Outer & Inner conflicts in Purple Rain

You hear about it a lot in literature. A good story needs a conflict and a means of resolving that conflict. And there are different kinds of conflicts. With outer conflicts, the protagonist or main character(s) of the story deal with friction brought upon them by the antagonist or their enemy, which could be a person, people or something in the outside world (such as the weather).

With inner conflicts, its a little bit different. The thing holding a character back is themselves. Their own doubts and fears.
When I write, I focus more on that because I tend to deal more with that than outer conflicts. I’m not a violent person and I don’t seek fights with anyone. I try to be on the good side of whoever I can, but when I’m not, I don’t say anything to them. Just acknowledge them and move on rather than getting up in arms about it.

As one can imagine, there are several conflicts in Purple Rain. Some were based in truth and others weren’t and were present just to add more substance to the storyline. That single conflict, while it doesn’t affect Prince’s character directly (as in he’s the one personally dealing with the physical abuse that his father inflicts on his mother), is one of the many puzzle pieces to leads him to the scene in the basement at the end.
To the least of my knowledge, Prince’s biological father never treated him that way. Things were difficult between them at times because Prince was breaking the rules of the house (bringing too many girls to the house and doing inapproriate things with them) and according to him, his father walked to the beat of a different drummer than him so they didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. But despite the falling out when Prince got thrown out of his father’s house, the two got together a couple years later, after the success of Purple Rain had hit, and came to an understanding. Some of their musical collaborations have been pretty amazing, which shows the bond that they have.

Some of the conflict that occurred between the Kid’s parents could have been based on Prince’s relationship with his step-father, but we don’t know that for sure. Dr. Fink says he might have heard a couple things about this, but I’m not going to buy too much into it unless I know for sure it was true. But even if it was, what’s passed is passed.
Me personally, from what few fragements I saw of the movie years ago, I thought that there was a conflict between the Kid and his father because his father didn’t want him to get involved with his music and there was some abuse involved. But we’re talking years ago and my memory isn’t as clear as I’d like it to be of that particular day.

While watching the movie this last time, I noticed something pretty interesting when it came to our two leading men. Listening to the music as closely as I do, I have a thing for Prince and Morris Day, depending on the occasion. There’s this ongoing conflict between the two characters in the movie. The majority deals with the rooster of performers at First Avenue. There’s only room for 3 acts and if Morris’s girls’ group makes the cut, one of the existing acts has to go. The Kid wants nothing more than to perform his music for a crowd, but I think a lot of it goes down to the music itself. Its what he believes in more than anything. And when I say his music, I mean HIS music.
There’s a side conflict that’s fueling the other one. Morris hears that there’s something going on between him and Lisa & Wendy, which leads him to believe the group won’t be together much longer. Now The Revolution is a hard-working band that gels really well with each other, but since Lisa & Wendy have been spending some time on their own rehearsing and such, they’d be coming up with their own beats. The Kid holds a pretty high standard for what he plays, so of course he only trusts his own music to make the impression he wants to. There was a little friction on this matter in real life, which boils down to the dawning of the Parade era. Wendy & Lisa were supposedly at the airport, ready to board when one of the members of the Revolution convinced them to stick around for one more album. It might have been Bobby Z, but don’t quote me on that, I need to check my sources.
I read something recently, though, that the conflict between Prince, Lisa & Wendy never elevated to the point in the movie where they actually call him out and voice their opinions openly. But they always fit a tad alienated by his control-freak-ness, never getting the just respect that they deserved for their collaborations. There isn’t going to be bigger proof of their input than what you find on the Parade album. Because Prince was so busy shooting for the accompanying movie, he gave his tapes with his instruments and his vocals to Wendy & Lisa to finish up, add their back-up vocals, etc. A lot of the songs wouldn’t have been the same without them and in the case of Mountains, probably wouldn’t exist if they had gotten on that plane.

Ever since their creation, there’d always been a little competition between The Revolution and The Time, but it was all in good fun. It boiled down to whoever could hit it harder on the stage that night. Pranks were array, so on and so forth. The story of there only being room for 3 acts at First Avenue was true, but I don’t know how much of what happened in the movie was true to life.
The friction between Morris & The Kid balloons far beyond what it was in reality because the two were very good friends on and offstage, have been for years.
There’s also the question of whether the two ever fought over a girl the way the two fought over Apollonia in the movie. Morris probably was going after her to get something from her. Tricky said it best in UTCM about Christopher Tracy: they use you until there’s nothing left. It doesn’t appear, though, as if Morris knows that The Kid is after Apollonia until the performance of The Beautiful Ones. All the while, he tries to plant doubts in her head so she’d lean more towards him.
Then again, he might be after her to complete his girls’ group that would ultimately boot out The Revolution, his #1 competition at First Avenue.

As for the relationship between The Kid and Apollonia, a lot of conflict comes from what he wants and what she wants. She wants to sing, which leads her to be interested in Morris’s group. But he doesn’t want her involved. Either because its getting her too close to Morris or he doesn’t want her to be his competition. Something similar happened between his parents where his father supposedly messed up his mother’s career and he wants her to stay around the house rather than doing the things she wants to do. There’s always the question of how Francis L. messed up his career and why he hadn’t played piano in a long time.
Prince wanted to follow his father’s footsteps his whole life because they had so much in common, both being musicians. That could be the reason why The Kid instinctively follows his father’s footsteps in the film, by replicating the behaviors he’d seen.

The conflict with Wendy & Lisa is big in the flim, but seems to take a backseat to a lot of the other things going on with The Kid. While he hates the fact they’re defying his order of things, he’s still listening to their cassette throughout the movie, seeming to be intrigued by how good it sounds.
The downward spiral begins with the first confrontation in the basement where his father actually hits his mother. Then Apollonia gives the news that she’ll be joining Morris’s group, which he takes as a betrayal and retaliates by slapping her. In doing so, he puts their relationship on the rocks for the majority of the film.
If that weren’t enough, he shows up at rehearsal where Wendy & Lisa don’t show, and Billy gives him the news that if he doesn’t shape up, he’s going to lose his spot at the club to Morris’s girls’ group. Things cool down just a little after The Kid confronts his father in the basement. This scene is reminscent one that Prince experienced as a kid, when his father told him “never get married.” It could have been around the time where he left, but I can’t be sure. The interesting thing is that his father says that he’s written many songs but doesn’t have to write them down, which could also be true about Prince’s father.

The next night at the club, the Revolution’s music takes on a completely different tone based simply on all of these conflicts going on in The Kid’s life. Given how close Prince is to the music, I believe that his setlists are often based on how he feels that night before going in. While he drills his bands with a number of different material, he chooses what they play because he’s more likely to deliver a heartfelt response to them, which leads the audience to get the reaction he’s looking for.
Playing “Computer Blue” at First Avenue probably isn’t the best idea because it sounds almost unbalanced rather than enjoyable, danceable music that the crowd tends to like more. The performance has to be one of my favorites. I’d say my favorite, but I have a lot of consider in that particular area. It boils down mostly the choreography, which is so sharp because it fits the song to a T.
If that weren’t bad enough, he follows that up with “Darling Nikki,” which is more/less staging on an attack on Apollonia for betraying him. Basically, the song calls her a whore who rocked his world. Only those in the band know who the song truely was about, but Prince might even regret penning it because he calls his one of the coldest songs he’s ever written. The content of the song is R, almost X-rated and what he does at the very end of the song indicates that he’s pretty much lost his mind. That particular scene, I remember being so afraid of when it came time to see it for the first time, because I knew how notorious and nasty this song was supposed to be. If Prince was acting it out, who knows what he would have done. Now that’d been overexposed to it, its not quite as bad as I thought it would and I enjoy it a little too much for my own good at times.

The following night, nearly everything The Kid lives for starts to slip away from him. He feels the possibility of losing his spot at First Avenue is almost inevitable. He loses Apollonia. And his father commits suicide. All of this boils inside his head when he’s left alone in the basement. The conflict between his parents finally starts to show its effect on him. He passes back and forth, fearing that he might commit his father’s mistakes. With everything going on, he probably is considering hanging himself at this point because he keeps looking at the rope on the floor, but he refuses to follow his father to the grave the same way. He literally explodes and spills his emotions all over the basement floor as he destroys everything but his father’s sheet music. At that point, he comes to his senses.

The next scene where The Kid plays Lisa & Wendy’s song on the piano is somewhat reminsicent of what happened when Prince’s father left the house as well as his piano behind. He never let Prince play the piano because he wasn’t as good as him, but once he left, Prince took it up on himself to learn piano until he was as good as him.

Everything is ultimately decided the next night at First Avenue. The Time gets the audience in a great mood, which they often do, knowing how to play crowd-pleasing music and all.
As he does before any show, The Kid is meditating, but probably is considering everything that’s gone wrong in his life up to this point.

When he gets on stage and performs Purple Rain, a wave of calm sweeps over the audience. They’re mesmerized by the lyrics and subtly of the music. It speaks to them like nothing they’d heard before. Due to overexposure, I’d probably lost any possibility of completely going to pieces because of this song. When I saw the performance for the first time, seeing how emotional he was and more importantly, how beautiful that electric guitar solo was, I was overwhelmed. I’d never heard electric guitar sound like that before in my life. And over several albums, I came to realize that that instrument made more than just noise that I’d heard from the heavy metal bands of the 80’s (which I’m not crazy about to say the least), electric guitar can be beautiful. Even sing words that no person would be able to pronounce or do justice to, not even Prince, who is great with lyrics, but even better with making his guitars sing.

Clearly, The Kid wins in the end. His father lives, he gets Apollonia back and his place at First Avenue is solidified. Billy thought at the beginning of the film that The Kid would be the next act to leave First Avenue and become a big star as the last 3 acts before him had. It may seem that The Kid did break out and became huge after that fantastic night.

So I guess UTCM is up next, while I’m sticking with watching the movies and such. What I should do, though, is get around to listening to Crystal Ball in its entirity so I at least can go onto the next couple of albums in my car because I have them all on disc.


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One Response to Outer & Inner conflicts in Purple Rain

  1. Wow…brilliant post!  Here’s hoping most of it will end up in The Word in some form!

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