Time flies when you’re having fun…Time has passed me by…Time has taken its toll…Time stood still…I don’t have Time for that… She’s gotten better with Time…that’s a Timeless melody…to everything there is a Time… We all talk about Time as if we had a clue what it’s all about. We try to manipulate time or control it, or measure it, or define it—and we certainly write lyrics and songs about it. My personal favorite saying about Time doesn’t really mean a damn thing—it just looks good scrawled on a wall. ‘Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like bananas…’
Songwriters have penned some truly cheesy and simplistic things about time, but they occasionally hit on some profound thoughts that we can all relate to. The Stones wrote about being “Out of Time” (it was never played live—and is only on the UK version of the recording “Aftermath”). They also wrote “Time Waits for No One” and optimistically that “Time is On My Side”. Their fascination with the subject also resulted in “The Last Time”. The Doors asked the world to “Love Me Two Times”, Cyndi Lauper wrote about “Time After Time” and even vapid little Brittney Spears wants “Baby, One More Time”. That great band Chicago asked the big question—“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Cher had a hit with the song “If I Could Turn Back Time”, which she has apparently spent a good chunk of her life trying to do, at least physically! Clint Black wrote “Killin’ Time” and Ray Charles can make us weep with his song “Crying Time”.
The Eagles, those skillful lyricists who can evoke feelings of sadness or optimism or nostalgia with their well-penned words, had a stark and melancholy hit with the Glenn Frey and Don Henley written song “Wasted Time”, sung by Henley on the “Hell Freezes Over” tour and cd. It’s about a woman who finds herself alone—again—and is lamenting having to start over again with love. “You never thought you’d be alone this far down the line and I know what’s been on your mind—you’re afraid it’s all been wasted time.” Some people believed the next lyrics were as much about the band breaking up as the plight of the sad woman—“Oh another love has come and gone, and the years keep rushing on. So you can get on with your search, baby, and I can get on with mine and maybe someday we will find, that it wasn’t really wasted time”.
The Chambers Brothers, formed in 1954 by four brothers from Mississippi, started out playing gospel and soul music, but moved to Los Angeles where young musicians were writing about social injustice, civil rights, and against the Vietnam War we were mired in. They started performing their epic show stopping song “Time Has Come Today” onstage in 1965, and it morphed into an eleven minute wild psychedelic anthem, complete with light show, by 1968. They signed with Columbia Records in 1966, but their boss, the power freak Clive Davis, refused to record the song on the album he was making with them. His reason was that it wasn’t black enough (the Chambers Brothers were black, proud, and accomplished musicians) and he wanted a white singer to record it. He felt that black artists should stay in their gospel and soul niche and not be messing around with ‘white hippie music’.
So the band and their producer snuck into the studio several hours early one day, recorded the song—one take, no overdubs, no frills—secretly mixed it and everyone kept their mouths shut about it. Clive Davis didn’t find out until he heard it on the album, and he went ballistic. Fired the producer and virtually everyone who had anything to do with the production. One of the band members said that “Clive was so angry he even fired the guy who let them in the studio early for the session.” They used a cowbell to imitate the sound of a ticking clock at the beginning of the song, and the constant repetition of the word ‘Time’ made it clear it was a call to action. “Now the time has come—there’s no place to run. I might get burned up by the sun but I had my fun. I’ve been loved and put aside—I’ve been crushed by the tumbling tide and my soul has been psychedelicized.”
My vote for best song ever about the subject also starts out with layers of clocks ticking, chimes, gongs, alarm clocks ringing and eventually gets to a two minute drum solo by Nick Mason, using experimental small tuned drums called boo-bans. Then it morphs into the epic musical journey we all know—the great Pink Floyd song “Time”. It’s the only song on the album “Dark Side of the Moon” that gives writing credit to all four members of the band—it is powerful, has haunting vocal harmonies, genius lyrics and David Gilmore plays one of the greatest blistering guitar solos ever recorded. I cannot resist—here are most of the lyrics…
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day. Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way. Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town. Waiting for someone or something to show you the way. Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain. You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. And then, one day, you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run—you missed the starting gun. And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking. Racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older. Shorter of breath and one day closer to death. Every year is getting shorter—never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines. Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. The time is gone, the song is over—thought I’d had something more to say…
Do yourself a favor—get pschedelicized, go back in time and listen to the whole album “Dark Side of the Moon”. I’ll bet some of you will be startled at its relevance and brilliance all over again.
Then there’s that other prophet and poet, Bob Dylan. For his 3rd album he wrote ”The Times They Are A’Changing”—the most political and possibly the most important song in his legendary career. It too turned into an anthem and was the rallying call to arms for the unaware that the world was quickly changing around us. “Admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth savin’, then you’d better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone…” For his 14th album the kinder and gentler Bob wrote a lullaby for his oldest son—a kind of benediction of his hopes for his future. I’ll leave you with part of it. “May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true. May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong—may you stay forever young.”
For our visitors, there are quite a few excellent musicians of all types playing around town, so check around about your current options. Lately down here in Dominical, which I affectionately call ‘Dysfunction Junction’, there has been a wealth of really good musicians with great attitudes showing up and having some musical fun with us local players. There is a very cool music scene going on here, so come south and have some fun with us!
Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid. Frank Zappa
To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable. Aaron Copeland
To be here now, this is it. Make the most of it. Roger Waters