Prince, when he hit it big with Purple Rain – which plays at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston this Friday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. – seemed to have no equal in pop music past, future or present. He’d been around for several years already by the time his 1984 musical took him to the top of every chart worldwide, repeatedly for a full year, having followed two early albums (including the still-amazing Dirty Mind) with the full-to-the-brim 1999. But Purple Rain was something else altogether.
Like all the great rock films going back to Elvis’ early works, the Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night, the Ramones’ Rock & Roll High School and various also-rans by everyone from the Dave Clark Five and Bob Dylan to the Stones and the Clash. Purple Rain played with enough autobiographical material to titillate the fan in everybody, while also providing just enough melodrama and plot to hang a host of hot songs onto, modern-musical-style. And what songs: “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die for You” and “Purple Rain.” Hey, it won the Briefly Nameless One an Oscar for Best Score.
The plot? Boy meets girl (in Minneapolis). He’s got a cool band, the Revolution, and a key rival in all aspects of his life, Morris Day (who also has a hot band on hand, the Time). Complications ensue when the Prince character starts to mirror his own father’s bad ways. Ooh, Oedipality. But no mind: Prince has dance moves to die for – and a stage presence to remember.
After this film came out, it seemed that Prince would take over all the arts. There was talk of him writing operas, recording with Miles Davis and taking his hometown in Minnesota to the top tier of world cities. But I also remember how much fun it was the last time that I saw it, a few years back.
For this screening, anyone dressed like a prince (or the Purple One himself) gets in for free.
Next up in the Friday Night Film Series at the grand theater on Broadway is Coal Miner’s Daughter, with Sissy Spacek and home-county boy Levon Helm, on April 20. UPAC is located at 602 Broadway in Midtown Kingston. For further information, call (845) 339-6088 or visit www.bardavon.org. C’mon everybody, now: Shake it!