Purple Rain – Prince

Released June 25, 1984 this was Prince’s sixth studio album and his first to feature his band the Revolution. It’s the soundtrack to the 1984 film of the same name. Nominated for several Grammys, including Album of the Year, it won two. The album is certified 13-times platinum selling over 25 million copies worldwide making it the third best selling soundtrack of all time. Purple Rain is in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

Jason: Bradley?

Brad: Yes Jason.

Jason: Is the music loud enough?

Brad: Yes Jason.

Jason: Shall we begin?

Brad: Yes Jason.

Jason: Alright then. I would like to go track-by-track on this one. I think it deserves it.

Brad: It definitely deserves it.

Jason: “Let’s Go Crazy” is the first track. It was also his second number-one hit on the Billboard Hot-100. The B-Side was “Erotic City”. Did eleven-year-old Brad buy this cassingle and listen to both tracks?

Brad: I think I actually have the 45. This was pre-cassingle era. “Erotic City” is one of my favorite Prince songs ever.

Jason: Were you allowed to listen to “Erotic City” at home or your step-mom’s house? 

Brad: I listened to Prince a lot at home and I don’t think my Mom paid attention to the lyrics. I think she actually liked Prince too. But my Prince related step-mom story is that she bought me a vinyl copy of Purple Rain as a gift but then her “church friends” said it was bad and she shouldn’t give it to me.  It wasn’t a big deal because my Mom took me to Camelot Music in the Fashion Square Mall and I bought the cassette anyway. But I would get mad every time I saw the vinyl version at my Dad and stepmom’s house. So one weekend I stole the poster that came with the vinyl album and hung it in my bedroom at my Mom’s house and it stayed there for years. That poster is amazing by the way.

Jason: Good. Did you also know that some Christians thought in “Let’s Go Crazy” when he sings “are we gonna let the elevator bring us down?” he was singing “de-elevator” and they took that to mean Satan and that Prince was saying “Don’t let Satan bring you down, fight back.” So per usual some Christians would pick-and-choose what they thought was offensive and what wasn’t even if it A) didn’t make sense and B) contradicted themselves. “Let’s go Crazy” might be the best opening song to an album ever, by the way.

Brad: I did not know that but the lyrics on Apple Music say it is de-elevator. I’ve seen it both ways. Not sure which is correct. 

Jason: Well, that story is from wikipedia so take that as you will.

Brad: I agree that “Let’s Go Crazy” is one of the best opening songs ever.

Jason: You can’t help but dance to it and the opening vows are iconic. The next song is “Take Me with U”, a duet with Apollonia. Did Prince invent substituting numbers for letters and letters for words in song titles? 

Brad: He did like to use the numeric character for number words but I was always impressed when he would use emojis like an eye emoticon instead of “I”. So maybe he invented emojis? 

Jason: It wouldn’t surprise me. “Take Me with U” starts with a crazy drum solo over some anxious keyboards then goes into one of the catchiest and simplest beats with strings. What do you think of this song? 

Brad: I’ve always loved this song. It is very catchy and somewhat “normal” compared to the rest of the album but still brilliant. 

Jason: At 2:10 Prince says “You’re sure perfection” and Apollonia whispers “Thank you” which I love. Or maybe she whispers “Thank U”.

Brad: I love that part too…I mean… part 2(?)

Jason: Prince has a way of mixing classic beats with new ones and having a traditional pop song next to a ballad next to a crazy rock anthem and it all works. 

Brad: I think that is what makes this album so good. It sounded like nothing else when it came out and still sounds like nothing else I’ve heard since.

Jason: Did you hear the album or see the film first?

Brad: I heard the album first. In fact, I didn’t get to see it at the theater when it first came out because it was Rated R and I was only 11.
I was so jealous when my brothers got to go see it at the drive-in movie theater

Jason: It was the ’80s I am sure you could have found a way in.

Brad: I could have hidden in the trunk.

Jason: You should have said to your brothers when they were leaving “Take me with U!” 

Brad: Exactly!

Jason: Prince says the next song, “The Beautiful Ones”, was written about Vanity.

Brad: I LOVED Vanity. I used to have a picture of her in my locker. Her and Alyssa Milano were my locker “beards”.

Jason: HA! I like this song and I always picture that insanely sexual performance of it in the movie. At the end when he is writhing on the speaker and on the floor and then lays there spent like he just climaxed, which I am sure was the intent.

Brad: When I was 11, this was my least favorite song on the album but now I love it and it is one of my favorites off the album. It is really sexy.

Jason: I understand why a prepubescent tween wouldn’t like that song. It’s really erotic and sexual and slow and pulsating. It’s not my favorite on this album but if this song is “the worst” so to speak, then you have a pretty damn good album.

Brad: Totally. Even then I still liked it.

Jason: Did the erotic screeching scare you as a kid?

Brad: Maybe a little. A bit too primal for my youthful ears.

Jason: It’s a good ballad though. Next up is “Computer Blue” which starts off with a vaguely dominatrix-style spoken word. Let’s talk about the under-appreciated Wendy & Lisa. 

Brad: Oh my god, the beginning of this song changed my life! I love Wendy & Lisa. I used to stare at them in the previously mentioned poster. I was so intrigued by them and wanted to know more. This song is also really sexy but in a dance-y way.

Jason: They were lovers at the time and still tour together now. They are super hot in the movie. When people initially heard the opening they must have been like “WTF!” because songs just didn’t start like that. 

Brad: Totally! Like nothing I had ever heard before.

Jason: Do you like the 12:19 Hallway Speech Version of “Computer Blue” on the expanded edition? 

Brad: Yes, I do love it. I love all the extras on the expanded version. That being said, I think all the choices Prince made to edit and sequence the album were perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Jason: Yes, apparently the original version of “Computer Blue” was 14-minutes long then he cut it down to it’s current 4-minutes so he could include the next song, which it beautifully segues into seamlessly. That being the extremely controversial “Darling Nikki”. I have a lot to say about this next song.

Brad: I have a lot to say about it too. First, I remember hearing that “Darling Nikki” was the song that was so dirty it shouldn’t be heard by children. I studied the lyrics to figure out why it was bad. The only word I didn’t understand was “masturbating” so I decided to look it up in the dictionary and the definition was something vague like “self pleasure” and I remember thinking “That’s not so bad!”

Jason: Yes, Tipper Gore founded the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which is is responsible for slapping Parental Advisory stickers on songs and albums that they view too sexy or violent for kids, after she heard her then 11-year-old daughter singing along to “Darling Nikki”.

Brad: I didn’t think it was a big deal then and I still don’t today. Just turn on the radio at any given time today and you can hear much more explicitly sexual lyrics.

Jason: Well, 1984 was different from 2019. The PMRC compiled the Filthy Fifteen which is a list of songs used to make the PMRC’s case for the warning labels. “Darling Nikki” was #1 on the list. It also included Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls”, Vanity’s “Strap On Robbie Baby”, Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” and for some reason “Dress You Up” by Madonna among others.

Brad: So dumb. Do you like “Darling Nikki”?

Jason: Yes. Here is my one beef with this song. He sings that Nikki was “masturbating with a magazine”, which I always found confusing as a kid. I pictured her rolling up the magazine like she was going to swat a fly and then using it to masturbate herself. I think he means “to” not “with.” Also, he said “masturbate” in a song. In 1984. That was unheard of.

Brad: Yeah, I was having a difficult time imagining the logistics of that lyric too. Also, the song takes on a different meaning when you see the movie. It was basically meant to humiliate Appolonia’s character after she decides to work with his rival Morris Day.

Jason: Yes, I love that movie but it has some serious issues with how it treats women. 

Brad: It totally does and some really bad acting but I still love it.

Jason: Maybe throwing a woman in a dumpster is actually what it sounds like when doves cry.

Brad: She was a terrible actress but throwing her in a dumpster for comedic effect is still wrong.

Jason: Regardless, “When Doves Cry” was Prince’s first #1 hit.

Brad: It was the first single and was released before the movie or soundtrack came out. I was instantly obsessed! Again, it sounded like nothing I’ve ever heard before.

Jason: It doesn’t have a bass line which was unheard of for an ’80s pop song. I read that he wanted it to sound different from everything else on the radio currently. Which it did and it certainly stands the test of time. 

Brad: That it does! It was also the last song he recorded for the album.

Jason: “When Doves Cry” has a B-Side song that I just discovered like three days ago, which our friend Derek said is his favorite B-side song ever. It’s called “17 Days” Is that song in the movie at all?

Brad: I don’t think it is in the movie but it was on his 90s greatest hits collection called The Hits/The B-Sides.

Jason: Yes it is and my story about that collection is that I ordered it through BMG or Columbia House, I forget which. It came with 3 discs. The third disc, which said it was The B-Sides was actually pressed with The Hits second disc songs. I sent it back twice and it was still always wrong so I never got The B-Sides and thus never heard “17 Days” until three days ago.

Brad: That is sad and frustrating. I have a similar Prince related defective product story. I bought Prince’s Lovesexy album at Camelot Music. It is the album where Prince is completely naked on the cover and sitting in a flower. So teenage me was already embarrassed enough to purchase it once but when I got home to play it there was no music on the cd. So I took it back and got another and the second one also had nothing on it. So the third time I took it back they decided to try all of the cds in the store and they were all defective. So I had to find it elsewhere. 

Jason: And now Camelot is out of business. By the way two pieces of trivia here.  The entire title for “17 Days” is actually, “17 Days (the rain will come down, then U will have 2 choose, if U believe, look 2 the dawn and U shall never lose)”, and is the longest titled flipside of a Hot 100 number one, with 85 letters and/or numbers. And the “When Doves Cry” music video was apparently too sexy for TV so it was rarely played. Watch it now and it’s less sexy than most commercials on daytime TV today.

Brad: That’s interesting. But I do remember that video being sexy for the times.

Jason: It was a sign o’ the times. Now I am excited because the next song is my all-time favorite Prince song ever, “I Would Die 4 U”. I love it so much! It makes me want to dance.

Brad: Yeah, you always do get excited when this song comes on.

Jason: because it’s amazing!

Brad: It is another classic Prince song. It seems to be universally loved.
I always feel like “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m A Star” are two parts of the same song since one goes directly into the next. 

Jason: Yes both on the album and in the movie they flow together. I like the little hand dance they do for “I Would Die 4 U” during the film.

Brad: Still to this day, whenever I see a band do group choreography like Prince and the Revolution, I get so excited. A recent example is St. Vincent’s last couple tours.

Jason: Princess does the little “4 U” hand dance when we see them in concert. Apparently there is a 31-minute version of “I Would Die 4 U”, too much? 

Brad: Maybe too much. But I would listen.

Jason: Me too. It’s available by bootleg only so let’s ask Derek to play it when we are in London visiting him. So as you mentioned “4 U” goes right into “Baby I’m A Star” how do you feel about that song? 

Brad: I love it but now when I hear it I think of Tina Turner’s cover and how we always see the Chicago ROTC (Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corp) doing a choreographed performance to Tina’s cover during the Pride Parades and street festivals.

Jason: This song has something called “backmasking” which is when a message is recorded backward onto a track. It’s at the beginning and then end of the song and it’s Prince singing: 
So like, fuck them man! What do they know?
All their taste is in their mouth
Really, what the fuck do they know?
Come on, baby
Let’s go crazy!

Brad: He does that at the end of “Darling Nikki” too. I like all the layers of intrigue on this album. You can hear something different every time you listen.

Jason: Absolutely. The backwards part on Darling Nikki is a much more evident. I didn’t even notice the backmasking on “Baby I’m A Star” until about a week ago. Overall, it is fun song and then the album concludes with arguably Prince’s most recognizable song. Or at least the song that people immediately associate with him, even non-fans. That’s “Purple Rain”.

Brad: Yeah, even people who aren’t music fans could probably sing along to “Purple Rain”.

Jason: Since his death it’s the song that people sing as an anthem to him.

Brad: It is a beautiful song.

Jason: It rose to #2 on the Billboard charts. “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go” kept it out of the top spot. I will say this song is played so much that I get a little tired of it but it’s such a great song. 

Brad: I somewhat agree. It makes me feel differently since his death than it did while he was alive. And for that reason, I still love it but don’t want too hear it as often…if that makes sense

Jason: Definitely. Well, this was our longest review so far, as it should be. There is a lot more to say about Purple Rain, but I think we should give our grades.

Brad: This earns and A+ from me. It is a masterpiece and is quite possibly my favorite album of all time

Jason: This is my first A+ as well. I love it and not only did I listen to it dozens of times in the past week but I also listened to the extended edition for the B-sides and extras.  Now I want to go home, put on my headphones listen to some more Prince with Moby, our “velvet kitty cat”.

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