With its gospel opening, punk rock speed and blazing guitar solos, “Let’s Go Crazy” was already my favorite song on Purple Rain even before it was released as a single.
But when I heard the extended “Special Dance Version” in the summer of 1984, “Let’s Go Crazy” became my favorite Prince song full stop, and with the possible exception of “The Cross,” it has remained so.
While most “Dance Versions” of a song were often somebody extending a song by artifically repeating the chorus or the verses or an instrumental section, the extended version of “Let’s Go Crazy” was akin to the disco version of “Miss You,” the actual canonical version of the song, from which even the album version was an edit.
So what’s so different? For one thing, the unhinged piano solo that utterly comes out of nowhere. It’s akin to the piano solos in “Aladdin Sane” or Funky Dollar Bill in that it adds an almost free jazz element in a pop song.
The first time I heard it, it totally stopped me in my tracks, and for a long time, I wondered why he didn’t open the album with that full version. But of course, Purple Rain was designed to be exactly as huge of a record as it turned out to be, and a crazy-ass piano solo (and the later percussion break) would have possibly impacted that.
And in fact, according to the Wikipedia page on Purple Rain, the longer version of “Let’s Go Crazy” was going to lead off the album until they made the decision to go with the single.
Fine. But what it did do was give me a Prince song to play on KFSR. Obviously Prince was as original and groundbreaking as any artist we normally played — and his sui generis multicultural musical stew only made him more appealing — but, at the same time Purple Rain was exactly the type of cultural phenomenon we has posited ourselves to be the alternative to.
So there was always some tension as to how much Prince was played. Same for Bruce Springsteen. Some of the DJs didn’t give a shit how popular he was, because they loved him, and played him all the time. Others figured that since he was all over every other radio station, no point to play him on ours. That was the camp that I was in: I preferred turning people onto new things rather than playing them stuff they’d already heard.
Of course, both camps were right, and there was a pretty good balance of DJs who did one or the other, which definitely helped to both grow (and keep) our audience. And in fact, both Prince & Bruce finished in the top 15 of our 1984 KFSR DJ Poll.
So this Special Dance Mix was perfect: a great song, a popular song, but a version that was different and weird and pretty fucking alternative, to boot. So I played it a lot.
“Let’s Go Crazy” Special Dance Mix
“Let’s Go Crazy” Official Video (but for how long?)
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