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This article was originally published in UPTOWN #3 - published April 1992.

© 1992 UPTOWN.


- the rise and fall of The Time


Throughout Prince's career, he has been involved with a succession of protégés and "side projects." These envelop more fascinating insights into Prince's production and songwriting techniques. Many of the artists have become stars in their own right. Perhaps most famous and successful of all of Prince's musical projects have been The Time.

The story of The Time began in late 1980, when Prince decided to put together a R&B/funk band. His reasons for doing so still remain a mystery to this day, despite various sources maintaining that the group was put together as a favour to Morris Day. Supposedly Morris had originally written "Partyup," which Prince wanted so much that he offered to get Morris a group together and get them a record contract.

From Flyte Tyme To The Time

Using the remnants of a local group called Flyte Tyme, Prince created a new six-piece band with Morris as the singer. Flyte Tyme, named after a song by jazz artist Donald Byrd, had existed in different incarnations since 1974.

The nucleus of The Time were Flyte Tyme members Terry Lewis (bass), Monte Moir and Jimmy Jam Harris (keyboards), and Jellybean Johnson (drums), all from Minneapolis.

Cynthia Johnson was one of Flyte Tyme's early lead singers until she left to sing with Lipps Inc., who had a huge 1980 hit with "Funkytown."

Sue Ann Carwell did a stint as lead singer before getting a solo contract, and then Alexander O'Neal took over. He was Prince's first choice as singer in the re-formed group, but he declined Prince's offer.

Originally to be the drummer in the group, Morris Day instead became The Time's singer. At the time of the formation, he played in a group called Enterprise.

To complete the group, they needed a guitarist. Morris remembered a young, talented guy who had auditioned for Enterprise, called Jesse Johnson, from Rock Island, Illinois. Prince flew back from the Dirty Mind tour on the strength of Morris' boasts to see Jesse play. He was subsequently drafted to play guitar in the group, and came to Minneapolis in April, and everything looked set.

Prince got The Time a contract with Warner Bros. He had already recorded most of the album on his own, prior to any involvement of the band members, except Morris.

Prince's bass player André Cymone was going to write some songs, but he claims Prince more or less muscled him out of the project. Lisa Coleman has also said that Prince pulled stunts like turning home studio jams by Prince, Morris and Lisa into material for The Time (and Vanity 6).

The first album

The Time's eponymously titled debut album was released on 29 July 1981. The producer credit was shared by Morris Day and the Prince pseudonym Jamie Starr. Even though Prince has denied that he is Jamie Starr, it is most likely that he came up with the pseudonym to distance himself from the project, so that it would stand or fall on its own.

Neither sleeve nor label contained any songwriting credits, but Prince (as "Prince Nelson," not "Jamie Starr" as on all later Time albums) is listed as the writer of five of the six songs at ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, "Get It Up," "Girl," "The Stick," "Cool" (lyrics by Dez Dickerson, music by Prince), and "Oh Baby." Morris Day wrote the remaining track, "After Hi School."

Undoubtedly, The Time sounds a lot like Prince, circa Dirty Mind and Controversy. But the emphasis is firmly on funk and R&B tunes, which often stretch into long extended jams, leaving plenty of room for guitar and synth solos. The up-tempo dance-oriented numbers "Get It Up," "Cool," and "The Stick" work best, whereas the two ballads, "Girl" and "Oh Baby" attempt at being serious, but merely end up sounding dreary and over-long.

"Get It Up" commences the album with its thumping bass and keyboard fanfare that sets the pace for the rest of the album. The lyrics are sexually forthright in the style of Dirty Mind, "Get it up, get it up, I'll fuck you all night."

Next is "Girl," an unremarkable ballad which is the first real test of Morris' vocals. "After Hi School" is a catchy "rockabilly" style song, much like "Horny Toad" or "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)."

Featuring a slow beat, keyboard fanfare and melody similar to "Get It Up," "Cool" is undoubtedly the best track. What makes the song special is the way it indicates how The Time would evolve. It is the first song that displays their now recognized attitude.

After "Oh Baby," a slow seduction ballad in the style of "Do Me, Baby," "The Stick" jumps to the fore, once again with the analogue keyboard style used in "Get It Up" and "Cool."

The record became a big hit and did in fact better than Dirty Mind, going gold in six months. The debut single, "Get It Up," hit number six on the black chart, and the second single "Cool" made it to number seven.

The Time Live

Although they hadn't yet really played together as a group in the studio, The Time made their live debut on 7 October 1981 at Sam's, with Prince digging the show back by the soundboard. A few weeks later they embarked on the Controversy tour as Prince's opening act.

Towards the end of the tour, during a day off, Prince and The Time stormed the First Avenue (previously Sam's) for an unannounced set (8March 1982). Morris Day sang "Dance To The Beat," a rock 'n' roll number, and "The Stick." The night ended with an all-star jam including Morris on drums and guitarists from Prince's band and The Time dueting on an exhilarating version of "Partyup."

After the Controversy tour, Prince began writing and recording tracks for The Time's second album at his 24-track homestudio. in Minneapolis. Despite the fact that The Time had toured extensively with Prince and had become a strong live working unit, the record was in all essentials recorded by Prince. Monte Moir later admitted that "when push came to shove, it was still down to Prince."

What Time Is It?

The Time's second album, What Time Is It? was released on 25 August 1982. Even though he's not credited on the album, Prince produced the record (the Starr Company is listed as producer) and wrote all the tracks barring "Wild And Loose," which was written in collaboration with Dez Dickerson. Prince's songs on the album are credited to Jamie Starr at ASCAP's copyright office.

What Time Is It? is an improvement on the debut album, containing two great funk/R&B cuts ("Wild And Loose" and "The Walk") and a few poppier numbers.

The first track, "Wild And Loose," launches the album with a slow but funky rhythm and beat. The first half of the song has Morris describing his ideal woman, while the second part features a spoken section with two girls chatting excitedly about a Time concert. They suddenly run into Morris, but he hasn't got time for them, causing one of the girls to reevaluate the show, "That was the worst concert I've ever been to!"

Next is "777­9311," a spirited pop number. Morris is seducing a lady, trying to get her phone number, using every trick in The Time's seduction handbook.

"Onedayi'mgonnabesomebody" is another "rockabilly" attempt. The song tells of how Morris thinks he will make it one day. The song finishes with the record scratching and the exclamation "We don't like new wave," followed by hysterical laughter.

The next track, "The Walk," contains the same loose jam feel as "The Stick," "Cool," "Get It Up," and "Wild And Loose." The lyrics are concerned with how to dance "the walk." It also contains some comic relief Time-style, with Morris and the guys swapping comments on women and styles of sly seduction. This is followed by a spoken scene, much like the one in "Wild And Loose." This time it chronicles Morris' attempts to get his current girlfriend out of her jeans into some sexy lingerie.

"Gigolos Get Lonely Too" is a smoochy ballad which far surpasses the ballads on the first album. Morris admits that he may be a ladies man, but he sometimes needs real love and understanding. The synth drums that Prince used a lot on 1999 are very evident.

The final cut, "I Don't Wanna Leave You," is an excellent pop effort with an electric piano to the fore. Concerning a woman who is as carefree as Morris, it doesn't really fit in lyrically with the rest of the album.

A non-album track called "Grace" (credited to Jamie Starr) appeared on the B-side of "777­9311." It's a hilarious number about a female journalist named Briggette Harrington trying to interview Morris (whom calls her Grace). He explains what makes him cool, "Let me say somethin' to all the fellas out there: take off them blue jeans and them new waves clothes and go get some baggies."

What Time Is It? became an even bigger success than The Time, reaching number two on the US black chart and selling gold. The first single "777­9311" became a number two black hit and also managed to crack the pop chart.

The Time becomes a threat

On 11 November 1982, The Time left to tour with Prince as support on the 1999 tour. Dubbed the "Triple Threat tour," the tour also featured Vanity 6. The Time also functioned as Vanity 6's backing group, playing behind a stage curtain. Jerome Benton was added to The Time line-up as a dancer and Morris' valet on stage.

If Vanity 6's short opening set seemed somewhat silly, The Time's tight dance grooves, high-spirited stage moves and routines made them an exciting live band and they were usually very well received.

On a day off from the tour, in December 1982, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis went to Atlanta for a session with the SOS Band. They had been writing and producing material for other groups, including Klymaxx and the SOS Band. However, when they were going to fly back, they were snowed in at the airport and failed to make it back to a concert in San Antonio.

For the show, Jerome Benton, who appeared as Morris Day's valet in The Time's act, strapped on a bass guitar and pretended to play the instrument while Prince stood in the shadows playing Terry Lewis' bass lines. Jill Jones stood in for Jimmy Jam.

Jimmy and Terry fulfilled their 1999 tour commitments, but things between them and Prince were never the same, and they were fired from The Time after the tour. Jimmy doesn't attribute it only to their non-attendance, "Prince didn't want to break the group up, but the snowstorm provided the excuse he needed to fire us two. He thought we were off seeing some girls. Then he saw our picture in Billboard or something with the SOS Band, and all that changed. Seems like it was OK to be off seeing girls, but not OK to be furthering your own career."

The 1999 tour continued after a one-month break in January of 1983. On the 1983 tour, The Time were sometimes demoted from the bill. No official reasons were given for their occasional exclusion, but it's quite likely that Prince didn't want to risk being upstaged in some of the major cities. For example, at the shows in Los Angeles and New York in March 1983, the bill was just Vanity 6 and Prince.

Without a doubt, The Time's unpretentious music and light-hearted show contrasted with Prince's more ambitious and elabo rate theatrics. Morris Day thinks The Time were becoming a threat to Prince, adding that The Time's success caught many by surprise, "I think the whole thing was never expected to be anything more than an opening act. There used to be some arguments before going onstage about things that I would do that were conflicting with the things that Prince would do. I was told not to do certain things, certain dances."

The new Time

A month after the 1999 tour, in May 1983, Prince and the members of The Revolution, The Time and Vanity 6 began extensive acting, improvisation, and dance classes in preparation for Prince's planned Purple Rain movie.

After the departures of Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, as well as Monte Moir who also left after the 1999 tour, The Time's line-up was revised for their appearance in the Purple Rain film and their third album: singer Morris Day, guitarist Jesse Johnson, and drummer Jellybean Johnson were joined by St. Paul Peterson and Mark Cardenas on keyboards and bassist Gerry Hubbard. Jerome Benton continued as Morris' valet.

St. Paul, from Richfield, Minnesota, is a member of the Twin Cities' first family of jazz. His mother is a distinguished jazz singer and pianist, and his late father was an organist. His siblings, bassist Billy, singer Patty, and pianist Ricky, have been recipients of Minnesota Music Awards for being best on their respective instruments.

The other keyboardsplayer, Mark Cardenas, was a Los Angeles native who had been working in jazz rock fusion circles in Minneapolis since 1981.

New bass player Gerry Hubbard, of Minneapolis, had previously played with Alexander O'Neal.

Shooting of the Purple Rain film began in November 1983. The Time performed "Jungle Love" and "The Bird" in the film. They were recorded in 1983.


When it came to record The Time's third album, Ice Cream Castle, Prince's control was less firm than on previous albums with the group. This time, group members actually played on the record, and Morris Day and Jesse Johnson had a part in writing several songs.

However, there were dissensions in the studio, and guitarist Jesse Johnson, who was strongly involved in the project, was disappointed in Prince's strong control over the group, "He only let me write and produce on the last Time album because he knew I was quitting, and when I quit anyway he took my production credit off. I wrote, played and produced stuff like 'Jungle Love.'"

In April of 1984, after the album was completed, Morris Day left Minneapolis to settle down in Santa Monica, California. This was the beginning of the end for The Time. Jesse Johnson had already decided to leave the group and Morris was more interested in pursuing a solo career. Their departures weren't announced officially until after the premiere of Purple Rain.

Ice Cream Castle

9 July 1984 saw the release of Ice Cream Castle . Four songs are listed by ASCAP as being written jointly by Prince, Morris Day and Jesse Johnson, "Ice Cream Castles," "If The Kid Can't Make You Come," "My Drawers," and "The Bird." Even though it's credited to Morris and Jesse on the sleeve, "Jungle Love" is listed as a Prince/Morris Day composition by ASCAP, while "Chili Sauce" is actually credited to St. Paul Peterson in collaboration with Prince and Morris. Prince's songwriting contributions are credited to Jamie Starr.

The album is the least satisfying of the three Time albums. It contains very little of the sting and zest of the two previous records. It's quite clear that Prince was beginning to spread his talents thin due to his writing of the albums with Sheila E and Apollonia 6 as well as material for his own use.

Concerning black/white love, the opening "Ice Cream Castles," a swaying R&B groove, fails to match "Wild And Loose" or "Get It Up," the strong opening cuts on their previous albums. Yet it stands heads and shoulders over the next two songs, "My Drawers," a guitar-heavy "funk metal" rock number, and "Chili Sauce," a tedious ballad with violin and spoken lyrics used more to show off Morris' cool persona than showcase any interesting musical ideas.

Side two is better, opening with "Jungle Love," a solid funky R&B groove with infectious chants and synth hook, as well as frenzied guitar work by Jesse. Along with "The Bird," another fine R&B cut, which closes the album, "Jungle Love" is the closest the band gets to achieving its past glories.

Sandwiched between "Jungle Love" and "The Bird" is "If The Kid Can't Make You Come," a ballad which sounds dreary, watered down, and at seven minutes, definitely outstays its welcome.

The final Time track to appear for six years was "Tricky," the B-side of "Jungle Love." This song however is just Prince mimicking Morris' vocals. The remaining band members can be heard giggling in the background at Prince's digs at Morris, "When I look in the mirror, I see your ugly face, I just wanna run" and "It's time for you to retire, you old." The song finishes with the sound of a toilet flushing.

Undoubtedly helped by Morris Day's charismatic appearance in Purple Rain, the album became the best selling Time album. It went gold and reached number three on the black album chart and number 24 on the pop chart.

Corporate World

Despite persistent rumours, it took over three years before The Time finally got back together on stage. Their comeback took place on 2 October 1987, at the sixth annual Minnesota Black Musicians Awards held at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in the St. Paul Civic Center. The original Time line-up, including Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis but minus Monte Moir, treated the excited crowd to a medley of their old tunes, including "Get It Up," "The Walk," "777­9311," "My Drawers," "The Stick," and "The Bird."

Then it was a question of whether they would get into the studio again and record a reunion album. It took another year and a half before things eventually fell into place. Somehow all reported bad feelings were put aside and a Prince-produced Time album was on the cards.

Work on the album started in the summer of 1989 without any involvement of Jesse Johnson, Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. Prince, once again in the guise of Jamie Starr, wrote the most of the material and produced the album entitled Corporate World.

The ten tracks included on the album were: "Murph Drag," "9 Lives," "Donald Trump (Black Version)," "Love Machine," "Data Bank," "Shake!," "Corporate World," "The Latest Fashion," "Release It," "My Summertime Thang."

The album was set for release on November 14, 1989, but the record was put on hold when Jesse Johnson and Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam got involved in the project.

Apparently, Warner Bros were adamant that the album and Graffiti Bridge film featured the original line-up of the band. Thus, another batch of songs was recorded in late 1989, this time with Jesse, Terry and Jimmy taking an active part, writing and producing the tracks for the revised album, which became Pandemonium.

Five new songs were recorded for Pandemonium , while "Donald Trump (Black Version)" and "Data Bank" remained more or less intact from the Corportate World album. "My Summertime Thang" also turned up on Pandemonium, albeit considerably re-worked from the Corporate World version.

In addition, two funk numbers by Prince, "Jerk Out" and "Chocolate," were included on the new album. "Jerk Out" had originally been scheduled for the 1986 Mazarati album. Prince just took the original song and added Morris' vocals to it. "Choco late" actually came from The Time's Ice Cream Castle sessions back in 1984.

Of the remaining Corporate World tracks, "The Latest Fashion," "Release It," "Love Machine," and "Shake!" all surfaced on Graffiti Bridge. However, apart from the title of the song and some lyrics, the original version of "The Latest Fashion" is entirely different from the version on Graffiti Bridge , which used the melody of "My Summertime Thang."

Three Corporate World tracks were shelved and remains as outtakes, the two funky dance numbers "Murph Drag" ("murph" is slang for a thick roll of money) and "Corporate World," and the melodic rock tune "9 Lives," one of the best tracks on Corporate World. The latter was actually first recorded by Prince in late 1988 for possible inclusion on Cat's debut album. It was planned as the first single from the album.


The fourth, and so far the last, Time album, Pandemonium, was released on 10 July 1990. It featured all the original members of the band: Morris Day, Jesse Johnson, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Monte Moir, Jellybean Johnson, as well as Jerome Benton.

Even though he isn't mentioned in the credits, Prince wrote five songs on the album: "Chocolate," "Jerk Out," "My Summertime Thang," "Data Bank," and "Donald Trump (Black Version)." The five songs are listed as Jamie Starr compositions by ASCAP. Even though it was written solely by Prince, he gave Morris Day, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis co-credit on "Jerk Out."

The other songs on Pandemonium were written by Monte Moir with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis ("Sometimes I Get Lonely"), Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis ("It's Your World"), and Jesse Johnson with Jam/Lewis ("Skillet," "Blondie," and "Pandemonium").

Whereas earlier Time albums stuck to a musical formula of funk numbers mixed with a few ballads, the musical contents of Pandemonium were more varied. The hard rock ("funk metal") of "Blondie" and "Skillet," both showcasing Jesse Johnson's guitar pyrotechnics, and the hard, clean dance sound of Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis added new elements to The Time's basic concept of uncomplicated good-time dance music.

The album starts off with a track called "Dreamland," which continues where Ice Cream Castle let off, with a music box playing a lullaby. The roar of the crowd at the reunion concert in 1987 then slowly builds before it fades to reveal Morris snoring until he is awakened by a telephone call. He is told to get down to the club as he "ain't gonna like what's happening." When he arrives, he and the band stop the music and leap into the title track, a dance-oriented number typical of Jam/Lewis.

"Pandemonium" is followed by the first of four brief interludes, entitled "Sexy Socialites." It has two girls debating whether Morris would go out with one of them. This is interrupted by Morris starting the next song, "Jerk Out," which is incredibly funky and one of the best tracks of The Time's career.

Next comes "Yount," the second interlude, where the boys are screaming hysterically at the top of their voices. This is followed by a heavy Jesse Johnson guitar squealing into "Blondie," one of the album's two hard "funk metal" rockers. As the song winds down, we are nicely introduced to the song "Donald Trump (Black Version)," Morris' seemingly autobiographical ballad.

The funky "Chocolate" starts with the screech of brakes and Morris' unmistakeable laughter. Together with "Jerk Out," this is the song most similar to The Time's earlier material. This is followed by the third interlude, "Cooking Class," where Morris is stuck in the kitchen, frying over a hot stove, with the rest of the band engaging in a chant before launching into the second guitar-heavy hard rock number, "Skillet."

"It's Your World," an anthem about how we have the power to change the world, is a funky little number that could be mistaken for a Prince tune. Next follows the revamped version of "Data Bank," which doesn't to the 1986 original justice. A quick beat then follows on introducing us to "My Summertime Thang," which is more or less the same song as "The Latest Fashion" on Graffiti Bridge. This leads directly into the concluding track, "Pretty Little Women," an interlude where Morris' car has broken down and he starts singing "Kansas City, Here I Come" to pass the time.

The future?

Pandemonium became a big commercial success, out-selling all previous Time albums, while the first single, "Jerk Out," became the group's biggest hit, reaching number 18 on the pop chart. However, the second single, "Chocolate" went nowhere and The Time reunion soon lost its momentum.

Frictions between certain band members while they were shooting a video for "Chocolate," signalled the beginning of the end for Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who wanted to concentrate on their production work.

Dissensions escalated in the band when they were in New York for an appearance on Saturday Night Live, in October 1990. Jesse Johnson was subsequently "voted out" of The Time by the other members. A revised line-up then played two concerts in Japan in February of 1991, but many felt The Time reunion was expired by then. This is where the history of The Time ends, at least for now...

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