The music stopped, mid-song, and the opening strains of a different, more classic one began to play as the lights in the bar flicked on. And we high-fived, as though we had accomplished something.
We knew it was coming. Of course we knew, for all sorts of reasons. We knew because, two years ago, we discovered that bar played that song at closing time every night. We knew because we’d asked, ten minutes earlier, how long it would be. We stayed just to hear it, to feel like we’d done something right. Closing a bar on a Tuesday. Again.
It was purely by accident we’d discovered “Purple Rain” was this bar’s thing. Summer, 2013, the drinkingest part of my now almost four-year streak of drinking every day. Three weekdays in a row, we wound up there, by pure chance, or something resembling it. Three nights in a row, we closed the place down. The first, we expressed surprise and delight at the song playing as the lights came on. The next, we wondered, uncertain in a drunken haze—hadn’t this happened last night? The third, we caught on, and sang boisterously through the eight minute, 41-second tune.
Months later, drinking there once more, we spied some of the establishment’s bartenders in the next booth over, enjoying a beverage on their night off. After chatting for a while, we finally asked: Why “Purple Rain”? Their reply was a look of bewilderment.
It’s not that they didn’t understand the question, it’s that they didn’t understand why we would ask such a thing. Of course it was “Purple Rain.” Why would it be something else? It was as though we had questioned gravity or the presence of oxygen. “Purple Rain” is elemental.
But as we filed out of the bar, I felt underwhelmed. Pitchfork’s Greatest Song of the 1980s deserves better than to kick people out into a mildly chilly October night. Purple is a color of greatness, of royalty, the color a stained white coat was once destined to be, but never became. Tuesday was another night at the bar, before my friends went home to their girlfriends and I went home alone. Tuesday was a gray day, and the night was drizzly, at best.