Most stars aren’t born, they’re carefully crafted fiction. They matter only as a measure of distraction if the lie that got them there doesn’t result in some kind of long-lasting “good.” And Rock and Roll has seen its share of philistines and false prophets. But that wasn’t Prince. So when he died in 2017, there was a hole blown in the universe in the same place that was still only just filling in from the loss of David Bowie.
In June of 1984, a diminutive musician from the most unlikely of musical hotbeds started a revolution with the release of his magnum opus, Purple Rain. Part film, part soundtrack, part fiction, part autobiography, and all rock n’ roll, it didn’t just charge across racial divides to conquer the radio, box office AND the album charts, it shattered any notion that we had as a culture that there were limits to what we can create. Pulling from every conceivable style of music and sounding like none, Purple Rain wasn’t just the high water mark of Prince’s career; it was the purest expression of everything he’s done before, or since.
Thirty years after this landmark achievement, Kevin, Adam, Derek, and Marcus “gather(ed) here today” not just to “get through this thing called life,” but to try to figure out just what makes Purple Rain tick, discuss its impact on music today, share stories of growing up with such a grown up record, and more.
By 1984 it was clear that this decade was going to be…different. Every single corner of pop culture had been pumped to the max with gaudy and glitz, gagged with a spoon, and otherwise left to die in a roadside ditch along Route Bad Taste. And music wasn’t excluded from this. In fact, along with the rise of MTV, it was in a large part responsible. As that network celebrated the very first Video Music Awards, multi-colored, gelled up fauxhawks roamed the wastelands in search of a synth fix; eager to celebrate anything that wasn’t disco, to ride that New Wave into a hypercolor sunset. Yes, the world as we knew it then was in need of a savin’, and in 1984 that savin’ would come in a very deep, dark shade of purple.
Before we get to that though, a little perspective. 1984 was the first year that the Compact Disc was mass manufactured in the USA, blowing open the doors on a “digital” revolution that has now, almost thirty years later, run its course. Appropriately – or not if you consider the content – the first such CD to roll off of the assembly line here was Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA, and it was but the first in a long string of albums by artists that either made their mark, or summited the peak of fame that year.
Consider that Bryan Adams, who followed up his minor hit Cuts Like A Knife, with Reckless, an album that spawned not just one, two , three ,four, five, but SIX hits on both the radio and MTV with one of those, “Summer of 69” ending up being one of THE defining songs of not just the 80’s, but an entire generation. And speaking of Tina Turner – she sang on Adams hit “It’s Only Love” – she had her own river deep to cross in 1984. Private Dancer was Turner’s return to the public after a messy and well documented split with husband Ike. Featuring a veritable encyclopedia of legendary artists, including Jeff Beck and a title track written by Dire Straits Mark Knopfler, it charted no three top 10 hits for the singer and put her, and her legs back on top of the world where she belonged. But she wasn’t alone up there. No, there was in fact fierce, or at least perfectly groomed, competition.