How Prince Made Up With the Time on ‘Jerk Out': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
The Time's 1990 album Pandemonium brought their original lineup together for the first time since 1983, when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were fired for missing a gig due to work on a production job. The Time then broke up after frontman Morris Day, fed up with Prince's control-freak ways, left for a solo and acting career after Ice Cream Castles and his scene-stealing performance in Purple Rain.
Day cautioned that this reunion wasn't because things had stalled on both fronts. "That's jive," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. "I did this project so I could work with my buddies again. I have a lot of projects to work on. I like working in the Time, but I don't need the Time. I'm not desperate. ... Everybody had a feeling that the band ended prematurely, that there were still some good years left in the band – if we could ever put it back together."
It would have happened sooner, but their various projects – especially Jam and Lewis becoming the in-demand R&B writing/production team of the day – meant that it took nearly a year for everybody to get together. They also made their peace with Prince, who admitted to Rolling Stone at the time that "they're the only band I've ever been afraid of," and that he was glad for their success.
"We're friends," he said. "We know each other like brothers. Jimmy always gave me a lot of credit for getting things going in Minneapolis, and I'm hip to that. Terry's more aloof, but I know that. ... They're into making every single one of their records a hit. Not that there's nothing wrong with that; we're just different."
Prince didn't take responsibility for firing them, however, saying that he had advised Day on the matter, with the singer making the final decision. Prince also tempered his praise by pointing out that, if he was too tough a taskmaster during his first go-round with the group, it was because he was used to working with people who were still rough around the edges – which filtered down to the Time.
"That whole thing came from my early days, when I was working with a lot of people who weren't exactly designed for their jobs," Prince continued. "I had to do a lot, and I had to have control, because a lot of them didn't know exactly what was needed."
The original project was for a movie starring the Time with Prince making a cameo, but Prince countered by flipping the equation. "We wound up doing it his way," Jam said. "He was persuasive."
In Prince's hands, Graffiti Bridge morphed into a sequel to Purple Rain, with Prince and the Time reprising their roles as they fought for the ownership of the Glam Slam nightclub. Its soundtrack contained new songs by Prince (such as the Top 10 hit "Thieves in the Temple") and the Time (including "Release It"), introduced the world to Tevin Campbell ("Round and Round") and featured a pair of legends who had signed to Paisley Park, Mavis Staples and George Clinton. While its 17 songs were written or co-written by Prince, he loosened the reins on Pandemonium, which arrived a few months earlier. Prince only contributed, in part or in full, to 10 of its 15 songs, including the first single "Jerk Out."
Watch the Time Perform 'Jerk Out'
The track actually dates back to 1981, with lyrics inspired by a moment when the Time were kicked off a flight during the Controversy tour for causing some sort of a problem, according to PrinceVault. Day is believed to have added his vocals in 1982, with the intention of putting it on that year's What Time Is It? album, but it didn't make the cut. A few years later, Prince then gave it to Mazarati, the side project of Revolution bassist Brown Mark – but they rejected it. The Time's reunion gave Prince yet another opportunity to pull it out of mothballs, and the band members contributed their overdubs in late 1989.
It worked so well because the lyrics are perfect for Day's persona: "Jerk Out" finds him out on the prowl and unafraid to spread cash around to get it. Fans agreed, and it became the Time's biggest-ever hit, topping the R&B chart and reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100. Pandemonium reached No. 18 on the album chart and sold 800,000 copies.
Still, the enthusiasm Day showed in the Los Angeles Times piece was eventually replaced by regret. "I refused the project a few times," he told the Washington Post in 1992. "I really felt like there was more ground I wanted to break personally before I started thinking about looking back."
A few years later, Day and original members Monte Moir (keyboards) and Jellybean Johnson (drums) picked up some new members and toured as Morris Day and the Time. This period was marked by an appearance in Kevin Smith's 2001 film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
Watch the Time on 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back'
The original lineup got back together in 2008 for a residency at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and began working on a new album. Prince refused to let them use "The Time," however, so they changed the band's name to the Original 7ven for 2011's Condensate. Speaking to Rolling Stone a year after Prince's sudden death, Day said that it may have been a blessing in disguise.
"When we did the Original 7ven project," he said, "I think it would have looked like more of a fiasco if we had used the name the Time, and it really got the attention it would have gotten then. Because I would've used the name. But in hindsight, it was the right decision."
Day also revealed that his last conversation with Prince involved an offer to take the Time out on the road. "He just said that he wanted to manage us going overseas, because that's something we got prevented from doing – which was probably his doing – back in the day," he said. "He didn't want us to go over when the record was hot, when we should've gone over there. And we never did. I was just like, 'Hey, you know the number. When you want to put it together, we're ready to go.' And after he passed, guess what? Europe starts calling. The things that he said he wanted to do started to happen. How about that?"