Purple Rain Turns 25... and You?
This could run 15, 20 paragraphs easy: Purple Rain came out 25 years ago next month! Around late May 1984, most of us got our first taste of the Linn LM-1 “Linn drum” Drum Computer beats on “When Doves Cry” from worldwide radio stations. “When Doves Cry” hit stores June 9; Purple Rainfollowed on June 25; and the famous film dropped July 27. But this ain’t about Wikipedia stats. Purple Rain, for me, always resurrects the summer of 1984. Things like:
Co-op City hotties Gretchen and Shanese doing “The Seduction” (a recreation of Prince’s “Baby I’m a Star” self-caressing stage stutter from Purple Rain, involving G. & S. circling willing Bronx boy-toy victims and feelin us up).
That super-effeminate pink Ebony magazine cover with Prince holding a rose in front of his unbuttoned ruffled shirt, the one that made me refuse to see the movie till it came out on VHS in 1985. (The joke was on me.)
My personal discovery of Purple Rain, playing the cassette while fighting through some 9th grade homework. (Back-to-back with Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, incidentally.)
The rumors of an X-rated Purple Rain floatin around, where sexy Prince and Apollonia outtakes revealed what our horny teenage imaginations just knew went down on set.
The college-age homeboy in my building who lent me those 12” extended remixes one day for the B-sides: “Another Lonely Christmas,” “God,” “17 Days.”
In fact, I’ll break here to talk about my alternative iTunes Purple Rain mix a little. Yes Virginia, there’s at least one Purple Rain outtake. Waiting to renew my carte de séjour recently at a French préfecture (worse than the Department of Motor Vehicles), I cued up that playlist on my iPod and reminisced.
“Electric Intercourse” is a ballad cast in the mold of “The Beautiful Ones,” recorded in that 1983-84 period where Prince could do no wrong: piano, Linn drum, screams. “Feel some kind of love for you, don’t know your name,” he starts with a synth burst. “It’s the kinda love that takes two/Want you and I’m not ashamed.” He slithers towards the chorus as if tumbling out of that steamy bathtub from the “When Doves Cry” clip: “Baby, you shock my body with a sexual electricity extraordinaire…” Etc, etc. It’s a lost gem. (Lost, that is, unless you have LimeWire.)
“Moonbeam Levels” is another rarity, though it dates a little further back to the 1999era. I lost my cassette of the mix long ago, an oldie from my college bootleg hookup Dave, but it’s a monster. Sometimes called “A Better Place to Die,” Prince sings about a post-nuclear world and searching for evidence of his lost love’s survival. Getting back to Purple Rain, there’s also the “God (Instrumental)” that Americans got cheated out of, the eight-minute Purple Rain love theme only available on the B-side of the U.K. “Purple Rain” singles. Sublime.
Though I always loved “Controversy,” “1999,” “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious” growin up, Purple Rain is where I really joined the revolution, and I didn’t really defect till Come 10 years later. (Wow, was Come only 10 years after Purple Rain? Prince is so prolific that it don’t hardly seem like it.) In an alternate universe, Greg Tate is writing 15,000 words on this milestone anniversary for a The New Yorkerfeature. Till we get that space-time continuum machine running, there’s just us.