Musical Pumpkins & Stingy Jack

By Peter Skiera

I try to post a Halloween-themed article every year around this time. This year I wanted it to be at least somewhat music-related. I was unsure how I would accomplish this until I saw a TV commercial for the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island.

The Roger Williams Park. Zoo is the 3rd oldest Zoo in the country, having opened to the public in 1872. They have held this event for the last ten years or so. Last year it was reduced to drive-through only because of the pandemic. This year it was open to the walking public again and the theme was music. Perfect. I am so there!

Image from Passion for Pumpkin’s Facebook page.


Let me set the table for you. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular features 5,000 professionally-carved pumpkins lit from the inside with LED lights. The carvings are done by a company called Passion for Pumpkins who have been perfecting their unique craft for 25 years. Over a million people have seen their work at shows throughout New England. The Library of Congress proclaimed their events a “local legacy”.

How does Passion create such detailed carvings? Their carvers are not just carvers, they are full-fledged artists. The process starts off as a thin sketch drawn on a pumpkin. The carving is done by hand with different instruments cutting at different depths. Certain areas are filled in with a black Sharpie which ends up creating an almost a 3-D effect when the pumpkin is back lighted. To my eyes it looks like the pumpkins got tattoos. Although this is a Halloween event, the designs are not intended to scare the bejesus out of you. Rather, Passion puts on family-friendly events they consider to be on the same level as outdoor art exhibits.

I got in touch with Mike Finizza, owner of Passion for Pumpkins, via email to find out more about this fascinating fruit art.



PS: Did you pick the event’s music theme or did the Zoo do that?

MF: The name of our company is Passion for Pumpkins Inc. and we have 3 events located in Providence, RI, Louisville, KY, and Minneapolis, MN. We design and produces pretty much everything that goes into the show from a performance perspective….Themes, Pumpkin designs and music.

PS: I noticed more than a few pumpkins had some kind of plastic or fabric inside placed over the carved openings. What was that for?

MF: That is a fiber paper we use to make the pumpkins glow a little better. Many years ago, we used candles for all the pumpkins, but that became a fire hazard so we went to Christmas lights and they can get too bright so the paper makes the light filtered and glows better.

PS: I know each design is different, but how long does it take to create a design on a pumpkin? For example, Prince and John Lennon.

MF: Those typically take artists 4 to 6 hours each depending on size and amount of carving.

PS: I’m curious why a purple light was not used inside the Prince pumpkin. Do colored lights not work as well?

MF: Yes, they don’t work well in the artwork pumpkins.

Image from Passion for Pumpkin’s Facebook page.



PS: Was there a reason why some of the “standard” pumpkins did not have a flickering light inside to simulate a candle?

MF: We have used flickering led lights in the past, but durability seems to be an issue with them.

PS: Roughly how long does a carved pumpkin last until you have to touch it up or replace it?

MF: Typically, they last 7 days depending on weather factors. Sometimes a little less or a little more. So, we replace them 4 to 5 times per year.

PS: Are all 5,000 pumpkins real? I heard one spectator comment that some could not be real because the tree branches could not support that kind of weight.

MF: Years ago, we used organic pumpkins in the tree[s], but branches fell with heavy winds and it became too dangerous.  

PS: Any other comments to share?

MF: We have been doing the event for over 30 years dating back to the original show in Oxford, Massachusetts.

Stingy Jack

Photo by Peter Skiera.



This event is called the “Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular”, which made me curious where the term Jack-O-Lantern originated from. It turns out it dates back to an old Irish folk tale. There are different versions of the tale, but the gist of it is, a guy nicknamed “Stingy Jack” invited the Devil to drink with him. Sounds like something an Irishman would do. Since Jack was stingy, he managed to trick the Devil into paying the bar tab. Needless to say, the Devil was none too pleased. Many years later when Jack died, the Devil exacted his revenge by preventing Jack from transitioning to the afterlife. Jack was doomed to forever walk the earth at night with a single burning piece of coal to light his way. He hollowed out a white turnip to put the coal in to use as a lantern. From then on, his new nickname was “Jack of the Lantern”, which became Jack-O-Lantern. People began carving turnips and eventually pumpkins and placing candles in them to ward off Jack’s and other ghostly spirits.

Image from Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Facebook page.



The Eyes Have It

Now that I have dispensed with the educational part of the program, let me return to the main event. Although I lived the first half of my life in R.I., I had never been to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular before. The prospect of a long night drive was concerning to me. I had surgery on both of my eyes three decades ago that left me sensitive to bright light, so driving in the dark is not exactly my favorite activity. Street lights, headlights, and brake lights look like starbursts and sometimes feel like daggers…What would be an ordinary evening drive for you is sensory overload for me. Nevertheless, I hopped in my car and drove 75 minutes from my MA home down to the Zoo hoping it would be worth it.

Swan boats for Halloween. Photo by Peter Skiera.



Bumpsy Daisy

Driving into the Zoo’s entrance was the complete opposite of my highway experience. There was zero signage directing people to the event and the roads were poorly lit, with some stretches having no lighting at all. At one point, traveling at about 20 MPH, I hit a massive speed bump I never saw coming. I thought it was going to rip apart my nine year old car.

Having survived the speed bump from hell, I was then presented with colorful Halloween lights on the water designed for the Zoo’s popular swan boats. However, I was anxious to embark on my pumpkin extravaganza, so I bypassed the illuminated swans and headed straight for the Zoo’s parking lot, all the while on the lookout for more industrial speed bumps.

Welcome to The Spectacular. Photo by Peter Skiera.



No Flashing

With a clear sky and a cool temperature, the conditions were perfect for pumpkin gazing. Before I started down the long and winding dark path, I pulled out my smartphone to prepare to get some snaps. A friendly Spectacular staff member advised me I would get better results if I turned the flash off. My camera does not usually perform well without the flash but I did as he suggested and, for the most part, his advice proved sound.

Getting pictures was not a problem, nor was navigating the path. There were a lot of people but everyone was spaced out so it did not feel congested. Spectators included children, teens, adults, and seniors.

The King of Ragtime. Photo by Peter Skiera.



The music theme began with ragtime and a pumpkin with the likeness of Scott Joplin carved into it. Ragtime music blared through a nearby loudspeaker. Walking at a leisurely pace, it took me nearly an hour to complete the tour. Some of the other musical time periods I would pass through included World War II, Christmas (complete with imitation falling snow), the 60’s, the 80’s, and the 90’s, all with appropriately carved pumpkins and music.

While in the 1990’s section I discovered a new song I liked playing over the loudspeaker. I launched the Shazam app on my smartphone and found out it was Don’t Laugh by Winx. The song was a rave anthem from the 90s and the creepy laughing fit right in amongst the grinning pumpkins. I just wished I was in on their joke.  



They do not call it a “Spectacular” for nothing! Photo by Peter Skiera.



I’m Surrounded

Everywhere I turned I was surrounded by pumpkins…big ones, little ones, pumpkins to the left of me, pumpkins to the right, even pumpkins hanging from the trees! I had never seen so many illuminated carved pumpkins before. It was stunning, and unlike my nighttime driving experience, my eyes happily soaked it up.

On a personal note, I love fog machines and I wish Passion for Pumpkins had strategically deployed a few of them. It would have added a spooky touch, but besides that, they are just cool, and this is the only time of year to see them in action.

The Fab Four Pumpkins

John Lennon. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Photo by Peter Skiera.



Being the big Beatles fan I am, I especially appreciated the individual John, Paul, George, and Ringo-carved pumpkins, although Ringo’s face was represented as a cartoon character which was not very flattering. There was even a pumpkin carved with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s likeness. John Lennon referred to him as “the giggling guru.”



Going where no pumpkin has gone before. Photo by Peter Skiera.



There were occasional fun deviations from the music theme, like sci-fi. And just to remind everyone they were at a Zoo, at one point I spied an elephant enjoying a bale of hay suspended from a rope (the hay, not the elephant), and a humongous turtle in its pen keeping warm under a heat lamp.

Back To The 60’s

Bob Dylan. “Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain.” Photo by Peter Skiera.



My favorite pumpkin time period was the 1960’s. Gerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan’s faces were all expertly pumpkin-fied.



Gerry Garcia. “Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” Photo by Peter Skiera.



“Everywhere I turned I was surrounded by pumpkins…big ones, little ones, pumpkins to the left of me, pumpkins to the right, even pumpkins hanging from the trees!”



Jimi Hendrix. “Ain’t no telling, baby. When you will see me again, but I pray, it will be tomorrow.” Photo by Peter Skiera.



Pumpkin Prince

Making my way further down the path, there was a tastefully carved Prince pumpkin. I took a picture of it but it was one of several that inexplicably turned into a solid green block. So much for state-of-the-art smartphone camera technology. I was surprised Passion for Pumpkins did not use a purple-colored Sharpie instead of black for this carving, but as with a purple light, perhaps colored Sharpies do not translate well on lighted pumpkins.



Lady Gaga. “Fall is a lovely time of the year when the leaves turn to gold and brown.” Photo by Peter Skiera.



Not every pumpkin was stuck in the past. As I neared the end of the trail, there were a gaggle of pumpkins featuring Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and others, though no Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, or Justin Bieber. I would have found a Miley Cyrus pumpkin very interesting. They would have to expose a lot of flesh for that one. Pumpkin flesh.

The biggest omission in my opinion…Elvis was not in the building…no Elvis pumpkin anywhere I could see, unless it was in the back enjoying a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. I realize every music legend could not be represented, and I am not a big Elvis fan, but a music theme is just not complete without The King. Sorry, Mama.



Yes, that is who you think it is. Photo by Peter Skiera.



I must say, I thought the final pumpkin on display was a curious choice…an Apple on a pumpkin. Steve Jobs was not a music legend, but I guess since he pioneered digital music downloads and developed the most popular portable music player in the world, it was appropriate.



Image from Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Facebook page.



Was it worth taking my life into my own hands to make the round trip night time drive? You betcha! It was wicked good as we say here in MA. It was amazing to see so many illuminated pumpkins and such intricate carvings. I have a hard enough time just cutting two eyes, a nose, and a mouth on my pumpkin. If you are in the area, the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is a must-see. Just watch out for those pesky speed bumps.

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I. runs through 10/31 rain or (moon) shine. Similar events are being held at Iroquois Park in Kentucky and the Minnesota Zoo.



Trivia: According to syfy.com, dressing up in Halloween costumes dates back 2,000 years.“Marking the start of winter, the traditional British and Irish Celtic calendar began on November 1, so the pagan festival of Samhain was celebrated on October 31, marking the time in which the barrier between living and dead is at its weakest. The souls of the dead, spirits, and fairies can walk among the living causing all kinds of mischief and danger. Costumes were worn to disguise and protect from those spirits wishing to do harm. A custom of dressing up (known as ‘guising) and going from house to house performing short scenes in exchange for food or drink was part of the festivities. This harvest collection was seen as an offering to the souls wandering the land, which would then translate into good fortune. If a person could impersonate a supernatural being, it would ensure they could not be seen by the spirits…”



Peter, Peter, pumpkin…Photo by Peter Skiera.



You can see more of my pumpkin pictures on my newly minted Recommended Stations Instagram page.

Halloween Internet Radio

My annual Halloween post would not be complete without a few select Halloween Internet radio station and album suggestions to get you in the “spirit” of the season.


  1. HHRN (HorrowAndHalloweenRadio), USA (128 kbps/MP3)

Photo by Peter Skiera.



This station plays Halloween music, scary old time radio dramas, and non-Halloween songs with Halloween-related titles. They also slip in fun, vintage B movie trailer clips now and again. Their logo looks suspiciously like the pumpkin mask in the horror film Halloween III.


2. Witches Radio, France (320 kbps/MP3)

Image from Witches Radio’s Facebook page.



Playing New Age and meditative music and ambient sounds, this station is only for good witches. As the station’s description says, “Let yourself be enchanted by the world of Witch Music- Music for Witches. Witches Radio is a digital radio station that invites you to open the doors to a unique musical experience indeed.” Personally, I love the station IDs spoken by a woman in French. She sounds like a Witch I would like to meet.


3. Sorcerer Radio – Seasons, FL (USA only), (128 kbps/MP3)

Image from srsounds.com/popperSRseasons.php



This station’s format changes based on the current holiday. Interesting. But that is not the half of it. It plays only Disney Halloween music. I did not know there was such a thing but apparently there is. Examples? Out There from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Witch Doctor by The Chipmunks, Grim Grinning Ghosts by Barenaked Ladies, the theme from the film Halloween (not sure what that has to do with Disney), The Nightmare Before Christmas (Main Title), and the 23 minute commentary and scary sound effects from Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride. Since it is Disney, it makes sense that Sorcerer Radio streams out of Orlando, Florida.

4. SomaFM Doomed (Special), CA (128 kbps/MP3)



 

This is another Internet station that morphs to fit the holiday at hand. “Doomed” has been away for a year, but now it is back again for Halloween. It is currently streaming “Dark industrial/ambient music for tortured souls”, according to SomaFM’s website. I did not understand a single thing I heard when I tuned in. In mid-November the station changes to “Department Store Christmas”, which sounds even more horrific.

Before I leave you, here are five Halloween album suggestions:

  1. Real Gone Music
Real Gone Music’s The Munsters on “pumpkin” colored vinyl with black splatter. Photo from realgonemusic.com



My good friends Gordon and Gabby over at Real Gone have rolled out numerous Halloween soundtracks on fun colored vinyl just in time for Halloween. Some of these include Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Demon Knight, Groovie Goolies, and The Munsters (which actually is not The Munsters singing). I’m including links at the end of this article for the titles in my list.


Trivia: The Wrecking Crew, a group of Los Angeles session musicians, performed the songs on The Munsters LP in 1964. The largely unknown group had been used by Producer Phil Spector and they backed artists like Sonny & Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, and Frank Sinatra. They also played the instruments on the first two Monkees records.



2. Munster, Go Home Soundtrack, La-La Land Records, LLLC1539

My Munster, Go Home CD (skeleton trumpet player not included). Photo by Peter Skiera.



You have heard of Rom-Coms. I would call The Munsters TV show a Monster-Com. I used to watch the show when I was a kid and sometimes still tune in on cable channel Cozi TV. I had hoped there would have been a special reunion episode with the original cast and Fred Gwynne before he died, but that was not to be. Gwynne played the loveable Herman Munster on the black and white TV series.

The Creators of Leave It to Beaver came up with the idea of an all-American monster family. After airing for two years on CBS, the series was cancelled due to falling ratings (likely due to ABC TV’s Batman). The studio was keen on milking the characters and cultivating a new overseas audience, so Munster, Go Home was developed. It featured the original TV cast sans Pat Priest (“Marilyn”) who was replaced by Debbie Watson. The film presented the cast in glorious Technicolor for the first time and with no laugh track.

Perhaps the most memorable scenes in the film involved a drag race with Herman Munster driving the DRAGULA, a custom dragster built with a real coffin, Ford Mustang V-8 motor, and two four-barrel carburetors.

The CD booklet from Musnter, Go Home. Photo by Peter Skiera.


This previously unreleased CD soundtrack from 2020 includes the film score by Jack Marshall who also scored the music for the TV series. Marshall was a professional guitarist and former Capitol Records Producer. Unlike the TV show, for the big screen soundtrack, Marshall used an orchestra and recorded the music in two channel stereo. With 20 tracks plus 3 bonus tracks, the CD clocks in at nearly an hour, and the sound quality from this 1966 recording is excellent thanks to the high-resolution transfer. The CD comes with an extensive 23-page booklet, but a magnifying glass should have also been included to read the small type.

Surprisingly, Marshall did not perform the original TV theme music for the soundtrack. There are variations on the theme throughout all of the music, but the closest we get to the actual theme is the track Meet The Munsters, which is a slow version of the theme performed on a harpsicord.

This title is limited to 3,000 pressings so get yours before they disappear like a ghost on Halloween.



Trivia: Musician, Movie Director, and major Munster’s fan, Rob Zombie, is currently directing a Munsters movie in Budapest. No formal release date has been set.

3. Various artists: 18 Classic Blues Songs, Volume 6, Nightmare, Blues Images BIM-106

My “Nightmare” CD. Photo by Peter Skiera.



This CD is a collection of rare vintage blues songs mostly from the 1920s taken from their original 78 RPM records. Three songs have a Halloween theme…Nightmare, Graveyard Dream Blues, and Death May Be Your Christmas Present.

The real reason to get this collection is because it includes Alcohol and Jake Blues by Tommy Johnson which is so rare it is scary. John Tefteller bought the Paramount record on eBay for $37,100 in 2013. There are only two known copies in existence and Tefteller owns the other one. He started Blues Images and sells calendars that feature rare blues-related photographs that come with a different blues CD every year, but you can buy just the CDs if you do not need the calendar.



Trivia: According to his brother, Tommy Johnson claimed to have sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads in exchange for being able to master the guitar.



4. Buck Owens and The Buckaroos, It’s A Monster’s Holiday, Sundazed

Image from sundazed.com



Buck Owens was a country music singer and guitarist, but I will always remember him as the co-host of the long running Hee Haw TV show.

Owens never recorded a Halloween album, though he did record a Halloween song. It’s A Monster’s Holiday LP was released in 1974 and is the only track on the record with a Halloween theme. The novelty song became a country music hit and the entire album was recently reissued (the first-ever reissue of this title) by Sundazed on “ghastly green” vinyl. Monster Mash it is not, but the song is still fun: “Frankenstein was the first in line / And the Wolfman came up next / Dracula was a doing his stuff / Breathing down my neck / Jump back, make tracks, here comes the Hunchback / Better get out of his way / Fee fee fi fi fo fo fum / It was a Monster’s Holiday.” Great stuff.


Trivia: It’s A Monster’s Holiday LP made the top 10 country chart in 1974 and the single peaked at #6.



5. Young Frankenstein, Original London Cast Recording, Notefornote Entertainment

Image from ccmusic.com



I have seen Young Frankenstein more times than I can count, and I also saw the Broadway production. It was not as enjoyable as the film, but it was still fun. The original London cast recording was released a few months ago and the film soundtrack can still be had as well.


Trivia: For the Young Frankenstein film, Director Mel Brooks tracked down the electrical equipment used in the original Frankenstein movie of 1931 and rented it for use in Young Frankenstein in 1974.


6. Halloween Kills Soundtrack, Sacred Bones Records

Image from sacredbonesrecords.com

Just released in time for the season is the soundtrack to the new film Halloween Kills, a sequel to last year’s excellent Halloween. Sacred Bones’ limited edition versions on molten and flame flicker colored vinyl as well as their “art edition” quickly sold out. However, the orange and “charred pumpkin” colored vinyl pressings can still be had. They also offer the soundtrack on CD and digital download. Why you can even buy it on cassette tape, just like Michael Myers used to listen to on his boombox.


6. William Shatner: I Put A Spell On You, Cleopatra Records

Hanging with Captain Kirk.



I love Bill Shatner and I am happy for him that he now has the distinct honor of being the oldest person who has been in space thanks to Blue Origin. I was thrilled to meet him in person a few years ago at a R.I. ComicCon. He autographed a photo to me, signing it “Get a life.” No, I was not dressed in a Star Trek uniform.

Blues is Captain Kirk’s most recent recorded offering recorded in 2020. It is not a Halloween album, but Shatner does a hilarious version of I Put A Spell On You worthy of inclusion on Rhino Records’ Golden Throat series.



Trivia: Shatner’s first record album was The Transformed Man released in 1968 while he was still starring the Star Trek TV series. It has gone on to become a cult classic.

And on that note, have a safe and fun Halloween.



Links:

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular

Real Gone Music

Munster, Go Home Soundtrack CD

Various: 18 Classic Blues Songs CD

Buck Owens: It’s A Monster’s Holiday LP

Young Frankenstein OCR LP

Halloween Kills Soundtrack

William Shatner, I Put A Spell On You

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Welcome 2 America




By Peter Skiera

I recently purchased Welcome 2 America, a full-length album of previously unreleased music issued by Prince’s estate. That, along with a 60 Minutes segment on Prince, and this month marking the 5th Anniversary of Paisley Park opening to the public, inspired me to fly out to Minneapolis to check out some Prince landmarks and tour Prince’s Paisley Park home and recording studios. Before I get to that, here is my personal take on Prince’s new album.


Prince could be a strange guy, and that sometimes revealed itself in his music. Yet the material on Welcome 2 America is more approachable than much of his previous work and it seemed like Prince knew it. According to a July 27 interview broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition, in 2010 Prince played this music on a CD-R for his friend and keyboardist, Morris Hayes, while they were sitting together in Prince’s car at Paisley Park. Prince was very proud of the music and asked Hayes to co-Produce the new album. An album photo shoot was eventually done. He even embarked on a tour he called “Welcome 2 America”. So, it is puzzling why he later relegated these recordings to his vault. Like I said, Prince could be a strange guy.

Heavy, man.

Though the music on Welcome 2 America might be more accessible, it is a heavy album. Judging from the picture on the album cover, Prince meant business. The 12 tracks deal with racism, politics, religion, sex, and capitalism. Heavy stuff. Even though the songs were written eleven years ago, his words are just as relevant today. Take the lyrics from the title track for example: “Distracted by the iPhone/ Got an application, to fix your situation”….and…”Welcome To America / Where everything and nothing that Google says is hip.”

Prince apparently still harbored a great deal of resentment toward the record industry as evidenced in Running Game: “How much do you want for that real dope beat? / Another A&R man lyin’ through their teeth”…”There goes the publicity / You’re back on the street.”

“Judging from the picture on the album cover, Prince meant business.”

Racism gets equal time as well. Bear in mind, Prince composed these songs when Barack Obama was in The White House, but the messages still resonate. On One Day We’ll All Be Free he sings:“Kneeling down beside your bed / Praying for a sign / And everything your mother said / Was just a waste of time.”

Even religion does not escape comment. In 1000 Light Years From Now, Prince, who was a Jehovah’s Witness, sings,“Why would God make Heaven so far way? / With a whole world of His children / Cryin’ to Him every day.”


Welcome 2 America’s CD booklet. Booklet photo by Peter Skiera.



Aged 52 at the time he recorded Welcome 2 America, Prince also exposes his kinky side to us in When She Comes: “When she comes / She never, ever / Holds her sighs…Some people might think it’s rude  / But she’s more comfortable in the nude.” 

Yet all of this heavy commentary is beautifully wrapped in funk, R&B, and pop music that is so fresh and enjoyable, it goes down like a spoon full of purple-colored natural sweetener.


One of the pictures inside Welcome 2 America’s CD booklet. Booklet photo by Peter Skiera.

It’s All About Balance

Not to leave you with the wrong impression, Welcome 2 America is not all heavy. The heaviness gets balanced out with some easy-breezy tunes like Hot Summer which sounds like it could have the makings of a hit single. Stand Up & Be Strong is Dr. Prince lifting you up on a bad day…”In the times of unrest / And you’re all depressed / If your life’s a mess / Remember you’re blessed.”The song features great keyboard and guitar work by Prince. YES is another fun track that would have been a perfect song to perform during a Super Bowl halftime show or a live concert: “We got the keys we gonna give ‘em to you / Only if you’re ready for your dreams to come true / Oh yes!”

On the majority of the tracks, Tal Wilkenfeld played bass guitar, Chris Coleman played drums, and Morris Hayes played keyboards, but Prince was clearly the leader. The guitar might have been his first love, but Prince was musically promiscuous. As well as lead vocal and guitar, he played drums, synth bass, keyboard, piano, percussion, and the drum machine. He also composed, arranged, and produced or co-produced most of the songs.

Sorry, You Didn’t Get Your Bonus

I was really hoping to hear a little chatter at the start or end of some of the songs to get a glimpse of what Prince was like in the studio, but no such luck. He was a very private person so perhaps he did not want private Paisley Park studio talk to leave the studio…What happened in Paisley Park stayed in Paisley Park.

Likewise, a bonus track or two, like the B Side live version of Welcome 2 America from the 7” single, would have been nice. Or better yet, a cut from the CD-R Hayes heard in Prince’s car. Again, no such luck here. I suppose we have been spoiled by CD bonus tracks. We have come to expect them as standard, so not getting even one is a bit of a disappointment, especially with the price of CDs and vinyl (Welcome 2 America is available in both formats for your listening enjoyment).


Inside Paisley Park with my Prince CD.


Toward the end of my Paisley Park tour, which I shall write about in Visiting A Prince: Part 2 next month, I told my guide I had purchased the Welcome 2 America CD. He asked me what I thought of it. I said it was not what I expected. He replied, “That’s Prince.”

“The guitar might have been his first love, but Prince was musically promiscuous.”


Welcome 2 America peaked at #4 on Billboard’s 200 chart and #1 on Billboard’s R&B Album chart. According to Billboard.com, Prince joins about a dozen other acts to have 20 albums in the top 10. Moreover, he is just the sixth artist to have top 10 albums in each of the last five decades.

Was Welcome 2 America worth waiting 10 years for? To quote from one of the songs on the album, YES. Whether you are a purple dyed in the wool Prince fan or not, you should hear this record. Listening to it, I cannot help but wonder what other unreleased gems are gathering purple dust deep inside Prince’s private vault, and what else he might have given us if he were still here. Thanks to Welcome 2 America, he still is.

Trivia: Eric Clapton reportedly cited Prince as one the world’s greatest guitar players. Clapton covered Prince’s hit Purple Rain live in 2019.

Internet Radio

Want free Prince music on your Internet radio? Try tuning these purple stations:

80s80s Prince, Germany (192 kbps/MP3)

Exclusively Prince, Dubai (128 kbps/MP3)

Prince- laut.fm, Germany (128 kbps/MP3)

Purple Current, Minnesota (128 kbps/MP3)

Purple Live Radio, Texas (128 kbps/MP3)


Welcome 2 America CD

Visiting A Prince: Part 1

By Peter Skiera

Inspired by a 60 Minutes segment about Prince, his new posthumous CD, and the fifth Anniversary of Paisley Park opening to the public, I took a purple pilgrimage to Minneapolis and to Paisley Park.


Minneapolis from the air. Photo by Peter Skiera.


I arrived in Minneapolis a day before my Paisley Park tour in order to independently explore several places from Prince’s past. An abundance of bright sunshine, a healthy breeze, and comfortable temperatures would be my welcomed companions for my day-long excursion. I narrowed my list to six purple places. There were more, but my time was limited, so I excluded landmarks that were renamed or no longer existed, like Prince’s childhood home (a house built in 1995 stands there now), and Sound 80 where Prince made his first recordings, which is now home to a research lab, the building of which is almost entirely obscured by ivy.

1. The Purple Rain House, Minneapolis

The Purple Rain house. Photo by Peter Skiera.


The top spot on my list was the house featured in Prince’s film, Purple Rain. The house was used for the exterior shots only. The interior scenes were filmed inside a warehouse. Prince quietly bought the house in 2015, eight months before he died. It is not known what his intentions were for the house which was quite run down inside at the time. I read Prince paid about $117,000 for the single- family property.

Surprisingly, there were no signs or markers identifying the house, and as my confused Uber driver discovered, it was not the easiest house to find. I read conflicting reports about whether the house was occupied or not. Some stories claimed no one had lived there since Prince bought it, while other reports said a family resided there and fans should be respectful when visiting the property. When I was there, I noticed a red plastic bag hanging from a door knob holding what appeared to be a newspaper. The front entrance wood railing looked like it had been recently constructed. One thing was clear to me…whether anyone lived there or not, somebody was keeping up the property’s exterior and grounds.

Photo by Peter Skiera.


At some point the house was modified since the 1984 film. The front door was now on the left side (though the front concrete steps are still there), and the large front bay window was replaced with 4 single hung windows. Regardless, it will forever be “The Kid’s” house.

During my visit I noticed a plain metal mailbox anchored to the wooden stair railing. With nothing to lose except two 0.58 cent first class stamps, I snail-mailed a letter to the “Current Resident” asking the recipient to please confirm someone indeed resided at the property. I included a self-addressed stamp envelope in hopes of encouraging a response. I have yet to hear back.



Trivia: The film Purple Rain won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and has grossed over $72 million in sales worldwide. In 2019, the film was preserved after being added to the Library of Congress’ National Film registry.



2. First Avenue Dance Club, Minneapolis

First Avenue, Minneapolis. Photo by Peter Skiera.



The next stop on my list was First Avenue, the iconic dance club that opened in 1970. Prince performed live at First Avenue at least nine times during his career and the club was featured prominently in Purple Rain. Most of the movie’s music scenes were shot here using the actual staff as extras.

One of First Avenue’s wall of stars. Photo by Peter Skiera.


This former Greyhound Bus depot did not need Purple Rain’s help to become famous. The exterior is adorned with the names of musicians and groups that played at First Avenue over the decades, each framed in their own individual silver star. You will no doubt recognize some of the names: U2, R.E.M., Foo Fighters, Aerosmith, B.B. King, Nirvana, John Lee Hooker, Frank Zappa, Pearl Jam, Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick, 10,000 Maniacs, Duran Duran, King Crimson, and Gil Scott Heron. I could go on but we would be here all day.

Trivia: According to Wikipedia, First Avenue was paid $100,00 for the use of its facility during filming and had to close for 25 days.


3. Schmitt Music Mural (“The Music Wall”), Minneapolis

Photo by Peter Skiera.


Though I knew this mural still existed, I was not sure if the parking lot in front of it did and whether I would be able to get a decent picture of the mural. I had read reports that the parking lot had been sold and a building was to be constructed there which would effectively obscure the mural. When I arrived, I do not think I had ever been happier to see a parking lot.

The five-story mural was painted in the 1970s when the building was the headquarters for the Schmitt Music Company. In preparation, they had to brick up 32 windows in the wall. Though the building has changed hands over the years, none of the owner’s dared paint over the landmark.

Photo by Peter Skiera.


What is depicted is not just random notes on a wall. Maurice Ravel’s 1908 Gaspard de la Nuit was selected as the subject because of its dramatic visual impact. The section used was taken from the third movement called “Scarbo”. Apparently, this is also a notoriously difficult work for a pianist to perform.

Prince’s first professional black and white photography session happened in front of this mural in 1977. Thus, my selfie is in black and white.



Trivia: The music mural project originally cost about $17,000. According to dollartimes.com, that translates to $76,083 in today’s money. That’s a lot of money for a mural.

4. The Electric Fetus, Minneapolis

The Electric Fetus, Minneapolis. Photo by Peter Skiera.


This has to be the craziest name for a business I have heard of. Perhaps you can tell by the name that this record store opened back in 1968. Prince was a long-time customer, buying records and CDs here. With a reported 50,000 titles in stock, he certainly had a lot to choose from. I believe this is the largest independently-owned record store I have been in, and I have been in a lot of record stores.

I reached out to the store to ask if an employee would be willing to share any memories of a Prince visit but was told Prince had requested privacy during his visits and the staff continue to respect his wishes. In short, no comment.

Fetus, we’re hungry. Photo by Peter Skiera.



The Electric Fetus sells new and used records, CDs, DVDs, and even cassette tapes, along with a plethora of items to help you settle into the music vibe…incense, candles, t-shirts, posters, desk top amplified speakers, record accessories, and a lot more. I was tempted to spend more time there but I still had a couple of other places to get to before I lost the daylight.



Trivia: According to Wikipedia, five days before he died, Prince purchased music at The Electric Fetus.


5. The Capri Theater, North Minneapolis

The Capri Theater. Look to the right and you will see the new addition. Photo by Peter Skiera.



In early 1979, Prince performed his first-ever live solo shows here to promote his first record, For You, released the previous year. Prince was just 20 years old. The tickets cost $4 each ($4.75 at the door) and all the proceeds benefited the Theater. Not long after Prince’s gigs, the Plymouth Christian Youth Center took over ownership and they remain the owners to this day.

The Capri originally opened in 1927 as a movie theater. In 2018 the Theater embarked on a $12.5 million renovation. The project included a 20,000 square foot addition seating up to 125 people. The Capri’s Grand Opening was the week of October 3rd. Architecturally speaking, the new addition, which has a basket weave-like design, looks like it would be much more at home in Prince’s Paisley Park then tacked on to the side of the brick Capri building.



Trivia: According to Princevault.com, the setlist for Prince’s Capri performances included For You, Soft and Wet, So Blue, and Just as Long as We’re Together.



6. Chanhassen Movie Theater Mural, Chanhassen

The Prince mural at the back of the Chanhassen Movie Theater. Photo by Peter Skiera.


Shading things often happen behind movie theaters, but not this one. The Chanhassen Movie Theater, which is only a few minutes from Paisley Park, does not have any direct connection with Prince. Yet it was well worth a visit to view the stunning 20-foot mural painted on the Theater’s backside, complete with rain and white doves. New Zealand’s self-taught, world-renowned muralist, “Mr. G.” (Graham Hoete), painted it in 2016 using only spray paint.

I connected with Mr. G. via email and asked him what inspired him to create this Prince mural. “I was living in Sydney, Australia at the time when I heard of Prince’s passing. I then painted a tribute portrait of him in Sydney. I was then flooded with requests to go to his home town in Chanhassen and paint a mural of him. Nobody commissioned me. I went because I am a huge lover of his music. Was given permission to paint on the cinema’s [wall] and that’s how it came about. I used about 50 cans of paint to paint this.”  



Trivia: Prince’s family was so moved by this mural they personally invited Mr. G. to Prince’s private memorial service in 2016.


Stay Tuned

A purple welcome. Photo by Peter Skiera.


In Part 2 of Visiting A Prince, I will take you inside Prince’s home, Paisley Park, in Chanhassen, Minnesota. However, Part 2 will only be available to my Patreon supporters in early November. If you have yet to sign up as a supporter, please consider doing so. The cost is just $1/month (not $1/day or $1/week). This is the least expensive tier Patreon allows. In addition to gaining access to occasional exclusive blog posts like next month’s Visiting A Prince: Part 2, you will also have access to my monthly Recommended and Hitchhiker Stations. All money raised helps offset expenses such as my trip to Paisley Park and operating my website.

Click here to go to Patreon

Announcing The 2021 Recommended Station of The Year!

Last month I held my first annual Recommended Station of The Year Contest and I asked RecommendedStations.com readers to vote for their favorite Internet radio station based on the stations I have recommended to date. The more than 400 responses I received far exceeded my expectations considering my website was brand new.

Photo by Peter Skiera.

Voters did not have it easy. There were dozens of superb Recommended Stations on the ballot, but there can only be one winner. Congratulations to Classic KABL Radio, The 2021 Recommended Station of The Year, as voted by its listeners worldwide. Having amassed 69.93% of the vote, the overwhelming support KABL received from its loyal listeners is, like its programming, truly impressive. If you want to find out more about this great station, read last month’s Recommended Stations blog article that includes KABL.      

Although there is no runner up, for your information, Trucker’s Radio USA (TRUSA) came in second, followed by WLVN and Seeburg 1000 Background Music.  

On winning the award, Tony Onorad, Program Director of KABL radio said, “KABL is honored and extremely grateful to receive this listener-based 2021 Recommended Station of the Year award! Dedicated to streaming America’s Best Music, KABL breathes San Francisco’s rich and colorful history in the air – everywhere! We congratulate our award-winning mentor and announcer, Professor Bill Moen; Sunday host Trish Bell; and streaming founder David Jackson. Thank you for this most high honor!”

Former KABL personality Bill Moen wrote me to express his thanks “for recognizing that Radio does, still, have an audience. Of course, to David Ferrell Jackson for putting KABL on the Internet, years ago, to Tony Onorad and his crew for reviving it this past summer and programming it so superbly but, most of all, to those who have listened for the past SIXTY years and to those newcomers, around the world. And, finally, to the inspiration and reason for it ALL. . .San Francisco, the only American city that can be compared to Paris, not in its history or its size but in that indefinable thing that can take your breath away. . .charm.”

Support Your Station

Thank you very much to everyone who voted. Regardless of whether you voted for KABL or not, please consider making a donation to your favorite listener-supported Internet radio station to help them continue streaming the great programming that made them a Recommended Station to start with.

As you may know, when I select a station to be a Recommended Station, I do not do so at random. I do a lot of searching and listening, trying to find a station that stands out and has an interesting backstory. Being named a Recommended Station is a great achievement in itself. All of the stations included on the ballot are superb stations worthy of an audition.

Thank You!

I also want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to those of you who signed up as a monthly Recommended Station Patreon supporter in advance of the first Recommended and Hitchhiker Stations. Thank you so much for your invaluable support and for sharing my enthusiasm for Internet radio. However, much more support is needed to cover expenses so please consider supporting RecommendedStations.com via Patreon for just $1/month (not $1/day or $1/week) if you have yet to sign up. The money will help keep RecommendedStations.com going. Remember, Patreon will be the only way to access my monthly Recommended Station and Hitchhiker Station (they will not be posted on the free blog). October’s Recommended and Hitchhiker Stations will be posting to my Patreon page in just a few hours from now.

Get On The Email List

If you would like to know when new articles post to the free blog or be advised of notifications like this one, please sign up on my email list on RecommendedStations.com’s home page. I promise not to bombard you with emails and I will not sell or share your email address.

Finally, if you enjoy the content, please pass the word along via social media, etc.

Stop searching. Start listening.

Peter Skiera

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