“Dream if you can a courtyard
An ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat, the heat between me and you
How can you just leave me standing
Alone in a world that’s so cold?
Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe I’m just like my mother
She’s never satisfied
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like when doves cry”
Written by Prince
Produced by Prince
Taken from the album Purple Rain
Also released on The Hits 1, The Hits/The B-Sides, The Very Best Of Prince and Ultimate Prince
US #1, AUS #1, UK #4
There are few sounds in the history of pop music more thrilling than the wailing guitar that opens ‘When Doves Cry’. As the bassless beat kicks in, the listener has begun a journey into a deep, fascinating new world based on secret desires and raw, undiscoverd sexuality. I might go so far as to name ‘When Doves Cry’ the hottest song ever recorded, not because it’s explicit but because it represents the more important concept of sexual freedom.
The chorus is probably the strongest of all time – and I say that while acknowledging the top three and paying them respect – but I’m afraid chorus-wise it just doesn’t get better than this. “How could you just leave me standing, alone in a world that’s so cold?”, Prince asks us, before having an internal conversation about what made him the way he is. “Why do we scream at each other?” is his next big question, one that has haunted many relationships over the years, I’m sure. “This is what it sounds like, when doves cry” – doves represent peace, and when that peace is broken, so are they. Fairly straightforward, yet open for interpretation, the upfront clarity of the song makes for rewarding repeated listening, as we peel the layers away and discover new meanings.
Whilst the radio edit isn’t exactly a hack job, it is always advisable to listen to the album version wherever possible. This is mostly because the edit cuts out the jaw-dropping extended instrumental section towards the end, in which Prince’s voice melds with the instruments and becomes a giant, mixed-up orgy of drums and vocals and all sorts of other beautiful sounds. There’s even a synthesizer solo. You won’t find many phrases that inspire the joy in my heart that “synthesizer solo” does. An epic in the true sense of the word, when we look back on it now, how could ‘When Doves Cry’ not have been the highest selling single of 1984, and indeed one of the most universally acclaimed songs of the decade?