Professor P.D. Rushworth, Music Historian,
Dewey Bunnell of the 1970s rock group,
Wishin' on a falling star
Waitin' for the early train.
Sorry boy, but I've been hit by purple rain.
Aw, come on, joe, you can always
Change your name.
Thanks a lot, son, just the same.
Leading into this stanza we hear someone (the narrator) asking "Joe" how long he is going to stay in "this town". Joe says he has been "hit by purple rain". This could point to a wanderlust as some speculators have conjectured. However, this would beg the question, why would the narrator then tell Joe that he could always change his name? This implies that Joe is on the run, and the reason he is on the run has to do with purple rain. Some believe that "purple rain" in this case is a drug that makes the character too lazy to settle down in a place and consequently to work. This again seems unlikely (although a reference to "alligator lizards" in the air gives credence to this theory). It is more likely that Joe is not merely subject to the blues, and possibly have drug problems, but has legal difficulties he is loathe to face. In this sense, the "purple rain" may simply be a hail of personal problems that is too formidable to face.
Prince, Standing Out in the Rain
The term "purple rain" was brought to the fore by another, later, rock star. It is the name of the title song of his most popular album as well as the movie that was made about his life. The performer's name was "Prince" or at least this is the name he claimed for his early career. He changed it to a symbol and later reverted to "Prince". His full name (given at birth) was "Prince Rogers Nelson".
The Lyrics for "Purple Rain" are somewhat repetitive, but the first stanza runs:
I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time see you laughing
I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain
It would seem that in this case the "purple rain" has come to nearly the opposite meaning Bunnell implied in "
As unalike as the meanings for "purple rain" might be, the two songs have similarities in that they are both a wistful yearning for what might have been and a realization of the impossibility that the longed for condition could ever be. In fact, the narrator of both songs seems to be the one doing the longing. They want the other person to do something, something that other person seems positively unwilling to do.
Ultimately, it is unlikely that the