Everything you ever wanted to know about the making of the popular Prince movie—and much more.
There are two justifications for this book. The first is the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain, the blockbuster movie and album that transformed Prince from a cult favorite into the supernova of popular culture. The second is the exhilaration of the ascent as experienced by a high school senior, later to be a well-respected music critic and editor. For Light (The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah," 2012, etc.), then and now, Prince’s genius is a given, and the movie’s landmark status is beyond argument: “From all of Prince’s groundbreaking work, it is Purple Rain that endures first and foremost. It will always be the defining moment of a magnificent, fascinating—if often erratic—career. It carries the weight of history.” Lest this seem like hyperbole, the author quotes another critic who reviewed the movie at the time as “the best rock film ever made.” Since Prince doesn’t care much for anniversaries or looking back and has described the movie’s success as “my albatross,” Light didn’t bother asking him to reflect on that period. Instead, he relies on seemingly limitless access to his musical collaborators, the first-time director (who later became Prince’s manager), his publicists and his girlfriends. Beyond the minutiae of moviemaking and who was sleeping with whom, the book is particularly incisive in providing context, showing how video technology and black crossover artists were changing the marketplace. A few of the revelations are real howlers—e.g., a studio suggestion that the untrained actor with a couple of hit singles wasn’t really big enough to carry the movie and that maybe he should be replaced by John Travolta. But mainly, Light commemorates an anniversary that might otherwise have passed without much notice.
A must-read for the Prince die-hards who have remained devoted through the musical meanderings of the last three decades.