“The Revolution will be heard,” yells a chorus of voices in “Wonderful Ass,” one of the new songs on Purple Rain Deluxe: Expanded Edition. They were indeed; Revolution members guitarist Wendy Melvoin, keyboardist Lisa Coleman, bassist BrownMark, keyboardist Dr. Fink, and drummer Bobby Z backed up Prince during his most commercially successful period, from about 1983-86. These days, they’re reunited, playing at First Avenue now and again (including this Sunday, July 23) and going on tour.
Prince and the Revolution’s best-known album, Purple Rain, was re-released in June, loaded up with Paisley Park remasters, music from the Vault, singles with their B-sides, and a DVD of Prince’s 1985 Syracuse show.
But that’s not all that comes with the expanded Purple Rain. The liner notes sprawl for 25 pages of commentary and photos, plus complete track listings and lyrics to the album’s nine original songs. Audio engineer Susan Rogers surveys her time with Prince from beginning to end, and each member of the Revolution shares thoughts and memories specific to Purple Rain songs.
Here are seven nuggets from the liner notes.
Prince slept four hours a night
People speculated, especially given his nocturnal performances and nearly non-stop work ethic, but no one knew when or how much Prince actually slept. “He had illimitable ideas and inexhaustible energy,” audio engineer Susan Rogers writes in her introduction to the deluxe album. If she was lucky, she says, she’d get a break from the studio during “his usual four hours of sleep.”
Prince was the only one in the room during vocal takes
It’s hard to imagine such a commanding live performer recording vocals in solitude, but Susan Rogers remembers waiting outside the studio door as Prince sang. “Singers ordinarily retreat to a vocal booth and record several takes with feedback and encouragement from a producer,” she writes. But Prince tended to sit alone, singing into a boom mic. She says, “It took boldness early in his career to disregard conventional practice and get the privacy he needed to be alone with his imagined listener.”
Prince worked with just 24 recording tracks
These days, engineers can use digital tools to record virtually unlimited vocal/instrumentation tracks (for example, one might capture a kick drum, and another a lead vocal). But in the ’80s, Prince was limited to the 24 tracks an analog tape machine could handle, unless he wanted to take the time to synchronize a pair of machines (“more harm than good,” in his words). Susan Rogers writes, “The constraint of having only 24 tracks to complete an arrangement is like fitting a painting to a canvas […] Prince was a genius [at building] up a song in the vertical dimension without weighing it down unnecessarily.”
The house lights went on for “Take Me With U”
Whenever Prince and the Revolution played “Take Me With U” live, they’d have the house lights turned on. “We wanted to see the joy in everyone’s faces while we played,” Wendy shares. “It was always a highlight.”
Prince rehearsed in a warehouse off Hwy. 7
“Growing up in St. Louis Park,” Bobby Z writes, “I know [the warehouse] as an auto parts store. It was cleaned out and given the Prince treatment of heavy black theater curtains hung on all of the four large walls.” In that space, Prince and the Revolution rehearsed and completed “Let’s Go Crazy.”
Wendy, her sister Susannah, and Lisa shared a house in the Twin Cities
Around 3 a.m., Wendy remembers, Prince’s bodyguard knocked on the door, saying, “Prince wants to talk to you.” Once the trio got in the car, Prince played them “The Beautiful Ones” for the first time.
The Revolution officially got their name on August 3, 1983
Prince had teased the Revolution’s name before (particularly on the 1999 cover). But he waited to make it official until Wendy Melvoin’s first performance with the band, a Minnesota Dance Theater benefit show at First Avenue.