When Prince fired keyboardist James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and bassist Terry Lewis from The Time (following the band members missing a tour date after being stranded in Atlanta during a snowstorm), it marked the beginning of the end for the wildly entertaining funk band. The remaining members prepared one more album (1984’s Ice Cream Castles) with replacements for Jam & Lewis, and lead singer Morris Day almost stole the show from Prince in Purple Rain (the film debut for both). However, by the time Castles and Purple Rain came out, guitarist Jesse Johnson had already split, and Day followed suit soon after, effectively spelling the end for the band.
It was only a matter of time before elements of the band reformed somehow.
While Day kicked off his solo career with 1985’s Color of Success, Jam & Lewis quickly became a Grammy-winning production team with success that rivaled their former boss. After helming a few R&B smashes (The S.O.S. Band’s “Just Be Good to Me,” Cheryl Lynn’s “Encore,” and The Force MD’s’ “Tender Love,” to name a few), they hit pop paydirt with Janet Jackson’s breakthrough album Control, turning the former child star into an adult phenomenon and defining the sound of pop and R&B for the next two decades. Jam & Lewis followed up that success with hits for The Human League and original Time vocalist Alexander O’ Neal before setting their sights on reuniting with Morris.
The end result was 1987’s “Fishnet,” a slammin’ funk jam that became Morris’s first (and only) Top 40 pop hit as well as his first (and only) #1 R&B hit. With an in-the-pocket groove, a typically playful vocal from Morris, and a unique topic (I don’t think anyone’s had a hit record before or since with a song about pantyhose), “Fishnet” served as a precursor to other songs that celebrated the…uh, thicker figure, culminating in Sir Mix-a-Lot’s asstastic #1 smash “Baby Got Back.”
“Fishnet” set the table for 1990’s full-on Time reunion, containing all seven original members. After appearing in the Purple Rain sequel (of sorts) Graffiti Bridge and releasing the hit album Pandemonium, they split again. Morris continued his acting and singing career (even catching a sitcom gig for a spell) while Jam & Lewis went on to score production credits with artists ranging from Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle to Usher to Jessica Simpson. There have been several mini-reunions since, and the fellas have been hard at work on a new album, their first in 21 years, scheduled for release later this year. They’re recording and releasing the album despite apparent issues with Prince over the usage of the band name (geez, who made that guy such an asshole?). Of course, the record will be supported by a tour — a tour that I will see even if I have to hitchhike to wherever they’re playing. Think “Fishnet” will make it onto the set list?
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