Thinking about time
By Bill Holland
You know the song. “Time Is On My Side.” The Rolling Stones released it in 1964. Time was on my side back then, yes it was. It’s not today. And so for some reason, songs about time play in my vault of memories. As they do, a jukebox of images, sounds, and words return.
“Time,” the Pink Floyd classic from The Dark Side of the Moon, takes me back to 1973 when I worked as a ticket agent for Greyhound and Southeastern Stages in Athens, Georgia. In graduate school at UGA, I wandered, a lost soul. A desert lay before me and I had no choice but to cross it. It took time.
Chiming clocks and ringing alarms introduced “Time’s” fateful words. “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day. Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.”
The words summed up my life at that juncture, a beautiful frittering of time. A genius recorded the clanging, ticking, and chiming clocks in an antique store, engineer Alan Parsons. Twenty years later, that’s a lot of time, Parsons released “Mr. Time.” Then a ripe old 45, perhaps Parsons felt his mortality. One line resonated with me. “When the minute’s up, so are you.”
And what about the Stones “Time Is On My Side?” It’s a lament for lost love. “Now you always say that you want to be free, but you’ll come running back.” Well, maybe not. Maybe we’re better off when some people just go. Go on, get out of here. Don’t let the door hit your backside on the way out. By the way, Jerry Ragovoy wrote the song, a huge hit. Time really was on his side.
And now Harry Chapin sings “Cats In The Cradle” in a packed auditorium at the University of South Carolina. It’s 1981. The song tells of a father’s lament that he never took time to do much with his son. “There were planes to catch and bills to pay.” The song’s end? The boy grew up just like his father, too busy to spend time with his retired dad.
Chapin died weeks later, July 16, 1981, when a tractor-trailer hit him from behind on the Long Island Expressway. At the age of 39, his minute was up.
The Beatles recorded a masterpiece, “Yesterday.” Paul McCartney composed the entire melody in a dream one night. The words about time and a broken relationship came later. “Yesterday” is the most covered song in history. Over 2,000 artists took the time to record their version. But Sir Paul composed it.
“It fell out of bed,” McCartney said. “I had a piano by my bedside, and I must have dreamed it, because I tumbled out of bed and put my hands on the piano keys and I had a tune in my head. It was just all there, a complete thing. I couldn’t believe it. It came too easy.”
Working in his sleep. He made good use of his time I’d say. Many do not. They fritter it away. Not me, not anymore. As I write this column for you, dear reader, it’s not quite 1 a.m. I like to make hay when the sun doesn’t shine. Seems I have more time, purer time after the midnight hour. No one bothers me.
Here’s the thing about time, it’s evasive, as slippery as a bar of glycerin soap. People like to say when I get the time, I’ll do … fill in the blank. No, when the time comes to do something you promised, there will be no time. Do it today. Tonight. Now. Time’s not on your side like you think it is.