Prince's 1984 epic Purple Rain is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Fact. Less is well is the factr that, during its creation, the track almost became a collaboration with Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks. Would the end result have been better? Only the Gods know the answer to that, of course, but we imagine it would have been similarly ground-breaking.
The Purple One apparently invited Nicks to appear on Purple Rain after they struck up a working relationship, inspired by each other's music. On hearing Little Red Corvette on the radio while out driving with her husband Kim Anderson on the day of their wedding in 1983, Nicks was instantly inspired to write Stand Back, which features on her second studio album, The Wild Heart.
“All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I’m singing along, going, ‘Stand back!’ I’m like, ‘Kim, pull over! We need to buy a tape recorder because I need to record this’,” Nicks recalled in an interview on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show.
“And so we do – we career off the freeway to find a radio, record shop or something, and we go in and we buy a little tape recorder.”
Instead of celebrating her nuptials with Anderson that night, Nicks stayed up through until the early hours, working on her idea: "We get the song, and I’m basically using Prince’s instrumental melody. What I’m singing along is very, very different from what he’s singing. I’m singing in and out of all of the holes.”
After inviting Prince to the studio while declaring that the track was, of course, "50 percent" his, he promptly appears in just 20 minutes. Nicks was astonished by interest, as she thought he “never in a million years" would he have agreed to work with her.
On arriving, the songwriter laid down a new keyboard part that would become the driving focus of the song. “That was the coolest thing we’ve ever heard,” she recalled. “Takes him an hour; he gives me a little ‘I don’t really know you’ hug, and, uh, he’s gone. Like a little spirit."
Although the pair were mere acquaintances at this point, their relationship would soon blossom following Prince's own invite for Nicks to return the favour, by working with him on one of his own tracks.
In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the singer recalled Prince sending her a 10-minute instrumental version of Purple Rain, asking her to write lyrics for it. After hearing his demo, she described it as "overwhelming".
“I listened to it and I just got scared," she said. "I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.’ I’m so glad that I didn’t, because he wrote it, and it became Purple Rain."
Nicks later told MOJO (via NME): “I’ve still got it, the whole instrumental track and a little bit of Prince singing, ‘can’t get over that feeling’, or something. I told him, ‘Prince, I’ve listened to this a hundred times but I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s a movie, it’s epic.”
This wasn't the first time Prince was entranced by the Fleetwood Mac frontwoman's songwriting prowess either. In fact, he was allegedly inspired to write When Doves Cry after hearing her 1981 hit Edge Of Seventeen, and its lyrics about 'white winged doves'.
"That’s really when he and I started to sort of be friends," Nicks recalled. "From that moment onward at the very end of Edge of Seventeen I go, ‘I know what it sounds like, I know what it sounds like, I know what it sounds like when doves cry. It sounds like you.”
While the relationship between the pair was strictly professional, the Dreams singer recalled Prince perhaps wanting more.
"Prince and I were just friends" she said. "I think he would have been happy to have had a relationship. But I really wanted a musical relationship, and I had smartened up, even then. You’ll break up and never speak again. But he wasn’t interested in just that."