Two US television shows with little in common beyond the fact that they have made their mark on the viewing public and garnered critical warmth, arrived in Britain this week: the debut series of Edie Falco’s post-Sopranos project Nurse Jackie and the fourth season of the superpowered soap Heroes.
Yet this pair – one a dirty realistic snapshot of life in a New York hospital, sardonic and sassy, the other a post-modern take on the realm of the comic book crusader, flashy and fast-moving – do share an unlikely association: the musical contributions of a couple of one-time Prince sidewomen, Wendy & Lisa.
Nor is it the first time in the last couple of weeks I have noticed their soundtrack credits in a small screen production. I’ve been gently wandering through the boxed sets of the 1930s dustbowl drama Carnivale – a lavishly created and expensive period piece that saw HBO bin it after just two years in 2004 – and who should be the musical maestras but that very same female combination.
Now, it’s some little while since guitarist Wendy Melvoin and pianst Lisa Coleman have been on my radar. I may have seen one on stage at the opening night of Prince’s 31 gigs and at the post-concert bash at the O2 in 2007. But I do remember, for sure, reviewing – and enjoying – one of their early post-Paisley Park forays in 1989.
Fruit at the Bottom had enough class – a taut, wiry folk funk typified by the single ‘Are You My Baby’ – to briefly make an impression on the UK charts but I think the purple shadow cast by their mentor and diminutive giant was a little too over-powering to allow them to truly forge an identity in their own right back then.
Yet, more than two decades on, the collaborative duo have made a definite impression in a field where women composers generally fear to tread – writing for the TV or the movies. Their Hollywood work includes contributions to Toys, the 1992 Robin Williams vehicle, and, three years later, Dangerous Minds, which included Michelle Pfeiffer among the cast.
Most recently, they were involved with the picture Something New (2006), starring Sanaa Lathan, about an African-American woman choosing a career path over romantic entanglement.
Yet there is little question that Wendy & Lisa – who have also in recent years stepped out as the Girl Bros – contributed to the most fertile period in Prince’s career, name-checked on Purple Rain, the album and film that turned the artist from adolescent prodigy into global superstar, and the follow-ups Round the World in a Day and Parade.
However, by 1986, they felt sidelined by their leader’s scheme to expand his band the Revolution and the pair believed their input was being under-valued. A solo, or more accurately dual, career would follow and, even though they have made fleeting links with their former major general in the mean-time, their professional lives have been principally forged in other directions.
Wendy & Lisa have been prolific, too, since then but their background contributions to a string on on-screen ventures have marked them as two of the smartest operators in that field of incidental, opening and end-title music that can help make or break the atmosphere, the vibe, of a filmed drama.
Their 2008 album White Flags of Winter Chimneys was their first official Wendy & Lisa release for around a decade but they appear to have now carved out a comfy niche in that hip gay entourage on the fringes of the LA production hothouse.
The ertswhile Princesses came out this year and featured recently with two other pop icons of that scene, Jon Ginoli, lynchpin of Pansy Division, and ex-Chanticleer Matt Alber, in the prestigious Out 100 ‘Class of 2009′ at out.com. Witness Melvoin and Coleman’s creative energies when you catch BBC2’s Heroes – they wrote a theme for each of the characters – or Nurse Jackie, in the midst of a lightning, twelve-night run on the same channel.
Taken from this post:
Wendy & Lisa’s impressive post-Prince parade