Once again, I feel like I need to clear something up.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love Prince. Some might even call me a super fan. This might be because I scream like a maniac and run out to the dance floor the minute I hear Prince say the words “Dearly beloved…” when I’m at a wedding reception.
But I’m here to tell ya … I am not a Prince super fan.
I am a Prince fan, yes. But claiming to be a Prince fan means you live in a constant state of fear that some actual super fan will find out you like Prince and want to talk to you about his new project 3rdeyegirl or the song he wrote for the Minnesota Vikings. You’ll have to fumble your way through the conversation before admitting you don’t know anything about those things and hang your head in a purple cloud of shame. It would be very embarrassing.
So, I am here to state, for the record, that I am not Prince super fan. I am Purple Rain super fan. And that’s a pretty big distinction.
You, too, might actually be just a Purple Rain fan. How do you know? Think about all the Prince songs you know and love. “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Baby I’m A Star,” “Darling Nikki,” “Purple Rain” – all of those are from the Purple Rain soundtrack.
I know, I know… there’s “Kiss” and “Little Red Corvette” and some of the dirty stuff like “Cream” and “Pussy Control” … but honestly, I think the Prince most of us think of is the Prince from Purple Rain. That was probably the pinnacle of his career. The soundtrack was huge and so was the movie. It grossed more than $80 million at the box office. And that was 1984 dollars.
So, I’m always a little surprised when one of my friends tells me they haven’t seen Purple Rain. I feel like if you grew up in the 80s (or even the early 90s) you would have had to come across it at some point. But I am almost always the only one in my peer group who has actually seen it.
I think it has a reputation for being pretty risqué, but it’s not all that different than Footloose or Dirty Dancing. Sure, there’s the scene where Appollonia takes off her top and jumps into a lake. Then there’s the scene where Prince humps his piano while singing “Darling Nikki.” Well, there’s “Darling Nikki” … okay, okay, I see why this might not have been a hit at slumber parties.
But I remember watching it with my family once it came out on video. Sure, I was only nine and it was rated R, but the 80s were a different time. Movie nights were pretty loosey-goosey in our house. My parents seemed to have an utter disregard for the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system. Sex, violence, drug use – no biggies. My mom or dad would just throw a hand up over our eyes if someone started to unbutton a top. That was the most censoring that went on in our household. Sometimes they weren’t fast enough and one of us would get exposed to a stray nipple, but oh well.
It also has a reputation for being a pretty terrible movie. There’s a fair amount of misogyny and some pretty awful acting. But it’s also pretty funny. Let me break it down for you: the movie is 80 percent music performances, 5 percent misogyny, 5 percent shots of Prince’s motorcycle and 10 percent straight-up comedy. If you like Prince’s music, motorcycles, and can handle a scene where Morris Day throws a woman in a dumpster, you’ll probably have an okay time.
Need more convincing? Here are a few more reasons to give it a shot:
Prince has a puppet. It only makes a brief appearance, but it leaves a lasting impression. And Prince has some mad ventriloquist skills. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t.
Billy, the club owner. Billy is the fictional owner of the very real, very famous Minneapolis club First Avenue. He gets to deliver one of the best lines in the film, or at least the line my husband and I quote to each other the most often. Prince, playing The Kid, has just finished performing “Darling Nikki” to a shocked crowd. The Kid storms down to his dressing room. Billy follows him, points a finger and says, “Nobody digs your music…but yourself.” Then later, while The Kid is performing “Purple Rain,” Billy is nodding his head in approval…digging it. Looks like the tables have turned, Billy.
Apollonia’s cape. It’s winter. It’s Minnesota. Of course you have to wear a cape over your lingerie.
Prince is just like us! You might think that Prince seems less like a mortal human being and more like an alien sent to earth on a lavender-scented cloud, but personal touches in this semi-autobiographical movie tell a different story. For instance, he eats Doritos; he lives in his parent’s basement; and in this basement are rows and rows of home-canned green beans. There’s even a baby bathtub hanging on the wall indicating he was possibly an infant at one time. I have a hard time picturing Prince in any type of normal domestic scene, but this movie drives home that he was, at one time, just like you and me.
Ruffles. Prince has three outfits in the movie – tank top, bare chest and flouncy pirate blouse, reminding us all that he had the puffy shirt look bagged up long before Seinfeld.
Minneapolis is a pretty cool place. When I saw this movie as a kid, I thought it was set in New York. It blew my mind that such a place existed a mere four hours from the cornfield I lived in. Watch Purple Rain and then watch Fargo and then remind yourself that these movies are set in the same state. It will blow your mind.
Morris Day. He has all the good lines. He also has Jerome, a man whose only job is to follow him around with a big mirror.
The Music. Duh.
So, if you haven’t seen the movie, here’s what you need to do. You need to make yourself a big plate of spaghetti because that’s Prince’s favorite meal (okay, maybe I am a minor league super fan); mix up a batch of Purple Rain cocktails – vodka, blue curacoa, cranberry juice and grenadine – because it helps to be just a wee bit drunk; and let in rain, my friend, let it rain!
Note about the video: Prince is famously fussy about the licensing of his music, so it was tough to find a good clip. Thanks to my friend, Sarah, I was able to find an 8-minute video of Prince during his Super Bowl halftime show where he plays the song in the rain. There’s also a pretty grainy clip of him playing it on a TV show. The sound is good, though.
There’s also this awesome clip of Kelly Clarkson singing it in St. Paul. She always does an amazing job with her covers, so it’s worth the watch.