Time is relative. At least this is according to Albert Einstein and the philosophers who are in agreement with him. Also quoted many times over is “time waits for no one.” There are several proverbs that date even as far back as biblical times that reflect upon the passage of time and all the events that take place in the process.
How often do you think about time? Do you tend to look back from time to time, remembering events of the past? How about today? Do you give much thought to what’s going on in your world right now? How about thoughts about tomorrow?
When it comes to time and music, these two mixed together to form songs that have resulted in some of the best material ever written. While everybody is subject to their opinion about what classifies as an all-time classic rock tune about time, my personal experience has set ten classic rock songs aside that managed to do more than deliver entertainment value.
Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About Time
#10 – Time Has Come Today – The Chamber Brothers
We thought we would open up this list with one of the most famous songs about Time ever released. The song “Time Has Come Today,” was released on the album The Time Has Come. The album was released in 1967.
9 – This Time (performed by Bryan Adams)
Among the fan base of Canadians, and perhaps some Americans, Bryan Adams is a rock and roll icon. “This Time” was a single he released in 1983 from his hit album, Cuts Like a Knife. This was a song about remembering an old flame who made such an impact on the vocalist that he shared this in the form of a song that had no trouble scoring another hit for the man. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at number twenty-four. In Canada, it was a number thirty-two hit on the Canadian Singles Chart. In the song, he vowed there was no way he was going to let his love interest slip away without a trace.
As a listener, “This Time” wasn’t simply about chasing after a love interest. It was about treasuring bittersweet memories of the past and using those to our advantage in order to make the most out of today and tomorrow. Also, this was a great tune for couples who were not able to spend as much time together as they’d like due to circumstances that seemed beyond their control.
#8 – Too Much Time on My Hands (performed by Styx)
From Styx’s tenth studio album, Paradise Theatre, “Too Much Time on My Hands” was a song written and performed by Tommy Shaw. When this song began with the keyboards acting like it was in a race before the guitar and drums pulsed, as a listener it was impossible to ignore this was destined to become a cult classic. When Shaw shared his woes as an unemployed person having too much time on his hands, did this ever strike a blow to the reality of what time can do to a person that feels like they’ve become an unproductive member of society.
Released in 1981, “Too Much Time on My Hands” became a number nine hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. This marked the first and only occasion Shaw experienced a top-ten hit as a singer and songwriter for Styx. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart, it peaked at number two. In Canada, it was a number four hit on its RPM Top Singles Chart. For this fan, it was good enough motivation to get off my butt and get my first job. I was eleven years old at the time. I established a paper route and sold Avon before I realized I didn’t have enough time on my hands and needed to focus more on my school grades.
#7- The Times They Are a-Changin’ (performed by Bob Dylan)
Released in 1964, “The Times They Are a-Changin” was Bob Dylan’s attempt to create an anthem that pointed out the world’s reality just entered a new era that would change the lives of so many people whether they liked it or not. Influenced by the ballads from Ireland and Scotland, this became a number nine hit on the UK Singles Chart before it was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry.
Although this was not officially released in the United States as a single, “The Times They Are a-Changin'” became an immensely popular tune regardless. At the time, it served as a key influence among the people when it came to political and social issues. It still behaves as an influencer today, making this Bob Dylan classic prove to be more than just another hit single. This song also inspired scores of recording artists to come up with their own versions. Among them, the Byrds stood out above the rest as Jim McGuinn’s vocal performance was nothing short of spectacular.
Interestingly enough, less than a month after Dylan recorded “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” then-president John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Going into 2004, it was chosen as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. There is also an exhibit of the song that was chosen as one of The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
#6 – Time After Time (performed by Cyndi Lauper)
The ballad, “Time After Time,” was a 1984 release by Cyndi Lauper that came from her debut album, She’s So Unusual. It became her first number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, surpassing her iconic hit, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The song earned its source of inspiration after seeing Time After Time listed in a TV Guide magazine.
In 1985, “Time After Time” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number three while on Australia’s Singles Chart it climbed as high as number six. “Time After Time” was an international favorite among a fan base who found themselves easily relating to the heartache of someone who was experiencing personal issues while in a relationship with someone who was clearly devoted to her. In the music video, the song ended in heartbreak when Lauper boarded a bus, leaving her lover behind.
Although “Time After Time” didn’t earn a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, it did earn Best Female Performance and Best Pop Video at the American Video Awards in 1984. It was also the same year she earned Best Female Performance from the Billboard Awards, as well as BMI’s Pop Award. The BMI Awards recognized “Time After Time” again in 2009 for the exact same award. The latest of these awards demonstrated how iconic and timeless Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” is.
#5 – Time Stand Still (performed by Rush and Aimee Mann)
Aimee Mann of ‘Til Tuesday fame was the guest vocalist, teaming up with Rush to perform “Time Stand Still.” Released as a single in 1987 from the album, Hold Your Fire, this became a number three hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, a number forty-two hit on the UK Singles Chart, and a number fifty-two hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. While the Canadian band may not have shared the same level of charting success in their nation as they did in America, it still became a cult favorite among a fan base that saw there was more to the song than sheer entertainment value.
Written by the late Neal Peart, “Time Stand Still” was a song based on his experience as a member of Rush’s iconic lineup, especially during the 1970s. For him, as well as the rest of the band, time itself felt like a dark entity as there was so much time spent on the road that there didn’t seem to be anything else going for the group other than doing one concert after another.
Interestingly enough, Aimee Mann wasn’t the first choice as the woman singing alongside Geddy Lee. It was Cyndi Lauper, then Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders, before approaching Mann. The contrast between her vocal talent against Lee’s was an incredible formula that served as an excellent piece of advice to never stop enjoying every moment you have in the present. Whatever happened in the past is done and dwelling on it too much won’t change a thing. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone, even if at times it may feel like it does.
#4 – Turn! Turn! Turn! (performed by the Byrds)
There is no song that discusses time better than “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, or “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season),” as performed by the Byrds. It was written in 1950 by Pete Seeger before it was recorded in 1959. In 1962, it was recorded as “To Everything There Is a Season” as a folk song by the Limeliters. In 1965, it became a massive hit, thanks to the Byrds.
With this song, the quote from the book of Ecclesiastes from the Holy Bible continues to send chills among listeners who take God’s Word very seriously. Through the Byrds, the powerful delivery behind the vocals continues to serve as a reality check that time does exactly what it’s designed to do. It continues to move forward whether we want it to or not.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, Canada’s CHUM Hit Parade, and New Zealand’s Lever Hit Parade, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” became a number-one hit. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-six. It also charted within the top forty among the nations of Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands.
#3 – Time (performed by Freddie Mercury)
Fans of Queen will remember Freddie Mercury as the legendary frontman that rocked the music industry like no other. When he went solo, “Time” was a song he recorded in 1986, along with “In My Defence.” These were for Dave Clark’s musical, Time. On the UK Singles Chart, “Time” became a number thirty-two hit. It was even more popular in Ireland as it peaked at number twelve on its official music chart. In 2000, it became part of Freddie Mercury’s posthumously released box set The Solo Collection, as well as 2006’s Lover of Life, Singer of Songs: The Very Best of Freddie Mercury Solo.
When listening to Mercury’s unmistakable voice in this concept of “Time,” it’s very hard to do so without shedding a tear. There have been remixed versions of this classic. As “Time Waits for No One,” it became a number forty hit on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. However, nothing beats the original. It’s also impossible to beat this song as an all-time classic.
Dave Clark’s Time was derived from the 1970 musical, The Time Lord. The content focused on contemporary rock musician Chris Wilder and his bandmates transported to the High Court of the Universe in the Andromeda Galaxy. It played into mankind’s fascination with space exploration.
When my father passed away in 1993, it was two years after the world lost Freddie Mercury. “Time ” was played as a song at my father’s memorial that was shared only with select family members and friends. Even the senior citizens that heard this song for the first time found it impossible not to be moved by such an incredible song performed by such an incredible voice. Maybe I’m biased, but Mercury’s “Time” remains a big favorite in my books.
#2 – Time (performed by Alan Parsons Project)
Released in 1981 as a single by the Alan Parsons Project, “Time” was one of the iconic songs that came from the 1980 album The Turn of a Friendly Card. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number-one hit while on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart it peaked at number ten. In addition to the euphoric flow that made this song such a standout, it was the first to feature Eric Woolfson as lead vocalist. It was also among the few songs that actually had Alan Parson himself take part in the singing. This is the same Alan Parsons who orchestrated the clock performance of “Time” for Pink Floyd’s version.
“Time” by Alan Parsons Project became the second most successful song in the band’s career, sitting just behind 1984’s “Don’t Answer Me.” In Canada, “Time” peaked as high as number thirty on its RPM Top Singles chart. Speaking as a fan, if you really want a magnificent “Time” experience, listen to Alan Parsons’ version first, then go to Pink Floyd’s version. Make sure you’re at least in a seated position when you do so and close your eyes clean through both songs. Maybe your experience may not perfectly match mine but listening to these two songs, back to back, and in this order, it is a twelve-minute run of musical beauty.
#1 – Time (performed by Pink Floyd)
When it comes to finding that perfect classic rock song about time, Pink Floyd earns its place at the top of the list with their version of “Time.” Released in 1973 from the group’s eighth studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon, this was a song loaded with euphoric qualities that made it feel like the listener was simply caught up in the flow it played. Whether it’s the nearly seven minutes of the album’s version or the slightly over three minutes of the single version, “Time” remains the ultimate song of choice that hammers it home as a cult classic.
For starters, the song began with an orchestra of clocks that led the song into a powerful wave of instrumental genius before Roger Waters and keyboardist Richard Wright shared the vocals of what truly is an all-time rock classic. The lyrics themselves dealt with the passage of time. As a songwriter, Waters was inspired after realizing he was simply flowing with the realm of time instead of preparing for anything that he felt was of consequence. It was a sensation that hit him not long before he reached thirty years of age.
Interestingly enough, the sound of the alarms and chimes from the clocks came from Alan Parsons as he performed a quadrophonic test inside an antique store. This is the same Alan Parsons from the group that also produced an equally iconic version of “Time” as well.
Hands down, the best version of “Time” is on the album, especially with the dominating drum performance by Nick Mason. After the unforgettable sound of clocks at the start of the song, there was a two-minute wave of Pink Floyd doing what they do best as instrumentalists. From 1972 until 1975, the live performances of “Time” featured Waters as the frontman. Then, from 1987 until 1994, it was performed live again. Speaking from personal experience, I was fortunate enough to listen to “Time” live while they were in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on January 28, 1994. Not only was it impressive just to hear the song but to watch how every member of the audience was caught up in the wave of what truly is a timeless classic.
Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About Time article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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