Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Purple Rain certainly isn't one of the all-time great rock movies, but for better or worse, it's my generation's A Hard Day's Night. Mostly this is because of the soundtrack, which everyone played to death in 1984 & 1985. Not to sound dated, but it was one of those "records" you could play from beginning to end without having to move the needle and skip over any song. The least popular song from the album is probably "Computer Blue", which you still listened to just because you wanted to hear Wendy and Lisa talk to each other about the water being warm enough, and how the song perfectly dove tailed into "Darling Nikki". Most importantly, the soundtrack and I guess the movie firmly distanced the purple one from the other famous pop star of the day. As Chris Rock would famously state years later, "Remember the fight between Michael Jackson and Prince? Well, Prince won."
I had to buy all of Prince's albums through the beginning of college. Around the World in a Day (which is better than people remember), Parade (the soundtrack to an awful movie called Under the Cherry Moon, but the tunes were played almost as often as those on Purple Rain), leading up to Prince's masterpiece: Sign Â☮Â the Times. It was a "double album" (thankfully all on one cassette though, which was great for listening to in the car). It was more of a "cult" hit that wasn't nearly as popular as anything from Purple Rain, but those who got into it really got into it.
Then came college, and I wound up living in a house with two of maybe the biggest Prince fans in the world. I had started to lose interest in Prince's stuff, especially after the odd choice of Tim Burton having his songs scored in Batman. I gave up on anything new from "the Kid", even though my roommates still swore by anything and everything he recorded.
In late 1997, Prince played the Civic Auditorium in Omaha, and I went with one of those roommates and a bunch of others. Prince could have gone on stage and played feedback for three hours and my old college friend would have said it was the greatest concert of all time. Truth be told, Prince was off that night. Or maybe the Civic is such a shithole and the worst place for any sort of concert. Or maybe we had shitty seats. At any rate, I left the show disappointed more than anything, especially because he literally only sang two lines from "The Beautiful Ones". I thought that was quite a tease for a 2 1/2 hour show. My college friend still thought it was an extraordinary show, so much so that I couldn't bear to tell him how the concert did nothing for me.
Finally Prince came back to Omaha in April, 2004. He was one of the first performers to play at the new Qwest Center, and this time he brought along his Purple Rain magic. Finally, this was a performance worthy of listening to all of those albums from the '80's. This was the guy my college roommates idolized. Everyone who was there got a free copy of his Musicology CD, which was actually a really good disc. He even played an acoustic set towards the end, which included "Sometimes It Snows in April" from Parade. I finally got to hear a live, stirring rendition of "The Beautiful Ones", this time the ENTIRE song. And of course he ended with one of the most inspired versions of "Purple Rain" he ever did. It could have been just being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that night Prince put on the show of his career. Afterwards, without reservation, I was able to call both of my college buddies and tell them about one of single greatest concerts I'd ever attended.
Now, because of his rave reviews for his performance at halftime of an otherwise awful and forgettable Super Bowl, Prince is all the rave again. What really got me thinking about Prince and Purple Rain and really the early to mid '80's was seeing Prince with Eddie Murphy in the audience last month during the Golden Globes. In 1984, they were the biggest stars in the world. They've both had long and successful careers since (with weird varyingying degrees of success). Both won awards that night, and it seems now that the biggest winner on Super Bowl Sunday besides that dork Peyton Manning was the guy who said over 20 years ago, before text messaging was even a dirty though, "May U Live 2 C the Dawn."