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Purple Rain Recovered

Today, June 25, it is 40 years since the release of Purple Rain. It gives me some pause to think that as 1984 is to us today, so was 1944 to 1984. I don’t think any music from 1944 sounded still fresh in 1984. Purple Rain — and a lot of music from that era — still is relevant today.

Before I get accused of being one of the “Everything was better in my day” brigade, I ascribe that to the progressive generational culture blur which has meant that a lot of the music from “my day” has never really gone away, has been more easily accessible than old stuff was back then, and has never ceased to be influential on contemporary artists. The music of 1944 was a different country in 1984 — just listen to the Hits From 1944 mix.

I loved Purple Rain when the LP came out. Even the track on the album which I like least, Electric Blue, has great moments (that spoken intro, that keyboard riff, that guitar middle bit). Of course, When Doves Cry is the stand-out track, though I suspect the title number is now the more famous one. Still, Doves might well have been the best song of 1984, maybe of the whole 1980s (if one wishes to be so foolish as to determine a “best” song of the decade).

The album changed the industry in some way when Darling Nikki prompted Tipper Gore, who 16 years later would be a few hanging chads away from becoming the First Lady, to campaign for the advisories on album covers that would commend LPs to kids in search of music with naughty sex words.

I have written about Purple Rain before, in a piece that pitched that album in a track-by-track contest against Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the best-selling album of all time versus the most perfect pop album of the 1980s. You know who wonm and it made some MJ fans cry in the comments section (remember those?). My love for Purple Rain has remained undiminished; I don’t think I shall ever listen to Thriller in full again… Coincidence of dates are meaningless, but it raises an eyebrow that Jackson died on the 25th anniversary of the release of Purple Rain.

The Prince vs Michael Jackson rivalry was really just based on the coincidence of age. They were contemporaries, born three months apart in 1958. But MJ was not really the best point of measure for Prince. Surely that is Stevie Wonder, another prodigious and prolific musical genius who also played any instrument. Both were capable of moments of timeless genius, and both could also drop total clunkers.

It is quite remarkable that Prince started to hit his stride pretty much as Stevie’s genius was exhausted, a handing-over of the baton. Tellingly, while Purple Rain was riding high, Stevie issued the deplorable I Just Called To Say I Love You, an unwitting declaration of unconditional surrender.

Purple Rain was a perfect album, but it was not a great movie. Prince certainly was no thespian. As a drama, Purple Rain is pretty bad, but as a compilation of music videos — albeit interrupted by a bad script being performed poorly — it is glorious. Even if Morris Day and The Time rather threaten to steal the show (that dance routine during The Bird might be the best bit in the whole movie).

So to mark the 40th anniversary, here is Purple Rain Recovered. It kicks off with a rather splendid orchestral version of Let’s Go Crazy, the other stand-out track on a great album. I struggled to find good covers for a couple songs, so one is a live recording from 1985 by Prince & The Revolution, and another I’ve recycled from the Any Major Prince Songbook which I posted in June 2023. Incidentally, I have plenty of material for a second volume of that; maybe I’ll hold on to that until the 10th anniversary of Prince’s death in 2026 (if I’ll still be doing this blog then).

Obviously the mix fits on a standard CD-R, includes home-gonecrazied covers, and the above text in a PDF. PW in comments.

1. Midnite String Quartet – Let’s Go Crazy (2016)
2. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Take Me With U (2009)
3. Mariah Carey feat. Dru Hill – The Beautiful Ones (1997)
4. Prince & The Revolution – Computer Blue (live) (1985)
5. Rihanna – Darling Nikki (2011)
6. Damien Rice – When Doves Cry (2005)
7. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – I Would Die 4 U (2015)
8. Bob Belden feat. Jimi Tunnell – Baby I’m A Star (1994)
9. Etta James – Purple Rain (2006)


More Recovered albums:
What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)
Tapestry (Carole King)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
Darkness On The Edge Of Town (Bruce Springsteen)
Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (David Bowie)
Every Beatles album

More Cover Mixes
Previous great album covers
More CD-R Mixes

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  1. amdwhah
    June 25th, 2024 at 17:44 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. rat-a-tat-tat
    June 25th, 2024 at 18:21 | #2

    Outstanding! (“oops” that would be a Gap Band re-cover)
    Thanks for all that you do.

  3. June 27th, 2024 at 21:43 | #3

    Wow! I wouldn’t have thought it possible to find versions of all the songs, but here you are. It seems like the idea of covering older songs has faded away somewhat, possibly for the reason you mentioned, songs don’t go away anymore, they’re always available, always played somewhere. Is it a good thing? Maybe. But good covers seem to be getting harder and harder to find.

  4. amdwhah
    June 30th, 2024 at 16:23 | #4

    These days people just put a beat over an old song. Lately I’ve heard that with the 1978 hit “Stumblin’ In” by Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman. The vocals are indistinguishable from the original; they might even be the same. And over that just a relentlessly idiotic beat, which seems too fast for a mid-tempo number.

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