One of the more impressive artifacts making the Internet rounds in the last 24 hours is a video, recorded at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, of an all-star band playing the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." The performance is a tribute to George Harrison, a posthumous honoree that evening, by a group that includes his son Dhani, along with old bandmates and collaborators like Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Steve Winwood. Then there's another person on stage, too, standing a bit apart from the rest, bent over an electric guitar. He's a small man, in a dark pinstriped suit, a scarlet red shirt and matching derby hat - a look that splits the difference between toreador and pimp. For a while, the guy hangs back in the shadows, strumming and looking a bit bored. But three and a half minutes in, he saunters into the spotlight to take a guitar solo.
The guitarist is Prince, and what ensues is something like a cyclone. A huge sound comes roaring out of his Telecaster, an onslaught of notes and riffs and block chords that continues rippling and lashing for nearly three minutes. It's an attack that seems intended not just to extinguish all memory of Eric Clapton's famous solo on the original recording, but to vanquish George Harrison and the Beatles for good measure. It's a brazen hijacking of an In Memoriam tribute, a breach of etiquette - and a wondrous exhibition of pure showmanship and ego. When the song ends, Prince whips off his guitar, flings it in the air and peacocks off, stage left.