This Jheri Curl June, we’ve unsurprisingly talked a fair amount about artists from Minneapolis; but most of those artists–again, unsurprisingly–had a direct connection to the artist from Minneapolis, Prince. The Jets are a rare example of a Twin Cities R&B group from the mid-’80s that didn’t have the Purple One pulling the strings from behind the scenes. A Mormon, Polynesian American family band, comprised of the eight oldest children of Maikeli “Mike” and Vaké Wolfgramm–no, seriously, I had to crop half of the kids out of the featured image just to make it a manageable size–the Jets actually got started in the late 1970s, performing as “Quasar.” But it wasn’t until 1986, and their Number 3 single “Crush on You,” when the Jets really…took off (BOOOOOM).
I probably hear “Crush on You” at least once a day on the Sirius XM station the Groove, and it never gets old: it’s a frothy, energetic blend of freestyle and classic Minneapolis Jheri Curl, with lyrics (sung by the two youngest Wolfgramms, Elizabeth and Moana) that are exactly as wholesome as you’d expect from a bunch of teenagers in the LDS Church. If you can listen to this and not smile, I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably a sociopath.
We’ve got one more day of Ladies’ Week, followed by one more week of Jheri Curl June. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts. Playlists below!
For the past three years, we’ve commenced our Jheri Curl June festivities with profiles of major figures in the style we call Jheri Curl Music, timed to line up with their birthdays in the beginning of June. In 2014, it was Prince (born June 7); in 2015, it was Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (the former born June 6); last year, it was L.A. Reid (June 7 again). But until now, we’ve never managed to make time for another architect whose birthday falls as close to the beginning of June as possible: June 1, 1960. I’m talking, of course, about Jesse Johnson.
Jesse, in our defense, hasn’t exactly been a stranger to Jheri Curl June. His “Be Your Man” was our second-ever JCJ post back in 2014, and we’ve also considered his work both as a member of the Time and as the producer of late-’80s Minneapolis funk-rockers dáKRASH. But we’ve never taken a deep dive into his music–and that’s a damn shame, because whatever Johnson might have lacked in the innovation of his former associates Prince, Jam, and Lewis, he more than made up for with some of the strongest pure Jheri Curl Music of the mid-to-late 1980s. In other words, there’s no better person with whom to launch our fourth annual celebration of all things wet and silky in ’80s R&B music. So let’s get to it!
Well, folks, it’s our first-ever Jheri Curl June podcast–and before you ask, yes, we’re talking about Prince again. This time, though, we’re shedding light on a somewhat less-discussed side of his career: the series of (very) thinly-veiled side projects and ghost productions he released in the early-to-mid-1980s under various pseudonyms, most famously “Jamie Starr.” If you’re even an intermediate-level Prince fan, some of these records are essential listening; so settle in, turn up your headphones, and get ready to take a bite of our purple rock.
But first, a word of warning, as I’m afraid there’s a factual error in this one: I was speaking from memory in the section about Sheila E., and incorrectly stated that “Noon Rendezvous” began life as a Revolution outtake. It was actually co-written by Prince and Sheila for the Glamorous Life album; the Revolution just happened to cover it in concert. Oops! Anyway, I left that bit in because I still like the song, so just enjoy the music and try to ignore the fact that I’m blatantly lying to you. Finally, if you like this kind of content (with less inaccuracies), check out my new side hustle: dance / music / sex / romance, a chronological exploration of every (known) song in the Prince oeuvre, which I expect to be updating a couple times a week until it actually kills me.
If it wasn’t official before, it is now: 2016 is a terrible year for musical icons. Callie and I were blindsided by the news of Prince‘s untimely death last Thursday; it hit us even harder than the news of David Bowie‘s passing back in January (and that, as you might recall, hit us pretty damn hard). It’s difficult to overstate just how much Prince means to both of us. He’s easily our favorite solo artist in all of pop music; check our frequently used tags on Dystopian Dance Party, and you’ll see that he’s the most talked-about topic by some distance. All of which fails to adequately capture the feelings we have for his body of work, and the sense of loss we feel now that he’s gone.
Unlike with Bowie, we weren’t actually planning on podcasting about Prince this month–but we had to, if only so we could talk through all the emotions we’ve both been feeling for the last week. The podcast we originally recorded earlier in the month, on Nintendo‘s Legend of Zelda series, will be posted eventually, when it all feels a little less meaningless. But for now, dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…
Jheri Curl June is, of course, first and foremost about the music. But, as I wrote in this year’s introductory post, jheri curl is also a profoundly visual form; it is, after all, the only genre of music to my knowledge named after a hairstyle. And so it only makes sense that we should also take some of the imagery associated with the music into consideration. That’s why this year, I’m happy to announce an entirely new feature dedicated to Jheri Curl Cinema. And there’s no other film more qualified to launch such a feature than Prince’s and Albert Magnoli’s 1984 cult classic Purple Rain.
There are a few reasons why Purple Rain is so perfect for our inaugural Jheri Curl Cinema post. First, yesterday was of course Prince‘s 57th birthday–and while His Royal Badness presumably hasn’t celebrated his birthday since he became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001, that just means we have to celebrate it twice as hard. But second, and more to the point, Purple Rain is an important film because it captures the essence of the Minneapolis scene in the early 1980s–and thus, by extension, the essence of jheri curl music itself.