Opinion

Searching for the Purple Rain

by
February 08, 2018

Thomas Moir had trouble hooking up a stereo system to play his new Prince record. Picture: AAP

Why do I need an instruction manual?

Pfft, I say, while staring at the manual lying on the carpet in front of me, doing everything in my power to avoid picking it up.

I have connected speakers to amps before. You think this is the first time I have hooked up a sound system? You think I am new to wires, cables, inputs, outputs and jacks? Please.

And so, with the purchase of a new stereo amplifier — and a classic Prince record — I confidently set to hooking it all up.

There I am, cables in hand.

Colour-coded for simplicity.

So, red and black, positive and negative.

I was feeling positive about my chances of success.

I pinch the copper wire strands, twist them tightly together to ensure they pick up all audio ... ensuring every last bit of sound is picked up. I want to hear it all.

I twist the input shut. Repeat the process, making progress, ever closer to the Purple One.

Once the final cable is hooked up, the speakers in place, remote control in hand, I turn it all on. I select the input, switch on the record player, delicately position Purple Rain on the vinyl mat. Choose the speed and hit start on the turntable. It accelerates quickly.

I unlock the needle, raise it, drag it across to the vinyl’s edge, racing by below. It hovers over the rapidly moving outer perimeter.

Prince is ready, he is waiting.

And then, I lower the needle.

I wait for the crisp, crunching of vinyl. The crackle. But it never arrives.

Where are you, Prince?

I wait and wait. The needle inches closer to the centre of the vinyl disc. And still no sound.

Something is afoot.

I hit stop on the record. Switch it all off. Scratch my head, baffled.

I swear I had all the inputs correct. Two colours, so simple. How could I get it wrong?

So, behind the system I venture once more. Checking cables, disconnecting and re-connecting.

Undoing knobs, untwisting wires, re-twisting wires, re-fastening knobs.

I retreat back to the couch. Press play once more.

Still no Prince. He is nowhere.

Where is Prince?

I was starting to feel a lot less positive, more negative, about things.

The opening lyrics to Purple Rain start playing through my head, and they seem oddly appropriate.

‘‘I never meant to cause you any sorrow ... I never meant to cause you any pain ...’’

If only I could hear those words emerge from the speakers, seeking my sympathy.

Instead, I was enduring a decent amount of sorrow, a fair bit of pain.

‘‘I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain ...’’

What I would give to see anything happening in rain of any colour right about now.

At this point, I did something I had not done for many years. It was as a last resort — things were desperate.

I consulted an instruction manual. I needed help, and I sought it from the obligatory 12-page paper booklet accompanying my purchase. It may as well have been War and Peace for all its accessibility though.

It lost me at ‘‘Congratulations on your purchase’’.

After the briefest of skim reads, I gave up.

I was going to have to tackle this elsewhere.

I opened my laptop and Googled any manner of combinations of the question ‘‘why won’t my stereo connect?’’ with minimal success.

I think at some point I may have even turned to searching, ‘‘How do I get to the Purple Rain?’’

A lengthy amount of time on Wikipedia followed, where I learned the recording of Purple Rain followed a six-hour jam session with Prince’s bandmates Wendy and Lisa, after he had originally written the song as a country ballad for Stevie Nicks.

This would have been a fun fact. But no fun was being had.

Then I read this: ‘‘Purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love.’’

I got dramatic. I missed Prince. I needed a sign, a symbol — the Prince symbol perhaps.

‘‘Help me through the purple rain,’’ I whispered into my couch, where I was by now lying face down.

It was somewhere about my fifth beer, eighth triple check of the cables and edging closer to a tantrum of Prince-like proportions that I discovered the record player I had been spinning Prince on had no wires attached to it. None at all.

Purple Rain and been playing silently for no-one. It had not even made it out of the record player.

There I was, labouring over connections and I had neglected to connect the only thing that really mattered. Prince. The Purple Rain. Wendy, Lisa, the guitars, the sky being purple and all that. None of it.

When I had finished kicking the couch and laughing deliriously, I promptly hooked up the record player, dropped the needle, put on my best ruffled shirt and purple waistcoat and sat back on the couch.

The crackle came. That hushed, lonely guitar tone rang out.

And then: ‘‘I never meant to cause you any sorrow...’’

Thomas Moir is a News journalist and stereo expert.

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