Wednesday, July 23, 2008

MORE ON TIME (does that sound dumb?)

You already know this (especially if you read my recent, July 11th post), but I have a thing about time. I mean, for something so arbitrary, so totally relative, my every day revolves around it. For one thing, I’m one of those annoying people who are beyond punctual. If I’m merely on time for something, I feel like I’m late. I always bring along a book. Furthermore, I always have a watch either on my arm or in a purse or a pocket when I go out. And there’s a clock (small and unobtrusive) in every room in my house. Every one of them has a slightly different time. It might be three oh-one in the kitchen but only two twenty-nine in the bathroom, and a whopping three-fifteen on the porch. I get a big kick out of that, I really do. It’s my own private little Einsteinian joke. I have friends in various times zones, and I love to say, “…is that “my time’ and “your time?” What a riot! Don’t go feeling superior, it’s not like you don’t have some weird likes and dislikes – but hey, I’m not asking.

When it comes to vintage music, there are a ton of songs about time. That’s because so many songs were about love – getting it in the future, losing it in the present, missing it in the past. Am I not right? But for all the songs that were written about love in one tense or another, there weren’t very many that actually had real clocks or clock-like sounds in them. Those are the really special ones! My earliest introduction to such a song was listening to a very old, brittle 78-rpm recording of “My Grandfather’s Clock” that got handed down from my grandparents. I loved singing along with that old-time song as a kid, especially the “tick, tock” part. The song was written by a fellow named Henry Clay Work back in 1876, as a parlor song I suppose, but it’s been a staple of popular music and country bluegrass ever since. Johnny Cash recorded it, and so did Boyz II Men, in 2004. I was really surprised to learn that, and pleased, too. Guess it’ll be sticking around for a while yet.

I don’t know that anyone has ever made a comprehensive list of tick-tock songs, but here are three favorites of mine from the vintage rock and roll years, plus a neat version of “My Grandfather’s Clock” just for good measure, all in chronological (what else?) order:

My Grandfather’s Clock” Performers and date unknown. This is likely as close as we can come to the way it was originally intended to be performed when it was new. Kind of an interesting juxtaposition of a song from not long after the Civil War with some modern Flash animation. Plus I noticed they say "tick tick" and "tick tock."

Image of a Girl” The Safaris 1960. A great oldie about love- induced insomnia.

Got a Feeling” The Mamas and Papas, 1965. I’m a big fan of the M&Ps. They also did a beautiful one about a broken clock, “Twelve-thirty.”

“Time Has Come Today” The Chambers Brothers, 1968. The length of songs, and the time it took to listen got kind of stretchy in the late 60s. That was because people under the influence of pot could listen to stuff for hours, man. YouTube has both the short and long versions. Choose your pick, all depends on your frame of mind and/or how much, ah, time you have.

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