Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Prince in a scene from "Purple Rain"

Ever watch a movie you haven't seen in over two decades & realize you still remember it almost word for word, shot for shot? That's what happened when my husband & I watched "Purple Rain" on DVD last Saturday night. I found myself singing along, too, until my husband, J, asked me to stop because he'd never seen the film & was hearing many of the songs for the first time.

I can't tell you how many times I saw this film when it first came out in 1984. I'm sure I caught it in the theater at least twice, & on cable... who knows? As for the soundtrack album, of course I had it, plus "Ice Cream Castle" by The Time & Apollonia 6's "Sex Shooter". I am a huge Prince fan, especially of his mid-80's work; J is not. I did convince J to accompany me to one of Prince's live shows a few years ago, which helped him to appreciate the star's music more; it's just not his first-choice sound. When I asked him if we could watch "Purple Rain" last Saturday night, he wasn't terribly enthusiastic at first, but I asked him to please give it a chance, & he agreed. After a while, he found himself getting caught up in the film's story as well as the music. I was in heaven from beginning to end.

What is it about "Purple Rain"? Why does this film still resonate so with me (& with many others, judging from the comments on my Facebook page when I mentioned we'd watched it?) As one who wanted to move to the big city & make it as a performer, the story is the stuff of my youthful dreams, & the costumes are pure mid-80's ruffles-&-hair-gel-for-both-genders fabulous. The acting is fine, especially for a rock-&-roll picture, & the music... well, it's simply the best soundtrack ever. Ever! (Okay, the music in "Pulp Fiction" is great, too, but for me, nothing can top "Purple Rain".)

If it sounds like I'm on a rosy nostalgia trip here, maybe I am, but for many of us growing up in the upper midwest at that time, "Purple Rain" was more than a movie. It was a shout-out to the world that the part of America we lived in wasn't all bland, all the time. Same goes for the "Minneapolis Sound" - the music of Prince, The Time, Apollonia 6, Sheila E, Jimmy Jam, & others. Finally, people could see that Minnesota was capable of producing performers with a lot more edge than Garrison Keillor & that not everyone in that area speaks with a "Fargo" accent.

26 years after "Purple Rain" was released, I am living in an urban area, making a living in the arts, though alas, not as a rock star. I did manage to go dancing at First Avenue once in the early 90's (to a DJ playing the hot techno hits of the day) & had a blast. Two years ago, J & I drove past the club when we were in town for a family reunion, & my heart fluttered a little, just as it would have back in 1984. I still listen to Prince's music on a regular basis, hope to catch his live show again someday, & managed to see The Time perform at Artscape a couple of years ago. They sounded great, Morris Day was handsome as ever, & there was Jerome, holding his mirror. For that evening, all that had changed was that we were in Baltimore, many miles from First Avenue & Lake Minnetonka.

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