During the 1980s, while releasing arguably his most famous album, Purple Rain, it was never just Prince; it was Prince and the Revolution. Paired up with a tight band, the group started out as just session musicians for Prince’s live shows but were quickly adopted into the fold and into his writing and studio process.
But then, by the late ‘80s, the band had majorly fallen out, with Prince neglecting his musicians. It’s been a major question in music history, wondering what really went down between the icon and his band, what could possibly have caused such high tensions between a band that once seemed incredibly close-knit and musically powerful.
According to their keyboard player Matt Fink, known in the band as Dr Fink, the band had enjoyed a blissful experience before things turned sour. “He was always into hanging out with us when he could,” Fink told Sunset Sound Recorders, “when we would be on tour, he loved to hang with us. He’d do after-show parties with us or jam and play.”
Fink even said that the band were a vital part of Prince’s swiftly evolving, pioneering sound, with his job being to bring in the newest technology. “I was always in tune with the next thing coming out from the manufacturers. Whatever was brand new, I would introduce it to Prince,” Fink said, stating that between the band and Prince, they’d “decide to use it or not.”
“That’s how it kept evolving year to year,” Fink said of their ‘80s sound, developing album to album at a rapid pace thanks to new technology, “that was kind of my job, he wasn’t interested in that.”
But then, after the insane success of Purple Rain, both as an album and a film, things seemed to change. “He became more distant. He was busy all the time, so he didn’t have as much time for socialising,” Fink said of the years following 1984. Prince’s sudden fame changed the dynamics of the band, making it feel “more like a boss-employee kind of thing.”
By that definition, with Prince suddenly in a more prominent role as leader of the band, he could exercise the right to fire them. As tensions boiled over between Prince and Wendy and Lisa, his guitar and key player duo, things got nasty.
“That’s a story I don’t like to tell. I like to let the other members do that because it was so personal for them,” Dr Fink said. It’s been said before that Prince took to ignoring his original band, The Revolution, especially Wendy and Lisa, as he introduced more people and new instrumental sections into the group. The pair threatened to quit but were convinced to stay at first, promising more money and an improved relationship.
Then, at one particularly tense concert, Prince smashed up every guitar on the stage after a ‘Purple Rain’ encore, including the instruments owned by his bandmates. Wendy and Lisa looked at each other and knew it was over. Dr. Fink didn’t want this to be the end. “I never got caught in the middle of any of that stuff, all I could do was tell Prince, ‘I feel like you should break the band up at this point, I feel like it’s a mistake,’” he said of his own bargaining with the musician.
It didn’t work, with Fink adding, “I did my best to dissuade him. But he wasn’t having it. So at that time, he said, ‘I’m letting Wendy and Lisa and Bobby [their bassist, Bobby Z.] go now, I would understand if you wanted to leave, but I don’t want you to leave. I’m giving you the choice of staying or going.’”
Fink stayed in the band while the other members were fired, remaining in Prince’s band into the 1990s. Eventually, the original Revolution made up, and the initial lineup joined Prince in 2006 to perform at the BRITs. Following the artist’s death in 2016, the band announced they would be getting back together to keep Prince’s legacy alive. They continue to perform to this day.