35 Years Ago: ‘Ice Cream Castles’ Signals the End for the Time
On July 9, 1984, the the Time released their third effort, Ice Cream Castles, an album that signaled two major events—their most commercially successful album to date, and the beginning of the end of an era, stamped by Prince's early Minneapolis funk sound.
The band, which formed in Minneapolis in 1981, had been disgruntled mostly because of Prince's alleged micro-managing. Although the group previously saw chart success with funky tracks like "Cool" and "777-9311" on earlier records, Prince kept a tight grip on the band.
Working under the pseudonym Jamie Starr, Prince, along with the band's frontman Morris Day, wrote all of the music and lyrics for the Time's 1981 self-titled debut and 1982 follow-up What Time Is It?
"Only in recent years did we start saying that basically [Prince] and I did the whole damn album. The Time wasn’t even together as a band at the time," Day told Rolling Stone in 2017. "We put the band together after we got the deal with Warner Brothers."
Day says that things turned a bit sour behind the scenes, however. When asked about persistent rumors that Prince felt intimated when the Time served as his opening act, Day said there was definitely competition between the two outfits.
"It turned into a bit of a rivalry for real because sometimes he would lay into us pretty good, and then sometimes, we’d kick his ass musically," Day admitted. "And people were seeing it. So it got to the point where in certain markets like L.A. or New York, he wouldn’t let us [perform] and when we were touring together, we’d get the night off occasionally, because he didn’t want that kind of pressure."
After super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were fired from the Time for missing a show due to being caught in a blizzard, things really began to unravel.
"I didn't fire Jimmy and Terry," Prince later told Rolling Stone in 1990. "Morris asked me what I would do in his situation. You got to remember, it was his band."
Either way, by the time Ice Cream Castles dropped, relationships had dissolved, and the Time broke up shortly after the album was finished, spawned at least partly by a deep rift between Day and Prince. Even still, the album's release helped the funk outfit experience crossover success, and chart higher than ever before, propelled by the connection to Prince's hit film, Purple Rain, which also starred Day as the movie's slick-haired antagonist.
"Like I always say, family fights," Day told Fader in 2017 about his ups and downs with Prince. "You can live in a house with your brother, your sister — you’re gonna fight. Some of them last longer than others so we had our disagreements but with the same token, when we saw each other, even though there would be things that I might be pissed off about or he might be pissed off about, because we had still business on the table that we had to deal with because we did a lot of music together."
Some of their most memorable collaborations were included on Ice Cream Castles, "The Bird" and "Jungle Love," both co-written with Time guitarist Jesse Johnson. The inclusion of the uptempo, jovial dance tracks in the film helped push the album to No. 24 of the Billboard 200, where it spent 57 weeks.
Ice Cream Castles, which dropped weeks before the film's theatrical release, is mostly an extension of Prince's Purple Rain world. Even parts of the skits on the six-track album recall scenes from the movie, including “Chili Sauce” which features a monologue from Morris Day in full character.
Too bad the band didn't truly get a chance to feed off the enormous success of the film as a unit. They broke up before it was released, and what's more, Prince didn't grant them the rights to use the name to record after they splintered.
"That was frustrating at times, but in a way, it went the way it was supposed to go. In my opinion, he kind of saved us from ourselves," Day later said. "When we did the Original 7ven project, I think it would have looked like more of a fiasco if we had used the name the Time and it really got the attention it would have gotten then. Because I would’ve used the name. But in hindsight, it was the right decision."
The original seven members of the band eventually regrouped in 1990 to record a new album, Pandemonium and work on the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack, spawning their most successful single to date, "Jerk Out."
Still, Ice Cream Castles remains a significant stamp on their legacy and sound, even if back then, enjoying the success of the album was short-lived for the band.
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