The Story Behind Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ Album Cover
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Prince? If we were playing people, we’d bet it was “Purple Rain.” It is, on the one hand, an incredible song. Second and third, it was the title of Prince’s sixth studio album and a rock musical drama that served as the singer’s acting debut.
Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack here, and usually a good starting point is what first grabs your attention. In this case, it’s the album cover, which also happens to be the movie poster. So, keep reading for the story behind the famous album cover for purple rain.
The album cover and “The Shot”
The album cover of purple rain is hard to miss. One of music’s most pioneering and androgynous personalities rode a custom 1981 Hondamatic Honda CM400A motorcycle, in an ornate purple suit (appropriate color choice), and stared directly at you amid waves of smoke . Oh, the drama of all that.
The photography itself was under the creative direction of Laura LiPuma and taken by Ed Thrasher and Associates/Ron Slenzak. The location of this shoot also makes this photograph particularly unique. The photo was taken on a Warner Bros Studio backlot in California, an outdoor setting for the production company. Specifically, however, this particular backlot was known as Hennesy St., and it was designed to resemble a New York City apartment complex.
To add just another layer of theatricality, a floral frame cushions Prince’s photograph on the left and right sides. Perhaps Prince was already anticipating the bouquets of flowers that would be thrown at him during the performance of “Purple Rain.”
Things you might have missed
There’s a lot going on in this album cover, and a few nuances may have gone unnoticed by the casual observer.
The first thing to note is the inclusion of the phrase “and the Revolution”. purple rain was the first album to officially include Prince’s backing band The Revolution on an album. (However, the Revolution was alluded to on Prince’s 1999 album cover by being written backwards in the “i” of “Prince”.) Prince was famous for providing all the instrumentation for his early albums. The act of formally introducing a full band into his music was, therefore, worthy of a milestone for the artist.
Another detail of the purple rain cover is the woman standing in the doorway, illuminated by the light from the building. Although you probably noticed the woman, you might not know her identity. She is none other than Apollonia Kotero, the main actress of purple rain film.
And finally, one more nugget for music lovers and fanatics, the purple rain album cover shares something in common with English rock band Pink Floyd. A few years before the album was released, Pink Floyd shot their album cover wish you were Here in the same Warner Bros. Studio backlot.
Now you know.