Day 30: Purple Rain (the untold story)

Well, we’ve come to the end of the month. I hope you’ve enjoyed the songs and a bit of the stories behind them. When it comes right down to it, for a real appreciation of Prince’s genius, you have to go past the amazing lyrics and powerful music to find the stories about HOW he made the music. Like the fact that he had the “Purple Rain” album completely written when the record company decided none of the singles were suitable for a debut single, so he went back and wrote TEN songs overnight, including “When Doves Cry”. Like the fact that his first few albums were completely written, produced, and arranged by Prince alone and he also did all of the vocals and played all the instruments. Before getting his first major record deal, one of the conditions was that he prove to the record company that he had done everything on his demo by himself (they thought he was faking) When he went into the studio and did it all solo again, they knew what kind of talent they were dealing with.

And then there’s this video. Everyone knows the song. It’s his magnum opus, and undoubtedly one of his best. But many people probably didn’t realize that the recording that’s on the album, and is shown in the movie is recorded almost note for note from this performance from a charity event at First Avenue almost a year before the movie debuted. It’s also the first time the band had ever played the song in public, and the first time Wendy Melvoin played in public as a member of The Revolution. If you listen closely, you can hear some of the crowd noises that you’ll hear on the album. The song was cleaned up a bit, some orchestration was added, a verse was removed, but other than that, this performance is what’s on the album.

One of the few blessings of the last year has been the discovery of footage like this that shows some of what went on behind the scenes in the making of his music. It has been a blessing getting a chance to see videos that many of us haven’t seen in decades, and learn new things about this man we all love through interviews with his friends and loved ones. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the genius that it took to constantly reinvent himself with each album. I used to think that it was sad that he never achieved the same success that he had with “Purple Rain” again, because he did release plenty of music that was as good, if not better. But in the end, if the greatest thing you ever make is something of the magnitude of “Purple Rain”, what a tremendous gift you’ve given the world! To ask for more than that would almost be greedy.

So here is the video of the first time “Purple Rain” was ever performed in public. I apologize for the quality, but after all this is a video from a nightclub performance in 1983! I don’t own this video, so please don’t share it or the link. I don’t want to get any record company lawyers breathing down my neck. I’m only sharing it because the story behind the song and the way it was recorded is almost as powerful as the song itself.  (Click on the photo below to watch.)

purple rain

Thank you for coming along for the journey this month. It’s been a pleasure sharing so much of his amazing work and it has helped take a bit of the sting out of missing him so badly.

I wish u heaven.


Michelle O(+>

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