It Was Thirty Years Ago Today... Sgt. Purple Told His Band To Play.
June 26, 2014 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the release of Prince's Purple Rain...

Come listen to the "children" of the Revolution...

Janelle Monae, Let's Go Crazy
Jeff Litman with Joe Brent, Take Me With U
Beyonce, The Beautiful Ones
Sonny Walker's Tao of Rock featuring Turbo, Computer Blue
Foo Fighters & Cee-Lo, Darling Nikki
Monotalk featuring Roni Alter, When Doves Cry
Chvrches, I Would Die 4 U
Michael Truckpile, Baby I'm a Star
Daughtry, Purple Rain
posted by jonp72 (43 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Seriously, that was a really fast 30 years.

I loved this record, loved Prince, and was so young and stupid I didn't even realize how sexist the movie was on first view. Still, this music HOLDS UP!
posted by MoxieProxy at 7:28 PM on June 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

The NPR local music station here in Minneapolis did a tribute for it, and I was really bummed that they didn't refer to it as The Morris Day.

And yes, that Janelle Monae cover is amazing.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:31 PM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

First concert I ever went to. I was 10. I don't think my mom really knew what kind of show she was bringing me to.
posted by empath at 7:40 PM on June 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I remember so vividly how this record blew my brain wide open.
posted by ersatzkat at 8:10 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

To quote myself from last month:

I wonder if some poor confused girl in 1984 thought she was was maybe getting pregnant listening to the Purple Rain soundtrack because of the confusing feelings it inspired because I'm a 40 year old dude who "gets" reproduction and I'm still not sure sometimes that parts of "When Doves Cry" aren't going to somehow impregnate me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:22 PM on June 26, 2014 [19 favorites]

Prince was a musical genius.
posted by valkane at 8:24 PM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

It can't be 30 years shut up no.
posted by rtha at 8:38 PM on June 26, 2014 [11 favorites]

I just listened to this album in its entirety for the first time a week or so ago. (Yes I'm a bit younger than the mean age of mefi, though I'd heard bits and pieces before--dad, for being awesome and sharing the good music!) Holy shit, the whole thing is just rock solid. Also, that weird little "does your chicken taste like pork" bit at the end of Janelle Monae's "Dance Apocalyptic" could have come straight off this album somewhere.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:39 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe the most solid front-to-back rock album ever?
posted by Bookhouse at 9:00 PM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Prince was a musical genius.

Was? Let's not call it a day for him yet. I'll admit that the last two things I payed attention to of his were his recent appearance on New Girl and his halftime show for the 2007 superbowl, but the latter was simply transplendent. There might be another gem of an album left in the Artist-now-once-again-known-as Prince.
posted by dis_integration at 9:14 PM on June 26, 2014

The NPR local music station here in Minneapolis did a tribute for it, and I was really bummed that they didn't refer to it as The Morris Day.

Don't get me wrong -- I love Morris (and Jerome) -- but we're talking album here, not movie.


Man, I was 12, and I had to ration Purple Rain. It was *so* good, I only let myself listen to it 3 times a day, so I wouldn't get sick of it. (I didn't get to see the movie until it came out on tape much later.)

I mean, *every* song is a killer. Even the "least" memorable ... maybe "Baby I'm a Star" ... is a lead single for any other act.

Think about it: you start with "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered ..." then quickly segue to purple bananas, pills, thrills and daffodils in the greatest pop-dance-rock the fuck out song of the 80s, then you get (probably my least favorite song of the album) but the very solid duet Take Me with You with the very capable Apollonia, then really maybe the best one-two punch of Prince's career: the soulful angst of The Beautiful Ones followed by the warm water funk of Computer Blue ... and then Darling Nikki - for a suburban 12-year-old, that song alone was enough to make the album.

Then you flip it over to get the hit (which would be a solid song if you hadn't heard it 1M times), then two more pop-dance hits that surpassed pretty much anything else 80s pop had to offer: I Would Die 4 U and Baby I'm a Star, then the 8:45 slow-dance wonder of Purple Rain (also a wonder live at that time.) Do you know how much action you could get in a slow dance to Purple Rain?

God, along with Hatful of Hollow, The Lion and the Cobra, Murmur, Darklands, There's Nothing Wrong with Love, etc... -- Purple Rain is one of those "bury me with it" albums. (And 30 years sounds about right. I am old.)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:22 PM on June 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

There might be another gem of an album left in the Artist-now-once-again-known-as Prince.

I don't mean to offend, but my2c is the JW conversion took something funky (and sexy) out of his soul. He'll never be the way he was.

Also, good luck at hearing Erotic City, Let's Pretend We're Married, or (my 7th grade class' favorite bus singalong) Jack U Off. ever again.

And, I gotta give him some props for sticking to his guns, but I was there when he received a lifetime Webby achivement award, and his four-word speech was "Kill the middle man" yet I see him all over Spotify. *shrug* I'd love to see him release all of his old recordings for free.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:30 PM on June 26, 2014

This may have been the first movie that I went to see more than once in the theater, on the first run, purely on my own volition--Star Wars came first, but that was with friends. I was having a difficult summer of '84, having gotten most of the way through an internship that was inexorably proving to me that the profession that I thought I'd be getting into after I graduated was the absolute last thing that I should be doing with my life, and seeing a misfit who turned out to be pretty excellent after all was the most perfectly appropriate thing for me at that point. Plus, the songs, all of which were excellent; the title song may be my favorite rock anthem ever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:31 PM on June 26, 2014

I haven't clicked any of the links but I love this post deeply.
posted by hippybear at 10:53 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good grief, that Beyonce cover really WORKS. On so many levels.
posted by hippybear at 11:55 PM on June 26, 2014

Back in 1984, my best friend in high school friend and I would listen to "Purple Rain" on his small tape machine. One day, his mother overheard the lyrics to "Darling Nikki" and gently but firmly asked that we at least erase the word "masturbating," using the old tape-on-the-erase-tab-thingy strategy (remember that?). Being good boys, we did what she asked.

"She'll never masturbate in this house again!" my friend told her. However, we hadn't realized that as we were erasing were actually "taping" again, so we accidentally recorded him saying "she'll never masturbate in this house again" over Prince's "masturbating." We listened to that tape for years afterward.
posted by Quaversalis at 12:14 AM on June 27, 2014 [31 favorites]

Being the Guy Who Will Post the Original Video Whenever "Purple Rain" is Mentioned™ among my friends, I have to say that as far as famous people covering "Purple Rain" is concerned, Daughtry was a little underwhelming. How about Etta James or Tom Jones and David Gilmour? Or Darius Rucker and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra? Or even the undeservedly somewhat less famous Aynsley Lister?

P.S. The copy at the Internet Archive is gone, so that link may be the last remaining streaming copy on the Internet.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:23 AM on June 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

Over on Medium there is a really good article about Purple Rain with a professional white background.
posted by dominik at 3:20 AM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't mean to offend, but my2c is the JW conversion took something funky (and sexy) out of his soul. He'll never be the way he was.

Strictly musically speaking, I totally disagree. But then if you throw enough spaghetti something something: damn.

I'm not suggesting he wouldn't sue everyone who's ever heard any of the latter . . . 15? . . albums for berjillions and a cookie, but they'd be worthwhile to search out in the musty record bins of the Intertubes. Musicology, Lotusflow3r, even the sometimes-maligned jazz-inflected instrumental N.E.W.S., all good.

In sum, if you stopped at Purple Rain (or thereabouts) - good news! Heck, 3rdEyeGirl is right in it.
posted by petebest at 5:18 AM on June 27, 2014

Let us not forget another band that was in the film!
posted by magstheaxe at 5:33 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

magstheaxe: Don't forget "Oak tree / Spread your branches"! [SLYT]

My favorite part of that video is the Pope.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:24 AM on June 27, 2014

When I was a kid (teenager), literally EVERYONE had this album. Some of us had to conceal it from disapproving parents, but it was one of those things that everyone had, everyone listened to, everyone knew.

OMG I have to listen to that Darling Nikki cover.
posted by Mister_A at 7:42 AM on June 27, 2014

Well I listened to the Janelle Monae song and the FF/Cee-Lo song and I've decided that people just shouldn't cover Prince. Not that these were bad, just that they can't hold a candle to what he did.

These songs, like Clash songs, are not standards; these are songs that are inextricably linked to the artist.
posted by Mister_A at 7:53 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Beautiful Ones
They'll hurt you every time
posted by vibrotronica at 8:01 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

people just shouldn't cover Prince

No one's going to outdo Prince with a song from Purple Rain, but Sinéad O'Connor, Chaka Khan, and the Bangles (not to mention the Time, Sheila E., etc.) might disagree.
posted by mubba at 8:19 AM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was old enough when Purple Rain came out to be aware of it, but young enough that I didn't really have a critical sense of pop music. The songs from Purple Rain were just everywhere, like oxygen. It wasn't until years later that I realized how good the music was compared to other music.

This also seems like a good place to admit that I didn't know what porn was, so I thought the line about Nikki "masturbating with a magazine" meant that she was physically using the magazine to get herself off. I couldn't figure out how that was supposed to work. Why would a magazine be better than your hand?

Wow. Writing that out I realize that I was a preteen kid beanplating masturbation because of Purple Rain.
posted by medusa at 8:44 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or even the undeservedly somewhat less famous Aynsley Lister yt ?

Hah, it's a funny thing, the interwebs. ob1quixote, I'm sat here about 300 meters as the crow flies from the Jericho Tavern in Jericho, Oxord, where that was filmed. Never heard of Aynsley, but yep, that's a tidy little cover.

Purple Rain will always bring back very specific teenage memories, of a very specific girl. And all-too specific heartbreak. Extraordinary album.
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 8:52 AM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I thought the line about Nikki "masturbating with a magazine" meant that she was physically using the magazine to get herself off.

I thought that until about 10 seconds ago.

Purple Rain was the only album my mom ever confiscated, specifically because of that line. I found it in her underwear drawer though, and stole it back.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:33 AM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's a little-known fact that I was a break dancer when I was a teeanger. Well, little-known to everybody except anybody who knows me and will sometimes still catch site of me, out of the corner of their eye, popping and locking and doing the slide in the bathroom or the kitchen when I am bored, or doing full-blown, celebratory backspins when, I don't know, I throw a strike in bowling.

I took break dance lessons from one of the dancers up in the balcony during The Bird. One of my high school drama teachers was the amazingly named John Command, a choreographer for the film.

If you came up in Minneapolis in the 80s, everything seemed within touching distance of Prince. And it felt like a much bigger deal than, say, Husker Du, who could regularly be seen playing dive bars, or the Replacements, who sometimes played proms, although the fact that all that music was going on at the same time and place amazes me now.

But Prince was something else. Everything went Prince. His vision of Minneapolis in Purple Rain, where everybody sort of looks like a Patrick Nagel painting of a mime? After the film came out, we all really did dress that way for a while. And everybody did, everywhere. I mean, the fact that Prince and Michael Jackson were considered rivals? Michael Jackson was the biggest performer on earth, and had been one of the top pop artists in the country since he was a boy, and Prince was this tiny regional upstart, but there was no doubt they were in the same league.

It was strange to be from Minneapolis when I was young. We sort of felt like we weren't on anybody's map. It was a place without a sense of place. It isn't that anymore -- Minneapolitians have turned into Austinites, in the sense that there is sort of a deep sense that we live in an interesting and worthwhile place. And I think there were a lot of things that contributed to that shift -- the punk scene, the Coen Brothers, Prairie Home Companion, etc. It all conspired to make the Twin Cities a focus of national attention, and to make us feel like maybe we were worth playing attention to. But nothing comes close to Prince in terms of national impact.

I mean, I can't tell you the thrill that went through the audience when Prince insisted Appolonia swim in Lake Minnetonka, which previously, if it was known at all, was known for a strange urban legend that Mr. Jimmy, a peculiar old man, had once told off Mick Jagger, who was performing out there, that if he couldn't get a cherry coke, well, you can't always get what you want, and then Jagger wrote the song. That legend isn't really known outside Minnesota, and probably only exists because Mr. Jimmy told it to everyone he ever met.

But now First Avenue was where you performed if you wanted to make it, and Lake Minnetonka was where you baptized yourself naked to get ready to make it, and Minneapolis was full of all these Nagel mimes in parachute pants, just like in the film, and I was learning to dance from people who had been involved in the film, and for a while it really was Prince's world, and I was just living in it.

I talked to Dan Wilson quite a few years ago, formerly of Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic, now a songwriter for Adele, among others. Incidentally, also a former babysitter of mine, when I was a little boy. It was an awkward, stilted conversation for a while. And then I brought up the subject of Prince, and we talked for 45 minutes about Minneapolis during the 80s, and how Prince changed everything.

Anyone who experienced it can have that conversation.
posted by maxsparber at 10:08 AM on June 27, 2014 [17 favorites]

As classic as Purple rain (the album) is, I feel like the proper soundtrack to the film has to contain The Time's "Ice Cream Castles" as well. Such a great album, and it carries over the tension from the movie that the two bands are in competition with each other. It's easy to forget that performance of "The Bird" really was a hard act to follow. Which makes that Purple Rain/I would Die For you/Baby I'm a Star finale that much better.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:35 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's also easy to forget (or possibly not actually widely known) that "The Time", especially on Ice Cream Castles, was Prince multi-tracking all the instruments in the studio and Morris Day doing a "sing it exactly like I sang it" studio session mimicking Prince's already-recorded vocals. Only The Bird was not recorded this way -- it was actually The Time playing, I think from the same First Avenue gig that Purple Rain was recorded at.
posted by hippybear at 10:45 AM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

My best, most vivid dream I can recall was me and a guy I barely know where on stage at a local bar, ripping it up with thrash punk for about an hour and then suddenly the lights dim, I pull out Prince's beautiful white guitar, the crowd goes quiet and I play "Purple Rain" in the hush, tears streaming down my face the whole time. Song ends and the room goes dark. No sound, just hearing my own breathing. I worry. Then the room erupts into glorious applause. I totally nailed it in that dream!

I'm not a musician, can't play guitar and don't care for thrash punk. Years later, I told the guy (who I disliked at the time of the dream but maturity made him more pleasant) and he doesn't care for that genre of music either. I guess I watched the movie and listened to the album so much, it became a part of me.

But I'll never forget that feeling. So awesome. Like I had my time on the stage anyway! Thanks, Prince!
posted by _paegan_ at 11:55 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

people just shouldn't cover Prince

Janelle Monae can do whatever she wants.

(today's random YouTube clip: Prince sends a singing telegram to Janelle when she released Electric Lady, which didn't just feature last year's best music video but also was the year's best album, according to Prince...)
posted by effbot at 12:33 PM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, personally, I think the rule about "nobody should cover anything from Purple Rain" has some merit but (a) doesn't apply to Janelle Monáe and (b) even if it did, can be bent under the exception "You can cover something from Purple Rain if in doing so every time you perform it, it comes across as a tribute that is practically screaming to your audience 'without this artist's work, it is very likely that none of us would be here together in this moment!'"

(When she did "Let's Go Crazy" as an encore last year, it is a good thing I had heard this was a possibility because if I had not been prepared for hearing the intro, I may have been so excited, I might not be here today.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:19 PM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I can listen to Take Me With U all day, minus the lyrics. If I could just find a woman who knows Rasberrey Beret, Take Me With U, I Wish U Heaven and Starfish And Coffee, by heart...Heaven!
posted by Flex1970 at 5:14 PM on June 27, 2014

I'd heard the soundtrack, my friend gave me a tape copy. He'd seen the flick down at one of the westside theaters, Maryvale or Valley West, and told me it was just him, a white dude, and a whole bunch of latinas who all had that really high hair sprayed hair. Though he was a 26ish year old christian virgin, he'd gone out and bought a purple prince jacket, and frilly shirt. I'm not sure, but there was a store at the mall that had what I've thought all these years was an official clothing line from the film. And oh did he ever lead me on about what went on onscreen during the opening of "Computer Blue" and "Darling Nikki".

I finally saw it when it first hit HBO in the summer, catching it at 4:30 in the morning. Afterwards I walked over to my old elementary school and the sun was coming up. Everything felt pretty golden, and seeing the film, that unexpected emotional journey, felt strangely religious. I think I was 14 at the time.
posted by Catblack at 9:22 PM on June 27, 2014

Thanks Hippybear, I know Ice Cream Castle word for word. Isn't it kind of funny that in Purple Rain Prince is only referred to as "The Kid", and on The Time's album there's this great slow jam written by Prince?
posted by Catblack at 9:56 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm reading that article, and they talk about Prince being influenced by a lot of other music. I've always had a pet theory that Computer Blue is Prince's version of 1981's Electric Blue by Synergy. (Hope this link works, had to sign up to Spotify to find a full version of it.)
posted by Catblack at 11:46 PM on June 27, 2014

Synergy - Electric Blue on MySpace, no signup required to listen
posted by hippybear at 11:56 PM on June 27, 2014

I hate that 30 years went this quickly, because in another 30 years, I'll be as old as my grandpa.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:58 AM on June 28, 2014

@empath It's also here :)
posted by zeoslap at 3:18 PM on July 14, 2014

« Older Tax-supported SWAT teams claim immunity from open...   |   Next stop nowhere. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments