I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On

The production duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis started out playing in the funk band the Time in the early 80s, but they didn’t have much creative control – the Time was mainly another avenue of musical expression for their Minneapolis comrade, Prince.  So Jam and Lewis moved into production work where they had more freedom.  They enjoyed great success working with a number of artists: the S.O.S. Band, Alexander O’Neal, Cherelle, and most famously Janet Jackson.  Probably only a few other people had as much influence on the sound of 80s pop: Prince himself; Michael Jackson and his producer, Quincy Jones (who started out doing big-band bluesy jazz); Madonna and her producer, Nile Rodgers (founder and guitar player in the disco group Chic).

Despite Jam and Lewis’s production cred, sometimes other people do their sound better than they do.  Cherelle released her Jam & Lewis produced debut album, Fragile, in 1984. It contained the 7-minute synth-funk of “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On.”


Robert Palmer, an English singer with a varied career (he started out playing with southern rock and funk musicians from Little Feat and the Meters) who enjoyed a lot of success in the 80s, covered Cherelle’s tune the next year for his album Riptide.  He shaves off the synthesizer’s highs and lows, streamlines the pulse and makes the song half as long, but the real improvement is in the vocals.  When he sings the hook, it becomes smoothly apologetic, the change in tone at the end signifying a cool shrug of Palmer’s shoulders.




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