Insiders Open Up About Prince’s Epic Purple Rain Tour

Rolling Stone gets late music icon's tour-mates to look back at historic tour.

June 22, 2017 12:10 pm
Prince's 'Purple Rain' Tour: An Oral History
(left to right) Prince and guitarist Wendy Melvoin perform at the Nassau Coliseum during the 'Purple Rain' tour. (Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

You could call it the tour that began Prince’s purple reign.

As David Browne reports for Rolling Stone, in November 1984, four months after the premiere of Purple Rain in U.S. movie theaters—a watershed moment for the pop star and an immediate box office success—Prince embarked on the supporting Purple Rain tour.

It would go down as one of the greatest concert tours in history.

Packed with special effects and famous guest appearances by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Madonna, the tour would span 98 shows and run through ’85.

Rolling Stone has pieced together an elaborate oral history of the Purple Rain tour. RealClearLife has curated our favorite memories below.

-Wendy Melvoin, Prince’s brand-new guitarist at the time, talks of the elaborate preparations for the tour that were underway before the first date. “I kept seeing sketches of plans and Prince would buzz in and out of the rooms,” says Melvoin. “We were all being fitted for clothes that were being made. I was standing on one of those pill boxes, and there are about five people doing the measurements on me.”

-Matt Fink, Prince’s keyboardist, said that everyone—including him—had to do coordinated dance moves during the shows.

-Keyboardist Lisa Coleman says that doing dance moves onstage during the tour ruined her back for the rest of her life.

-According to Melvoin, the band only had two weeks to rehearse the show. “I had boots on, tons of jewelry, and my instrument and I had to sing and do choreography,” she told the magazine. “It was literally the Olympics. We were like synchronized swimmers. If someone screwed up that thing, there’s not even a bronze medal. You’re just off the team. This was high stakes.”

-Per bassist Mark Brown, the first time Prince got into the stage prop bathtub for “When Doves Cry,” which was made out of a lightweight material and suspended above the stage, it went upside down and Prince took a nasty fall out of it.

-Brown also said the band would get fined if they made mistakes—up to $500, notes Coleman.

-When Prince brought Madonna onstage, keyboardist Coleman had no idea who she was. “I thought he just pulled some girl up on the stage.”

-The band would nightly bet on how long the song “Purple Rain” would be extended. There was even a pot of money involved—if one of them guessed right.

-Says Coleman of why Prince didn’t participate in Michael Jackson’s “We Are the World“: “I think he just saw a whole bunch of pop stars getting together to ‘do good,’ and I think he thought that was kind of bulls—, in a way,” she said.

-Lighting director LeRoy Bennett sums up the tour best: “That whole period was so magical. You could just feel the energy of [Prince’s] stardom just skyrocketing. He could’ve continued to write major hits like all the songs on Purple Rain. I think it just became too easy.”

Watch a clip from a tour stop in Syracuse, New York, below.


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