Prince’s Purple Rain will also hold a special place for me as it was the first album I ever purchased. Oh, I had owned some 45s up until that point, but growing up I spent my summers at my grandparents house, and I remember as an eleven year old walking from their house to the local record store and buying it.
I think my grandparents, and my parents for that matter, might not have let an eleven year old buy the album considering some of the lyrics.
It would be almost 10 years later when I would have my brush with fame and Prince, and I have always remained a huge Prince fan. I currently live about five miles from his studio and a half hour from First Avenue where the songs from Purple Rain were first tested and the movie was later filmed at.
Everyone knows how the album starts:
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here 2 tell u
There’s something else
A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night
So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
U know the one – Dr Everything’ll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
‘Cuz in this life
Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life
You’re on your own
Then, Prince kicks it into high gear and we’re off on one of the best musical journeys ever to be recorded as a motion picture soundtrack.
Prince then slows it down for Take Me With U and The Beautiful Ones. Take me With U is the only song on the album to feature Purple Rain’s female lead, Apollonia, and was orginally intended for her solo album that was never released. The Beautiful Ones, of the two songs, is much less well known, but to me, the better of the two. It is a classic 1980s ballad as only Prince could create, with the talking voiceover, the synthesizers and Prince’s trademark falsetto. Prince ups the tempo and the volume towards the end of the song practically screaming “Do you want me? Cause I want you!”
Purple Rain was Prince’s first album to feature the Revolution, Prince’s band, led by Wendy & Lisa, who years later would go on to score the popular NBC TV show Heroes. Wendy & Lisa kick off the fourth track, Computer Blue, in an up-tempo song features Prince’s catchy hooks with a long instrumental segment in the middle that transitions to a beautiful guitar solo towards the end of the song.
Side one ends with Darling Nikki, which found popularity in the late 90s thanks to a cover by the Foo Fighters.
Side two starts off with the lead single, When Doves Cry, Prince’s first song to hit number on in the U.S, topping the charts for five weeks straight. Over twenty-five years later, I still vividly remember the video for this song featuring scenes from the movie and Prince riding his motorcycle.
I Would Die 4 U was the fourth and last single from Purple Rain went on to become another top ten hit. At only 2:49, it is the shortest song on the album but still packs quite a punch. Baby I’m a Star was recorded live at First Avenue in 1983, where Prince auditioned a number of songs from Purple Rain for the filming of the movie that was still more than 6 months away. That concert at First Avenue ranks as one of the top 5 concerts I would go to if I had my own TARDIS.
The title song from the film and the album ends the album. What can you say about this song that hasn’t already been said? At almost nine minutes long, this was another song that was recorded at First Avenue live. From it’s opening guitar to the gospel elements that come to mind when the organ starts, Purple Rain takes you on an emotional journey that features almost all of Prince’s trademarks captured in one song.
I purchased this album just weeks after it’s anniversary in June, used, at Down in the Valley. Prince albums are semi-rare here in the Twin Cities, and one of the clerks turned to the other to point out what I was buying. The second clerk lit up like a Christmas tree and I distinctly received the impression that if she had known it was in the store she might have bought it herself. Both clerks liked my choice, not knowing the historical significance this classic Prince album holds for me. This is an album I will cherish for a long time, both for the music and the sentimental memories.