Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Prince and the Revolution - Purple Rain (1984)

Released: June 25, 1984 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Prince
Peak on the US Billboard 200: #1
(24 consecutive weeks, Aug 4, 1984 - Jan 12, 1985)

Side One Side Two
Let's Go Crazy
Take Me With U
The Beautiful Ones
Computer Blue
Darling Nikki
When Doves Cry
I Would Die 4 U
Baby I'm A Star
Purple Rain

By request!

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to remember the music of Purple Rain (not the movie, because that thing's gawd awful).  I consider Prince to be more of a singles artist than an album artist, but to my ear, this is easily Prince's best, most consistent album and my dubbed cassette was never far from the Markmobile's Pioneer cassette deck or my new Sony Walkman WM-10 during the last seven months of 1984.  I think the other side of that 90 minute cassette had The Cars' Heartbeat City on it, which didn't get nearly the amount of playing time that Purple Rain did.

After giving us some albums that included great dance/funk tunes (e.g., "Dirty Mind" & "1999"), Prince creates the perfect funk/rock crossover here with scorching guitar licks over dance grooves that won't quit (and you don't want them to).  As Kurt Loder astutely wrote in his ★★★★ review in Rolling Stone issue 426: "Anyone partial to great creators should own this record.  Like Jimi and Sly, Prince is an original; but apart from that, he's like no one else." And we wouldn't want him to be.

The Markmobile (a 1972 Ford Maverick coupe) had lost its air conditioning by 1984, so the windows were always rolled down.  I distinctly remember a trip down Interstate 45 on a hot afternoon in October 1984 where all I listened to was "Let's Go Crazy" for two hours straight, singing at the top of lungs.  I hope the other travelers appreciated the marathon performance, because my voice was shredded by the time I reached my destination.

I could list all the awards and honors this album has received and continues to receive, but that would make this post run excessively long.  Most all the honors are on the album's Wikipedia page.

  • Let's Go Crazy:  What a fantastic opener.  The synth organ builds under Prince's pseudo-intellectual rambling, then the drums kick in and you start to move, then that guitar riff comes through your speakers and you're all in.  That synth lick is every bit as good and memorable as what he wrote for "1999."  And the sweet guitar solos just give you a taste of what's to come.
  • Take Me With U:  a duet with co-star Apollonia, this is pure pop with hooks aplenty - I'm especially fond of the chorus melody.  Love the way the strings play off the acoustic guitar.  Can't believe this didn't chart higher than #25 on the pop chart because Prince doesn't get much poppier than this.
  • The Beautiful Ones:  not my favorite.  The synth line just plods along, completely wasting a nice melody into the chorus.  Why is he screaming at me for the last minute?  I'd much rather hear the guitar solo underneath the vocals.
  • Computer Blue: once you get past the enjoyable fantasy exchange from Wendy & Lisa, this becomes a driving dance tune.  The middle section with guitar solo is completely unrelated to the rest of the song, but it is so good you don't really mind.  I'm probably in the minority, but I think that may be the best solo on the album.
  • Darling Nikki: the lyrics are perverse and exactly what I needed at age 18, but there's not much to the song until the band lets loose at about the 2:40 mark.  The backmasking at the end was novel at the time and I still get a kick out of it.

  • When Doves Cry: again I'm in the minority here, but I've never been much for this song.  I think it's because I wanted another "1999" or "Delirious" to dance to, but this thing doesn't even have a bass line I can get behind.  I will give Prince credit: with no bass line and a lyricless chorus, this is like nothing I'd ever heard before or heard since.  It was #1 on the pop, R&B, and dance charts, so lots of people liked it.
  • I Would Die 4 U: the album bounces back nicely with this up-tempo dance track propelled along by sixteenth notes on the hi-hat throughout.  But really, this track is just an extended intro to...
  • Baby I'm A Star:  a 4-on-the-floor dance tune that's 4:24 of all out fun: it's fun to dance to, it's fun to sing along to, and the band sounds like they're having a blast.  Plus, when Prince sings the lyrics (even the backmasked ones), they're all true.  Love the keyboard work on this one.  It builds and builds and when it gets to where it's going, you aren't disappointed.  Can't. Sit. Still.  "Doc-tah!!"
  • Purple Rain: There's no denying this is a fantastic gospel-tinged epic, but after the previous two songs, I still want to dance some more, not wave my lighter in the air as I sway from side to side.  Plus the song is about 2 minutes too long.  Still, there's some legendary guitar work here.  It's outside the scope of this blog, but in my mind, this song doesn't get any better than Prince's halftime performance at Super Bowl XLI, which remains the best SB halftime show ever.

  1. Let's Go Crazy
  2. Baby I'm A Star
  3. I Would Die 4 U
  4. Take Me With U
  5. Computer Blue
  6. Purple Rain
  7. Darling Nikki
  8. When Doves Cry
  9. The Beautiful Ones


  1. Great review, great personal memory and you graded it higher than I thought you might.

    Would love to read your thoughts on the non-album b-sides from the album's five singles:

    17 Days
    Erotic City
    Another Lonely Christmas

    as well as remixes of those singles:

    Let's Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)
    I Would Die 4 U (Extended version)

    Maybe in time for the film's 30th anniversary on July 27th.

  2. Mark, great minds know how to honor an album on its anniversary. I posted it today as well over on Martin's View.

    1. I see you had already reviewed the b-sides I mentioned above. Nice work as always, my good sir.

      When the Super Deluxe Edition of Purple Rain is eventually released, what would you like to see on it? Given that it is something you'd want to add to the collection, do you foresee yourself buying CD format or going digital files route?

  3. Since I owned PR on vinyl first, then bought the CD almost as soon as I got CDs, I would very likely pick up the CD yet again (if priced right). As to what I'd like to hear on it: the original album and B-sides, as well as any twelve-inch versions of the singles and B-sides. Whatever Prince put out in one format or the other I want on this. I would not want to have the Time or A6 stuff on it though - just give me Prince and the Revolution please.