The Original 7ven
(previously known as The Time
) is an American funk and dance-pop ensemble formed in Minneapolis in 1981. They are close Prince associates and arguably the most successful artists who have worked with him.Prince and FormationThe band was assembled under a clause in Prince's contract with Warner Bros. that allowed him to recruit and produce other artists for the label. Inspired by the 1980 film The Idolmaker
, Prince decided to put together a pop-funk group that would serve as an outlet for material in the vein of his own early albums, while he explored other genres and styles in his own career.By 1981, he had built The Time out of an existing Minneapolis funk unit, Flyte Time (from the Donald Byrd song), which featured Jellybean Johnson on drums, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keyboards, and Terry Lewis on bass. To this base were added Jesse Johnson on guitar and a lead singer and childhood friend named Morris Day, and Jerome Benton who was a promoter drawn from another local band called "Enterprise", who became Day's comic foil. Prince had used an Enterprise song, "Partyup", on his Dirty Mind
album, and his selection of Day was essentially a reward; he had originally tapped Alexander O'Neal – yet another player in the Minneapolis Uptown funk scene – for the vocalist slot, but O'Neal wanted too much money, himself being quoted as saying, "I basically didn't see no point in being a superstar with no money."
The band went on to release four albums (mostly performed by Prince + singer Morris Day alone) during the course of their main career, each a solid slice of jammy, rock-infused 1980s funk, generally light and humorous in tone, strongly influenced by Parliament, James Brown, Sly – and, of course, Prince. Although they scored numerous hits (including "The Bird", "Jungle Love", "777-9311", "Get It Up", "Gigolos Get Lonely Too", "The Walk" and "Cool", mostly on the R&B charts) during the early 1980s, they never approached superstardom. But as good as they were, they weren't allowed to play a note on their debut album. Prince recorded all the music himself, crediting the production to Jamie Starr and Morris Day, who at least was allowed to sing on the record, but was required to follow Prince's guide vocals note-for-note.A growing rivalry began to develop between the two groups as The Time toured with Prince and his band during his 1982 Controversy Tour
. Frustrated with their lack of input on the albums bearing their name and at being underpaid, The Time would take to the stage with the purpose of showing up Prince, in much the same way that Prince and his band had undermined Rick James when they had toured as James' opening act (unlike what happened during Rick James' Light it Up
tour, this time people didn't leave before the headliner, Prince, finished his set). The tension came to a head on the final night of the tour in Cincinnati during the Time's set when Prince and some of his band threw eggs at their supporting act from offstage. Things further escalated after The Time's performance when guitarist Jesse Johnson was handcuffed to a wall-mounted coat rack and further humiliated. Prince demanded no interruptions during his performance, but as soon as he left the stage, a food fight erupted. When the battle continued at the hotel, Prince made Morris Day pay for all damages, claiming that he had started the whole thing.During the 1982–83 1999/Triple Threat
tour, The Time served as Vanity 6's backing band from behind a curtain, before playing their own hour-long set. They liked the arrangement because the band saw it as free money. As Terry Lewis put it; "I'll play behind Vanity 6 for thirty minutes for $250. No problem. I was going to have to do the sound check, anyway." Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had begun writing songs and production work of their own (working with SOLAR to produce Klymaxx and with Tabu Records to produce the S.O.S. Band), were stranded in Atlanta by a blizzard and failed to make it to a Time concert in San Antonio, for which Jerome had to mime playing bass guitar on stage while Prince played Lewis' part off stage, and Lisa Coleman stood in for Jimmy Jam. Subsequently, the duo were fined and then fired, although Prince would state in a 1990 Rolling Stone's
interview that "I didn't fire Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Morris asked me what I would do in his situation. Remember, it was his band." Whether their firing was due to the incident or to their increasing independence has never been clear. Monte Moir took the opportunity to leave as well, and would also work with Jam and Lewis. The three were replaced with Mark Cardenas and Paul Peterson on keyboards and Rocky Harris on bass. This new line up, except with Jerry Hubbard replacing Rocky Harris, were featured in Prince's Purple Rain
film. The Time rode the wave of popularity created by the movie and hit singles "Jungle Love" and "The Bird" and were household names in 1984.
It was Day who left next after arguments with Prince, choosing to pursue a solo career in 1985 after a successful acting turn in Purple Rain
. Soon thereafter, with Jesse Johnson also opting to go solo (taking other Time members Cardenas and Hubbard with him), the band disintegrated; the remaining members (Benton, Jellybean Johnson and Peterson) were reformed into a new short-lived project called The Family. Meanwhile, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis went on to become one of the most successful songwriting and production teams of the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1990, the original seven members of the band reunited for the Graffiti Bridge
movie and soundtrack, as well as a new album, Pandemonium
. The project was originally called Corporate World
and was set to only feature Morris and Jerome, but Warner Bros. demanded that the original line-up be brought in if Prince wanted the company's backing for the movie. This spawned their highest selling single, "Jerk Out" and the album featured more input from the band than any other Time album. "Nobody really needed
to put The Time back together," said Lewis, "but everybody wanted to. That makes it a great experience all round. We take the musicianship and the craft of what we do very seriously but, when the seven of us get together, it's naturally a party, fun kinda situation. We carry that from the record on to the stage."The reunion was short-lived, however – infighting within the band caused them to disband once again. Morris and Jerome have since remained a team, with both trying out some small acting roles over the next few years.Several members of The Time reunited in 1995, added a few new recruits, Torri Ruffin on guitar, Chance Howard on Keyboards, Robert GI' Grissett Jr on third Keyboards and Freeze on Bass Guitar. This version of the band can be seen in the Kevin Smith film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
and tours frequently to this day. The band is usually billed as "Morris Day and The Time".A fifth Time album is rumoured to have been completed in the late 1990s, recorded with the new lineup but production and coordination with Prince has prevented its release. The title Old Dogs, New Tricks
was the working title. A 2004 album attributed to Morris Day called It's About Time
contains a few new tracks written and performed by Day and a number of live performances by The Time featuring the new members along with Jellybean, Jerome, Monte & Morris.
Second reunion and The Original 7ven
The Time reunited at The 50th Grammy Awards on February 10, 2008, performing a medley that included Rihanna and featured "Jungle Love".In June and July 2008, all of the original members of The Time (Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson, Jerome Benton, Jellybean Johnson, and Monte Moir) reunited once again for a series of shows at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.A recent interview as of January 2009 mentions that guitarist Jesse Johnson states he is working with The Time on their upcoming album. The Time appeared at The Fox Theater, in Detroit, Michigan on June 11, 2010, with the original lineup to a packed house. Two days later during what Jimmy Jam dubbed "The Stingy Tour" on June 13, 2010 the "magnificent 7" played a hometown reunion concert in Minneapolis, MN, and, during that concert, announced on stage that a new album was "90% complete," which confirmed information provided in a Billboard
profile published a week earlier.In September 2011, the band announced a name change to The Original 7ven and a new album Condensate
which was released October 18, 2011 with the single "#Trendin" released September 20.As for why the band decided to call themselves by a new name, Jimmy Jam said that “the decision was made at that point that we could either continue to, shall we say, negotiate or argue or plead or whatever. We decided to go the route of 'let’s not hold things up because of the name. Let’s embrace the opportunity to move forward in a new era, with a new outlook, with a new album' and that’s what we did. We think the name reflects exactly who we are. We are the Original 7even and that basically, for me, covers it.”On October 27, 2011, The Original 7ven appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
.On November 17, 2011, The Original 7ven opened the Soul Train Music Awards
in Atlanta, GA. The show was broadcast on November 27.