My love for Prince is well established by this point, but there is something I must confess–between Morris Day & The Time’s performance of “The Bird” and Prince & The Revolution’s “Purple Rain” in the film Purple Rain, Morris Day hands down should have won. You know deep in your hearts it is true. Together we can enter our new, free reality together.
I am not saying “The Bird” is a better song than “Purple Rain,” though it doesn’t really matter because both were written by Prince and “The Bird” even had almost all the instruments recorded by Prince. What I am saying is that Morris Day’s showmanship is unparalleled. This was already established at the beginning of the movie, when The Time’s “Jungle Love” goes up against “Let’s Go Crazy.” (I can’t find any clips of “Let’s Go Crazy” but believe me that it’s incredible but just slightly less incredible than “Jungle Love.”)
Morris Day is an expert buffon. He spends the movie in a half-drunk strut, insulting women, combing his hair, only wearing coats on his shoulders. He is the brutish goof to Prince’s misunderstood genius, and that’s fine, that’s how plots work. But tell me this–if you’re in Minneapolis’s hottest club, dressed up and ready to dance, do you want to sway and cry to the beautiful nonsense of “Purple Rain”…
OR DO YOU WANT TO DO THE FUCKING BIRD?
Look at that slide. Just look at it. You know that saying about how Fred Astaire made dancing look easy and Gene Kelly made it look impossible? Morris Day and The Time managed to do both at once. They are effortless and precise. They are a professional party. Now, if Prince had come on to “Baby I’m a Star” or even “I Would Die 4 U,” The Revolution would have put up a good fight. But no, they save those for the encore, and decide to battle with “Purple Rain,” a song that would have had everybody heading straight for the bathroom after flapping their arms around like loons to The Time. In the universe Purple Rain chose to set up, The Time would have been the champions, and it is the only (I repeat, only) thing unbelievable about that film.