Only two titles but a quartet of firsts for Tapes For My VCR – first music videos featured, one of which is also the first documentary; first short films and first double bill. Contain your excitement, please, and read on …
This is Peter Neal’s half-hour swinging London documentary/performance mashup, all about The Jimi Hendrix Experience. There are dated-in-a-good-way interview segments in which Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell pose the questions to camera and Jimi riffs good-naturedly on the answers, and dated-in-a-bad-way narration from Alexis Korner. Live footage of Purple Haze and Wild Thing from the Albert Hall mixes with early ‘pop promo’ type clips (Foxy Lady, for instance is set to footage of a lady wandering about swinging London, being foxy). There is some backstage stuff and famously, the wonderful live-to-camera acoustic take of Hear My Train a Coming. It ends with a lame, tacked-on-after-the-credits ‘video’ for Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), cut to affected footage from the film. It doesn’t look too recent so may have been the promo for the 1970 single – it doesn’t belong on the original film, though, which serves as both an entertaining relic and possibly the single most significant piece of film on the band (as distinct from Hendrix himself) outside of D.A. Pennebaker’s Jimi Plays Monterey.
The Undertaker (1994)
A hot ’90s chick (Vanessa Marcil) walks into a random building in search of a telephone on account of it’s 1993 and mobiles are not yet mandatory. She’s told she can use the phone as long as she’s quick, as there’s a rehearsal on. During the ensuing call she argues with her boyfriend (“Victor”, Prince pseudonym fans!), gets upset and takes an overdose of pills. She then wanders into said rehearsal to witness Prince fronting a power trio of the old school in an empty venue (Paisley Park, naturally). They launch into a half-hour plus of psychedelic heavy blues funk rock jamming and ohdearlord it’s good. From here in, the ‘overdosing girl’ is a framing device and an excuse to use some instantly dated video effects, as we’re kinda sorta supposed to be watching through her eyes. One track cuts while she has a quick vomit break – then it’s back to psych-rock heaven.
Brand new tracks (“6 LIVE DIRECT 2 DAT TRACKS” as it says on the box, as well as the studio track Dolphin which would resurface on the following year’s The Gold Experience) sit alongside off-the-cuff renditions of live favourite Bambi and the Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman. The epic title track is the two note bass riff from Sly Stone’s Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey stretched out to ten minutes of muted anti-guns-and-crack lyrics and massive, face-melting guitar solos. Make no mistake, this whole film is about Prince the Guitar Hero; effects-drenched funk rock thick with the heaviest electric blues, his playing is nothing short of fantastic. The super-tight rhythm section of bassist Sonny T. and drummer Michael Bland doesn’t disappoint either.
Directed by Parris Patton, The Undertaker (alongside live video The Sacrifice of Victor) was released on VHS and possibly Laserdisc with very little fanfare in 1994 as part of a flurry of contractual obligation business between Prince and Warner Bros – this was during the “slave”/Artist Formerly Known As Prince period. Indeed, The Undertaker was itself a cause of dissent between Prince and Warners, as he had wanted an audio version released as a giveaway with the magazine Guitar Player but the label was having none of it. Since that initial video release, it has never appeared on any other format. Which is a pity as The Undertaker, whether taken as a short film (it clocks in at 40 minutes) or a video album, is one of Prince’s most interesting and downright rocking releases.