Chart Week: October 27, 1984
Song: “Purple Rain” – Prince & The Revolution
Chart Position: #4, 4th week on the chart. Peaked at #2 for two weeks in November.
(This ended up being a big coincidence, but not a bad choice for the 50th entry in this series!)
One of my favorite things about listening to old AT40’s is when they cause me to pour through old charts to examine the movement of various songs. I’m fascinated equally by songs that rocketed up the charts quickly, songs that hung around for months and months and months, and songs that had a brief moment on the charts before disappearing. It’s not just the trivia surrounding those songs I enjoy, but also thinking back to that time and remembering how (sometimes if) those songs penetrated the culture of the moment.
“Purple Rain” is a great example of a song with a chart history that gets my mental music memory neurons firing.
“Purple Rain” was the third single Prince released from the Purple Rain soundtrack. By then he was pretty much king of the world. Both “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” had topped the charts. Purple Rain was, briefly, the number one movie in the country, in a summer that was loaded with great movies. And the Purple Rain soundtrack had been the number one album for months.
It seemed like a sure thing that “Purple Rain” would also reach number one and serve as a cherry on the top of a magnificent year for Prince.
Nothing about the song’s chart rise put that into question. In four quick weeks it was already at #4. It was just a matter of time, right?
The song moved up to #3 its fifth week on the chart, sitting behind “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” and “Caribbean Queen.” All three songs held those spots the following week.
The week of November 17, “Purple Rain” climbed one more spot to #2. But it was leapfrogged by the song that ended up blocking it from #1. “Purple Rain” remained at #2 for two weeks before it began a rapid descent. By the last chart of the year, covering the week of December 22, “Purple Rain” had slipped from the Top 40 to #54.
The song that kept it from topping the Billboard Hot 100? Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” which held the top spot for three weeks. I hated that song when it came out. There was something in its bouncy optimism that seemed fake and forced to me. Perhaps because we were getting into the deep fall, when the sunlight disappears and we start to come to terms with spending months inside “Purple Rain” seemed much more appropriate to the moment.
While I came to eventually like some of Wham’s songs, I still hate that one. The crime of keeping “Purple Rain,” one of the greatest songs ever, out of the top slot is one that can not be forgiven.
There was never an official video for “Purple Rain.” I wonder if that affected its chart success in some, small way? Here is Prince and the Revolution’s performance in Syracuse, NY on March 30, 1985.