The Time Finally Get Their Due With Glorious ‘Jungle Love': 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.
When Purple Rain hit theaters in 1984, everybody already knew Prince. Yes, the man was, and always will be, a mystery. But thanks the 1999 album and its three Top 40 singles, Prince was known from Minneapolis to Miami to Munich. But the Time? Who exactly were these guys?
The group had already released a couple albums before Purple Rain, featuring tracks like "Get It Up" and "777-9311." But the Time had failed to go national. So when teenagers snuggled into those dirty ’80s cinema seats to watch Prince become as big as Michael Jackson, they had no idea they'd also get to revel in glories of the Time and signature single “Jungle Love.”
Prince begins the film with a performance of “Let’s Go Crazy,” and he begins it with authority. But “Jungle Love” lands the second shot in the film’s one-two opening punch. Passing Prince on the way to the stage, Morris Day chides the young singer, “Why don’t you stay awhile, see how it’s done.” Then Day, dressed like pimp on safari and screeching like James Brown imitating a hyper-sexual parrot, leads his band into “Jungle Love.”
The song is immediately powerful and fun. It’s new wave and disco, funk and pounding rock ‘n’ roll all at once. And the Time look endlessly cool boogieing to it onstage.
Like so many Prince-related projects, documentation is sketchy, but reportedly the icon played all the instruments on the track apart from Jesse Johnson’s guitar. Prince is also rumored to have written the song, however the original liner notes list only Johnson and Day as its writers. For much of their career, it's widely established that Prince and Day essentially were the Time, writing and producing the material for their early albums. But in the case of "Jungle Love," it’s a claim disputed by Johnson.
“Prince is such an a--hole,” Johnson told the NME in 1986. “I wrote, played and produced stuff like ‘Jungle Love,’ that's my sound.” According to Prince Vault, "Johnson was initially included in the credits when submitted for copyright in May 1984, but after he left the band, his name was removed from the credits upon release."
Johnson concedes that Prince had a lot of authority over the Time’s sound in a 2009 Spin interview celebrating the 25th anniversary of Purple Rain. “Prince was the one who had the money and was putting us all out there," he said, "but you’re talking about hungry kids from the ghetto trying to get their groove. The only power we had was those 45 minutes onstage, because it’s a dictatorship. He ran everything. He still does that to this day.”
He certainly dominates the back half of the tune. Day begins the track with his voice and metrosexual take on Tarzan -- over definitive Minneapolis synths and slick bass-and-drums backbone, Day cries and coos, making his case to take the object of his affection home for a little nasty business: “C’mon baby where’s your guts? / Wanna make love or what?” But Johnson explodes the track.
What begins as an update of James Brown’s deep funk - polishing it for Top 40 audiences - becomes a showpiece for Johnson’s guitar genius on the version found on the Ice Cream Castles LP. In the middle of the song, Day calls out to his guitarist, “Jesse, give me one of those sexy solos, right here.” The man obliges: Somewhere between Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen, Johnson goes off for nearly two minutes as Day eggs him on and the band continues to thump behind him.
But if you only picked up the single or caught the film version, if you didn’t pick up “Ice Cream Castle,” you missed out on Jesse’s sexy solo because those amazing notes ended up on the cutting room floor (a move that couldn’t help increase the tension between Johnson and Prince). But the radio edit still carried the song’s magic.
“Jungle Love” became the Time’s biggest-selling and highest-charting single. Those hypnotic shouts of “Oh we oh we oh” hit No. 20 on Billboard's Hot 100 and made the Top 10 on both the R&B and Dance charts.
The success proved the beginning of the end of the band. Shortly after Purple Rain, the Time fractured into a series of solo projects and the Prince-helmed the Family. But the charm and sleaze of “Jungle Love” had legs and is still loved. Or as Jay tells a few fellow slackers in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, “You don't know ‘Jungle Love?’ That s--- is the mad notes. Written by God herself and handed down to the greatest band in the world, the motherf---ing Time.”
The style and swagger of “Jungle Love” certainly live on in Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' blockbuster 2014 single “Uptown Funk” -- maybe too much, many think the track is a straight ripoff. Day is more generous.
“I never felt it was close like that," Day told the Chicago Tribune in 2015. “I know that the influence was there, I know that Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson are both pretty big fans. … To be honest, I was happy that it happened.”
Ripoff or homage, it’s just more proof that “Jungle Love,” Johnson’s guitar and those infectious cries of “Oh we oh we oh” are universal.