In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.
There are certain bands and artists that inspire in people, periods of utter devotion and sometime outright hysteria. These are the groups that everyone seems to go through some kind of phase with. A Beatles phase. A Bowie phase. A Johnny Cash phase. I think every guy I’ve ever met has gone through a point in their lives when the only band that they wanted to listen to, the only band that mattered was Led Zeppelin. It’s natural. It’s right. Some music just commands your entire attention. Nothing else matters. It may come to an end. It may be for only a short time. But for that brief span of days, weeks, months, years, it is the only thing. And so…enter the Purple One.
My Prince phase started sometime towards the end of the summer of 1997 and ended roughly a month or two later. But those were a good two months.
I really wasn’t sure I wanted to write about Purple Rain, thinking that since it’s more of a soundtrack/film companion than an actual album, that it would be breaking some sort of inner, unwritten rule of my 35 Albums endeavor. It was also pretty hard to take Prince and The Revolution over classic records by The Replacements or The Minutemen, as my affair with the Funky One was fleeting and over fifteen years ago. But then I thought about Prince’s Super Bowl halftime show back in 2007 when he played “Purple Rain” and the actual rain began to fall from the sky before the set was over. To say the effect was perfect is to understate it. The song and the weather turned what could have been a run of the mill, play-for-pay musical offering (read pretty much every halftime show ever) into an emotional and moving performance, a tug of nostalgia sure, but one that left me feeling unbelievably happy. Oh…and I probably had been drinking.
So, there was really no other album to write about.
Freshman year of college served as a kind of musical awakening for me. I had always kind of prided myself for the random discoveries and quirky acts that I listened to in high school, but my entrance into higher education opened the floodgates to a plethora of artists and bands that I might have otherwise ignored. And among all of the new and underground bands banging around, the old school and the classics demanded that their presence be acknowledged as well. This was when I rediscovered legendary bands like Led Zeppelin and The Velvet Underground, forgotten but influential songsmiths like Skip Spence and Nick Drake. It was only natural for Prince to claim his fair stake of my time and ears. And so we listened to the hell out of Prince albums on road trips. We listened to the hell out of Prince albums at parties. We let the Purple One score the evenings filled with shotgunning beers, quadruple shots, and bong hits. And it was good. And my favorite was always Purple Rain.
You could make an argument for pretty much any album in Prince’s catalog (up to a point of course) as the masterpiece, of which there are a few, but nothing grabs my attention like that soundtrack to a crappy movie.
The album is a glowing amalgamation of pop, dance, R&B, and rock music, masterfully assembled using studio and live-recorded tracks. And while “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” and the title track surged in the charts, any one of the songs could have been a hit. They’re all that good. Plus, “Darling Nikki” put a bug in Tipper Gore’s ass that would lead to events showcasing just how goddamn cool John Denver was. Thanks Prince!
Re-listening to this album after so many years has just reopened a wound. The blood is flowing. The heart is racing. I think the time may be right for Prince phase II.
- Favorite song: “Purple Rain”
- Runner up: “When Doves Cry”
Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: The Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime; The Replacements – Let it Be
From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.