Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“Purple Rain Drops” of Late ’65

The first “purple rain” musical reference, researchers at Zero to 180 assert, comes from Stevie Wonder — though to be fair, from the pen of Ted Hull.  Upon closer examination, “Purple Rain Drops,” after its conception in 1965, would go on to spend its entire adult life as a B-side, never to be included on a full-length record album:

“Purple Rain Drops”

Stevie Wonder (1965)

Produced by Clarence Paul (brother of Lowman Pauling from The “5” Royales), “Purple Rain Drops” graced the flip side of Wonder’s early hit, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” released exactly two years after President Kennedy’s assassination.


Stevie Wonder 45-US


Stevie Wonder 45-Canada


Stevie Wonder 45-UK


Stevie Wonder 45-Australia

“Purple Rain Drops” would get the picture sleeve treatment in France and Norway, but the award for most evocative sleeve design clearly belongs to the Netherlands:

Stevie Wonder Dutch picture sleeve

Thirty years later, “Purple Rain Drops” would appear on an “unofficial” Belgian CD release – Rare Tracks from Detroit, Vol. 4, issued in 1996 – fittingly, as the last song on the disc.

Detroit compilation CD

Reining In the Song’s Legacy

Three years after the song’s release in 1968, a Columbus, Ohio garage combo would take Purple Reign as its band name — did the Stevie Wonder B-side possibly serve as inspiration?

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