Two For One Prince: I’m Going To Live-Blog Purple Rain
Earlier today I listened to Prince for the first time ever. (Well, you know what I mean.) I should’ve, you think?, listened to Purple Rain as my first Prince album, but that’s not what happened. After Prince I felt obligated to listen to Purple Rain, since this whole Live-Blog narrative started in my brain (after the Bruce Springsteen incident) with me thinking, “Oh, I’ll listen to Purple Rain. It will be perfect. An artist so unlike Bruce, an artist I’ve never really heard before and I know I should’ve been listening to – its a perfect Live-Blog. And an artist that is so critically and culturally acclaimed that I should be ashamed about my miseducation of Prince.
So, let’s get right to it.
(Wait, holy god, that album art. I knew about it, because I’m not a cultural idiot. But I guess I never noticed the floral wall paper boarder before. What’s that about?)
1. Let’s Go Crazy: “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered today to get through this thing called life.” Oh, shit. This is going to be epic, isn’t it? Are those harps? (I hope so.) Very electrical and acoustic. Go ahead, escalate it, Prince. I can tell I’m going to like this one better than Prince. It’s so much more rock and roll. Call and response between instruments, Prince and backup singers. We can dig that. And, look, Wikipedia has a personnel listing. AND every single song on this record has its’ own page. I kind of feel bad doing this having only ever seen one second snip-its of the movie. VH1 used to play it a lot when I worked late nights a couple years ago live editing The Grand Ole Opry, but I’ve never gone looking for the movie Purple Rain. I will say, I like his echoing coos. This record sounds so BIG, and we’re only on track one. Let’s see June of 1984…HOT HOLY SHIT. Bruce’s Born In The U.S.A. was also released in June of 1984. Talk about your variety, America. (/I wonder if this is all some karma coincidence.)
2. Take Me With U: Waterfalls drums and yes, this record is much more accessible than Prince. (Or I guess I should say, Prince is so much more a soul record than Purple Rain – so far.) I can see why it did so well. This song features Apollonia Kotero, who played the lead female in Purple Rain. But Jesus, she was also on CHiPS and Fantasy Island. This record is pop music heaven. And apparently, Time Magazine ranked it the 15th greatest album of all time (back in 1993). It won TWO Grammys – one for Best Rock Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group and Best Album of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture or TV Special (does that category even exist anymore?) Looks like it was also nominated for Album Of The Year. BUT IT LOST TO LIONEL RICHIE’S CAN’T SLOW DOWN. I really am learning, stuff. Lionel Richie is a Grammy winner. (And his record, Can’t Slow Down spent 59 CONSECUTIVE weeks inside the Billboard Top 10 and was the third best selling album of 1984 – behind Thriller (which, yes, was released in 1982, it was just still selling like GOLD. Because it was, is. I mean, it is.) and Footloose. Born In The U.S.A. sold just behind Purple Rain.
3. The Beautiful Ones: Oh, look. This is…industrious sounding. And romantic, at the same time. Well, I guess it’s safe to say, that Prince did it first. This song crescendos quite a bit. Almost to the point where Prince is yelling at us. When going to look up the personnel on this, it’s important to note that Purple Rain is listed as “Prince and The Revolution’s soundtrack album Purple Rain.” And woah, that rasp in scream-yell voice sounds very un-Prince-like. But I guess it fits, since he’s yelling about pleasing me, baby. I’m not sure how this track is sitting with me. It feels much longer than 5:14. Oh and it’s page tells me that a longer version exists – the shorter version is on Purple Rain. Coincidental, I think so.
4. Computer Blue: I am wondering when the word “computer” became common sense to people. Yes, computers existed long before 1984, I know, but maybe it was around the time Purple Rain came out, because this track sounds like it was built by computers. No wonder digital recording took over. Look! how new this sounds, how magical everything is, when it’s filtered. But that’s the idea, right? Prince is tricking us all. “Computer Blue” is really just a color. (Perhaps that Doogie Howser blue?) Wow, it excels and brakes just like a computer’s system would – or at least it sounds like one. When I visit the page for this track, it tells me that (hell, I’m just going to quote it full on), “the song represents Prince’s angst at the budding relationship between the characters played by Morris Day and Apollonia. The song was composed by Prince, with credit to his father, John L. Nelson for the guitar solo based on an untitled piano piece by Nelson. Prince titled the piece “Father’s Song” and recorded it on piano for the film, though on screen it was portrayed as being played by Prince’s on-screen father, actor Clarence Williams III.” There is some serious movement going on musically here. Oh, and more yelling from Prince. This makes me want to sit through Purple Rain. Maybe.
5. Darling Nikki: The first thought that pops into my head is, how many girls are named Nikki because of this song? Probably way too many. (One too many, really.) “I knew a girl named Nikki/I guess you could say she was a sex fiend.” Oh, no wonder this record was popular. And I’m sure parents had their own things to say about it. Oh, this whole song is just sexual. Finally Prince is living up to what my uneducated Prince imagination thought of him all this time – Prince, the sex symbol. “The lights went out/and Nikki started to grind.” Wait, are pop songs this explicit? (I’m kidding. Benz A Make Her Dance is a song. Never forget.) “Call my up/whenever you want to grind.” I really am beginning to wish I was alive and kickin’ in 1984. I SURE AS HELL would choose Prince over Mr. Rah-Rah America Bruce – but that’s just on principle considering I have history to help me make my non-existent decision. The end of this song is kind of, explosive. Don’t you think? All the recording machines are getting together, for love’s sake. For Nikki’s sake. And then those “Ah” chants. Wonder what those are supposed to be. Prince, is doin’ it.
6. When Doves Cry: Now, I know from previous research from my last live-blog of Prince, that this is his most famous song. Oh, shit I’ve totally heard this song before. I’ve heard it EVERYWHERE. That hook is radio magic. 1984 is getting better and better. I can’t believe this record lost to Lionel Richie. This song was his first number one hit – for FIVE weeks! Woo, go Prince. For someone who seems so “alternative” that’s a pretty big go at the charts. It was also, “the last single released by a solo artist to receive such certification before the certification requirements were lowered in 1989.” Wait, so when going to look up what the hell “When Doves Cry” actually means, I learn that Prince came back haven written two songs when asked to write music for a particular part of the move. This was one of them. I’ve watched enough VH1 interview shows on number one hits and the like to know that sometimes the biggest hit is last added. It’s always so, I think you know what I mean. “When Doves Cry” made a shit tone of money, and fame, for Prince. So I guess, he fits some kind of standard. If you consider last minute songwriting a standard like that. SPIN has, apparently, ranked this the 6th greatest single of all time. Woah, there SPIN. And the Pazz & Jop Poll – from the Village Voice – awarded it the “Favorite Black Single” of 1985. Whatever that means. (At least they were calling it black and not African American. Right?) And holy shit, maybe THAT’S why they ranked it. It has a crazy synth note-by-note solo right at the end. This album is turning out to be majorly epic.
7. I Would Die For U: This song is much faster than I thought it would be. I was seriously expecting a slow jam. Like, (imagine me singing): “Iiiiii/would/die/for/UUUUU.” We’ve made it through the whole album without a real slow jam. At least not the kind that are on Prince. I like the chorus hook, “I would/die for/you.” Has a nice ring to it. (Kind of makes me think of that Smiths lyric, “to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.” And if you were ever wonderings how to get from Prince to the Smiths in one jump of Six Degrees, here it is.) And damn, this song was WRITTEN for the radio. It’s only 2:49. I wonder what the weekly spins were? They could fit it in anywhere on air. It’s simple, repetitive and gets stuck in your brain. Prince slays again with “I Would Die For U.” What a perfect, yet awkward, song for, literally, any situation.
8. Baby I’m A Star: DAMMIT this record is full of jams. Full of hits! Prince really brought it all to the table in this production. I had seriously low expectations after Prince. I am so glad this is turning out this way. There are strings on this record, I think. Let’s check. (Oh, and he’s still doing those Michael Jackson squeals.) Look, this song was written and recorded in 1982, and was later re-recorded live with The Revolution for Purple Rain. Oh, and I was wrong about the strings. It’s just a synth played to sound like horns. Prince, you tricky devil – because it is AWESOME. This is a great work out track. (Note to self: have my friend who teaches water aerobics to use Purple Rain. Note to reader: this is a real (actual, best) friend of mine. Her name is Mary. She is real. And this a perfect water aerobics record.) “Doctor!” Prince really does have it all. This is the most 1980s thing my brain has ever heard. And I wonder why this has never crossed my lobes before. Generational, perhaps? We’ll never know. At least I showed up.
9. Purple Rain: Ahh, the closing track. And it’s a slow jam. I just imagine what’s going on in the movie here: there’s multiple smoke machines somewhere off camera. The Boy and The Girl are finally getting together. (Oh, shit! What’s the Prince video where’s he in the bathtub? I think it’s “When Doves Cry”? I keep getting Rick Astley-ed when I go to look it up.) Ah, yes. I have definitely heard this song before. No one ever thought to make a song where the chorus was “purple rain/purple rain/I only want to see you bathing in the purple rain.” There is so much romance here. Prince, with that echo, and that, puffy-pirate shirt, he’s still killing it. This was certified gold by the RIAA and the THIRD single released from the record. He’s performed it on every tour – as signature songs go – since 1984 (except for a few years after he changed his name.)
(OK – this song is 8:42, we have time for an aside. Here’s the thing about Prince and the name change thing. I always knew it at as a joke. That he was Prince and then as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.” And for some reason, the joke seems to be coming from one place and one place only in my memory: The Simpsons. Please someone, explain this to me. And then, why would he change his name? Any artist that has done this always has to have (formerly …. ) like when Mos Def became Yasiin Bey. What was that? Prince, it seems, ended up keeping his name and just having a custom guitar made. I think that was the best move in the end.)
Jesus, this song is epic. Now I feel obligated to watch Purple Rain. Maybe. And escalation, escalation, crescendo, guitar riff, solo, solo, solo and fade out…with, live audience cheers and whistles. He sure does have it. Whatever it is. Ahh, and violins and strings, because this record couldn’t be more over the top. I kid, Prince. This is a fine record. I will definitely be listening to it more.