His Purple Highness released a new album (again), and I have a new favorite Prince song as a result – except it’s not so new, it’s actually 33 years old!

Prince, circa 1984.

A few weeks back, Prince’s estate re-released his biggest album, Purple Rain, in a special 35-song deluxe version, aptly titled Purple Rain Deluxe (From the Vault & Previously Unreleased).  In its CD form, the album is a 4-disc set consisting of the nine original tracks on one disc – in their original album lengths – followed by unreleased tracks, B-sides, edited 7-inch single versions and rare 12-inch extended versions.

Plus one particularly long version of a song from the original album, which was neither released as a 7-inch single, a 12-inch or a B-side back then.  In fact, it was largely viewed by mainstream outlets as the most throwaway track on Purple Rain when the album was spewing out radio hits left and right in 1984-85 (although many diehard Prince fans consider the tune a masterpiece).

That song was “Computer Blue.”

Prince & the Revolution performing “Computer Blue” in a scene from Purple Rain (1984).

As recently as last year, after Prince’s untimely death, I ranked his 57 Greatest Songs (in honor of each year he lived).  The song “Computer Blue” barely made the list, ranking at No. 52 – the lowest of the nine Purple Rain songs, all of which made the list.

For last year’s tribute countdown, I wrote the following about “Computer Blue,” in admittedly mocking fashion:

The song with only one verse, one chorus and (the) suggestive dialogue (between Revolution band mates Wendy and Lisa) to start things off…

“Wendy? Yes, Lisa…”

Boy oh boy, was I wrong.

But then I had never heard this hot-as-fire, 12-minute, 19-second monster jam that is “Computer Blue, (the Hallway Speech version).”   Hell, none of us had.

In its originally released form, the 3:59 shortened track was squeezed between “The Beautiful Ones” and “Darling Nikki” as tracks 3, 4 and 5 on side A of the landmark soundtrack album.  According to the website princevault.com, “Computer Blue” actually clocked in at 14 minutes originally, but it was pared down to its shortest length to make room for another Purple Rain song for the final track list, specifically “Take Me With U,” just a couple of months before the album’s release in June 1984.

As we’ve known it for more than three decades, “Computer Blue” was less than four minutes of pure unadulterated Prince funk – stellar in its own right, yes, but next to the eight other classics on Purple Rain, “Computer Blue” was largely overshadowed, even considered by some to be filler – although being filler material on a Prince album, especially one of the biggest soundtrack LPs of all time, was nothing to sneeze at.

In fact, I really dug “Computer Blue” in 1984 just as I have ever since.  I usually cranked it up loud when I played it and never thought of it as a bad song.

But where has THIS version been the past 33 years of my life… the version that adds nearly eight and a half minutes of badass funk to the original and, in the process, reveals one of rock and roll’s best kept musical secrets?!

Oh, and don’t go calling it a remix.  A remix is something you do to a song to make it almost unrecognizable from its original version.  This here is a pure, extended “Computer Blue,” the way it was originally intended… well, maybe minus those two additional minutes reportedly in existence, according to various sources.

In this 12-plus minute version, there are no annoying loops of certain musical bars on repeat.  No added drum machines or dubbed-in instruments.  No tempo changes that convert it from its original form to, say, a 2010s EDM track.

No, this is all original “Computer Blue,” just longer – and far more exciting!

Oh and remember all that talk earlier about there just being one verse and chorus in the previously released version?

Well, forget that…there are two of each here (maybe more if you count all the ad-libbed vocals near the end).  And the never-before-heard second verse gives the song more of a traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure in the beginning, making this listener wonder why that second verse, at the very least, wasn’t included in the album’s original release.

And after Prince & The Revolution complete the more traditional 2-verse/chorus song structure about two and a half minutes in, well… that’s when the real rock and roll fun begins for “Computer Blue (“Hallway Speech Version).”

The CD version of Purple Rain Deluxe includes rare versions of Prince’s classics from the original album.

That familiar first instrumental break is there – just longer – reinforcing the opinion that the sound engineers did one heck of a job back in 1984 while editing it down to the familiar short version to which we’ve all been accustomed.  Its amazing to think that they could cut a 12-minute song down to less than a third that size so seamlessly, especially with so much going on in it.

For nearly two minutes in the early going, Prince lays into his guitar while The Revolution plays its instruments around him.  Then he yields to two female voices at the 5:57 mark – presumably those of Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman.

They deliver a deadpan rendering of the following lyrics in spoken-word fashion: “Poor lonely computer, it’s time someone programmed U.  It’s time U learned, love and lust – they both have 4 letters, but they’re entirely different words.  Poor lonely computer, do U really know what love is?”

Their delivery is drone-like and effective, conjuring up memories of those twin girls in “The Shining.”

Only after hearing them do you really begin to understand and appreciate all the relationship angst that likely led to Prince’s “Computer Blue.”

But that angst is confirmed in the “Hallway Conversation” that Prince then engages in just past the halfway point, where he speaks of a house with many halls, which the artist gives various names, “lust,” “fear” and “insecurity” among them.

This notion is reinforced later, at the 8:56 mark, when Prince sings: “I’m on the verge of a breakdown, what is life without love?” as this long jam session works itself to a frenzy.  Then, the music seems to quiet itself as if to make way for his answer, which he screams, “It’s hell, Computer Blue!”

It couldn’t get much better, but it does.  It disguises as a party jam, with chants of “na, na, na, na, na!”  But this clearly is Prince at his most conflicted, about heavy topics like love and religion.

The long jam session rumbles on, and near the end, a lot of things seem to be happening at once.  Prince asks in one segment: “Shouldn’t I go to church on Sunday?  Shouldn’t I stay home and pray?  Shouldn’t I try to make her happy?  Shouldn’t I try to make her stay?”  He also sneaks in a bit of his opening line (“where is my love life?”) while shrieks and yowls happen all around him.

Then those overdubbed, deadpan female vocals return for their final lecture, sounding much more vulnerable than they did when they opened the song in dominatrix-like fashion with their “Yes, Lisa” dialogue.  Now they’re back to let the protagonist (Prince) know metaphorically: “women are not butterflies, we’re computers too, just like U, Computer Blue.”  Then they take this opportunity once more before the song returns to the familiar guitar-driven riff that ended the original.

By now it’s 11 minutes in, and there’s still over a minute of track time left.  It becomes clear at about the 11:08 mark – when most listeners would be expecting the abruptly clipped ending of Prince’s screeching guitar to segue into the intro for “Darling Nikki,” yet it doesn’t happen – that there is still more to this story.

In this case, it’s the continued howls and shrieks of a distorted guitar and Prince himself that carry the last minute and change of “Computer Blue.”  (Reportedly, this goes on for about three minutes in the 14-minute version.)

And for this release, without the outdated confines of limited vinyl album space, there will be no abruptly timed “Darling Nikki” interruption, just the long electric guitar fade that is Prince showing the world why he was considered one of rock’s greatest legends – even if no one (Prince included) really knew it at the time.

Prince fans, I think we found the Righteous 1…

“Computer Blue.”

The “Hallway Speech” version, that is.


p.s.  Prince’s Purple Rain Deluxe album is available in stores and on streaming services like TIDAL, Apple Music and Spotify.  If you have a paid Spotify subscription, you may be able to access “Computer Blue (Hallway Speech version)” here.  Although with Prince and his estate, there are no guarantees.

The album’s re-release propelled it back up to No. 4 on the Billboard chart in July 2017.

By DJ Rob

13 thoughts on “Just When You Thought Prince Couldn’t Out-Do Himself…He Unleashed Music’s Best Kept Secret.”
    1. Thanks, Zakia! Did you read my other Prince articles? You can sign up for free notifications on the home page – Prince gets lots of love here.

  1. I have to first admit to you that growing up I was no Prince fan. Sure I liked some of his music and who can deny how infectious some of his Monster hits were especially around the Purple Rain era. With that being said, I heard the version of Computer Blue as well as several other unreleased tracks including one called Wonderful Ass. I must say that I was blown away and I still can’t understand why these tracks have been vaulted all of these years. Every song I heard had the word HIT written all over it. Thank you for your descriptive details of this unreleased version of Computer Blue. Your passion for the song and Prince’s art is palpable and makes me want to listen to the unreleased tracks all over again.

  2. I’m not sure how I came across it, but I’ve had a copy of the hallway version of Computer Blue for over 20 years. I was glad it made it on the re-release and glad everyone else now has it in their collection as well.

  3. This was a really good article. Computer Blue for me wasn’t the worst track on the album. In fact, Take Me With U, always came off as the ultimate filler song on that album because the movie was part love story and it felt as if it was thrown in there to give Apollonia a chance to add her voice to the film. Like you I turned it up anyway because it’s such a classic album and the song brings you back to the scenes of the movie. To be honest this version of computer blue has been circling around for quite some time especially if you were part of the whole Napster craze at the very beginning. There are a number of songs that I pirated … yes I know pirating is wrong but when you’re poor but the collectors taste hey what can you do… in those early days of Napster. I was not concerned with what was new or hot at the moment I was trying to fill empty holes in collections that I had, namely the Prince collection/catalog. On Napster this was simply labeled “Segue scene do you have a girlfriend.”

    1. Thanks for the enlightenment! I figured it was probably out there before in bootleg circles. Still, I’m just discovering it (late) by virtue of a legitimate release (lol). I’m a long-version slut when it comes to certain jams, so this was just right up my alley! Thanks for reading, Mark! Feel free to sign up for free email notifications of other articles when they’re posted.

  4. fabulous review. i ordered the cd (didnt know it would be in stores) and only watched the concert dvd and played the unreleased/b-sides disc in the car on the way to work one day. Computer Blue flat out blew me away!!! always loved the lp version, thought it was a great driving song through the canyons were i grew up. this version is unbelievable. would have completely destroyed everything else on purple rain lp had it been including as recorded. thanks for writing this!

    1. You’re absolutely right, gdub520! Clearly now the best song on “Purple Rain,” and a great example of how sometimes labels make poor decisions regarding which songs and which versions to include and/or release. Thanks for the feedback and feel free to register for notifications of more articles.

  5. THIS article, as well as the links to the unheard music is like a BONUS birthday gift! I am IN LOVE with the ” Hallway Version” of Computer Blue…man!! Whew!!!
    SUPERB job here, DJ ROB!!

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