The 80’s and 90s had an explosion of rock and roll due to the advance of technology. With the Walkman, MTV and CDs it allowed for artists to expand their impact on the community faster than albums and radio did.
But nothing advanced the creation of an artist with more impact that the film – Purple Rain (1984) was the modern generation of rock and soul about the innovative stylings of Price and the Revolution. The Commitments (1991) was the celebration of the rock and souls revolution by black artists in the late 1960s that impacted the culture of Ireland 30 years later.
Prince more than used rock and roll to express himself, he used rock and roll to create himself. When looking at Purple Rain, one of the themes is that love is expressed through music and that emotion can be suppressed by music. It’s a double-edged sword of love. The father cares so much about the mother but is so conflicted because of his musical failure. Prince is conflicted with his friends because his infatuation for Apollonia is so intense. He plays it all out on stage hoping to change her feelings for him.
Love is a many splendored thing sometimes it is a splintered tool. And anyone who has had a splinter does not remove it can cause infection, and fester. Festering is his parent’s relationship. Yet, Prince sees his future, and understands that he can’t just live in his own little world. He has to allow women his world with you. Lisa, Apollonia and his mother impact how he sees love and he sees passion doesn’t have to be violent like in his home.
Another fascinating aspect of Purple Rain is how a subset of rock that existed in Minneapolis. Morris Day & The Time, Prince & The Revolution and Apollonia 6 were showcased at venues that were leading sort of this cultural revolution where technology, techno music, keyboards and synthesizers are tools for rock ‘n’ roll not the replacement of the guitar and the drums. By mixing the two – rock and techno it creates a cultural revolution like Prince and The Revolution. Second, it is that this cultural revolution of concert attendees with face painting, skinny mirrored glasses, earrings , laces – all were really the alternative lifestyle coming out it’s black-and-white history to a world of color where music students express that cultural change in song.
The Commitments was film that equally loved the music stylings of rock and soul. It was a film the brought a new meaning to the working class rock image of Ireland where everyone was doing what they could just to make a buck. And The Commitments was a band willing to risk its personality to become a success. But in the strive for celebrity and adoration, the rock standards of sex and ego stands in the way of their pursuits.
The band comes together as the brainchild of the movies lead, Jimmy, the manager. In his hope for fame, he tries valientley to mix a unique group on want to be, established and utterly confused musicians. He builds what can be and looks by ¾ of the way through the film, going to be, a successful group that has its finger on bring back the classic. Yet Joey The Lips Fagan putting his lips on all three Committmentettes, the back up signers, is the straw that breaks the camel back in the band trusting their growth as musicians. Here the love expressed and fame wanted is what drives the artist to compete for the attention. That competition undoes the band in the film.
The film reinforces the fact that rock and roll can create celebrity. In June of 1990, Director Alan Parker travelled to Dublin and placed an advertisement in the magazine Hot Press, requesting young artists to audition for roles in the film. Parker wanted actors who could play a musical instrument and resembled the characters from the novel. Similar to Purple Rain and its array of bands, The Commitments had its array artists put on display. They put their emotion on display in more ways than one.
The soundtrack still drives the films interest. A key song for the film Treat Her Right Written by Gene Kurtz and Roy Head Performed by Robert Arkins, with Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle, Bronagh Gallagher and Andrew Strong. Artists were having success to the point where the Special features on DVD include, a music video for the song “Treat Her Right”. Many of the actors/artists went on to pursue various acting and musical careers.
To this day, most Americans who were influenced by Prince’s arrival, their first connection to him was though Purple Rain. The film and album was considered a masterpiece and sold 1.5 Million in its debut week in 1984.While only a modest success with North American audiences, The Commitments has since been regarded as a cult film, and one of the best Irish films ever made. The Commitments was present for a total of 76 weeks on the Billboard 200, and peaked at number 8.
Both these films created a mood and aura during 1980 -90’s where anything is possible it your take a chance, put the in the effort and let the movie going audience share you with society.