It is somehow already four years to the day since Prince left us so, here at Far Out HQ, we are going to pay tribute to the pioneering genius of The Purple One by going back to 1983 to look at the story behind ‘Little Red Corvette’ and remember the first time the man in purple made the Billboard Top 10.
The story behind the track is just as amazing as the song itself which. Famously, ‘Little Red Corvette’ helped lay the foundations for Prince to be the superstar who would become over the next 30 years, dominating and re-inventing the wheel of pop music which, quite hilariously, all began with a gentle nap.
Legend has it that the song’s origin was birthed when Prince came up with the opening lines “I guess I should have known, by the way, you parked your car sideways, that it wouldn’t last”—after he fell asleep in the back of a car owned by his keyboard player Lisa Coleman.
Coleman spoke with the BBC years later to shed some light on what it was like being in Prince’s band during the formative years, providing light on whether the story behind the classic track was fact or fiction: “Well… I guess,” she said. “He was ‘sleeping’ with someone we knew called Denise Matthews [aka Vanity] and she was ‘sleeping’ in the back of the car, too. I even found some of her hair wrapped around the handle that winds the window down.”
The keyboardist, unfortunately, went on to debunk one myth surrounding the vehicle that provided Prince with inspiration for the track, adding: “So I imagine they were making out, or doing whatever, in the back seat and they probably had a wonderful moment of afterglow, which is when he got the seed of the idea… But it’s not a red Corvette, it’s a pink Mercury!”
‘Little Pink Mercury’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as ‘Little Red Corvette’ so Prince made the executive decision to falsify the car branding. However, it was but that pink Mercury was one that he remained totally enamoured with, as Coleman reminisced: “Prince was always borrowing my car because it was awesome. It was a ’64 Mercury Montclair, pink and white, and it was just the perfect cruise-mobile on a beautiful day in Minneapolis.”
She continued: “He actually put a couple of dents in it because it was so big. He’d come up to me and mumble, ‘Hey Lisa, sorry about your car’. So I’d run out to inspect the damage and there’d be a little dent with some yellow paint from a pole he’d reversed into, and I’d go, ‘Damn it. Watch where you’re going!'”
The track would, of course, go on to inspire Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks to create ‘Stand Back’. On the day of her wedding, Nicks and her new husband Kim Anderson were driving North to Santa Barbara for their honeymoon when she first heard ‘Little Red Corvette’ then, whilst humming to the track, she wrote ‘Stand Back’ on that day.
When Nicks went to record the track, she phoned Prince to tell him the story behind her inspiration and, as quick as a flash, he appeared like magic at the studio. Nicks later told Timothy White that he “walked over to the synthesizers that were set up, was absolutely brilliant for about 25 minutes and then left. He spoiled me for every band I’ve ever had because nobody can exactly recreate—not even with two piano players—what Prince did all by his little self.”
Enjoy Prince performing ‘Little Red Corvette’ in all of it’s glory, below.