First Avenue

701 North 1st Avenue

Where Prince makes the film and recordings that made him a global super star

In 1984, Prince put First Avenue on the map. That was the year that his film, Purple Rain, was released. The movie used First Avenue as a backdrop and a shooting location. From that point forward, the club and the musician would be linked in the public imagination.

First Avenue is housed in an Art Deco-style building was originally constructed as a Greyhound bus depot in 1937. The bus station closed in 1968, reopening two years later as a musical venue and club called The Depot. The club was renamed Uncle Sam's in 1972 and then became just Sam's. It featured disco and DJs, as well as live local and national acts. It became First Avenue at the end of 1981.

When Prince was emerging as a musician, it was still very difficult for African-American performers to headline at downtown clubs in Minneapolis. Prince was one of the first musicians to break this barrier. He performed at First Avenue on March 9, 1981 for the Dirty Mind tour.

In 1983, Prince and The Revolution recorded portions of the Purple Rain soundtrack ("Purple Rain," "Baby I'm a Star," and "I Would Die 4 U") during a live performance at First Avenue. This was the first Prince album to include substantive contributions from the band.

Purple Rain made First Avenue iconic. The club served as a shooting location for over 50 percent of the movie.

First Avenue's well-known association with Prince continues to attract musicians of every sort and makes it one of the most famous performance spaces in the world.

Images

Poster advertising Prince's first performance at Sam's in 1981. The nightclub would become First Avenue later that year.

Poster advertising Prince's first performance at Sam's in 1981. The nightclub would become First Avenue later that year.

Source: Photo credit: Hennepin History Museum, Minneapolis, MN. View File Details Page

Poster advertising Prince's first performance at Sam's in 1981. Note the teasers for other acts. The Replacements performed one night after Prince. And one month later, U2 took the stage at the venue that became First Avenue. <br /><br />

Poster advertising Prince's first performance at Sam's in 1981. Note the teasers for other acts. The Replacements performed one night after Prince. And one month later, U2 took the stage at the venue that became First Avenue.

Source: Photo credit: Hennepin History Museum, Minneapolis, MN. View File Details Page

Poster advertising Sign “O” The Times promo party at First Avenue, November 14, 1986

Poster advertising Sign “O” The Times promo party at First Avenue, November 14, 1986

Poster advertising Sign “O” The Times promo party at First Avenue, November 14, 1986 | Source: Photo credit: Hennepin History Museum, Minneapolis, MN. View File Details Page

Prince�&#8482;s “star”, exterior of First Avenue, 2018.

Prince™s “star”, exterior of First Avenue, 2018.

Prince™s “star”, exterior of First Avenue. His is the only one in gold. | Source: Dom Puglisi, Diamond and Pearls Photography, 2018. | Creator: Dom Puglisi. View File Details Page

Greyhound Bus Depot, late 1930s

Greyhound Bus Depot, late 1930s

Greyhound Bus Depot, late 1930s. After operating here from 1937-1968, Greyhound moved to a new location and the building was converted into a music venue, The Depot, in 1970. It was renamed Uncle Sam™s, then Sam™s, and finally First Avenue on December 31, 1981. | Source: Photo credit: Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis, MN. View File Details Page

First Avenue exterior, 2018.

First Avenue exterior, 2018.

First Avenue exterior. | Source: Photo credit: Dom Puglisi, Diamonds and Pearls Photography, 2018. | Creator: Dom Puglisi. View File Details Page

Purple Rain star, interior of First Avenue, 2018.

Purple Rain star, interior of First Avenue, 2018.

Purple Rain star, interior of First Avenue. While the exterior is covered with numerous artists™ stars, there are only two stars inside—one for Joe Cocker, the first musician to perform in the newly converted music venue The Depot in 1970; and one for the movie Purple Rain, since over half the film was shot here and three key songs were recorded live by Prince and The Revolution (“Purple Rain”, “Baby I™m A Star” and “I Would Die 4 U”). | Source: Photo credit: Dom Puglisi, Diamonds and Pearls Photography, 2018. | Creator: Dom Puglisi. View File Details Page

First Avenue stage, 2018.

First Avenue stage, 2018.

First Avenue stage. Prince performed in this venue many times throughout his career, and filmed his most famous movie and recorded the title song, Purple Rain, here. | Source: Photo credit: Dom Puglisi, Diamond and Pearls Photography, 2018. | Creator: Dom Puglisi. View File Details Page

Upper level box, First Avenue, 2018.

Upper level box, First Avenue, 2018.

Upper level box, First Avenue. Prince often sat here to watch performances or the crowd™s reactions to his songs. | Source: Photo credit: Dom Puglisi, Diamonds and Pearls Photography, 2018. | Creator: Dom Puglisi. View File Details Page

Soundboard tapes from a Prince and The Revolution show at First Avenue, 2018.

Soundboard tapes from a Prince and The Revolution show at First Avenue, 2018.

Soundboard tapes from a Prince and The Revolution show at First Avenue. | Source: Photo credit: Dom Puglisi, Diamond and Pearls Photography, 2018. | Creator: Dom Puglisi. View File Details Page

Graffiti on door between garage and First Avenue Mainroom, 2018.

Graffiti on door between garage and First Avenue Mainroom, 2018.

Graffiti on door between garage and First Avenue Mainroom. The graffiti commemorates the last time Prince played the venue he made world famous. | Source: Photo credit: Dom Puglisi, Diamond and Pearls Photography, 2018. | Creator: Dom Puglisi. View File Details Page

Street Address:

701 North 1st Avenue [map]

Cite this Page:

Kirsten Delegard, Michael Lansing and Kristen Zschomler, “First Avenue,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed December 14, 2018, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/40.

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