“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Albert Einstein
Last weekend, just as the clock was about to strike 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, instead it went magically to 3:00 a.m. WTF. Who knows where the time goes? Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?
Daylight savings time (DST), this curious semi-annual ritual of moving our clocks forward one hour each spring, then backward one hour each fall, has outlived its usefulness, if indeed it ever had any.
First officially adopted by Germany and Austria in 1916 during World War I, DST arguably made sense then because more daylight meant less use of artificial light, thereby purportedly saving energy.
But modern American society, with its ubiquitous computers, TV screens and air conditioning, pays no mind to whether the sun is up or not. The amount of energy saved in this country from converting to DST is negligible at best.
Moreover, changing the time, even if it is only by one hour, disrupts our body clocks, our circadian rhythm, and it can take up to two weeks to re-establish our sleep patterns. For most people, the resulting fatigue is simply an inconvenience, but for others, the time change can result in more serious consequences, including an increase in auto accidents and workplaces injuries, as well as depression and suicide.
There are proposals being discussed in state legislatures to end this nonsense by adopting a permanent daylight savings time. Sounds like a great idea to me.
Popular music of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s reminds us that we take time, give time, make time, waste time. It’s the right time, the wrong time, the first time, the last time. Buddha said, “The trouble is, we think we have time.”
A quick review reveals hundreds of song titles referring to time. I’ve whittled the list down to 15 for closer inspection, followed by a lengthy list of honorable mentions. As is customary at Hack’s Back Pages, there’s an accompanying playlist for your listening pleasure.
The time has come! Crank it up!
“Time Passages,” Al Stewart, 1978
Many of singer-songwriter Al Stewart’s songs told stories with fictional characters from olden days, while other tunes focused on present-day concerns. Taking trips down memory lane can be enjoyable, he says, but he prefers to stay in the present and not get caught up reminiscing about things from the past you can’t change: “Well I’m not the kind to live in the past, the years run too short and the days too fast, the things you lean on are the things that don’t last, well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these time passages…”
“The Last Time,” The Rolling Stones, 1965
Even in their earliest days of songwriting, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards showed the ability to address weighty subjects that had universal relevance. On “The Last Time,” which cracked the Top Ten in the U.S., the lyrics reminded us how we can let opportunities slip away from us if we take too long too act on them: “Well, I told you once and I told you twice, that someone will have to pay the price, but here’s a chance to change your mind ’cause I’ll be gone a long, long time, well, this could be the last time, this could be the last time, maybe the last time, I don’t know, oh no…”
“This is the Time,” Billy Joel, 1986
On his Top 10 album “The Bridge,” Joel scored three Top 20 singles, including “This is the Time,” a poignant reflection on how we love to cling to great times in our past despite the fact that time and circumstances inevitably change: “This is the time to remember, ’cause it will not last forever, these are the days to hold on to, ’cause we won’t, although we’ll want to, this is the time, but time is gonna change, you’ve given me the best of you, and now I need the rest of you…”
“Long Time Gone,” Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969
As David Crosby and Stephen Stills were first teaming up in 1968 and then recruiting Graham Nash to join them, the world outside seemed to be coming apart at the seams. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy inspired Crosby to write this disturbing treatise on how dark times can seem endless, even though better times arrive eventually: “Don’t you know the darkest hour is always just before the dawn, and it appears to be a long, appears to be a long, appears to be a long time, such a long, long, long, long time before the dawn…”
“Time,” Pink Floyd, 1973
“Dark Side of the Moon,” one of the most successful rock albums in history, focuses lyrically on insanity, greed, death and the passage of time. In the song “Time,” songwriter Roger Waters examines how its passage can control one’s life, and offers a stark warning to those who remain focused on mundane aspects: “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…”
“Time Will Crawl,” David Bowie, 1987
Bowie was always one of rock’s more serious-minded lyricists, from “Space Oddity” on his first album through “Heroes” and “Ashes to Ashes” in his Berlin trilogy. As he points out in the rather dystopian “Time Will Crawl” from his mid-’80s LP “Never Let Me Down,” time has a way of moving painfully slowly when things aren’t going well: “Time will crawl ’til our mouths run dry, time will crawl ’til our feet grow small, time will crawl ’til our tails fall off, time will crawl ’til the 21st century lose…”
“Get it Right Next Time,” Gerry Rafferty, 1979
Perseverance is the theme of Rafferty’s irresistible 1979 hit single “Get It Right Next Time,” in which the narrator encourages us to maintain a positive outlook and keep trying after previous attempts have failed: “Life is a liar, yeah, life is a cheat, it’ll lead you on and pull the ground from underneath your feet, no use complainin’, don’t you worry, don’t you whine, ’cause if you get it wrong, you’ll get it right next time, next time…”
“Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper, 1983
It’s always very comforting to know that you can count on another person to always be there for you when you need them. In “Time After Time,” Lauper’s pretty melody goes nicely with lyrics that underscore the importance of undying reliability: “You said, ‘Go slow,’ I fall behind, the second hand unwinds, if you’re lost, you can look and you will find me time after time, if you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting time after time…”
“Time Has Come Today,” The Chambers Brothers, 1968
One of my favorite songs from the heady days of 1968 psychedelia was this strident track by The Chambers Brothers. The arrangement uses dramatic tempo changes as the vocalists repeatedly shout “Time!” Its lyrics speak about the need to avoid procrastination and act now before it’s too late: “Now the time has come, there’s no place to run, now the time has come, there are things to realize, time has come today…”
“Take the Time,” Michael Stanley Band, 1982
Cleveland’s Michael Stanley not only wrote great rock songs that should have received far more airplay nationally than they did, he penned some solid lyrics that are certainly worthy of your attention. “Take the Time” is immediately relevant today, instructing us to remember the important things as we cope with life’s struggles: “Now is the hour, tomorrow might be too late, you gotta grab the moment, you just can’t hesitate… Take the time to love someone, take the time to make amends, take the time to make a stand, tase the time for your friends…”
“Give Me Some Time,” Dan Fogelberg, 1977
When heartbreak takes longer to heal than expected, any chance of a new relationship needs to be put on hold until we’re ready for it. Dan Fogelberg did a marvelous job of covering this topic in “Give Me Some Time,” a beautiful tune from his 1977 LP “Nether Lands”: “Give me some time now, I’ve just got to find how I’m going to forget her, and talk myself into believing that she and I are through, then maybe I’ll fall for you…”
“I Don’t Have the Time,” The James Gang, 1969
Joe Walsh’s earliest songwriting attempts came when he was honing his chops with his old group, The James Gang. Among the issues he tackled on the group’s debut LP “Yer Album” was the need to make productive use of one’s time: “I don’t have the time to play your silly games, walk to work each morning, live within a frame, now you’re trying to tell me I should be like you, watch your time, work nine to five, what good does it do?…”
“Time Is,” It’s a Beautiful Day, 1969
David LaFlamme served as chief songwriter, vocalist, violinist and flautist in this underrated San Francisco-based group. His ten-minute song “Time Is,” which concludes the band’s debut LP, offers a cornucopia of lyrical ideas about time: “Time is too slow for those who wait, time is too swift for those who fear, time is too long for those who grieve, and time is too short for those who laugh, but for those who love, really love, time, sweet time, precious time, is eternity…”
“Isn’t It Time,” The Babys, 1977
Philosophers have been trying for centuries to figure out the meaning of life and how the passage of time plays a role in that quest. The rest of us sometimes just want to figure out whether this is the right time to begin a romantic relationship. John Waites’ band The Babys took a look at this in their hit single “Isn’t It Time” in the fall of 1977: “I just can’t find the answers to the questions that keep going through my mind, hey, babe! Isn’t it time?…”
“Time in a Bottle,” Jim Croce, 1973
Before his premature death in a 1973 plane crash, songwriter Croce came up with a tune that’s, well, timeless in its profound simplicity. We think we have plenty of time in our lives to do what we want, but not if we struggle too long in determining what it is we want to accomplish: “If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do is to save every day ’til eternity passes away, just to spend them with you, but there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them…”
“Wasted Time,” The Eagles, 1976; “Sign o’ the Times,” Prince, 1986; “Time Won’t Let Me,” The Outsiders, 1966; “Time,” The Alan Parsons Project, 1981; “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” Judy Collins, 1968; “Your Time is Gonna Come,” Led Zeppelin, 1969; “Only Time Will Tell,” Asia, 1982; “Right Place Wrong Time,” Dr John, 1973; “Time Out of Mind,” Steely Dan, 1980; “Feels Like the First Time,” Foreigner, 1977; “No Time,” The Guess Who, 1969; “Comes a Time,” Neil Young, 1978; “Time is Running Out,” Steve Winwood, 1977; “Another Time, Another Place,” U2; “Time of the Season,” The Zombies, 1969; “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,” Chicago, 1969; “My Time,” Boz Scaggs, 1972; “Time Out,” Joe Walsh, 1974; “The Nighttime is the Right Time,” Creedence, 1969; “Sands of Time,” Fleetwood Mac, 1971; “River of Time,” Van Morrison, 1983; “Most of the Time,” Bob Dylan, 1989; “High Time We Went,” Joe Cocker, 1971.
Great list. Especially pleased to see Chambers bros featured.