Prince Becomes a Funk Junkie Addicted to ‘Purple Music': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
For many casual Prince fans, the words “purple music” call to mind his most beloved song, “Purple Rain," or serve as shorthand for his music in general. For completists, “Purple Music” is one of the longest, weirdest and most coveted unreleased Prince songs. According to Prince Vault, the song “Purple Music” was recorded sometime in 1982 at his Kiowa Trail Home Studio. Rhythmically, the epic 10-minute track fits right in with the extended dance jams of Prince’s fifth album, 1999, which was released later that year.
Purple Music could have been a fitting alternate title for the 1999 album, as four of the songs that made the final cut feature the word: “Automatic” (“Baby you're the purple star in the night supreme.”); “1999” (“The sky was all purple / There were people running everywhere”); “All the Critics Love U In New York” (“Purple love amour is all you’re headed 4”); and “D.M.S.R.” (“Now U can all take a bite of my purple rock”).
The lyrics to “Purple Music” continue a career-long theme in Prince’s songs, about how music – especially his own – provides a better high than any drug. “Don't need no reefer / Don't need cocaine / Purple music does the same to my brain,” Prince sings in an increasingly excited voice that does as good a job at simulating the highs and lows of an actual drug trip as William Shatner’s spoken-word take on “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."
“To demonstrate his altered state of mind, his manipulated vocal gradually fades and degenerates over the course of 10 of the punk-funkiest minutes he’s ever recorded. It’s ... amazing,” said Chal Ravens in roundup of Prince rarities for FactMag. “High” from The Chocolate Invasion mirrors the lyrics to “Purple Music” as Prince sings, “Prince gonna get U high.”
In the book Prince: The Man and His Music, author Matt Thorne connects “junkie” themes in many of Prince’s songs, where love, sex and music are often positioned as more powerful than any narcotic. He also connects the dots to another Prince obsession, "Bathtub-related trauma also occurs in the unreleased 'Purple Music,'" Thorne writes, 'the lyrics of which suggest it might have been designed to follow 'Lust U Always' on 1999 or some other proposed album in which Prince's valet (somewhat oddly) asks him what he wants to bathe in and (even more oddly) is severely distressed by Prince's unheard response." The lyric in question comes near the end of the song when Prince speaks in character, "It's time 4 your morning bath, sir / What would you like 2 bathe in this morning? / With all due respect sir, I think that it ... I think that it might ... Oh, oh no / I don't want 2 play anymore."
Other common Prince themes emerge in the song, including God, Jesus and Heaven, "We'll find a sacrifice / 2 get some purple paradise / So nice, purple paradise is so nice," and his take on organized religion, "Some people can't understand / Just being inside a church don't make a righteous man." Prince also discusses the evolution of his own sound, "Don't need no cymbals, no saxophone / Just need 2 find me a style of my own."
Near the end of his life, “Purple Music” finally found its way into Prince’s setlists. PrinceVault notes the song made its live debut on July 23, 2010 in a medley of “All the Critics Love U in New York” before being added to the 2016 Piano and a Microphone tour under a new title, “Welcome 2 the Freedom Galaxy”. This second wind indicates Prince may have re-recorded the song at some point in the last decade. Time will tell if the well-circulated studio demos, a remake, or a live recording will see the light of day on an official posthumous Prince release.