Artist Doug Henders, who worked on the Purple Rain movie and tour, providing the Pierrot-like faces that adorned both The Kid’s basement and the stage set, as well as taping each live show for Prince’s later inspection, confesses that his cover painting for the gatefold sleeve was indeed inspired by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“Prince gave me a laundry list,” says Henders. “Old woman crying; a clown juggling the earth; a ladder going to heaven. So I could do it two ways: a collage or a surrealistic landscape, and [the latter] is what I chose, kind of a la Sgt. Pepper’s. I did that on the road, while I was on the Purple Rain tour. I would go early to the arena, arrange the stage, because a lot of the artwork was on the stage, set up my camera, shoot the show and the videos would go to him right after the show. Then he would have parties in his hotel suite in whatever city, and some people were prisoners and some people were guests. I ended up going back to my hotel room and painting all night long. After two weeks I got pretty burned out and I hired someone to take my place shooting video. I rented a hotel in Los Angeles and finished the painting. I made Prince’s management buy it an airline seat because we couldn’t trust them to put it below.” - RBMA Daily
For some of the images, Henders snapped Polaroid photos of Revolution band members and people close to the band. Then he slightly altered the face or real-life features for the painting. “Most of the figures on the cover are characters in the songs, but I think some of the people Prince wanted are parts of himself, so they’re all of a piece and somewhat autobiographical,” Henders explains. “The little puppy in the picture was added simply because Prince got himself a dog while on the road.” - Uptown Magazine
My primary job on the Purple Rain tour was shooting video of every show and stage decoration. About 6 months into a year long tour, Prince’s manager asked if I would be interested in doing his upcoming album cover. Yes. I was then given a handwritten list of subjects that Prince was interested in and told that another artist was chosen to do the cover but let’s see what I come up with. After painting the background on a 2’ x 4’ canvas in my hotel room and showing it to Prince, I got the job. Then I proceeded to do my night job of videotaping the shows in giant arenas filled with people wearing underwear as outerwear and then returned to my hotel room to paint with great discipline and maybe some mood elevators. With my new clout, I made management buy the painting an airplane seat when we flew, because…Prince. It took 2 months to complete in over a half-dozen cities when we landed for a week of shows in LA. It was there that I was told that Prince was very happy with the painting and instructed that a car would pick me up with the painting to present to Warner Brothers Records execs. Attending the meeting were his managers, the Revolution and Warner Bros suits in a room emptied of furniture. We all sat on the floor and Prince entered with his Dad dressed in matching purple satin jammies and bathrobes. My painting was positioned on an easel as we listened to Around the World in a Day for the first time. The execs looked at each other and said “cool” and that was that. Prince was in total control of a scene right out of a David Lynch film; equal parts control-out-of-control with a sprinkle of sweetness and freaky genius. I was the happy fly on the wall.
Prince kept mostly to himself, being a creative genius, constantly writing, performing and recording. It was a great ride going on tour for a year and doing 101 shows in 30 cities, during which time I painted the album cover … So, for me the artwork is very bound to the overall experience of being with a pop artist in his prime, being part of a phenomenon that touched many people personally, still to this day. - artist and designer Doug Henders, from the book “Put The Needle On The Record”