(Featured Image: Lil’ Morris Day and Prince Nelson, in a still presumably from the cancelled Morris Babies TV series; photo stolen from Morris Day and the Time’s Facebook.)
The first four tracks recorded for the Time’s second album were all good to great: “The Walk,” “Gigolos Get Lonely Too,” “Wild and Loose,” and “777-9311,” each a highlight of the group’s overall catalogue. So, to truly live up to the legacy of their 1981 debut, they were long overdue for some filler. Recorded around the same time as “777-9311” in late Spring 1982, “Onedayi’mgonnabesomebody” was exactly that: a slight, palate-cleansing trifle to fill out the first side of the album.
But it isn’t just its throwaway nature that makes this track feel like a callback to the early days of the Time. It’s also the sound: retro rock’n’roll with a dash of New Wave kitsch, not dissimilar from one of Prince’s formative influences for the group, the BusBoys–and, of course, more than a little reminiscent of his own contemporary material. In particular, “Oneday”’s squiggly main synth line recalls “Horny Toad”–another song recorded around the same time and later released as the B-side for “Delirious”–with all of the rough edges and, frankly, most of the appeal buffed away.
Lyrically, “Oneday” returns to the well of songs like “After Hi School” from the Time’s first album, with singer Morris Day adopting the persona of a working-class youngster dreaming of future success. It wasn’t much of a stretch: during the fallow period between the breakup of Shampayne and his return to the Prince fold, Day had briefly worked in the rental car department of a Montgomery Ward in suburban Maryland–not quite the “car wash” described in the song’s lyrics, but it does add a touch of lived experience to the line, “if gettin’ to the top means washin’ a car, I’d be scrubbin’ with a smile on my face.” There’s also plenty of Prince’s own personal blend of ambition and work ethic in lyrics like, “If I should die before I’m rich, I pray the Lord my soul to keep / But if I’m rich before I die, I wanna work ’cause nothin’ comes cheap.” He’d explored similar themes in another song recorded in rough form in late 1981; that song, “Baby I’m a Star,” would handily overshadow “Oneday” both artistically and commercially when it finally saw release on 1984’s Purple Rain.
In fact, maybe the most enduring aspect of “Oneday” is the seemingly throwaway moment that occurs in its closing seconds: the song’s instrumental vamp is suddenly interrupted by the sound of a turntable needle dragging against the record, followed by a chorus of male voices–mostly Prince’s–declaring, “We don’t like New Wave!” and bursting into maniacal laughter. This, like the similar outburst on “The Walk”–which both follows “Oneday” on the album and serves as the A-side on the single release–was an intentional dig at Prince’s childhood friend and former bass player, André Cymone, whose debut solo album was titled Livin’ in the New Wave. It was also, according to the Time’s guitarist Jesse Johnson, entirely Prince’s idea: “that ain’t me on there, that’s all Prince[’s] voice that I know,” he complained on a 2018 episode of Pandora’s Questlove Supreme show. “But I gotta go box with motherfuckers now and I ain’t got shit to do with that record” (Questlove 2018).
Whether the members of the Time were prepared to fight Prince’s battles for him or not, the soundbite ultimately outlived the beef with André: during the Musicology tour in 2004, drummer John Blackwell would trigger a sample of the chant during his drum solo on “Take Me with U.” If there’s a weirder afterlife for an obscure Prince track than that, I’m not sure I know of it.