Watch Rare Footage of Prince Recording “Purple Rain”

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July 14 2014 6:01 PM

Watch Rare Footage of Prince Recording “Purple Rain”

New Prince photo - credit - NPG Records
Peer behind the purple curtain.

NPG Records

One Aug. 3, 1983, Purple Rain was born. Prince was a rising star—1999 had peaked at No. 9 on Billboard’s albums chart earlier that year—but he wasn’t yet an icon. When he played a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theatre that night, he debuted a brand-new lineup, complete with Wendy Melvoin on guitar, and he brought some new songs: “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Baby I’m a Star,” and “Purple Rain.”

These live performances of those last three songs eventually found their way onto the movie’s soundtrack album, which spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1. But the audience didn’t know yet that they were witnessing pop music history. Because they didn’t know the songs—Rolling Stone even misidentified “Let’s Go Crazy” as “Let’s Get Crazy”—they became “increasingly disinterested,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. But, as tour manager Alan Leeds later recalled, “ ‘Purple Rain’ brought the house down.”

Footage of the 13-minute performance has surfaced before, and been taken down, but it’s now found its way back online. The performance was also later edited and overdubbed: This version includes a long instrumental introduction, an extended solo, and an extra verse (starting around 6:05), as noted in the video’s Pop-Up Video-style on-screen titles. But otherwise, Leeds explained, “That’s the version on the album. Thank God we got it on tape.”

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Update, July 15, 2014: After receiving a take-down request, we've removed the embedded video.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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