The weird thing about being into music as much as I am (much to the chagrin of every girlfriend I’ve ever had) is that I still end up missing out on a few â€” okay, a few hundred â€” really cool artists along the way. It’s just not possible to be up on all the cool music out there. It isn’t. Believe me, I’ve tried.
Of course, if you were anything like me when you were younger, you were quickly jaded to the greatness of certain artists who were, for lack of a better term, fucking huge. And it’s not just my generation â€” my parents were kinda “meh” about the Beatles because, near as I can tell, those guys were everywhere, and just about everybody and their freakin’ brother liked them. If I’d been alive, or at least old enough to give a crap when the Beatles were still together, I probably would’ve written them off too.
Thus there are quite a number of bands that were still together when I was old enough to give a crap and their crazy level of success and/or popularity made them like Kryptonite to me. My thinking was: if all the nimrods at school like them, how good can they be?
Case in point: Huey Lewis & the News. How does a cat go from palling around with Nick Lowe and Declan McManus to, ahem, wanting a new drug?
Then there’s Def Leppard. Forget that I was the first kid in my school to own 1981’s High ‘n’ Dry â€” the fact that everybody else soon owned a copy of 1983’s Pyromania quickly reduced Def Leppard to Loverboy status in my book.
And Prince? Don’t get me started.
Circa 1985 you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting at least half a dozen teenyboppers who had pictures of the Purple One adorning their locker doors and hand-drawn Prince logos splashed across their notebooks. My girlfriend at the time was one of them, but even her relentless adoration of Prince Rogers Nelson could not sway me to the Purple Side.
Even years later when I recorded at Paisley Park and had a brief brush with the diminutive Artist Formerly Known as You-Know-Who, I still had little use for the dude.
I admit to buying Around the World in a Day (in the cutout bin, for three bucks) and maybe half liking a couple tunes. I also picked up Diamonds and Pearls the minute it came out in ’91 because, well, I kinda dug the cover, and I figured the coast was clear now that the Purple Reign had cooled considerably.
Then one day not too long ago, it happened.
Itchy for something different to listen to, I bought a used copy of Purple Rain and was absolutely floored at the artistry, the raw sexuality, and the ceaseless self-confidence that fueled each and every song.
Even though I was quite familiar with many of the songs already â€” how could you not be? â€” enough time had gone by that they were fresh again, and I was able to hear them without being made to feel like I was supposed to like them because, well, everybody else already did.
From there I sought out 1999, and one listen confirmed the truth of a long-held myth: that this 1983 double album was about one album too long and that Prince was one self-indulgent sumbitch. But that, of course, is ultimately what makes the album so great. “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” is over seven minutes long, but who cares when the funk is this solid? By comparison, I’ve heard many a three-minute pop song that seemed like it might never end (Avril’s “Girlfriend,” for instance).
It’s my personal opinion that, song for song, 1999 and Purple Rain are easily the greatest one-two punch since Rubber Soul and Revolver. Why is that, you ask? Good question, and I think I have the answer. Four words: Prince & the Revolution.
See, these weren’t just Prince albums the way Dirty Mind and Controversy were Prince albums. They were Prince and the Revolution albums. In other words, they were collaborative efforts â€” as collaborative as it was ever gonna get in Prince’s world, that is. Let’s not kid ourselves: Prince single-handedly played a majority of the instruments and produced both albums, but he was selfless enough to share some of the spotlight with the likes of Dez Dickerson, Andre Cymone, Lisa Coleman, and Wendy Melvoin.
Most importantly, the songs are ace. It’s important to note that Prince was firing on all cylinders during this period. Seemingly everything the man touched was turning to gold and platinum. In addition to 1999 and Purple Rain, Prince wrote and recorded two albums for the Time while also writing career-defining hits for the likes of Sheila E., Vanity 6 (which became Apollonia 6), Sheena Easton, and the Bangles (“Manic Monday” was initially recorded in ’84 for Apollonia 6’s album but was pulled by Prince prior to release).
Many are under the assumption that the Revolution were nothing more than pretty faces, but judging by the live tracks below, I think it’s obvious they were a smoking hot live band and arguably the best lineup to ever support Prince.
Listen for yourself. If you’re not already a believer, these songs may sway you to the Purple Side once and for all.
Let’s Go Crazy
Little Red Corvette
Take Me With U
Do Me Baby
How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
Let’s Pretend We’re Married
The Beautiful Ones
When Doves Cry
I Would Die 4 U
Baby I’m a Star