Photo courtesy of the Purple Underground.
Just when you think you’ve had enough of Prince’s antics and you conclude that you can no longer support a man who regressed from singing “Sexuality is all you’ll ever need” to “Open up your Bible and let God guide you to the Purple Rain,” the purple one sucks you back in. Prince became a worldwide megastar in the 1980s with mega-funky albums such as “1999,” “Purple Rain” and “Sign O’ The Times.” What the majority of the world does not know is that for every amazing track on these records, there are probably 50 songs from the same period that are equally as good, but for some reason, have never seen the light of day. It doesn’t end with unreleased studio recordings either. Prince rehearsed new ideas constantly and it’s certainly one of the reasons that he is one of the best live performers of all time.
The die-hard Prince fan community has been fortunate enough to hear a lot of these tracks, concerts and rehearsals over the years. It’s always open to speculation as to how they make their way into the hands of rabid fans. Some theories include the fact that Prince often does not pay his employees and in retaliation, they share the music they worked on and will never be paid for. Whatever the reason, die-hards have scored as there are CAREERS worth of unreleased music that are easily available in the fan community. Lately, it appears that Prince has kept a stronger hold on his studio material, but truthfully with the songs he’s been releasing over the last few years, it doesn’t sound like we are missing out on much. As the sound quality can vary with these recordings (because they are often copies of copies of copies – often originating from cassette tapes in the 1980s), the die-hards have been utilizing the technology that is available to clean up the sound quality on some of these beloved unreleased tracks that are in very poor sound quality. Last year, a sonic improvement on a collection of studio outtakes called “Box O’ Chocolates” was leaked to fans and it was one of the best unofficial releases fans have gotten their hands on in years. Until now.
It is unknown where Prince and the Revolution – Live at First Avenue on June 7, 1984 (Prince’s birthday) originated from but what is known is that this show has been widely available as one of the Holy Grails of the Prince bootleg world for years. The show has always been in existence in terrible sound quality and now 27 years later, a soundboard recording has surfaced! In 1984, Prince and his new band The Revolution had just finished filming the soon to be blockbuster film “Purple Rain,” paired with its epic soundtrack. The album would spawn the hits “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Take Me With U,” and “Purple Rain,” and non-singles “The Beautiful Ones,” “Darling Nikki” and “Baby I’m A Star,” went on to become fan favorites. The album was released on June 25, 1984 but earlier that month, on Prince’s birthday, June 7, 1984, the band played a live show at First Avenue in Prince’s native Minneapolis, consisting mostly of previously unreleased material (and many of the songs in these versions have still tragically never been released).
The band started the show with the soon to be B-side “17 Days.” Next up was “Our Destiny” and “Roadhouse Garden,” two songs that have never been officially released in any form. Years ago, Prince teased his fans and said that he would release an album of unheard Revolution-era tracks called “Roadhouse Garden,’ but that release never saw the light of day. From the terrible sound quality of the previous incarnations of this bootleg, the lyrics were hard to make out, but one thing was certain – these two tracks are ultra funky. Now they can be heard in glorious soundboard quality and it was certainly worth 27 years to hear these gems in crystal clear sound. “All Day, All Night,” a track that was given to Jill Jones’ album was played next and it was followed by “Free,” a non-single from the “1999” album.
A 9 minute version of Prince and the Revolution’s take on Sheila E.’s “Noon Rendezvous” follows with a scorching guitar solo and an impromptu lyric about Prince “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby.” The funkiest and most rockin’ version of “Erotic City” is next and the song is sung in Prince’s normal voice instead of being sped up and slowed down like on the studio version. Again, there are guitar solos that confirm Prince was on top of his game in this era. A 12 minute version of “When Doves Cry” was played next and is followed by the audience singing Prince a happy birthday. A slowed down and extremely funky version of “Something In the Water (Does Not Compute)” is next and it’s totally different than the version released on the “1999” album. The “1999”-era B-side “Irresistible Bitch” is next and the set is closed out by the still unreleased song “Possessed.”
Again, it is unknown where this recording came from, but I’d personally like to say thank you to whoever decided to give this gem to fans that have stuck by Prince’s side through name changes, preachy religious epiphanies and creative lows. Prince is currently in the middle of a 21 night run of shows in Los Angeles and one can only hope that he takes a listen to this show so he can remind himself what it was like when he was really making a difference. I also hope that Prince decides to take a look at his legacy and will put out some of these recordings in his life time rather than have them rot away in a vault.
If you have the chance to track down this amazing bootleg, I highly recommend it (read: please don’t come asking me for a copy).