Although Prince was already five albums into his career by the early ‘80s, it wasn’t until 1984’s “Purple Rain” that he became a huge star all over the globe. The album spawned some of his biggest hits, such as: “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry” and of course, the iconic, legendary title track. Despite them being credited, albeit very secretly on the cover of Prince’s previous album, “1999,” it was technically the second album with his backing band The Revolution. Accompanying the “Purple Rain” album was his first-ever motion picture, in which he starred as a character known only as “The Kid,” a struggling, young musician playing gigs in nightclubs, fighting against his real-life rival band, The Time fronted by Morris Day. In 2014, Prince and his former record label, Warner Brothers had scheduled to release a remastered edition, celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. However, it was delayed until 2017. Now, here’s a review of the album, butches.… not quite, but that’s a better replacement word.
Let’s Go Crazy: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” Possibly one of the most iconic openings ever! From there, it’s on to some serious Gospel-styled rocking and funking from Prince & The Revolution, though it’s definitely not your average, everyday run-of-the mill pop song, with lyrics about death, the after world and an overall epic battle between God and Satan: De-Elevator being the man with the horns, so to speak, where as “Go crazy” is God. Nobody had ever come up with a sound or concept like this one, which was what made it all stand out from almost everything else that was coming out in 1984. “Let’s Go Crazy” is then concluded with a killer guitar solo and Prince screaming out: “TAKE ME AWAY!!” With that, it’s onto the next song.
Take Me With U: A very light, acoustic pop tune, in which two people who are clearly attracted to one another want to take it further than a simple “friendship.” However, both of them seem to be a little apprehensive to let it even get to that stage. At one point, Prince even comes right out and asks: “We want each other oh so much, why must we play this game?,” He’s joined by former model, Patricia “Apollonia” Kotera, who was also his co-star in “Purple Rain.” The banter between the two is great: “To be around you is oh so right. You’re sheer perfection. Thank you!” Brilliant.
The Beautiful Ones: Prince was never afraid of competition and this song further proves the point. Most probably written for the scene in “Purple Rain,” where Morris Day has stolen “Apollonia” from “The Kid” and he’s now trying to win her back. Prince was expressing his confusion, along with the fact that “The beautiful ones always smash the picture,” or rather seem to hurt you the most. Things get intense towards the end of this song when he starts screaming out: “Do U want him? Or do U want Me? Cuz I want U!” He definitely gave this song his all, as he always did. “The Beautiful Ones” is clearly a ballad and it’s listed as the third song on the album. He would continue this tradition on the next couple of albums and on many of his ‘90s albums as well.
Computer Blue: Sounds like Prince was trying to find himself a girlfriend (Or as he says, “the righteous one”) when he wrote this one. He also was quite possibly making a comparison to computers, which were still very much in their early stages: “Where is my love life? Where can it be? There must be something wrong with the machinery.” It’s never really registered before, but this song really only has one verse. It was originally going to be a lot longer, clocking in at over 12 minutes, but it got edited down, which is a shame because the longer version actually puts this song into a much clearer perspective, yet still contains elements of the instrumental piece, “Father’s Song,” which eventually got released in 2017 as part of the “Purple Rain” remastered project. Interestingly, the “Poor lonely computer” monologue is still listed in the original CD booklet, despite it being entirely cut out of the final version.
Darling Nikki: We all knew that eventually Prince was going to get freaky on this album and he most certainly did so right here. It almost sounds as though it was recorded in some kind of dungeon. He sings of meeting a girl named Nikki “in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine.” As is now common knowledge, this is both the lyric and song that spawned the invention of the “Parental Advisory” logo in 1984. Compared to what Prince was doing on his previous two albums, this song was kid’s stuff! He was clearly expressing his anger, as well: There are a lot of really loud guitar solos and pounding drum beats, combined with him shrieking: “Come back, Nikki, come back!! Your darling little Prince wanna grind, grind, grind!!” Prince ends this song with a backwards message: “Hello. How are you? I’m fine, cause I know that The Lord is coming soon.” That was Prince for you: One foot in the profane, the other in the angelic.
When Doves Cry: Prince was most definitely innovating when he made this song, as it comprises solely of a rock guitar riff, drum machine, synthesisers, vocals and some very cinematic strings, which don’t really kick in until the song is almost finished. Prince had originally laid down a bass track, but he felt it didn’t fit, so it was removed. He makes the comparison of two lovers quarrelling to the sound of doves crying, while in the process creating quite the heated image of them being “engaged in a kiss” and her sweat covering his body. One of the best songs in his whole catalogue and incredibly personal, as he compares himself to his father, his partner to his mother. Fun fact: The director of “Purple Rain” asked Prince to make some background music for one of the scenes in the film and this was what he came back with. Wow!
I Would Die 4 U: Quite a spiritual song where Prince was seemingly singing from the perspective of Jesus: “I’m not a woman I’m not a man I am something that you’ll never comprehend… I’m your messiah and you’re the reason why.” Whenever Prince would perform this song live, he would always change that lyric to: “He’s your messiah.” Prince was just a man, after all. Still, that didn’t change the fact that this song was and still is brilliant. It’s quite short on the album, however a much longer live version exists both on 12” Vinyl and CD single. Prince and The Revolution really let loose on that version.
Baby I’m A Star: Just as there was a backwards message at the end of “Darling Nikki,” there is also one at the beginning and end of this song: Wendy is exclaiming: “Really, what the fuck do they know? All their taste is in their mouth!” Now that that’s out the way, this is clearly a song about Prince wanting to experience fame and fortune: “You might not know it now, but baby I’m telling you I’m a star. I don’t want to stop until I reach the top.” And he most definitely did when he released this album. On the one hand, you may call this song a premonition, yet on later albums such as “Musicology” and “Diamonds & Pearls,” he would still say things like, “Maybe one day I will be a star,” when he’d already passed that stage of merely wishing he was famous. Ironically, he commands somebody to take a picture of him, yet in real life, he never wanted to do that with any of his fans.
Purple Rain: “I never meant to cause you any sorrow. I never meant to cause you any pain.” Quite an introspective and personal lyric from undoubtedly the most recognised song in Prince’s entire catalogue, which still continued to define him even after his passing. Prince’s guitar playing is absolutely incredible and you can really feel him reaching for that spiritual high, right as he’s performing that now legendary solo. The falsetto harmonies towards the end of the song add even more to its brilliance. Prince couldn’t have chosen a better closer.
Verdict: If you’re just starting to get into Prince, then this would be a really great starting point, as most, if not all of the songs are quite recognisable. Furthermore, it’s one of his most iconic albums of all time and is therefore very well done. It may sound dated to some, but it’s still a classic!