It was 34 years ago, the summer of 1985, when I first heard the album that would change my life. Nine tracks of unadulterated magic, a masterpiece, my musical doctrine… Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution.
I was 10 years old when Purple Rain hit the shelves, shrouded in controversy over Prince’s naughty lyrics about a girl named Nikki masturbating with a magazine. For weeks, the nightly news told parents around the world that kids should never listen to the smut soundtrack that was Purple Rain. My dad heard that warning loud and clear, and despite my promises of forever doing my chores and never talking back, he wasn’t budging.
My mom, on the other hand, always supported my love for rock ‘n roll—I mean, she bought me my first electric guitar and amp behind my father’s back when I was eight because I told her I knew deep down I could play. So on a hot summer day in Illinois, my mom and I were shopping at Venture when she laid out an offer I could not refuse:
“I’ll buy you the Purple Rain soundtrack, if you promise to never let your dad know that I bought it and never play it where he can hear it, or we’re dead.”
Deal. Done. Sold to the 10-year-old girl in the parachute pants. Keeping my promise, I only listened to the record on the lowest volume, which was painful because all I wanted to do was crank it up. But quiet Prince was better than no Prince at all.
From the first words, Dearly beloved…, Prince takes our ticket, straps us in and unleashes us on a sexy romp of guitar genius. His solos are sick, without a doubt my very favorite guitarist that ever shredded a string. In my youthful mind, I didn’t always understand what Prince was singing about, but sexiness oozed from every note, and the wild child in me knew I had found my sound.
For 34 years, this has remained my favorite, and the song “Purple Rain” has made me cry purple tears of just about every emotion. This album changed my life beyond the music. The cover features a purple motorcycle that fueled my lifelong dream (now achieved) to ride like a badass on two wheels. And it was the first time I ever heard the word “computer”—on the track “Computer Blue,” where Wendy and Lisa seduce us into a synth-funk buzz that just makes ya wanna purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka!
And a special thank you to my mom for always breaking the rules for rock ‘n roll. Had she not snuck behind my father’s back buying guitars and this record, I might not play in the band Conjugal Visit or be asked to write about Purple Rain, the album that changed my life.
Aly Bockler is the host of The Morning Alternative on 103.1 The Blaze. She’ll be co-hosting the Beachcomber Music Awards on Aug. 26, and her band Conjugal Visit is nominated for Best Cover Band.