You know these guys, right?
If you’re here, I should hope you do.
Knowing that this is the Internet, where anything is possible, I’ll make it easy for you: the two men in the picture are famed record producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, first known as a key part of the rhythm section in Prince’s most infamous spinoff act The Time, best known as the guys who took Michael Jackson’s younger sister Janet and helped make her a star outside of her famous brother’s shadow. But if you’re like The Doc, who really loves (and knows) music under that “R&B” genre umbrella, you’ll probably say that some of their best records were done before they officially sealed the deal with Janet, notably with the likes of the S.O.S. Band, Alexander O’Neal, and Cherrelle on Clarence Avant’s Tabu label in the mid-1980s.
However you slice it, these guys had one of the most killer runs of hits we’ve ever seen. Though, for all their accolades, there is much of their production catalog that remains unknown. Only aficionados know that their first work outside the Time started showing up on acts for the SOLAR record label, as composers for the S.O.S. Band (“High Hopes”, off their third LP), and as producers for all-girl band Klymaxx (“Wild Girls”, one of the first real examples of their production hallmarks).
Taking with them the lessons learned from their time in the Time, Jimmy and Terry forged a sound that was as much part of that then-coveted “Minneapolis” scene but had a refinement that was all their own. With stompers like “Innocent” for Alexander O’Neal and “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On”, one had to wonder sometimes if they were giving their old friend Prince a quiet middle finger for ousting them from the band, as the arrangement of both songs could have been great backing for Morris and friends (and the lyrics of “Innocent” sounding much more of Morris’s style than that of Alex). Jimmy and Terry also had another killer sound, which did not find its way on many of their records, but was very popular out in Los Angeles — the fast-paced “electro-funk” that underpinned many breakdancing anthems, and hip-hop of the time, especially as it had started to gain popularity on the West Coast.
This “electro” sound can be best found on a couple of 12″ singles the team produced in 1983, fresh off their official exodus from the Time:
Klymaxx’s “Multi-Purpose Girls” was to be the lead single from the all-female outfit’s 1983 Girls In The Band album, which was scrapped before release after this tune failed to gain interest on the dance floor. It’s a shame that this song sat in promo purgatory, as it was easily one of the most energetic sessions Jam and Lewis ever put out. You can hear a little bit of jabs and nods to Prince toward the tail end of this track, as well as Terry Lewis’s voice telling (the lead vocalist, who I assume is Joyce Irby here) to “Go on and dance then”. Y’all better listen to Terry.
Captain Rapp’s “Bad Times (I Can’t Stand It)”, an early example of West Coast hip-hop, and an old school staple thereabouts, is a track not many know that Jam & Lewis had (more than) a hand in making. The beating electro funk boasts a pace not unlike the earlier Klymaxx track, but with a bit of a tougher edge. Captain Rapp, known for his track “Gigolo Rapp”, drops a few verses on the “Part I” of this single that hit hard on the socio-political issues of the day.
Just listening to these told you that these guys were gonna be around for a while — and they have. Word is that they’re gonna make another Time album with the rest of the band. I can only hope that they don’t forget where they came from when that time comes…