What is your specialist Mastermind subject?

23:12, May 28 2013

I'll give today's question right at the start; well it's almost there in the title of this post. But I should qualify/clarify: your subject for this hypothetical version of Mastermind is music - but what band/musician would you pick? Someone is going to ask you 20 questions about this act and you'd better be aiming for 17 correct answers or more. These questions are going to be tough. The guy who thinks them up will have done his research; he hasn't just been sitting around munching on peanut-butter toast. This is the big time. TV! You're on the show and so you'd better know what you're on about...

This is - I hope you've guessed - a hypothetical, which in the blog-writing world derives from the Latin meaning highly pathetic (or: it's midnight, I need a topic).

Seriously though, I used to think about this a bit. As an avid fan of Mastermind - I watched it even back when I didn't understand the questions let alone get close to any of the answers - I thought often of what musical subject I might pick as my specialist topic. The safe bet was probably The Beatles but then that's not a safe bet at all.

I got to thinking about this last night reviewing the most recent book about Prince. It's a slim volume - but I think it's fantastic. And yes, there's at least one more Prince book on the market at the moment, a far more exhaustive tome. And I'll get to that soon.

I've written a couple of posts about Prince's music here at Blog on the Tracks (see here and here). And I'm a card-carrying fan still. He releases a new album tomorrow and I'm buying it. You tell me that it's a brass band record with him playing three-quarters of the parts, no singing, covers of war songs only. And I'm definitely buying it, I'm rushing to pre-order!

It's hard to know when I fell for Prince's music - but it feels like something I've always listened to. And a big part of the interest for me was in his image, the look/s; the fact that so many people were perplexed by him. The overt sexuality was slightly thrilling, slightly nerve-racking at the time when I was first listening to Prince, very young, still a few years off attending those special classes that were compulsory for a term at school.


Actually, these days I come and go in terms of active listening - I've done my time and though there are albums that still captivate (currently it's Dirty Mind and Controversy, particularly when served together; a great one-two, oh to go back in time and have them together on one C90), I can happily not listen to Prince for a long time. I know the music. I have all of the official releases, a fair few of the unofficial ones too. I've read the books - many of them, anyway. And I've watched the films, read the interviews; collected up what I can.

The best of his music still leaves me slack-jawed when contemplating it. That heady mix of the sacred and profane - such a great lyric writer too, not many people ever seem to focus on that with Prince.

And of course the one thing you can always say to save a conversation that is going pear-shaped due to a non-fan's ignorance is that Prince is a talented multi-instrumentalist. Even people who don't like Prince like that Prince is good at playing more than a few instruments.

My Mastermind effort would probably come unstuck if they turned exclusively to the hundreds of unreleased songs, the B-sides, the bootlegs. But I'd be on Mastermind so I'd do my best to make a fist of it.

Did you ever wonder what your Mastermind subject might be?

Several years ago - back when I was at/enrolled in university - a friend asked me if I thought I could write a book about Lou Reed. I think he asked me this because I had spent most of the two years of our friendship talking non-stop about Lou Reed and/or The Velvet Underground. I was fairly addicted to reading the bios then - and I backed myself to be able to write a book about Lou Reed. Definitely. Backed myself, as in I said I could do it. And then promptly did not do it. You know the kind of faith, surely.

I don't so much come and go with Lou Reed's music as just remember (often fondly) the time/s I was so very fixated, entranced, enthralled. Plus I not only went through the best of times with Lou Reed, it was the worst of times as well. And it all meant something.

I reckon I probably (still) could write a book about Lou Reed you know. And I'd write one that would stop before he ever met Metallica.

But I wouldn't go on Mastermind and talk about Lou Reed. I'd go with Prince. That would be my pick.

That book I reviewed has me hooked again. And I love when that happens. One person's opinion, one person's research - a few things I knew already, a few things I didn't. It inspires me to jump back into the records, to dive into the middle of them. To follow them round. To waste a few more hours and days, weeks, months, years of my life obsessing, collecting, gathering. Picking up notes of trivia, passing off factoids, hoping for the facts...

(Oh yes, pity I'm married folks. I'm a total catch.)

So I'd now take the Mastermind challenge by opting for Prince. I'd need to go into some training, of course. So this weekend I'll dig out The Crystal Ball set and I'll dive into Matt Thorne's recent bible on the subject. And maybe in two or three weeks I'll be ready.

What about you? What's your musical subject for Mastermind? What musician or band of musicians do you know the most about? What musical act have you obsessed over the most? Be honest.

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