Sheila E doing “Glamorous Life” at the American Music Awards in 1985. This performance is bonkers. For the first third she sings lead while standing and also playing the lead percussion part. Then she takes the mic and dances around. And then the lights on stage go dark and she solos on drums in the dark with glow-in-the-dark sticks.
Two things occur to me watching this, and recently revisiting Sheila E’s first two albums. One, Prince in the 1980s was the kind of pop genius that comes along every 20-30 years, maybe. The amount of brilliant, boundary-pushing, but still accessible music he was responsible for, as both a solo performer or, as with this song, as a writer/producer, is simply astonishing. It’s honestly like talking about Albert Einstein in 1905, that’s how in the zone he was. It was a decade of a true and lasting genius by an artist at the height of his powers who was given all kinds of resources. A rare thing.
The second thing is what a talent Sheila E was (and probably still is, though I haven’t heard anything she’s done in some time). She had a few big hits, two good records, and came from a remarkable family of musicians (she had several first-call percussionists of note in her family). In the late 1980s she was Prince’s live drummer and also was also the leader of his backing band (you can see her considerable skills behind a proper kit in the Sign O the Times film). Imagine what it takes to be Prince’s musical director in those years, for him to hand over the keys.
Put down whatever you are doing and make sure you watch this video.