Purple Rain hit stores and screens in 1984. That was the year Apple put the first Macintosh personal computer on sale in America, Rakesh Sharma was launched into space, Indira Gandhi was assassinated and Mark Zuckerberg was born. A lifetime ago. And yet, that is the album most fans of the legendary Prince turned to on April 21 this year, on hearing of his passing. They did this presumably because few Pop albums have managed to attract listeners across genres and geographies the way it did back then and continues to do so today.
Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain, Alan Light, Simon & Schuster, Rs 399. Available in leading bookstores and estores
For fans in India, it was a special album for another reason. Those old enough to remember will realise that neither were Prince’s earlier albums released on cassette here at the time, nor was his later work as heavily promoted by the record company.
It’s hard to describe just what makes Purple Rain so hard to get out of one’s head once you’ve listened to it a few times. Like all classics, it sounds fresh, exciting and moving, despite the technological leaps that now make some of its production values seem ancient. It is precisely this mysterious quality that prompted Alan Light to try and shine a light on how it came into being.
This black and white photo taken on June 15, 1987 shows musician Prince performing on stage during a concert at the Bercy venue in Paris. Pic/AFP
The book isn’t so much about the album itself as it is about the film that showcased it so beautifully, but that shouldn’t take away from the enormous pleasure it offers. Light has collated views and opinions from a lot of people qualified to comment on Purple Rain, from members of The Revolution, a band formed by Prince in 1979, to former business associates, production technicians and even a few members of the famously reticent musician’s inner circle.
When the last page is turned, what one is left with is an enormous amount of respect for what Prince accomplished against all odds. It turned him into a superstar, and Light helps us understand why he never attempted to make as grandiose and personal a statement ever again. And yes, it will make you want to listen to the album, which is the nicest thing.