All-Time Albums: #12


PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION Music From The Motion Picture “Purple Rain”

Let’s Go Crazy 4:39 (UK AA-sided single, #7)
Take Me With U 3:54 (UK AA-sided single. #7)
The Beautiful Ones 5:15
4 Computer Blue 3:59
5 Darling Nikki 4:15
When Doves Cry 5:52 (UK single, #4)
7 I Would Die 4 U 2:51 (UK single, #58)
8 Baby I’m A Star 4:20
9 Purple Rain 8:45 (UK single edited, #8)

Sign O The Times is the better album as far as I’m concerned, with a breadth of imagination and frequent forays into downright genius, not to mention it sounds as weird as hell in places. But there is a pull towards Purple Rain that I will never be able to ignore; it was my introduction to the world of Prince and the Minneapolis sound.

“1999” (album and singles) passed me by, being only minor UK hits in early 1983 when I was still only paying attention to the top end of the charts, so When Doves Cry came along, it was from literally nowhere as far as I was concerned.

Obviously it became an iconic release not just of the 1980s but of all-time, and was the go-to album for many in the wake of the man’s passing in April 2016. Yet at the time I endured the ridicule of Our Price assistants when buying it in July 1984, the album was still only a week old and outside the UK Top 20 at #21. So it felt like something very exotic and away from the Duran/Wham!/Frankie heartland of Smash Hits and No.1 magazines (although, ironically, it was a full-page colour advert for Purple Rain in one of those magazines which alerted me to its existence and tempted me into parting with 4.99 of my pocket-money savings). I had no idea it would go on to become such a legendary recording.

Let’s Go Crazy had me from the very start, a blistering romp that climaxes with some ridiculously OTT guitar solo-ing and a perfect second single; in the US at least, where it was on its way to #1 before When Doves Cry had finished its own Bilboard residency. Here in Britain, we inexplicably got the title track as the follow-up.

I Would Die 4 U and Baby I’m A Star were cut from very similar cloth, energised full-band workouts that seemed to be taken directly from the movie. The two growers on the LP were Take Me With U, an ever-so-pretty duet with the film’s pouting female lead Apollonia, and the epic Beautiful Ones that again begins with some very pretty synth riffs before getting rather worked-up, and then coming back down again in blissful coda. Mariah Carey later covered it on the Butterfly album, but to this day I’ve never felt the urge to listen to her version.

The first side of Purple Rain ends with a couple of naughty songs. Computer Blue’s opening dialogue between Wendy & Lisa about the bath water has long since passed into folklore (“it was Prince’s bath!”, they claim), while Darling Nikki is the least impressive moment for me on a near-perfect album, a mildly-diverting and subversive ditty about a sexually-provocative young lady who wanks in public and lives in a gothic castle. It gets our little fella quite worked up (for the third time in five songs), until the rain falls and everything starts playing backwards.

Side two has just the four songs, but what four songs they are. Three certifiable classics, and one that could have easily joined them at the top of the charts if released as a single. Purple Rain itself goes on a wee bit too long for my liking, though it works better that way in the context of the film, and the segue from I Would Die 4 U to Baby I’m A Star caused me mild annoyance in the days of compiling C90 compilations, but otherwise it’s damn near perfect.

My dream of an expanded tracklisting that would feature all the other songs from the movie, the B-sides to the singles, and the tracks by other artists (Apollonia, The Time etc)will probably never come to pass, which is a shame as probably my favourite song from the entire era remains tucked away on the flipside of When Doves Cry (and on the B-sides disc of The Hits boxset) – 17 Days.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s