Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy Birthday to the Melvoin Twins

An Appreciation for the Melvoin Sisters. 
Susannah's Pajamas & Little Girl Wendy's Parade.

There are two sets of musical twins that weigh heavily in my musical orbit. Of course, there are Robin and Maurice Gibb. But today is the birthday of Susannah and Wendy Melvoin. 

Susannah was a part of the Family, one of Prince's spin off bands. They had a 1985 hit with Screams of Passion. The group was a testing ground for some of the jazzier, orchestrated textures Prince would employee on his next few records (Parade and Sign "O" the Times). She was also his muse several years running. Susannah sang backing vocals on many of the sides he cut at the time. You can catch her in the spectacular video for Girls & Boys.

Her twin sister, you probably know - better - as the sarcastic, sexy, whirling & twirling Rickenbacker-wielding guitar demi-goddess in paisley and lace from Purple Rain that Madonna was trying to be. Wendy was half of "Wendy & Lisa," the musical foils to Prince within Prince and the Revolution from 1983-86. 

Whenever I think my list of musical heroes lacks female presence, I immediately say - "Hold up! Wendy & Lisa!" These women are a big reason Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day and Parade sound the way they do. These two were major composers and contributors to the music Prince produced during my favorite period of his, even if they don't get the credit. Wendy & Lisa were 'moted from the Revolution during the recording of Sign, but if you hear the demos they still influenced the finished product which is an album of grand design. Their self-titled debut album appeared the same year as Sign and you can here what part of Prince's sound was a shared effort. The lush layers, instrumentation and harmonics, particularly Lisa's piano. Yes, Prince is his own man, but Wendy & Lisa added exponentially to the appeal of those records.

Wendy & Lisa needed to go solo or rather duo. Check the video below for Waterfall. Prince may have retooled and recorded this song or maybe not. He was always moving forward and too quickly for most. Back in 1987, this track would have fit perfectly on Sign 'O' The Times. But I suspect it was the ladies' reaction to being left out in the cold. Regardless, Wendy tackles the subject with gusto and her guitar solo oozes fuzzed-out soul. This should have been a major hit with hook like this. Check out how amazingly melodic Waterfall is and how much it sounds like classic Prince. Or how much did classic Prince sound like Wendy & Lisa...?

Either way, Wendy Melvoin deserves her place in the pantheon of pop influences. Thank you for contributing to one of my favorite pop star's best material. Susannah Melvoin, thank you for inspiring one of my favorite pop stars to write his best material.

Happy Birthday, ladies. You rocked my world.

#WendyandLisa #Prince #Princeandtherevolution #WendyMelvoin #TheFamily #SusannahMelvoin