordings were released as Prince's first official live albums, a two-disc set called One Nite Alone... Live! and a disc of late-night club gigs called One Nite Alone... The Aftershow: It Ain't Over!

Despite the name of the One Nite Alone Tour, Prince was joined at these shows by a pared-down, jazz-influenced live band. In the early 2000s, Prince was in a period of reinvention, and he was assembling a new group to help him explore these sounds.

Audio: "Xenophobia"

Renato Neto: I met Prince in 2001, December.

VO: This is the keyboard player Renato Neto. He told me about how Prince recruited him for this jazzier, more improvisation-based tour.

Renato Neto: And I was very interested, and I said cool, let's do it. And I went there to stay a week - you know - to meet him, and I stayed there for three months - you know - and we start preparing the One Nite Alone Tour.

I'm from Brazil - you know - It was very cold - you know - December was like wow. And I was with my suitcase with all the summer clothes to go to Brazil after we stay a week in December at Paisley Park. And after a week he asked me to stay another week, and then I have to go to the shop and buy clothes because I was freezing my ass.

This whole month I stayed there the first time was a very creative - he was very open to myself, to bring my inputs, my influences, the way I played.

VO: That winter, Prince settled on a new core lineup for his live band: it featured Rhonda Smith on bass, John Blackwell on drums, and Renato on keys. They would be joined by a revolving cast of horn players on the road. The One Nite Alone Tour launched in March 2002 in the U.S. and would take Prince and his band across the country and then to Canada, Europe, and Japan.
Performing in theaters gave Prince an opportunity to change up his show and get away from a more choreographed, hits-focused presentation. As Renato recalls, Prince seemed to be toying with his audience's expectations from the moment he took the stage each night.

Audio: "The Rainbow Children" (Live from One Nite Alone Tour 2002)

Renato Neto: He start the show and (I'm) doing a solo on the piano for like, I don't know, five minutes, sometimes ten minutes of piano solo. And he's not coming to the stage. Everybody was like - you know - what's happening with that guy. And it was great. He was provoking the audience and his fans to be open minded, to listen different music, different stuff - you know - more open, more improvisation, more jazz in some way.

VO: Prince would often leave the stage and let Renato, Rhonda, and John jam, or hand over the reins to one of his horn players. Depending on the show, fans might get a chance to see Maceo Parker, Candy Dulfer, Eric Leeds, Greg Boyer, or Najee blow their horns. Prior to meeting Prince, Najee had worked alongside legends like Chaka Khan, Quincy Jones, and George Duke.

Najee: You know, I think Prince was at that time in his life, which I think most artists go through, when you're established as an artist for one thing. You get to a point as an artist where you feel like it's just not gratifying anymore, so you start to look out and stretch out for other ideas and you connect with other musicians and try to feed off of their energy. I think he was at that point. A lot of times when people ask me about the Rainbow Children album, I always equate it to Miles Davis's Bitches Brew. It was really a departure from what Prince normally did.

Audio: "1+1+1=3"

Najee: I always loved when it was just free - you know - when it's just improvisational. He would just say "Najee" and just - I'd go out there and play and then that was it; we'd just go for it.

Audio: "1+1+1=3" (continued)

Scottie Baldwin: He was somebody that didn't like being restrained in his amount of time or his display of his talents.

VO: This is Scottie Baldwin, Prince's longtime live engineer. These are Scottie's front of house mixes that are included in the One Nite Alone... Live! releases, captured on digital audio tapes during the tour and burned onto CDs for Prince to review. Scottie was such an integral part of Prince's live presentation that you can hear Prince speaking to him on stage in some of the recordings.

Audio: "1+1+1=3" (From Live at The Aladdin Las Vegas)

Scottie Baldwin: Prince was just brewing onstage. He was concocting his composition. He was composing onstage live in front of us.

John Blackwell and Rhonda Smith and Renato Neto are all great jazz players. They didn't have to work very hard to get into that mindset. It wasn't true jazz, but it was Prince's kind of jazz, which meant there were jazz breaks but then it would go full pop, he always had the caliber [of] musicians - especially in that band - that were able to pull back and go forward very easily. And then you have a horn section of Mike Philips, Najee, Candy Dulfer, Greg Boyer, Maceo, who are able to pop in and out - Eric Leeds as well. And then you could add Sheila [E.] for special occasions, and it was - everyone knew jazz. They were all schooled in jazz, so they were able to kind of coach Prince through that, rather than conversely, he usually was the one to coach players through a certain era or through a certain album. They knew the limits of jazz so they knew where to go and how to get back.

VO: In addition to provoking his audience musically, Prince was also challenging his fans to think more deeply about spirituality, race, philosophy, and the state of the world.

Audio: "Anna Stesia"

Sam Jennings: That tour was one where we really made a point of getting the NPG Music Club members tickets in advance and also into the front of the house.

VO: This is Sam Jennings, Prince's longtime web designer. Sam ran the pioneering NPG Music Club, Prince's subscription music service that launched in 2001.

Sam Jennings: So it would essentially take over the first 15 rows and fill them with just our members of the club.

Scottie Baldwin: Well, he held fans of course with the highest regard. He was loyal to the people that were loyal to him, and even when band members and technicians weren't loyal to him, the fans stayed there. So this was really for them. It was pretty special, because who you would think would be the most fervent fans - the people with pull would always be up front. For example, I tell the story of Wesley Snipes. We were in LA, and Wesley Snipes contacted Prince. Prince said to me, "Hey, guess who wants to come to the show?" And I said, I don't know. He said, "Wesley Snipes." I said oh, cool. And he said, "Yeah, he called me and he asked for tickets." And I said, "Well, how many do you need?" And he said, "Six." And he said, "Okay, that'll be $900." And he said, "No, no, no, I was just figuring you'd give me six tickets." And he said, "Oh, oh, oh, okay. Well, when I watched your movie, Passenger 57, I rented out a whole theater and it sucked." He said, "I know my show is worth $150 a piece," or whatever it was. And so we laughed about that. Well then, sure enough, a couple of weeks later we're in LA at the Kodak Theatre. The show is about to go on, and LA had a huge fan following so it filled up this whole fan section almost all the way to the soundboard, and a couple of minutes before the show, I turned around, and who was sitting behind me with shades on two rows behind my soundboard? Wesley Snipes. So I reported that to Prince and we had a good laugh over that. He wanted the fans to have - the true fans, right, he wanted to reward them.

Audio: "Other Side of the Pillow"

VO: In addition to reserving the best seats for his fans, Prince also let NPG Music Club members into his soundchecks during the One Nite Alone Tour. Those soundchecks evolved into extended, private Q&A sessions with his most devoted fans, who he called his fams. Here's Sam Jennings again.

Sam Jennings: I think it started out as sort of a lark, like sure, we'll see what happens; could be interesting. And I don't necessarily think he even intended to interact with the fans first. But I think once it started happening and sort of building on what he already started at Paisley Park, he started warming up to the crowd, and I don't think he could really help himself but like say stuff to them. He's the ultimate performer, so he's not gonna ignore people watching, I don't think. And slowly but surely, he started warming up and talking to them more and having more interactions, taking questions, getting soundcheck done also but also inviting people up to sing a song with the band and all kinds of stuff. I think it just kinda snowballed once he got comfortable with it, and once he realized that it was gonna be cool. And again, the NPG Music Club members, they knew how to treat him with respect, so it was never really an issue of people screaming and fainting and anything crazy like that.

Scottie Baldwin: They were very special for those people that were there. I have to tell you, they are lifelong memories for those people, and what I liked is that at one point, I asked Prince, do you want me to have a mic in the audience for people to ask questions, and he said, "No, I don't want any of this recorded. Don't record any of this." Oftentimes, if I was back at the back of a venue, I couldn't hear what they were saying. Which I think is even more beautiful, because that experience will remain with those fans alone between them and Prince.

Audio: "One Nite Alone" from One Nite Alone Live!

VO: After those soundchecks with his fans and the regular show, Prince would also often tack on an aftershow that would give people a chance to see him and his band let loose in an even smaller room.

Scottie Baldwin: During the end of soundcheck - the big show - Prince would say, "Y'all wanna jam tonight?" He almost always without exception would ask the band, and of course they'd all nod yes, because they knew there was some money on the other end of it, as well. Then he would turn and say, "Scottie, wanna jam tonight?" I'd say cool. And so after - they would find a club, usually his head security guy, Trevor, would find a club; or Takumi. Somebody would find a club to play, and I would fax over an input list, and they would get the board ready, and they would get the right rental gear and we would go directly over from the show. Just - there'd be cars waiting and we'd hop in and race over. Usually, since the band had to get out of all their stuff, and Prince stayed in something kinda flashy, he and I would arrive oftentimes at the same time. He would usually go to the soundboard and sit there while I was quickly running around, helping mic the stage and get a line check going just without musicians there, and there was a buzz about it back then. Remember, this was when everyone could smoke in clubs. It almost looked like a projected image in these clubs, and the chatter, and then people [would] realize Prince was there and they would turn and they would - there'd be a lot of focus on the soundboard area. And the band would come in and they'd play a little bit and I would quick sound check and Prince might whisper a couple things to me about how he wanted something sound or what he was gonna play that night, or how long he was gonna play. He'd sometimes say, "We gonna go two hours tonight, Scottie." I'd say okay, cool. He knew that my DAT recorder that I carried with me only was two hours. So he'd usually land those in under two hours. He would always pick up on that. It's very interesting that he would know exactly how much to do and when to do it. And so I would start recording and he would - he'd walk up there and take the stage and then it would - it just had a dirty, sweaty feel to it. It felt really good.

Audio: "Joy in Repetition"

Renato Neto: Majority of the time is just like a - there's no plan.

VO: This is the piano player Renato Neto again.

Renato Neto: It's just like - you know - after the show they'd decide to do a jam - you know - someplace. When we were in LA we go to - I remember once we were playing [a] theater on Hollywood Boulevard, and after the show we did, he decided to do it in a House of Blues, and it was like in an hour, he decided to do that - went to the hotel, took a shower at like 1:00 in the morning - went to the House of Blues and did like a long set of jamming. It was sold out of people - you know - people find out like in 30 minutes and when you see this line outside - you know - I was pretty impressed.

Najee: That was Prince unplugged.

VO: This is the saxophonist Najee.

Najee: We did everything you could imagine. We'd go anywhere in the music. One time he wanted me to - you know how people jump in the audience, and you'd ride the wave kinda thing. He wanted me to do it, which I did not do. I was like - he said, "Man, come out here. Jump out there." I'm like, "I'm not jumping out there." He's like, "Come on, man, I'll buy you another horn." I'm like, "No, I'm good. What if they decide to part the wave and I fall straight down?" So - you know - you never knew what to expect. It was always fun. And you never knew who would show up - he would allow them to sit in and just have a good time.

Audio: "Just Friends" from The Aftershows: It Ain't Over!

VO: This recording, captured at an aftershow at the World in New York in 2002, and features Musiq Soulchild and Questlove, performing Musiq's song "Just Friends" with Prince.

Renato Neto: So many cats showing up at that time - you know - I remember a few but Chaka Kahn's few times - I was a huge fan of Chaka and Stevie Wonder. Jennifer Lopez's husband - what's his name?

Andrea Swensson: Marc Anthony?

Neto: Marc Anthony. great guy too - very talented guy. So many people came you know - everybody loved Prince's music - you know it was always something new.

Audio: "Alphabet Street" from The Aftershows: It Ain't Over!

Najee: You know - he filmed everything. And I recall a couple of times where he would invite us back to his suite after we played a show and an afterparty, then we go back to his suite at 4:00 in the morning, and he wants to watch everything we just did. I'm sleeping on the couch like - and he's like 'Najee, look what you played right here, man. And I'm like - I look up and half like - like oh yeah, man, that was dope. I'm like I'm half knocked out. It's like 5:00 in the morning. I never saw him sleep; never saw him sleep, doze off, none of that.

VO: Prince had a vision for the live albums he would release once the tour was over: a two-disc set called One Nite Alone... Live! and an additional disc called One Nite Alone: Live! The Aftershows: It Ain't Over! He would often check in with Scottie Baldwin before and after the show to make sure they were capturing exactly what he had in mind.

Andrea Swensson: Yeah. Can you tell the story of It Ain't Over?

Scottie Baldwin: At one - I believe it was New York City when George Clinton sat in, and he started the chant, "It ain't over, it ain't over, it ain't over." Sometime later, Prince already had this all in his mind. So at an aftershow he said, "I'm gonna do a short aftershow tonight, but at the end of it, I'm gonna start the chant, "It ain't over." "I'm gonna turn my mic to the crowd, and I'm gonna get them to say it, and then I'm gonna walk off. I might come back, but I want you to record that. That's when you can crank everything up. Mute the instruments and crank everything up." So he already had the director's hat on. He knew what he needed. He needed the crowd chanting, "It ain't over" to use in editing later.

Audio: "Everlasting Now (Vamp)" from It Ain't Over!

Scottie Baldwin: So when Prince said, "It ain't ovah, it ain't ovah," and he started chanting, he'd turn to them - oh - and he kept at it, putting his hand to his ear. The crowd kept chanting it. He walked off, then he walked back on and said, "Yeah," and they kept chanting it and then he walked off and then they kept doing it, think he'd come back - thinking he'd come back again. He didn't.

But by the time I got on the bus I got a phone call and he said, "Hang on, here's Prince." Prince came on and said, "Did you get it?" And I said yeah, I got it. So all he was interested in was that little bit so that he could give it to the engineers. So clearly he orchestrated this, like Geppetto, way in advance of me knowing that that was even gonna happen. So obviously he'd been listening to the digital audio tape I'd been giving him over the length of the tour - the course of the tour - and he knew in his mind that he was gonna release a live box set. But releasing a live record, especially a three-disc, six-album release - every other artist that we know and that you ever heard would multi-track it. Go back in the studio, fix things that they didn't like, re-record vocals. They did almost none of that. As I said, the engineers at Paisley Park mainly mastered it and did some interstitial fades with crowd mics and such, or with the crowd through the vocal mics. Completely trailblazer thing to do, which is monetize something that normally wouldn't be monetizable.

Andrea Swensson: Yeah. There's something so poignant about getting to hear the crowd through Prince's microphone. It's like you get to hear what his perspective was in that room.

Audio: "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" (from The Aftershows: It Ain't Over!)

VO: In addition to collecting Prince's DAT recordings for these historic live albums, Scottie also wrote the liner notes for One Nite Alone: Live! Now that the live albums are being reissued, a whole new generation of Prince fans will have the opportunity to experience the collection through Scottie's eyes — and ears.

Scottie Baldwin: I look at that era in Prince's career as very exploratory, not unlike Lovesexy. It's something that I sort of put those two records - The Rainbow Children and the Lovesexy era - I put in the same. It's just that when he played Lovesexy live he did all the hits with them. This may not have been all the hits, but in a way I think you got a deeper, and more meaningful look into Prince as a person. And I'm really proud of the work we all did collectively in this era, because it speaks about where he was, and in the canon of his work, it's a particular era, and I'm glad the fans will be able to enjoy that.

Audio: "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" (continued)

VO: Thanks so much for listening to Up All Nite with Prince, and for checking out these great early 2000s Prince albums with us. As I mentioned in part one, this is such an intriguing and lesser-known period of Prince's career, and I appreciate that these latest reissues gave us a reason to dig in and learn more. As Scottie says, there is a lot of material to study from this era and so much that can tell us about Prince, an artist who seemed to reinvent himself every year throughout his entire career.

Up All Nite with Prince is produced by The Current and supported by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. This program was produced in collaboration with the Prince Estate and Sony Music Entertainment and with their support. This story was hosted and produced by me, Andrea Swensson, produced and edited by Anna Weggel, and mixed by Corey Schreppel, with production support from Brett Baldwin, Lynn Elliot, Cecilia Johnson, David Safar, and Derrick Stevens. Thanks to Trevor Guy, Michael Howe, and Zack Hochkeppel. To learn more about The Current, visit thecurrent.org. If you haven't subscribed yet, search for Up All Nite with Prince on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, to learn more about Prince, visit Prince.com.


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