Musings on Purple Rain

Dearly Beloved,

There is no one like Prince. No one. I think you could make a list of things Prince has done that no one else in the world has ever done or ever could do. You can’t find him on YouTube (he has a team that takes down any footage of him).  He’s not on Twitter or Facebook. He doesn’t even have a website. For a while, his name was a symbol.

He was recently on “The View” sporting an incredible tiny Afro, but still he brought his friends Rosario Dawson and Van Jones to answer the questions for him. He maybe said five sentences during the entire interview.

And did you see him on the Grammy’s on Sunday night? Dude had a chrome cane! Questlove tells an amazing story of going to Prince’s Grammy after-party with Eddie Murphy at a roller skating rink where Prince showed up with clear skates in a Pulp Fiction-esque briefcase. The skates not only lit up when he skated but also spewed a trail of sparks!

The point here is that Prince is way cooler everyone else. And he always has been. He’s unique in every sense. His music, his acting, his lyrics, his guitar playing, his clothes, his producing, his dancing: pure unaffected unique virtuosity. And when Purple Rain was released in June of 1984, his uniqueness (among other things) was on display in its highest form.

Purple Rain is undisputedly one of the greatest albums of all time. It shows up on all the lists and all the countdowns. The two main singles “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” are some of the best pop songs ever written. And the title track, “Purple Rain,” has become one of the great anthems of modern music history. The accompanying movie (which if you haven’t seen, I absolutely urge you to go watch. It will blow your mind. As an aside, I still remember my dad sitting me down when I was in 8th grade to watch the movie. Cliche aside, it changed my life. Thanks Dad.) earned Prince an Oscar and exposed the world to the performer that Prince was and still is. The tour that followed the release of Purple Rain is one of the most famed and legendary tours of all time. Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls once told me that she saw Prince on the Purple Rain Tour and was so overwhelmed by the spectacle and the energy and Prince’s true mastery that she cried (joyously) the entire performance. Now that’s a concert.

But putting all of the legend, mystique and reception of Purple Rain aside, it has always been one of my favorite albums. It was the first album I ever purchased on vinyl. Yes, I’m proud of that fact. It has inspired me as a guitar player, a singer, and a songwriter. The title track was one of the first songs I ever learned to play on guitar, and it was one of the first songs that The Shadowboxers covered. We have probably played that song 200 times in the short time we’ve been a band.

The guitar playing at the end of “Let’s Go Crazy” continues to remain a benchmark for me as a guitarist. “Darlin Nikki” was so provocative that it is often cited as the song that created the parental advisory sticker – the 8th grade version of me was intrigued. His high-pitched guttural scream at the end of “The Beautiful Ones” and “Baby I’m A Star” is otherworldly and straight up soul shaking (you know D’Angelo’s scream at the end of “Untitled”? – that’s a Prince steal). At just under three minutes, “I Would Die 4U” seems to capture the entire essence and sonic landscape of the 1980’s.

With just nine songs, Purple Rain is a perfect concise pop album (also a rock musical soundtrack, of course) that combines elements of R&B, Dance, Rock, Funk, Psychedelia, New Wave and Jazz. The entire album is masterful in every way. Many of the songs were recorded live at a concert at the First Avenue Club in August of 1983. Live!! Listen again and think about that. A few years ago, a video of the actual performance of “Purple Rain” that is heard on the album was leaked on YouTube for about 30 hours before it was removed. That recording from the album was actually played live. Incredible. Only Prince.

So go listen to the album, watch the movie, and bask in the unbelievable cool that is Prince and Purple Rain. And then come out on Valentines Day at the Sound Table (8pm sharp) to celebrate it with us. Graciously joining us to channel the purple one will be Ben Deignan, Chantae Cann, Daniel Dewitt and our featured act Rahbi. Get your ears ready, pencil mustaches trimmed, purple fluff fluffed, and high heels on (you too, guys), because this ATL Collective is going to be a special one.

 

Adam Hoffman

The Shadowboxers

Feb 11 2013