Everything related to the Admiral Nelson of 20th Century Pop Music (in other words Prince!) generated passion around the globe. And if it was the case regarding one of the countless artists who happened to collaborate with him, one could easily imagine the effect whenever in front of… seven of them, when they reunited with a new album (‘Pandemonium’) after a five year hiatus. A dream that would finally come true back in 1990 for millions of fans, seeing Prince‘s first band The Time aka Jesse Johnson, Monte Moir, Jerome Benton, Jellybean Johnson, Morris Day, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis back together under again.
I happened to be blessed enough to be scheduled for a meeting with Jam, Day and Benton when they came to Paris for some promo activities back then…
“Indeed, there has been a competition on stage between us at a period when two bands were trying to get the best on each other at every single occasion in Minneapolis. You would have then Prince & The Revolution on one hand and The Time on the other, and this is fairly well depicted on ‘Purple Rain’.
Each time we had finished playing, we’d come and see the others telling them: ‘See how we’ve done tonite ?’ We was simply trying to get the best on the ones on the opposite side…” (Morris Day)
What had pushed you to split back in 1984?
(Jimmy Jam) “Terry and myself had been fired by Prince because we had some production work apart from our job as group members. It had been perceived as a sort of conflict of interests…”
(Morris Day) “So what? We then recorded the ‘Ice Cream Castles’ album, then the video footage of ‘Purple Rain’. I instantly felt that something was broken inside the band with the following departures of Jimmy and Terry then Monte. We was not the way we used to be. Was a little bit like say The Beatles without John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Everything that was magic had gone all of a sudden. I didn’t feel like I was able to keep on living such a situation, being in a band changing their bassist the way you go from a motel to another while on tour! Then Jesse signed a solo record deal, so there was no way more for me to keep on like this…”
Then The Time reunited five years after….
(Morris Day) “Each of us had a feeling of frustration as we thought we had so much more to offer. We couldn’t keep on calling ourselves The Time after Jimmy and Terry had gone. This how we began calling ourselves Part Time…”
And you’ve managed to stay in touch with each other during this period.
(Morris Day) “Of Course, we did. I even called Jimmy and Terry to produce two songs (‘Fishnet’ and ‘Love Is A Game’) on my second solo album back in 1987. We stayed in touch because of our mutual friendship.”
It may seem difficult to express oneself when on board with so many talents…
(Morris Day) “Whenever egos speak first, most definitely! Nevertheless, we had the advantage of being friends way before reaching the celebrity. This friendship has been the key thing allowing use to react for the sole interest of the band, should it be in terms of writing lyrics and music as well as production.”
Did you at least have to refer to a leader to coordinate your respective inputs on this album?
(Jimmy Jam) “No use as we would speak one voice at the end of the day… We do naurally work with each other. Terry and I just had to take a bit of distance productionwise in order to give our best contribution as musicians. Each of us immediately found his place, bringing his own artistic quality to the sound of the album as a whole. And this is what might be heard from it, rather than the style or the sound of one of us. In fact, we haven’t needed any coordination work, except during the final process of the recording itself…”
What has been Prince’s influence on this album?
(Morris Day) “For us, Prince has always been the eighth member of the band. An album by The Time couldn’t even be thought without his input, so rare can it be. He hasn’t had any specific contribution. This said, some of the tracks that feature on ‘Pandemonium’ have been conceived back in 1983. Prince would have been a sort of spiritual leader in this project, if not a motor the way he was on ‘Grafiti Bridge’ on which we’ve appeared.”
It has been said that the rivalry between you (Morris) and Prince hadn’t been limited to the sole scenario of ‘Purple Rain’ and that It could have been one of the reasons of your disbanding at the period…
(Morris Day) “Naaaa. Indeed, there has been a competition on stage between us at a period when two bands were trying to get the best on each other at every single occasion in Minneapolis. You would have then Prince & The Revolution on one hand and The Time on the other, and this is fairly well depicted on ‘Purple Rain’.
Each time we had finished playing, we’d come and see the others telling them: ‘See how we’ve done tonite ?’ We was simply trying to get the best on the ones on the opposite side…”
A situation that might well happen again…
(Morris Day) “What I just can tell you is that whenever this might happen again, we wouldn’t hesitate to kick his ass. And this, of course, applies to anyone else (laughs)…”
It had been a while between the first rumors and the effective reunion of The Time…
(Jimmy Jam) “Primarly due to the business side of the things. We had to have the necessary agreements from our respective labels then establish what would be a schedule. We’ve spent almost a year to achieve this project. It has been long and somehow a pain in the ass. Morris had a TV show, Jesse, who was working on his solo album, had to fight with his label before joining us, Terry and I had a heavy production schedule. We have had to deal with everything at the same time…”