Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why didn't Prince get electrocuted, playing an electric guitar in the pouring rain?

Who's asking: Me

Prince's Super Bowl halftime show is now up on YouTube, for anyone who might have missed it on Sunday night. Twelve minutes in the pouring rain, starting with "Let's Go Crazy" and ending with the glory that is "Purple Rain." That album is 23 years old, and still sounds as fresh as it did in 1984.

But the whole time I was watching, I couldn't help wondering: why aren't they getting electrocuted? As usual, I consulted an expert -- in this case, my cousin Sheila's husband, Greg Cameron, a professional sound and video engineer. Greg said that Prince and his dancers were all using wireless equipment, probably protected by plastic bags -- nothing was exposed to water. The danger would have come from electric cords on the stage, which can have small, nearly invisible cracks in their insulation.

Pure water is not that great a conductor of electricity; what makes rainwater conduct electricity so well are the particles of iron and other metals that fall with the rain. If you're standing in a puddle and have any contact with metal, an electrical current applied to the water will disperse itself through the water to make a circuit with the metal -- and if you're in the way, you become part of that circuit. Zap.

11 comments:

Linda Brown said...

Wow. I'd forgotten how good Prince is, as singer, musician and showman.

Forgive me if this comes off as sentimental, but ... after reading the NY Times this morning with my morning coffee (you know, waking up to war, political sleaze and torrid true crime), it was refreshing to see a huge crowd of people feeling good, listening to music and being together.

AnswerGirl said...

I felt the same way! Never underestimate the power of live music... I need to spend more time in the Church of Rock and Roll.

Linda Brown said...

Amen!

Mark Dunn said...

Wireless transmitters rule, regardless of rain.....however, Prince could have been wired and still played in the rain, without being the slightest bit shocked.

Speaking from experience I am.

AnswerGirl said...

Yes -- if everything is properly taped down, covered and insulated, you can play with wired instruments and mikes in the rain.

Speaking for myself, however, I wouldn't take the chance.

Lefty said...

Why does everyone keep gushing over how wonderful Prince is?! I am of that era, too, and his music has always bored me to tears.

What is it that everyone else sees that I am missing?

AnswerGirl said...

De gustibus non est disputandum, as my Latin teacher Miss Mays used to say. Why do some people like sushi, when I consider it a practical joke?

All I know is that when I hear the organ chord that starts "Let's Go Crazy," something inside me jumps for joy, and always has. "Dearly beloved... we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life."

Anna said...

Wow, Prince soaking wet. Jen must have been in heaven!

You wouldn't think I was a Prince fan but I dated a guy the summer that Purple Rain came out who only spoke in Prince or Springsteen song lyrics. You may not think so, but it was very sexy, if not a little surreal and ultimately unsustainable. Gosh, what was his name...

John Schramm said...

Clair: How cool, I don't get sushi either. And why people spend time and money acquiring the taste for it.

Lefty: I was bored with Prince back in the Purple Rain days, until I saw him play Purple Rain on the Grammy Awards in early 1985. DAMN, that man can play a guitar! And he still rocks 22 years later.

Mark Dunn said...

Sushi rules, and so does Prince. Neither was an aquired taste for me.

AnswerGirl said...

A friend just sent me this article from today's issue of SLATE, which gives much the same answer as I did... except she probably got paid for it...

http://www.slate.com/id/2159161?nav=tap3