35 Years ago today the second The Time album What Time Is It? was released. Coming two weeks after the Vanity 6 album, this was the second album containing Prince material in 1982. A double-album was to follow the same year (1999). What Time Is It?‘s release is the cause for this story on The Time, the most beloved, and probably most popular, satellite act by Prince.
Solo work and solo careers by The Time members are also included in this story.
Grand Central / Flyte Tyme
The Time frontman Morris Day and Prince go way back. When Prince was still in high-school, he had his own band, Grand Central. Morris Day was the band’s drummer. Grand Central’s big rival was Flyte Tyme. Also a very talented band, of which, among others, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were members. In Minneapolis, competition among the bands was fierce. There were many talent-shows, where money could be made. Despite the talent of Prince being very obvious to everyone, Flyte Tyme was frequently declared winner of these battles. Many of the musicians / groups of that era are part of the great compilation album Purple Snow – Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound (released on December 3rd 2013).
The story goes that Morris Day wrote the song, of the groove to it, Partyup and Prince wanted it for his Dirty Mind album. In exchange for the rights to the song, Prince would get Morris Day a recording deal and form a band.
Based on a special clause in Prince’s contract with Warner Bros. Records, Prince could deliver The Time and have a contract made up. The clause enabled Prince to acquire artists and produce them for the label. In 1981 he had built The Time: Jellybean Johnson on drums, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keyboards, Terry Lewis on bass and Morris Day as singer. A guitarist was found in Jesse Johnson, the only one to not hail from Minneapolis. Alexander O’ Neal was asked to do the vocals, but he insisted on seeing money upfront, so no Alexander O’ Neal.
The Time project gave Prince the opportunity to attend to his funk roots. On his own albums he concentrated more and more on ‘higher’ concepts, but the funky party music still needed an outlet. The idea behind The Time was that the band consisted of ‘pimps’, (materialist) boasters with an inflated ego and (lots of) humor.
With The Time Prince created his own competition, because that was, in his own words, what was lacking. He wanted a provocative group/artist to ‘fight’ (against). The irony being, of course, that the competition was Prince himself. However, The Time consisted of top musicians in their own right and, particularly at concerts, as a support-act to Prince, The Time was at times welcomed with more enthusiasm than the main act. Within a year after forming the band had proven itself to be one of the most exciting live-acts in the USA. All drill-sessions Prince imposed on The Time paid off .
The musicians had become even better and more complete and their show was very good and funny. Morris Day had developed his own unique way of presenting himself. Everything evolved around the radiating center-point of the universe: the über cool Morris Day. The tight choreography in combination with the newly recruited Jerome Benton, who acted as bodyguard and valet, who held up a mirror to Morris Day on stage, didn’t miss their mark. The Time became ever more popular. In some cities Prince feared being upstaged by The Time, and they were consequentially scrapped from the show.
Frustration about Prince’s tight control over the band, that consisted top musicians in itself, ultimately imploded The Time.
Hereby, I give you the story of Prince’s own Frankenstein monster, album by album.
Album: The Time
Before The Time had been assembled their debut album was already done. All songs were initially recorded with Prince’s guide vocals (lyrics sung by Prince, intended to be followed exactly by Morris Day). And so it was done. The rest was done by Prince himself, from the writing to the performing to the production. The production is accredited to Jamie Starr, one of the many Prince pseudonyms.
On July 29th, 1981 the debut album The Time was released.
All songs composed by Prince (unless stated otherwise).
- Get It Up
- After Hi School *
- Oh, Baby
- The Stick ***
|*||Composed by Dez Dickerson|
|**||Composed by Prince and Dez Dickerson|
|***||Composed by Prince and Lisa Coleman|
Three singles were culled from the album: Get It Up, Cool and Girl.
The album album is, especially considering it is a debut, very strong. With Get It Up, Cool and The Stick the album contains a number of classics within Prince’s body of work. The album has some long funk pieces (Cool lasts more than 10 minutes) and has strong melodies.
The lyrics are funny and point forward to the Morris Day character that was to perfected on the next album. Particularly the song Cool has a number of classic lines (preceding the blingrap of the mid 1980’s):
I got a penthouse in Manhattan
Two more in Malibu
I bought a ’87’s Cadillac Seville, girl
I got a Mazarati too
I wear diamonds on my fingers
I got a couple on my toes
I wear the finest perfume money can buy
It keeps me smellin’ like a rose
If you wonder how I do it
There’s just one simple rule
I’m just cool, oh, oh, honey
Baby, can’t you see?
Girl, I’m so cool
Ain’t nobody bad like me?
What’s that spell? C-O-O-L
When I look into the mirror
It just tells me something I already know
I’m so cool
The song ends with a call and response between Morris Day and the (resty of the) band, which whipped up audiences during live-shows:
Anybody hot? NO
You know why? WHY?
‘Cause we’re cool! COOL!
© Cool, Prince & Dez Dickerson, 1981
The Time was pushed to the limit by Prince to present itself as good as humanly possible live (the show has got to be better than the album). Jimmy Jam in particular has great stories about the endless rehearsals and choreography demands, adding to that that no-one worked harder than Prince himself. Because all band members were already established musicians, The Time was soon a band to be reckoned with. The band improved every day and was taken on the road by Prince on his Controversy tour, at the end of 1981/early 1982.
Album: What Time Is It?
The second album was made in a similar fashion as the first one. All was, once again, written, performed and produced by Prince. Only Morris Day had a job to do: re-doing Prince’s guide vocals.
Half of the album was recorded in January of 1982 and the remaining half in May/June of 1982. Vanity appears in a skit in the song The Walk.
What Time Is It? was released on August 25th, 1982.
- Wild And Loose *
- 777-9311 **
- Onedayi’mgonnabesomebody ***
- The Walk ***
- Gigolos Get Lonely Too **
- I Don’t Wanna Leave You ***
|*||Composed by Prince (as Jamie Starr) and Dez Dickerson (accredited to The Time)|
|**||Composed by Prince (as Jamie Starr) (accredited to Morris Day)|
|***||Composed by Prince (as Jamie Starr) (accredited to The Time)|
Three singles were culled from the album: 777-9311, The Walk and Gigolos Get Lonely Too.
The single 777-9311 contained the B-side Grace, reflecting a fictitious interview, where Morris Day insists on calling the (female) interviewer Grace (portrayed by Jill Jones), instead of her real name.
The second The Time album is a superb album. All songs are strong compositions and are perfectly executed. The highlights are Wild And Loose, 777-9311 (superb guitarwork) and The Walk. The album contains a number of skits, which are very funny. On this album Morris Day’s bravura reaches its pinnacle and the Morris Day character, as leader of The Time, is perfected. An album I play very regularly. One of the (many) highlights in Prince’s and The Time’s body of work.
777-9311 has been a regular at Prince rehearsals and aftershows and was used to ascertain the drummer’s prowess. The song’s poly-rhythm was effortlessly played by Michael Bland and (master drummer) John Blackwell. An impressive sight.
The song The Walk contains a skit with Morris Day and Vanity. Vanity want to go home. Morris thinks that’s because she’s not dressed properly. Morris persuades her to wear some lingerie. But first her jeans have got to come off. Eventually they come off, but heavy pulling is needed:
Mary, sweet mother Jesus!
I told you
Damn baby, how’d you get all that in them jeans?
It wasn’t easy
I know that’s right, mmm! Well, I think you’d be more comfortable in this
I’m sure I would. I don’t know
Hurry up Grace, song’s almost over
My name’s not Grace
I know that, but hurry up… Grace
Man, these are weird. I guess the tag goes in the back
OK, OK, how do I look?
Almost as good as me, now let’s go!
© The Walk, Prince, 1982
This album was also heavily promoted in a live setting as a support act to Prince’s 1999 tour. The tour is also known as the Triple Threat Tour, because the bill was made up of Vanity 6, The Time and (the closer) Prince. During the tour The Time performed the music to Vanity 6’s set behind a curtain.
Once again The Time was a threat: their show was even tighter, better and more entertaining than the previous year. The addition of Jerome Benton worked out great in humorous interactions, like dances and the familiar mirror being brought to the stage. The valet role was perfectly played by Jerome Benton. Supplemented with the top musicians, which was The Time, resulted in an irresistible show. And, once again, The Time was, at times, cut from the bill.
In December of 1982, during a day off from the tour, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis flew to Atlanta for some production work for, among others, the S.O.S. Band. They had done this before, without Prince’s knowledge. However, on the way back there was a snow-storm (which hadn’t happened in Atlanta in over 30 years) and they were too late to make it to the next The Time show. At that particular show Prince did the bass parts and Lisa Coleman the keyboard parts. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were fined and, after the Triple Threat Tour, fired from The Time, shortly thereafter followed by the voluntary exit of Monte Moir. The original line-up of The Time was no more.
In the 1985 version of the song Old Friends 4 Sale (which was never released) this episode is referenced: The sun set in my heart this afternoon / 4 2 friends of mine got stuck in the snow.
Album: Ice Cream Castle
The departure of Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Monte Moir was compensated by their replacements: St. Paul Peterson, Mark Cardenas and Jerry Hubbard.
The third album turned out to be their most successful. It rode the wave of the enormous success of Purple Rain. This album was also largely composed by Prince. However, besides Morris Day, Jesse Johnson was granted more freedom too, and the band itself was heard on (live) recordings.
The Time received a lot of attention for their role in the movie Purple Rain. The acting of Jerome Benton and, particularly, Morris Day were praised a lot. Especially, the What’s The Password sketch is very funny and exemplified the perfect timing between Benton and Day. The Time became even more popular as a consequence.
Ice Cream Castle was released on July 9th, 1984.
All songs written by Prince (using the pseudonym Jamie Starr), accredited to Morris Day, unless stated otherwise.
- Ice Cream Castles *
- My Drawers
- Chili Sauce
- Jungle Love **
- If The Kid Can’t Make You Come
- The Bird ***
|*||Composed by Prince (as Jamie Starr) and Morris Day (accredited to Morris Day)|
|**||Composed by Prince (as Jamie Starr), Jesse Johnson and Morris Day (accredited to Morris Day and Jesse Johnson)|
|***||Composed by Prince (as Jamie Starr), Jesse Johnson and Morris Day (accredited to Morris Day)|
Three singles were culled from the album: Ice Cream Castles, Jungle Love and The Bird.
The B-side to the single Jungle Love was Tricky. A funky work-out, on which Prince raps/sings and the drums are played by Morris Day. The song is about a has-been artist, who is directly addressed: It’s time for you to … It’s time for you to retire. I have read somewhere that the song is addressed to Morris Day (as ‘pay-back’ for leaving The Time), but that is incorrect. It is believed to be about George Clinton, but this remains unconfirmed.
By the way, in 1988 Prince offered George Clinton a contract for releasing an album on the Paisley Park label and paid off Clinton’s tax-debts.
Up until then the most popular album by The Time, but it’s also the weakest. Jungle Love, The Bird and My Drawers are fine songs, but it lacks the real drive. It’s all a bit pale. Also, the album contains two weak songs. During that time the best material was not delegated to The Time anymore, but, instead, went to Sheila E.
Because The Time played a part in the movie Purple Rain the tightness of a The Time show was put on tape. Jesse Johnson’s guitar can be heard in the movie, and that’s a treat.
But things were not right (anymore). Dissatisfied about the role the band had itself, the dismissal of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and the desire to go solo, led to the disbanding of The Time. The break-up of The Time was publicly announced after the Purple Rain movie premiere.
Album: Corporate World
In 1987 the original The Time, without Monte Moir, reconvened at the Minnesota Black Musicians Awards. The show was a huge success. In 1989, one and a half year later, a new cooperation started between Morris Day and Prince for a new The Time album: Corporate World. Despite the fact that the songs were recorded in the old-fashioned way (by Prince en Morris Day alone), without the intent of involving the rest of the band, the album was to be released under the moniker The Time.
Eleven songs were recorded and the album was offered to Warner Bros. with a proposed release date of November 14th, 1989, and the suggested first single Nine Lives. However, Warner Bros. stopped the release. They requested the rest of the (original) band to be included.
After a meeting with Prince, the original members decided to take part in the project and Corporate World slowly faded into the background. Of the eleven songs, three were placed on Pandemonium, the fourth official The Time album, four songs were put on the 1990 Prince album Graffiti Bridge en one was released as part of the 2001 NPG Ahdio Show #3 by the NPG Music Club.
All songs composed by Prince.
- Murph Drag ***
- Nine Lives
- Donald Trump (Black Version) *
- Love Machine **
- Data Bank *
- Shake! **
- Corporate World
- The Latest Fashion **
- Release It **
- My Summertime Thang *
|*||Released on The Time album Pandemonium|
|**||Released on Prince album Graffiti Bridge|
|***||Released as part of NPG Ahdio Show #3|
The fourth The Time album was released in conjunction with the Prince project (album and film) Graffiti Bridge. It contains ‘just’ 8 songs/skits which contain a Prince contribution. The rest of the songs is written, recorded and produced without any involvement from Prince.
Pandemonium was released on Juli 10th, 1990.
Just the songs with Prince involvement are named in the table beneath the songs.
- Pandemonium ***
- Sexy Socialites ***
- Jerk Out *
- Yount **
- Donald Trump (Black Version) **
- Chocolate **
- Cooking Class
- It’s Your World
- Sometimes I Get Lonely
- Data Bank **
- My Summertime Thang **
- Pretty Little Women
|*|| Composed by Prince, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Morris Day (accredited to The Time)
Despite the fact that Jerk Out is composed by Prince, Prince awarded Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Morris Day with writing-credits
|**||Composed by Prince (accredited to The Time)|
|***||Composed by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson and Prince (accredited to The Time)|
Two singles were culled from the album: Jerk Out and Chocolate.
One of my favorite albums of all time. This albums swings, rocks and gives me joy. It really lightens my mood. The songs without Prince input are just as good as the ones that do have that input. Jesse Johnson has a lot of room to display his guitar prowess. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis utilize their production skills on ‘their’ songs. Nonetheless, the album feels like one piece of art and has a perfect flow.
The Prince songs are all top-notch. Particularly Jerk Out (one of the most funky songs ever recorded) and Chocolate are among the best songs Prince has ever written. Donald Trump (Black Version) is, especially now, a funny addition.
This album also has many great lyrics and skits:
Fellas? – Yeah!
I’m back – Back!
The aristocratic black – Black!
My whip ain’t got no crack – Crack!
But we got a hell of a bang – Got a hell of a bang!
© Pandemonium, The Time, 1990
The Time was very active in promoting the album. A lot of shows were planned for television and on tour.
However, discord within the band led to Jesse Johnson being voted out of the band. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis left, because they preferred giving their time to their productionwork. In early 1991 all promotion for the album ceased. Yet, Pandemonium sold more copies than the previous The Time albums.
Morris Day & The Time
Several members of The Time reconvened in 1995. Jesse Johnson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were not a part of this configuration. From that day onward, up to this day, many shows are put on using the moniker Morris Day & The Time.
Because The Time had never performed in Europe, their coming to Paradiso, Amsterdam in 1996 was exciting. I had a great evening, although I would have loved to have seen Jesse Johnson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis there.
Album: Condensate (The Original 7ven)
Completely out of the blue a sequel was announced. An entirely new album containing 16 songs (of which 2 were skits).
But why not use the name ‘The Time’? The name was owned by Prince and he refused to let them use it… Because all original seven members had come together for the album, the bandname ‘The Original 7ven’ was used. As a sub-name ‘The Band Formerly Known As The Time’ was added.
Despite his blunt (and rather childish) refusal, Prince does receive a thank-you in the liner notes of the Condensate album: Thanks to Prince for the lessons & the beginning.
By the way, The Time were not the only band that wasn’t allowed to use their original name. In the same year The Family made a sequel to their brilliant 1985 album The Family. The name ‘The Family’ was also owned by Prince. He refused to let the name be used, causing The Family to release their record using the moniker ‘fDeluxe’.
On October 18th, 2011 Condensate was released.
Prince plays no part in any of the songwriting, performing or production of the album.
- O7ven Intro
- Strawberry Lake
- O7ven Press Conference
- If I Was Yo Man
- Role Play
- One Step
- Toast To The Party Girl
- Hey Yo
One single was culled from the album: #Trendin.
A nice album, but it’s, in no way, a must-have. The album does contain some very good songs, but as a whole it’s not very memorable. The album-title is illustrated in a skit, in which a journalist asks if it is correct she witnessed that Morris was losing his cool, for did she just see him sweat? After the first shock of the question being asked in the first place, Morris answers. The conclusion: So you see, I don’t sweat, I condensate. And yes, Morris Day is still cool!
The songs Strawberry Lake, If I Was Yo Man and Sick are great songs and a nice addition to The Time’s body of work.
The Original 7ven was very short lived. Within two months after the release of the album, Jesse Johnson had left. As a result the band-name had become irrelevant. The Original 7ven vanished into thin air.
After The Original 7ven
Morris Day & The Time were invited by Prince to perform at Paisley Park in early 2016. A few months prior to Prince’s passing Morris Day and Prince were reunited once more. A fitting finale.
At the Grammy Award Show which took place on February 12th, 2017, a Prince tribute was organized. The Time played a short, but thrilling set. All original members were present. The Time at full force is still irresistible!
Solo-work The Time members
After the first disbanding of The Time in 1984 the band members went their own separate way. Some stayed with Prince and became part of The Family, or even The Revolution. But most of them had careers outside the Prince camp and only reconvened for the reunions.
Actually, Morris Day is the one exception to the rule, because, as stated earlier in this story, Morris Day regularly tours with his version of The Time under the moniker Morris Day & The Time.
After leaving Minneapolis and the Prince camp, a solo deal was offered to Morris Day.
His first solo-album Color Of Success from 1985 was fairly successful, thanks to the hits The Color Of Success and The Oak Tree. The successor Daydreaming (1987) contained the hit Fishnet. After the temporary The Time reunion which resulted in Pandemonium Morris Day made two more solo-albums: Guaranteed from 1992 and It’s About Time from 2004. Both albums did nothing and were artistically irrelevant. His solo career is officially over.
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’s infamous snow-flight had far-reaching consequences. At the time they were in Atlanta to produce the S.O.S. Band. They were working on the song Just Be Good To Me, which turned into a major hit in 1983 (rightfully so, great song). The album from which the song was culled, On The Rise, became a hit also. For the time being, their dismissal from The Time didn’t turn out to be that bad.
They founded their own production company: Flyte Tyme Productions. After they produced (and largely composed) Janet Jackson’s Control in 1986, Flyte Tyme evolved into being the most successful production team in the entire history of popmusic. The artists who were on their roster were very diverse. Flyte Tyme produced (and or composed) at least one or several songs for the following artists: Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Cherelle, Alexander O’Neal, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Big Daddy Kane, Klymaxx, Chaka Kahn, Usher, Mary J. Blige, S.O.S. Band, Barry White, Patti Austin, The Human League, TLC, Rod Stewart, Herb Alpert, Earth Wind & Fire, Spice Girls, Sting, Johnny Gill, Peabo Bryson, Crystal Waters and Sounds Of Blackness.
Flyte Tyme’s sound was based on the so-called Minneapolis sound (that Prince had developed, but had, before long, lost interest in). Flyte Tyme productions are characterized by heavy (electronic) drums with deep bass and a lot of synthesizers. I really like the openness of their sound, which features the drums prominently in the mix.
On June 15th, 2017 Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis were inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
After leaving The Time, Jesse Johnson was also offered a solo-deal. Up to the first The Time reunion in 1990 Jesse released three solo-albums. In 1985 Jesse Johnson’s Revue, from which the songs Be Your Man, Can You Help Me and I Want My Girl became hits. In 1986 he released the Shockadelica album, which contained the (huge) hit Crazay. How Jesse Johnson pulled it off is unknown, but Crazay is a duet between him and none other than Sly Stone, who was a recluse even back then. The album contains a critical account about his experiences in the USA in the song Black In America. In 1988 the album Every Shade Of Love was released, which contained the hit Love Struck.
The first three albums more or less expand on the sound of The Time. Fortunately, Jesse Johnson has more than enough uniqueness to bring to the table. All three albums are highly entertaining and often contain glorious guitarwork by Johnson, a heavily underrated (master) guitarist.
After the Pandemonium reunion Jesse Johnson kept a lower profile and did production work and composed music for (feature) films. In 1996 another solo-album was released: Bare My Naked Soul, Jesse Johnson’s guitar album.
After a long period of time, during which little to nothing was heard from Jesse Johnson, the (double) album Verbal Penetration, Volumes 1 And 2 was released in 2009, a very diverse and eclectic album. Extremely good, and, unfortunately, unknown. Funk, soul, rock, all blends together. Good songs, great guitar. Highly recommended!
Following the failed reunion under the moniker The Original 7ven, Jesse Johnson started working intensively with D’Angelo, with whom he went on tour in 2012. In 2014 the beautiful D’Angelo album Black Messiah was released, on which Jesse Johnson plays guitar. The tour for promoting the album led D’Angelo And The Vanguard to Paradiso, Amsterdam on March 2nd and 3rd 2015. Two of the very best shows I ever witnessed.
Jesse Johnson is the one The Time member, that had the most fulfilling and artistically relevant solo-career.
Next to The Time, known for his cooperation with Flyte Tyme Productions. Also known for his own production work, among which Alexander O’Neal and, in 2016, Rihanna.
Besides a great drummer also a guitarist. After the disbanding of The Time, Jellybean was part of the (equally great) satellite project The Family. After that he was active as a producer (for Janet Jackson, among others) and keeps on playing music with, for instance, fDeluxe and Morris Day & The Time.
Brother to Terry Lewis. Stayed with Prince after the end of The Time and also became a part of The Family. After their demise, Jerome was asked to play the role of Tricky (Prince’s friend) in the movie Under The Cherry Moon and consequently as a dancer in an expanded line-up of The Revolution. In that capacity I saw Jerome Benton live at the best show I ever witnessed.
At multiple times Prince has stated that he feared no-one, except The Time. Despite the fact he created it and was personally responsible for tightening their stage-antics, The Time’s success, in the early days, was a blessing and a curse for Prince. Under his own name he wanted to release more provocative, exciting and new music than the four-on-the-floor/on-the-one funk, ingenious as those songs were.
From 2004 onwards The Time songs were regularly played during his shows. His performance of Cool in particular, was a definite highlight.
The Time was the student that outgrew the master. Within its own niche The Time was unbeatable. Prince all the way, but with its own influences. The combination was a funky storm, that, unfortunately, subsided too easily. But when the storm was on, it was phenomenal.
What do you think of The Time? Do you know the albums? Are you just as impressed as me? Let me know!
The Time – Promo image: dystopiandanceparty.com
Various Artists – Purple Snow – Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound image: numerogroup.com
The Time – Live, The Time – The Time en Jamie Starr (Prince) & Morris Day images: pinterest.com
Somebody Bring Me A Mirror image: mturkforum.com
The Time – What Time Is It? image: besteveralbums.com
The Time – What Time Is It – Ad image: s-endz.tumblr.com
The Time – Ice Cream Castle image: dustygroove.com
The Time – Dancing image: prince.org
Morris Day & Jerome Benton – What’s The Password image: pyxurz.blogspot.com
The Time – Corporate World image: rateyourmusic.com
The Time – Pandemonium image: allmusic.com
The Time – Pandemonium – Ad image: lansuresmusicparaphernalia.blogspot.nl
The Original 7ven – Condensate image: amazon.com
The Original 7ven image: funkyprince.net
Morris Day – Solo albums en Jesse Johnson – Solo albums images: allmusic.com/apoplife.nl
FlyteTyme image: facebook.com
D´Angelo & Jesse Johnson image: theguardian.com
Prince & Morris Day image: 910amsuperstation.com