Prince’s Hot Rock: The Secret Life Of America’s Sexiest One-Man Band
Most influential one-man band
By Debby MillerApril 28, 1983
What does a twenty-two-year-old musical wizard in bikini briefs have that other rock stars don’t? Whatever it is, it makes him the world’s sexiest and most influential one-man band.
On their record, Vanity 6 is backed by the Time; onstage, they’re followed by the Time (who, in turn, are followed by Prince). At one point in the Time’s set, frontman Morris Day, a terrific dancer, calls out his valet. The valet – who often follows Morris’ own dance steps like a shadow – brings out a table, sets it with a white cloth and a vase of flowers, and uncorks a bottle of champagne. Morris, meanwhile, in his trademark two-tone Stacy Adams shoes, waltzes with a girl chosen from the audience. This sort of classy deportment was the starting point for the Time, as organized by Morris. “The image was cool. That’s the key word,” he says. “That’s what we built the Time around. Cool is an attitude, a self-respect thing.”
Morris didn’t exactly put the group together – all but guitarist Jesse Johnson had been playing around Minneapolis in a band called Flyte Tyme (known familiarly as the Tyme even then). But it is Morris who has led the band to the point where it now often steals the show from the scantily clad Vanity 6 and even from Prince. Morris, the former drummer, has stayed closer to traditional R&B but, by injecting his good humor, has developed one of the best live acts in the country.
Prince, says Morris, helped the band get its Warner Bros. contract in 1981. Asked why the Time shares the same teenage-sex themes as Prince, Morris says, “Sex is present in everybody’s life. I don’t think anybody owns the rights to that.” Asked if Prince influenced their sound, Morris says what Vanity says: “We believe in the same things.” Asked about Jamie Starr, an icy tension descends.
Although Morris Day and one Jamie Starr are credited as producers on the Time’s first record, there is reason to believe that the record was, in fact, produced by Prince. One source very close to the situation says that not only is all the material written by Prince (mysteriously, there are no writing credits on the LP), but that the instruments are played by Prince and the voice is Prince’s doubled with Morris Day’s. This insider claims that the record – a more commercial, more straightforward R&B album – is a project Prince offered Warner Bros. because his own bolder stuff wasn’t selling impressively. So, goes this theory, Prince set the Time in motion – and created a pseudonym, Jamie Starr, for his new project.
Prince did tell a reporter in an early interview with the Minnesota Daily, when he was just seventeen, that someday he would make jazz recordings under an alias. (In that same interview, Prince claimed not to be averse to choreography, but he drew the line at spins – “I get nauseated.”) So the idea of working with a fictitious name had occurred to him at the beginning of his career.
And although Morris says that he and the band wrote the songs on their first LP, The Time, a call to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), with whom the songs are registered, casts some doubt. The composer of the hits “Get It Up” and “Cool” is Prince Rogers Nelson (with Dez Dickerson on “Cool”), says an ASCAP spokesman. Prince’s manager says that the fact that Prince’s name is registered for the Time’s record is “a filing mistake.”
“Let me clear up a few rumors while I have the chance,” Prince told the Los Angeles Times. “One, my real name is Prince. Two, I’m not gay. And three, I’m not Jamie Starr.”