Purple Rain (album)

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Purple Rain
Princepurplerain.jpg
Studio album / soundtrack by
ReleasedJune 25, 1984 (1984-June-25)
RecordedAugust 1983 – March 1984
StudioFirst Avenue
(Minneapolis, Minnesota)
The Warehouse
(St. Louis Park, Minnesota)
Record Plant
(New York City, New York)
Sunset Sound
(Hollywood, California)
Genre
Length43:51
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerPrince and the Revolution
Prince chronology
1999
(1982)
Purple Rain
(1984)
Around the World in a Day
(1985)
Singles from Purple Rain
  1. "When Doves Cry"
    Released: May 16, 1984
  2. "Let's Go Crazy"
    Released: July 18, 1984
  3. "Purple Rain"
    Released: September 26, 1984
  4. "I Would Die 4 U"
    Released: November 28, 1984
  5. "Take Me with U"
    Released: January 25, 1985

Purple Rain is the sixth studio album by American recording artist Prince, released on June 25, 1984 by Warner Bros. Records. It is the first to feature the billing of his band the Revolution, and is the soundtrack to the 1984 film of the same name.[1] Purple Rain was musically denser than Prince's previous albums, emphasizing full band performances, and multiple layers of guitars, keyboards, electronic synthesizer effects, drum machines, and other instruments. As with many massive crossover albums, Purple Rain's consolidation of myriad styles, from pop rock to R&B to dance, is generally acknowledged to account in part for its enormous popularity.

As a soundtrack record, much of the music had a grandiose, synthesized, and even—by some evaluations—a psychedelic sheen to the production and performances. The music on Purple Rain is generally regarded as the most pop-oriented of Prince's career, though a number of elements point towards the more experimental records Prince would release after Purple Rain. "Take Me with U" was written for Apollonia 6 (1984), but later enlisted for Purple Rain.[2] The risqué lyrics of "Darling Nikki" contributed to the use of Parental Advisory stickers and imprints on album covers that were the record label's answer to complaints from Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center

Purple Rain peaked at number one on the Billboard 200. The first two singles from the album, "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy", reached number one the Billboard Hot 100, and were international hits. The title track peaked number two on the chart and "I Would Die 4 U" peaked at number eight. Purple Rain spent 24 consecutive weeks atop on the Billboard 200, from August 4, 1984 to January 18, 1985, and was present on the chart for a total of 122 weeks. It is certified 13x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[3] Prince and the Revolution won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.[4] Prince also won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score for the film Purple Rain.[5] Purple Rain has sold over 25 million copies worldwide, making it the one of the best-selling albums of all time and the third-best-selling soundtrack album of all time.

Prince became the third artist after Elvis Presley and the Beatles to have the number-one album, single and film in the US all at the same time.[6] In addition to Purple Rain's breakthrough sales, music critics noted the innovative and experimental aspects of the soundtrack's music, most famously on the spare, bass-less "When Doves Cry". Other aspects of the music, especially its synthesis of electronic elements with organic instrumentation and full-band performances along with its landmark consolidation of rock and R&B, were identified by critics as distinguishing, even experimental factors. Purple Rain is regularly ranked among the best albums of all time and is widely regarded as Prince's magnum opus. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important".[7]

Background[edit]

Although it is not known if there is actually any connection, both Mikel Toombs of The San Diego Union and Bob Kostanczuk of the Post-Tribune have written that Prince took the title "Purple Rain" from lyrics in the America song "Ventura Highway".[8][9] Asked to explain the phrase "purple rain" in "Ventura Highway," Gerry Beckley responded: "You got me."[10]

Purple Rain was released by Warner Bros. Records on June 25, 1984. Prince wrote all of the songs on the album, some with the input of fellow band members. "I Would Die 4 U", "Baby I'm a Star" and "Purple Rain" were recorded live from a show on August 3, 1983, at the First Avenue club in Minneapolis, with overdubs and edits added later. The show was a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theater and featured the first appearance of guitarist Wendy Melvoin in Prince's band, The Revolution.

"Take Me with U" was intended for the Apollonia 6 album with Jill Jones on backing vocals[according to whom?], but Prince pulled it for his own album and according to Matt Fink, Prince reportedly played all the instruments on the song save for the string overdubs.[11] "Let's Go Crazy" was also recorded with The Revolution while an unreleased version of "Computer Blue" clocking in at 14 minutes was a full band studio recording as well with various cuts some that are at least 14min long.[citation needed] "The Beautiful Ones", "Darling Nikki" and "When Doves Cry" are all Prince recordings.

Music[edit]

Purple Rain was the first Prince album recorded with and officially credited to his backing group the Revolution,[1] though he had teased the name two years earlier on 1999, writing "and the Revolution" backwards on the album cover. The band had been performing and recording with Prince without an established name.

Purple Rain was musically denser than Prince's previous albums, emphasizing full band performances, and multiple layers of guitars, keyboards, electronic synthesizer effects, drum machines, and other instruments. Musically, Purple Rain remained grounded in the R&B elements of Prince's previous work while demonstrating a more pronounced rock feel in its grooves and emphasis on guitar showmanship.

As a soundtrack record, much of the music had a grandiose, synthesized, and even—by some evaluations—a psychedelic sheen to the production and performances. The music on Purple Rain is generally regarded as the most pop-oriented of Prince's career, though a number of elements point towards the more experimental records Prince would release after Purple Rain. As with many massive crossover albums, Purple Rain's consolidation of myriad styles, from pop rock to R&B to dance, is generally acknowledged to account in part for its enormous popularity.

"Take Me with U" was written for the Apollonia 6, but later enlisted for Purple Rain.[2] The inclusion of that song necessitated cuts to the suite-like "Computer Blue", the full version of which did not earn an official release, although a portion of the second section can be heard in the film Purple Rain, in a sequence where Prince walks in on the men of The Revolution rehearsing. The risqué lyrics of "Darling Nikki" contributed to the use of Parental Advisory stickers and imprints on album covers that were the record label's answer to complaints from Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center.[12][13][14]

Release[edit]

In the United States, Purple Rain debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 the week of July 14, 1984.[15][16] After four weeks on chart, it reached number one on August 4, 1984.[17] The album spent 24 consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 from August 4, 1984 to January 18, 1985, and more than 32 weeks in the top 10, becoming one of the top soundtracks ever. It traded the number one album chart position with Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. twice, during 1984 and 1985.[18] Prince became the third artist after Elvis Presley and the Beatles to have the number-one album, single and film in the US all at the same time.[6] Purple Rain was present on the Billboard 200 for one hundred twenty two weeks. After the advent of the Nielsen SoundScan era in 1991, the album sold a further 3 million copies.[1] By 1996, the album had sold 13 million copies in the United States, making it certified 13x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[3]

In the United Kingdom, Purple Rain entered the UK Albums Chart at number 21 on July 21, 1984, after thirty five weeks on the chart it reached and peaked at number seven during the week of March 16, 1985 and stayed there for a week, it fell off to number twelve the next week.[19] The album remained on the chart for 86 weeks.[19] It was certified 2x Platinum by the BPI on May 1, 1990 denoting shipments of 600,000 units. By 1988, Purple Rain had sold 17 million copies worldwide making it one of the biggest albums of the 1980s.[20] After a deluxe edition was released in 2017, Purple Rain re-entered many top-ten charts around the world including the US, UK and Austria. It debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 with 52,000 copies sold. Purple Rain has sold over 25 million copies worldwide.[21] The album is also multi-platinum in Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.[22][23]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic5/5 stars[24]
Blender4/5 stars[25]
Chicago Sun-Times4/4 stars[26]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[27]
Entertainment WeeklyB[28]
The Guardian5/5 stars[29]
Pitchfork10/10[30]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[31]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[32]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[33]

In addition to the Purple Rain's breakthrough sales, music critics noted the innovative and experimental aspects of the soundtrack's music, most famously on the spare, bass-less "When Doves Cry".[34] Other aspects of the music, especially its synthesis of electronic elements with organic instrumentation and full-band performances (some, as noted above, recorded live) along with its landmark consolidation of rock and R&B, were identified by critics as distinguishing, even experimental factors.

Stephen Erlewine of AllMusic writes that Purple Rain finds Prince "consolidating his funk and R&B roots while moving boldly into pop, rock, and heavy metal," as well as "push[ing] heavily into psychedelia" under the influence of the Revolution.[24] Erlewine identifies the record's nine songs as "uncompromising ... forays into pop" and "stylistic experiments", echoing general sentiment that Purple Rain's music represented Prince at his most popular without forsaking his experimental bent.[24] Kennet Partridge, writing for Billboard, described the album's opening track, "Let's Go Crazy", as "arguably the best intro in pop history".[35]

Prince and the Revolution won a 1984 Grammy Award for Purple Rain, for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal,[36] the four composers (Nelson, Coleman, Prince, and Melvoin) won Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media,[37] and the album was nominated for Album of the Year. Prince won a third Grammy that year for Best R&B Song for Chaka Khan's cover of "I Feel for You". Purple Rain also won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score in 1985. Purple Rain posthumously won Top Soundtrack at the American Music Awards in 2016.[38]

Legacy[edit]

Purple Rain further established Prince as a figurehead for pop music of the 1980s and is regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time.[1] In 2010, Purple Rain was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[39] In 2012, the album was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important".[40]

Partridge of Billboard emphasized Prince's popularity during the Purple Rain era, writing,[41]

In 1984, there was only one man in America more popular than President Ronald Reagan. His name was Prince, and he was funky. Had Prince run for president that year, he would have certainly carried his native Minnesota—the only state Ronnie lost—and he probably would’ve cleaned up most other places. The reason: Purple Rain, his groundbreaking, genre-blurring, utterly genius sixth album. It was a massive seller wherever there were radios and people with pulses.

Described as a 'masterpiece' by the Grammy Awards website, Ana Yglesias wrote, "Even after his heartbreaking passing, Prince will live on forever in our hearts, through his music, and even on the charts. Purple Rain was inducted into Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011, celebrating it as a "recording of lasting qualitative or historical significance."...It is safe to say there will never be another star quite like Prince."[42]

Writing for Pitchfork, Carvell Wallace appraised the album's impact and Prince's musicianship, "With Purple Rain, Prince bursts forth from the ghetto created by mainstream radio and launches himself directly onto the Mt. Rushmore of American music. He plays rock better than rock musicians, composes better than jazz guys, and performs better than everyone, all without ever abandoning his roots as a funk man, a party leader, a true MC.  The album and film brought him a fame greater and more frightening than even he imagined and he would eventually retreat into the reclusive and obtuse inscrutability for which he ultimately became known. But for the 24 weeks Purple Rain spent atop the charts in 1984, the black kid from the midwest had managed to become the most accurate expression we had of young America’s overabundance of angst, love, horniness, recklessness, idealism, and hope. For those 24 weeks at least, Prince was one of us."[43] Jon Bon Jovi, lead singer of the rock band Bon Jovi, observed that "There's every emotion [in Purple Rain] from the ballad to the rocker" and "All the influences were evident, from Hendrix to Chic."[44]

For The New Yorker, Ben Greenmane wrote, "Purple Rain may or may not be Prince’s best record, but it came at the best time, propelling him from ordinary stardom (his previous album 1999 put three singles into the Billboard top 20) to supernova status. It created his iconic look (ruffled shirt, purple jacket, motorcycle), formally introduced his most famous backing band (the Revolution), and included the lion’s share of the songs most likely to appear in a capsule bio (“When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” and the title track)."[18]

Rolling Stone ranked Purple Rain the second-best album of the 1980s and 76th on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Time included it in its list of the All-TIME 100 Albums.[45] The album was ranked 18th on VH1's Greatest Rock and Roll Albums of All Time countdown. The Times ranked Purple Rain at number 15 on its list of the 100 Best Albums of All Time.[46] In 2007, the editors of Vanity Fair labeled it the best soundtrack of all time, and Tempo magazine named it the greatest album of the 1980s.[47] In 2008, Entertainment Weekly listed Purple Rain at number one on their list of the Top 100 Best Albums of the Previous 25 years.[48] The album was included in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[49] In 2013, Entertainment Weekly also listed the album at number two on their list of the 100 Greatest Albums Ever.[50] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number two on its list of Best Albums of the 1980s.[51]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Prince, except where noted.[52]

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Let's Go Crazy"4:39
2."Take Me with U"3:54
3."The Beautiful Ones"5:13
4."Computer Blue" (Prince, John L. Nelson, Wendy & Lisa; uncredited: Dr. Fink)3:59
5."Darling Nikki"4:14
Side two
No.TitleLength
6."When Doves Cry"5:54
7."I Would Die 4 U"2:49
8."Baby I'm a Star"4:24
9."Purple Rain"8:41

Deluxe and Deluxe Expanded editions[edit]

The album was released as a Deluxe and Deluxe Expanded edition on June 23, 2017. The Deluxe edition consists of two discs, the first being a remaster of the original album made in 2015 overseen by Prince himself and a bonus disc of previously unreleased songs called "From the Vault & Previously Unreleased". The Deluxe Expanded edition consists of two more discs, a disc with all the single edits, maxi-single edits and B-sides from the Purple Rain era and a DVD with a concert from the Purple Rain Tour filmed in Syracuse, New York on March 30, 1985, previously released on home video in 1985.[53]

Personnel[edit]

Information taken from the Prince Vault website[52]

  • Prince – lead vocals, background vocals, lead guitar, piano and various instruments
  • Wendy Melvoin – guitar and vocals (1-2, 4, 7-9)
  • Lisa Coleman – keyboards and vocals (1-2, 4, 7-9)
  • Matt Fink – keyboards and vocals (1-2, 4, 7-9)
  • Brown Mark – bass guitar and vocals (1-2, 4, 7-9)
  • Bobby Z. – drums and percussion (1-2, 4, 7-9)
  • Novi Novog – violin and viola (2, 8-9)
  • David Coleman – cello (2, 8-9)
  • Suzie Katayama – cello (2, 8-9)
  • Apollonia – co-lead vocals (2)
  • Jill Jones – additional background vocals (8)

Early configurations[edit]

Prince configured at least two unique track listings of Purple Rain prior to setting the final running order.[54] November 7, 1983 and March 12, 1984 configurations are listed below. The early configuration included "Wednesday" (a song by Prince with Jill Jones) and "Father's Song". The latter was replaced by "When Doves Cry". Edits to "Let's Go Crazy" and "Computer Blue" were introduced in order to include "Take Me with U" in the final running configuration. The full length version of "Let's Go Crazy", as it can be seen in the movie, would later be released as "Special Dance Mix" on 12" maxi-single.

Singles[edit]

  1. "When Doves Cry"
  2. "17 Days"
  • "Let's Go Crazy" (US #1, US R&B #1, US Dance #1, UK #7, Australia #10)
  1. "Let's Go Crazy"
  2. "Erotic City"
  1. "Purple Rain"
  2. "God" (vocal)
  3. "God" (instrumental) — UK version only
  1. "I Would Die 4 U"
  2. "Another Lonely Christmas"
  1. "Take Me with U"
  2. "Baby I'm a Star"
  • "Let's Go Crazy" and "Take Me with U" were released as a double A-side single in the UK in 1985.

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[93] 3x Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[94] 6× Platinum 600,000^
France (SNEP)[96] Platinum 338,600[95]
Germany (BVMI)[97] 3× Gold 750,000^
Japan 197,000[61]
Netherlands (NVPI)[98] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[99] 5× Platinum 75,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[100] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[101] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[102] 13× Platinum 13,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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