Four Classic Prince Songs Re-Imagined as Pulp Fiction Covers: When Doves Cry, Little Red Corvette & More

There’s a book-lined Knowl­edge Room in the late Prince Rogers Nel­son’s Pais­ley Park, but the Prince-inspired faux-books that artist Todd Alcott imag­ines are prob­a­bly bet­ter suit­ed to the estate’s pur­ple-lit Relax­ation Room.

The Knowl­edge Room was con­ceived of as a library where the world’s most famous con­vert to Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es could delve into reli­gious lit­er­a­ture, reflect on the mean­ing of life, and study the Bible deep into the night.

Alcott’s cov­ers harken to an ear­li­er stage in Prince’s evolution—one the star even­tu­al­ly disavowed—as well as sev­er­al bygone eras of book design.

Lyri­cal­ly, there’s no mis­tak­ing what Prince’s noto­ri­ous 1984 “Dar­ling Nik­ki” is about. There’s a direct line between it and the cre­ation of parental advi­so­ry stick­ers for musi­cal releas­es con­tain­ing what is polite­ly referred to as “mature con­tent.”

Alcott’s 1950s pulp nov­el treat­ment, above, is sim­i­lar­ly graph­ic. Those skintight pur­ple curves are a promise that even pur­pler prose lays with­in, or would, were there any text couched behind that steamy cov­er.

When Doves Cry” makes for a pret­ty pur­ple cov­er, too. In this case, the inspi­ra­tion is a 1950s self-help book, enriched with some Freudi­an taglines from Prince’s own pen. (“Maybe you’re just like my moth­er, she’s nev­er sat­is­fied.”)

Alcott remem­bers Prince being “an incred­i­bly lib­er­at­ing fig­ure” when he burst onto the scene:

There was his flam­boy­ant, out­ra­geous sex­u­al­i­ty, but also his musi­cal omniv­o­rous­ness; he played funk, rock, pop, jazz, every­thing. Pur­ple Rain was the Sergeant Pepper’s of its day, a wall-to-wall bril­liant album that every­one could rec­og­nize as a remark­able achieve­ment. I remem­ber when I first saw Pur­ple Rain, at the very begin­ning of the movie, before the movie has even begun, the Warn­er Bros logo came up and you heard the sound of an expec­tant crowd, and an announc­er says “Ladies and Gen­tle­men, The Rev­o­lu­tion,” and the first shot is of Prince, back­lit, sil­hou­et­ted in pur­ple against a dense mist, and he says “Dear­ly beloved, we have gath­ered here today to get through this thing called life.” And I was instant­ly, incon­tro­vert­ibly, a fan for life. The con­fi­dence of that open­ing, the sheer audac­i­ty of it, adopt­ing the tone of a priest at a wed­ding, in his Hen­drix out­fit and hair­do, the sheer gutsi­ness of that state­ment, alone, just blew me away. And then he pro­ceed­ed to play “Let’s Go Crazy” which com­plete­ly lived up to that open­ing. After that he could have run Buick ads for the rest of the movie and I’d still be a fan.

Decades lat­er, I was sit­ting in a Sub­way restau­rant at the end of a very, very long, tir­ing day, and was feel­ing com­plete­ly exhaust­ed and mis­er­able, and out of nowhere, “When Doves Cry” came on the sound sys­tem. And I was remind­ed that the song, which was a huge hit in 1984, the song of the year, had no bass line. The arrange­ment of it made no sense. It was a song put togeth­er by force of will, with its met­al gui­tar and its synth strings and its elec­tron­ic drums. And in that moment, at the end of a long, tir­ing day, I was remind­ed that mir­a­cles are pos­si­ble.

Alcott’s mirac­u­lous graph­ic trans­for­ma­tions are round­ed out with a com­par­a­tive­ly under­stat­ed 1930s mur­der mys­tery, Pur­ple Rain and an inge­nious Lit­tle Red Corvette owner’s man­u­al dat­ing to the mid-60s. Prints of Todd Alcott’s Prince-inspired paper­back cov­ers are avail­able in his Etsy shop.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Prince (RIP) Per­forms Ear­ly Hits in a 1982 Con­cert: “Con­tro­ver­sy,” “I Wan­na Be Your Lover” & More

Clas­sic Songs Re-Imag­ined as Vin­tage Book Cov­ers Dur­ing Our Trou­bled Times: “Under Pres­sure,” “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” “Shel­ter from the Storm” & More

Clas­sic Radio­head Songs Re-Imag­ined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fic­tion Mag­a­zine & Oth­er Nos­tal­gic Arti­facts

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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