'Purple Rain' outtakes: A track-by-track guide to the deluxe edition

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'Purple Rain' Deluxe Edition album artwork
'Purple Rain' Deluxe Edition album artwork (Warner Bros.)

"One day someone will release [the songs in my Vault]...I don't know that I'll get to release them. There's just so many..."
- Prince, 2012

During 1983 and 1984, no one ruled the charts like Prince. To give you an idea of how much music the man was creating, in the first seven months of 1984 he recorded entire albums for the Time, Apollonia 6, Sheila E., and the Family as well as multiple B-sides and even a few songs for the soundtrack to a little movie called Purple Rain. I'll let that settle in. Over four entire albums in seven months...as well as top ten tracks for Sheena Easton and the Bangles. For perspective, he was also finishing up a movie, scoring parts of the movie, and planning a tour. He was not the "resting on your laurels" type of guy.

With that kind of production volume, his reservoir must have been bone-dry, right? The answer is a resounding no. This is a man who'd sometimes record two songs in a day, which helped Prince maintain a surplus of material in his legendary Vault. Now understand, not every track is going to be another "When Doves Cry" or "Purple Rain." In fact, very often, there is a reason that any given track never came out, but that doesn't make the unreleased music in his vault any less interesting.

On June 23rd, Warner Bros./NPG Records released the deluxe version of the Purple Rain soundtrack with an entire disc of outtakes from that era. Some of them had previously circulated among collectors, but there were also many pleasant surprises for even the most jaded completists. Here's some background information on each outtake, ordered from oldest to most recent as a way to chart Prince's artistic growth.

Wonderful Ass

While on the 1999 Tour, Prince would take time to record new songs, sometimes at home in Minneapolis, and sometimes in random studios during days off from the tour. As the namesake for Vanity 6, Denise "Vanity" Matthews was performing in lingerie as his opening act when he wrote this ode to her money-maker. After the song's original tracking (from as early as November 1982, when he worked on it in the studio with Jill Jones), it was eventually updated with Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (which likely took place on September 27, 1984 at Sunset Sound), making this the oldest track in this collection — but also possibly the most recent, because of the overdubs. It is unlikely that it was ever seriously considered for a Prince album at that time, but there was talk of the 1983 version being offered to Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, or even the Time. The song ends with Prince doing his best Morris Day impression: "You know I like that ass!"

Katrina's Paper Dolls

This was likely recorded on March 1, 1983 while on the 1999 Tour and is a complete orphan that doesn't seem to have ever been attached to a non-compilation Prince project. It really is the type of song Prince would do as a studio exercise, but only to keep himself busy. Sometimes exploratory recording like that yielded amazing results, but his Vault is also packed with numbers like this that just fill up space and don't add much to his legacy. The title borrows Vanity's middle name, and the lyrics tell the tale of a woman with emotional problems who makes paper dolls, but the track never completely lands because the pop music vibe on the song fights that storyline. The song had been discussed by Prince as a potential track for his unreleased Crystal Ball II album, so it had gained legendary status, but unfortunately, it doesn't live up to the hype.

Velvet Kitty Cat

Tracked on April 20, 1983, this is unfortunately another prime example of not every song in the vault being great. "Velvet Kitty Cat" is truly the clunker in the package. Although rumored as a track for the Time, it was actually considered for Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6. The title was a not-so-subtle reference to a velvety smooth vagina, but the song's lyrics reflected none of that sexuality. Considering that this is the era during which Prince wrote some of his most timeless material, it is obvious why this song never saw the light of day during his lifetime. He re-recorded the track in 1985 as a rockabilly song with new lyrics, but this is one of those tracks that are strictly for completists.

Electric Intercourse

From July of 1983, this was scheduled to be the power ballad for Purple Rain, and its inclusion in this release is the biggest surprise of all because most fans didn't know that it had been recorded in the studio. A live version performed in August of 1983 contained more emotion, but the studio version of the song is one of those jewels in the Vault that keep Prince fans interested and hopeful.

Computer Blue ("Hallway Speech" Version)

If "Purple Rain" was Prince's "Stairway to Heaven," then "Computer Blue" was his "Bohemian Rhapsody." Generally when Prince was recording a track, he finished very quickly, but on "Computer Blue" he spent at least 10 days in August of 1983 making this layered masterpiece. Borrowing a page from Gary Numan and using a spoken voice similar to 1983's "AEIOU Sometimes Y" by EBN/OZN, Prince discusses walking down multiple hallways named after a range of emotions including lust, fear, insecurity, hate, and pain.

"Computer Blue" was drastically edited for the Purple Rain soundtrack album, but it is finally restored to its full glory with this release. The title of this track on this collection is a nod to the Prince fans who had given it this name. It was never referred to as "Computer Blue (Hallway Speech)" in any official documents from Prince, but this was a very clever way for the label to let collectors know what to expect.

Father's Song

Recorded at the end of October 1983, days before the filming of Purple Rain started, "Father's Song" is an anomaly because it is already represented in this collection of outtakes. The melody can be found at 3:43 on "Computer Blue" and is featured in the movie as a song that Prince's character's father plays on the piano. The piano section of this version was placed in the first cut of the film, but was revisited by Prince in early February 1984 and re-recorded to match the pace of that scene.

We Can F**k

An artist's growth is often obvious based on the music that they release, but sometimes what they choose not to allow the public to hear can be very illuminating as well. With a musician as prolific as Prince, a song will occasionally surface that can be viewed as a missing link from one era to another. "We Can F**k" is one of those tracks. Recorded on January 1, 1984, the song builds on the complexity and experimentation of "Computer Blue."

Prince shifted his sound slightly, but profoundly, with the addition of new and exotic instruments that were being supplied to him by Lisa Coleman's brother David. The change was so profound that it altered the course of Prince's career and convinced him to cut short the Purple Rain Tour so he could focus on the next phase of his musical career — as heard on 1985's colorful Around the World in a Day. This was supposedly the first time Prince recorded with finger cymbals, which became a staple in his music over the years.

Love and Sex

Adopting the phrase "hurt me" from songs like "Irresistible Bitch," Prince questions if he'll be able to make love with his partner in the upper room/heaven. Like most of the tracks on this disc, "Love And Sex" would not have fit the theme of Purple Rain, but it would have been an amazing live number, which is how it was recorded, with members of the Revolution jamming with Prince in the studio during a session on February 27, 1984. It was never really considered for placement on any of Prince's albums, but it stands out as one of his strongest outtakes in this collection.

Possessed

Some songs were recorded over and over because Prince wasn't able to get the sounds on tape that he had in his head. Although the liner notes list this as having been recorded in May of 1983, the take featured on this deluxe package was actually tracked on March 17, 1984 (with an instrumental created on April 25, 1984). This song wasn't on the soundtrack, but the instrumental was placed in the movie during the scene at First Avenue in which Morris and Apollonia are having drinks just before Prince and the Revolution perform "The Beautiful Ones." The track was also a consistently fun jam performed on a handful of shows during the 1999 and Purple Rain tours.

Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden

Recorded originally as two separate tracks in May of 1984, "Our Destiny" and "Roadhouse Garden" show a shift in attitude for Prince.

"Our Destiny" was supposedly written for consideration in a musical that Prince was putting together. Originally based on a demo recorded by Prince on piano, it was rehearsed and performed live in June 1984 and the studio version was fleshed out by Wendy and Lisa in September of 1984 (likely during the same sessions they worked on "Wonderful Ass"). Jill Jones would also add her vocals to the track, but they don't appear in this version.

"Roadhouse Garden" is a light upbeat pop track recorded with the Revolution (with backing vocals from Susannah Melvoin) that goes out of its way to move 180 degrees away from most of the tracks on the Purple Rain soundtrack. Instead of discussing painful emotions as he did in "Computer Blue" and "When Doves Cry," Prince sings about opening your soul and letting emotions grow in a song that metaphorically describes the small warehouse that served as his pre-Paisley-Park recording studio/rehearsal hall. Themes found in this number can also be heard in the title track for his next album, "Around the World in a Day."

"Our Destiny" and "Roadhouse Garden" were recorded just before Purple Rain was released, and are great examples of Prince looking to paint with a different color than purple. In recent reunion shows the Revolution have been performing these songs live as a pair, just as Prince did in 1984.

The Dance Electric

Although this is listed as being a track from 1983, it was actually recorded on August 17, 1984 based on a jam with the Revolution. "The Dance Electric" was eventually given to Prince's childhood friend and former bandmate André Cymone and released on Cymone's 1985 album A.C.

The booklet for this CD notes that this version of the song features background vocals by Wendy and Lisa, but the mix hides their vocal contributions, so it is difficult to tell if it is just Prince, or if it contains a very muted Wendy and Lisa, as well as Jill Jones. This is likely the original demo recording that Prince sent to Warner Bros. Eventually, the track was mixed multiple times and there are a lot of variations of the song in the Vault, including takes with more guitar work and louder background vocals, but the main structure remained the same on all of the unreleased mixes.


There will be people who feel that the last few songs shouldn't be included in a Purple Rain era release, but the reality was that Prince continued to work on Purple Rain tracks as late as October 25, 1984, when he took a day of rehearsal and had the Revolution (and Sheila E.'s band) record the extended version of "I Would Die 4 U" (which is on disc three of this deluxe set). That track was mixed on December 7, 1984, which marks the end of his work on Purple Rain releases.

Of course, by December 1984 all the numbers for his next album had been recorded, so it is a grey area, but "Our Destiny"/"Roadhouse Garden" were recorded just two months after "When Doves Cry" and a month before the release of the Purple Rain soundtrack. "The Dance Electric" was tracked three weeks into Purple Rain’s theatrical run and two months after the soundtrack album was released, so they can also arguably be placed at the far end of what would qualify for placement in this package.

The Purple Rain deluxe edition has been in the works since before Prince's death. Would these be the tracks that Prince would have offered for release had he lived? Most definitely not, although three of them were mentioned as possibilities for his aborted Crystal Ball II CD in 2000.

Considering Prince's latter-day self-censorship, I believe there is no way that he'd have green-lighted the release of "We Can F**k." He'd already issued a cleaned-up version of it as "We Can Funk" in 1990, with George Clinton performing lead vocals, so if Prince was overseeing this deluxe package, the track list would likely have been very different. Ultimately this collection probably would have become another unrealized project that ended up in his Vault because at the end of the day, Prince was focused on looking forward and didn't seem to appreciate repackaging his past work.

When enjoying this collection, it is vital to understand that this is just a brief glance into Prince's legendary Vault. The fans want every note, every rehearsal, every soundcheck, and every outtake. The reality is that we aren't going to get everything, so this is the first course. I hope it is an appetizer for something bigger, but I suggest that we savor it because it may be a while before the next deluxe set is released. If this CD set does well, there will be more, and considering the interest in his vault, this should get some attention from his fans who are hungry for a chance to hear "new" music from the Minneapolis genius.

Duane Tudahl is a documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced television shows for the History Channel, Fox, CBS, and multiple other networks. He has been writing about the Minneapolis music scene for over 25 years and his first book, Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions (1983-1984) is being released in November 2017 (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers). It is currently available on Amazon for pre-sale.


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