On June 25, 1984, Prince released the Purple Rain album. A month later, on July 27, Purple Rain the movie debuted in theaters. The album debuted on the Billboard chart at #11 on July 14. It hit #1 on August 4.
Purple Rain, however, wasn't just another hit album. It was a groundbreaking work of art that would profoundly impact and change not just the music world, but pop culture at large. The album's popularity was so immense that over the first two weeks of January 1985, it was still the best-selling album in America. Hot on its heels: Madonna's Like a Virgin and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA.
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Prince had broken through into the mainstream on his previous album, 1999. With Purple Rain, he'd smashed through racial and sexual barriers to reach an entirely new and unpredictable audience.
"[The studio says,] 'We need to go to Texas now and screen this in front of an all-white, redneck audience,'" former Prince manager Albert Magnoli told SPIN in 2011 about early screenings of Purple Rain the movie. "A week later, we fly down to Texas and put it up in front of 300 white kids. Within three minutes, they’re all up on their feet. (Fellow manager) Bob (Cavallo) was able to get the studio to understand that they needed to get this into the heartland."
Prince's newfound mega-fame blasted him into a whole new stratosphere in 1985, at which point he was among the biggest touring acts in the world. It's something his former guitarist, Dez Dickerson, discovered firsthand.
"He invited me and my wife at the time to catch a couple shows in D.C. The first night we were there, Prince invited us to his suite, and at that point, the way they were traveling was full-blown, diamond-level status — they’re hauling a grand piano from city to city for his suite," Dickerson told SPIN. "But in terms of the personal interaction, it was great. We got back to old times. As we were about to leave, I said, 'Hey, we were thinking of going to Georgetown tomorrow to do some shopping,' which is what we always did as a band when we were on the road. At first he got this smile on his face and was about to say something, but then he stopped — I’ll never forget, the look on his face changed and his voice dropped — and he said, 'You know, I really can’t go anywhere anymore.'"
In January 1985, Prince would dominate the American Music Awards with a stirring performance of "Purple Rain."
In February, he rocked the Grammys with "Baby I'm a Star."
The blockbuster Purple Rain tour would be captured on March 30, 1985, when a show in Syracuse, New York, was recorded and released on VHS as Prince and the Revolution: Live. It's been out of print until recently, when a DVD version was included in the Purple Rain deluxe edition released last year.
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