Gear Rundown: Prince's Purple Rain

A Glimpse Into The Gear Of The Purple One

No one will ever match the legacy of Prince. Upon news of the artist's untimely death in 2016, legions of fans re-sparked an interest in the plethora of music left behind by the virtuosic musician, with significant attention being directed towards his 1984 magnum opus Purple Rain. Regarded as one of the finest albums of the '80s, the LP pays testament to Prince's talents as a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer, with songs like 'When Doves Cry' and 'Purple Rain' highlighting the wunderkind musician as one of the finest of his era. In this week's Gear Rundown, we take a look at the assortment of gear used by Prince and The Revolution on the landmark LP.

GUITARS

"THE CLOUD"

 

 

Prince certainly had a penchant for weird guitars, and while this one isn't his whackiest, it's certainly his most iconic. Now stored in the Smithsonian, "The Cloud" was designed by Knut Koupee luthier Dave Rusan after Prince requested a unique looking guitar for the film, with the incredibly hefty instrument featuring specs such as active EMG pickups, gold Schaller hardware, and an all-white finish. Although it was intended to be used solely for the film, Prince loved "The Cloud" so much that he toured with the guitar and requested further copies be made for his own collection - which was probably a good idea, seeing as he smashed the original at his last gig with The Revolution.

 

HOHNER TELECASTER

 

 

One of Prince's main instruments throughout his whole career, this rare Japanese Hohner Telecaster was picked out by The Purple One some time in the early '80s before the corporation was sued by Fender (for obvious reasons). By that time, Prince had acquired several models, with the hot single coil pickups proving to be a core aspect of his funky clean sound heard across the album.

 

RICKENBACKER 330

 

 

Acting as the rhythm guitarist for Prince on Purple Rain, Wendy Melvoin played a modified Rickenbacker 330 throughout her tenure with Prince and The Revolution. Extensively modified with G&L pickups for increased sustain and featuring blocked soundholes to reduce feedback from playing huge stadiums, Melvoin played the custom purple Ric on six tracks across Purple Rain, including 'Let's Go Crazy' and the title track.

 

BASS GUITARS

FENDER JAZZ BASS

 

 

While some of the bass parts across Purple Rain were played by Revolution bassist Brownmark, Prince played many of the bass tracks himself, using a Fender Jazz Bass which was also played by him and Brownmark live. While the exact specs of his main bass are uncertain, Brownmark's main Revolution bass looks to be a '70s model with a maple fretboard and block inlays, and, of course, was painted purple.

 

AMPLIFIERS

MESA / BOOGIE MARK II COLESIUM 

 

 

An absolutely huge guitar amp with a crazy 180 watts of headroom, Prince owned three Mesa Mark IIC+ heads around the recording of Purple Rain, and the amp was seen in his touring rig up until the 1999 Tour. Apparently, one of the heads somehow ended up in a music shop in Minneapolis, where it was purchased by an unsuspecting fan who later discovered it was Prince's backup head - not bad for a cheeky second-hand purchase. 

 

MESA / BOOGIE STRATEGY 500 POWER AMP

 

Prince was also a huge fan of using power amps to achieve a heavy, saturated lead tone, with various sources claiming he used a Mesa Strategy 500 to push his amps to the absolute limit on Purple Rain. 

 

For cabinets, Prince typically paired his Mesa heads with either Mesa Recto 4x12's or slanted Marshall 4x12 speaker enclosures.

 

EFFECTS

 

 

It's no secret that Prince had a penchant for the humble BOSS box, and Purple Rain holds true to this testament. Throughout the album, you can hear classic tones from the likes of the DS-1 Distortion, BF-2 Flanger, OC-2 O Octave, DD-3 Digital Delay and the incredibly rare VB-2 Vibrato for chorus tones, as well as the classic Dunlop Crybaby wah for all those electro-funk freakouts.

 

KEYBOARDS

OBERHEIM OB-XA

 

 

Regarded as an OG in the synth world, Prince notably used the Oberheim OB-XA on all of his classic eighties albums, including Dirty Mind, Controversy, and 1999. You can hear the OB-XA during the Church Organ intro to 'Let's Go Crazy'.

 

YAMAHA DX7

 

 

If there's one synthesiser that defined the sound of the '80s, it's the Yamaha DX7. A landmark in the world of synthesis due to its claim of being one of the first ever digital synths on the market, Prince was an early adoptee of the DX7, and its funky tones can be heard prominently across Purple Rain - a perfect example of which being When Doves Cry'.

 

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