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Still dancing in the Purple Rain 25 years later

The movie Purple Rain was so-so, but the award-winning soundtrack ruled MTV.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times (1985)

The movie Purple Rain was so-so, but the award-winning soundtrack ruled MTV.

Dearly beloved

We are gathered here today

2 get through this thing called life

Electric word life

It means forever and that's a mighty long time

But I'm here 2 tell u

There's something else …

The afterworld

Those were the first words — lyrics, actually, to Let's Go Crazy — of Prince's movie Purple Rain, which debuted 25 years ago today and sparked a pop culture revolution.

Thanks to a saturation of FM radio and the just-born phenomenon of Music Television, Prince could at one point that summer claim to be the star of the No. 1 movie, No. 1 album and No. 1 single in the country.

There's a reason he's called His Purple Highness.

And all this despite the fact the movie itself got mixed reviews. Music fans loved the soundtrack; it won both a Grammy and Academy Award in 1985. But critics and moviegoers were sometimes less than thrilled by the sometimes amateurish acting and confusing story line, a tale of a talented young musician whose career could be short-lived if he can't get a grip on his connection with his family, bandmates and girlfriend.

A quarter of a century later, a lot has changed in the music and movie world — and with Prince himself.

His band — the Revolution — is no more, though the musicians who surrounded him in those days aren't doing too bad for themselves. Soundtracks have been largely replaced by digital downloads. And movie theaters today are full of films about robots, dinosaurs and wayward bachelor parties, leaving Prince's themes of fame, lust, jealousy and redemption covered by a thick layer of dust.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to look back at Purple Rain 25 years later and ponder its impact on pop culture history.

ADULTS ONLY: Though the film was hugely popular with teens, it still carried an "R" rating. In fact, the movie almost had an "X" rating because of the sex scene with Prince and Apollonia that was later trimmed back a few seconds to make ratings execs happy.

STICKER CRAZE: The extremely randy, S&M tinged Darling Nikki was the song that sparked then-Sen. Al Gore's wife, Tipper, to form the Parents Music Resource Center, which campaigned in the '80s to put parental advisory stickers on albums with profane lyrics.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? The ongoing criticism in the movie toward "the Kid," played by Prince, is that nobody understands his music but him. That's not far from the truth. Many fans still wonder what the title "Purple Rain" actually means. Some theorize it's a reference to acid from the song Ventura Highway by America. Another popular theory is that it refers to heaven.

BATHING IN THE PURPLE RAIN: The song Purple Rain itself tells the story of two people in love, but one is already involved with someone else. And as they slowly grow apart and give up the idea of being together alone, they can only be together in each other's fantasies (or in the Purple Rain).

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, co-stars in the movie and the two best-known members of his band the Revolution, still record music, producing solo albums and the scores for television's Heroes and Nurse Jackie programs. Morris Day reunited with his Time bandmates in 2008 at the Grammy Awards and began touring again.

Prince continues to record today, releasing his latest album — Lotusflow3r — in March. In 2007, he performed the Super Bowl halftime show in Miami. The highlight? Playing Purple Rain as stage lights illuminated the steady downpour that stormy night to resemble … purple rain.

Steve Spears is author and host of the Stuck in the '80s blog and podcast. Read more at blogs.tampabay.com/80s and e-mail him at stuckinthe80s @tampabay.com.

Still dancing in the Purple Rain 25 years later 07/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 27, 2009 10:05am]

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