Happy Anniversary: Prince and The Revolution, PURPLE RAIN
34 years ago today, Prince – backed by his band, The Revolution – released the soundtrack to his first film as a leading man, and while the motion picture wasn’t exactly greeted with instant universal acclaim, its soundtrack LP is rightfully revered as an all-time classic.
Recorded variously in Hollywood (Sunset Sound), New York (Record Plant), and Minnesota (First Avenue and The Warehouse), PURPLE RAIN arrived on the heels of Prince’s crossover breakthrough album, 1999, so he was ripe to take his success into superstardom, which he promptly did with these nine songs.
First off, you’ve got “Let’s Go Crazy,” which offers arguably the single best opening salvo of any album released in the ‘80s, thanks to that opening “sermon” delivered by Prince:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. An electric word, “life.” It means forever…and that's a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you there’s something else: the afterworld. A world of never-ending happiness, you can always see the sun, day or night. So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills – you know the one: Dr. Everything’ll-Be-All-Right – instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind, baby. ‘Cause in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld. In this life, you’re on your own. And if the elevator tries to bring you down? Go crazy: punch a higher floor.”
Ironically, the album’s first single was actually the very last track recorded for the album: “When Doves Cry,” which also proved to be Prince’s first number one single. From there, “Let’s Go Crazy” gave him his second number one single, while a trimmed-down version of the title track made it to #2. After that, it was time for the two “U” singles (we speak, of course, of “I Would Die 4 U” and “Take Me with U”), which made it to #8 and #25, respectively.
Of the album’s remaining four tracks, there probably won’t be much in the way of argument if we suggest that “Darling Nikki” received the most attention, if not necessarily in the best of all possible ways. Tipper Gore may not have approved of the song’s risqué lyrics, but we’ll say this much for the PMRC: their antics were directly responsible for a whole lot of kids paying way more attention to what Nikki was doing with that magazine than they ever would have otherwise. Beyond that, though, we’ll note that “The Beautiful Ones” has gotten a lot of play as a result of Mariah Carey and Dru Hill covering it as a duet and Beyonce featuring it in her live set a few years back, Tina Turner did a pretty great cover of “Baby I’m a Star” back in 2000, and “Computer Love” is…well, let’s just say there’s nothing else like it on the album.
Having gone platinum 13 times over – and that was as of 2012, so it’s almost certainly heading for that 14th certification at this point – PURPLE RAIN isn’t just the most iconic album in Prince’s catalog, it’s one of the most iconic albums in rock history, and being as this is the anniversary of its release, it’s a perfect day to revisit it.
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