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A Passage of Time - Playlist by Bryan Biggs

For the third of our newsletter playlists our Artistic Director Bryan Biggs dives into his eclectic record collection and also goes online to pull together a playlist of recordings on the theme of the passage of time. 

Time has occupied songwriters since time immemorial and been expressed across all musical genres. So, here you’ll find popular music from the past six decades, including blues, R&B, soul, pop, rock, psychedelia, reggae, easy listening, singer-songwriter, house music and spoken word, starting with a poem by the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

Some tracks tackle the big themes of time passing, or generational relationships between children and parents. Others take a temporal look at human relationships, reflecting on love as everlasting or fleeting, or mourning its loss. Others still celebrate the halcyon days of one’s youth or revel in the 24-hour party present. Time is eulogised as the great healer, while the ticking clock is a reminder of our mortality.

Avoiding songs about yesterday, today and tomorrow, which would constitute a playlist in themselves, the selection is available on YouTube, with a slightly shorter version on Spotify.  

Listen on Youtube. 

Listen on Spotify.

  • Seamus Heaney Follower. In this poem, published in 1966, Heaney explores ageing and the changing relationship between father and son in the passing of time. Not available on Spotify.
  • Steely Dan Reeling In The Years (1972). Nearly half a century on, their first album Can’t Buy a Thrill from which this song of reflection and recrimination comes, still thrills. 
  • The Who My Generation (1965). Archive footage of unruly mods on Britain’s seaside beaches in the YouTube clip echoes the rebellion of this youth anthem. The members of The Who still alive are now in their 70s.
  • The Kinks Till The End Of The Day (1965). The passing of time has long been a theme in Ray Davies’ writing.  Unbridled youthful freedom is celebrated here, ‘from the moment we rise till the end of the day’. 
  • Kirsty MacColl Days (1989). Another Kinks’ song, made more poignant by McColl’s tragic early death. ‘Though you’re gone you’re with me every single day, believe me’.
  • Janis Ian Younger Generation Blues (1967). Inspired tirade from the 15-year old American singer songwriter against the uptight older generation. Not available on Spotify, so instead you get her best-known song, about teenage epiphany, At Seventeen.
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Teach Your Children Well (1970). Hippy words of wisdom from those exemplary Laurel Canyon parents: teach your children well and they’ll treat you well too. 
  • Joni Mitchell The Circle Game (1970). On this YouTube TV clip, Mitchell introduces the song’s themes of ‘seasons and circles and growing old and growing young’. On Spotify, the ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ LP version.
  • Neil Young Old Man (1971). In the live at the BBC YouTube clip, the 24-year old compares himself to the old caretaker on his ranch. Young is now that old man.
  • Andy Partridge The History Of Rock`n`Roll (1980). The XTC founder condenses 40 years of music into 20 odd seconds for Miniatures, an LP of tracks no more than a minute long.
  • The O’Jays Listen To The Clock On The Wall (1972). The fact they’ve been going since 1958 qualifies the supreme R&B vocal group for inclusion here - even if the song is about infidelity rather than longevity.
  • Diana Ross and The Supremes Reflections (1967). With a suitably spacey time-travel arrangement, Motown legends go back in time to reflect on a love that used to be.   
  • Chairmen of The Board Give Me Just a Little More Time (1970). Love will surely grow, given a little more itme - just like the enduring appeal of this 50-year old record. Extended version on Youtube, with groovy 70s dancing.
  • Dusty Springfield Goin’ Back (1966). Dusty’s epic version of the Goffin & King song about trying to recapture youthful innocence in adulthood remains unsurpassed. 
  • MarmaladeReflections On My Life (1969). Glaswegians best known for their cover of Obladi Oblada, could also soar to great heights with such reflective moments as this.
  • Mick Softley Time Machine (1970). Far out video on YouTube for this song from the British folkie, accompanied by several folk rock luminaries, from his Sunrise LP.
  • Earl Sixteen Holding Back The Years (2001). The Simply Red hit gets a skanking rework. Mick Hucknall, a massive reggae fan, must have been chuffed. 
  • Desmond Dekker Honour your Mother and Father (1963). Long before Dekker had UK hits with 007 and Israelites, he takes his cue in this song (with the Beverley All Stars) from The Book of Deuteronomy, advising respect for one’s parents. 
  • The Byrds Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) (1965). More Biblical lyrics, from The Book of Ecclesiastes, in this song composed by Pete Seeger, taken to the top of the US charts by The Byrds.
  • Kaleidoscope Life Will Pass You By (1968). Philosophical musings on life by West Coast psychedelic band (not to be confused with the British Kaleidoscope) who embraced Middle Eastern and other non-Western music in their string-driven sound. 
  • Dino Valente Time (1968). Troubled singer of hippie favourites Quicksilver Messenger Service with enigmatic but beguiling meditation on the passage of time, from his eponymous solo LP. ‘Time slipping away, new dreams born every day…’
  • Fairport Convention Time Will Show The Wiser (1968). Scorching Richard Thompson guitar and vocals by Ian Matthews and Judy Dyble on this Emitt Rhodes song from pre-Sandy Denny Fairport, when the band was regarded as Britain’s answer to Jefferson Airplane. 
  • Nick Drake Time Has Told Me (1969). From the doomed singer songwriter’s first LP, this track also appeared on Island’s Nice Enough to Eat compilation. That sold shedloads, yet few bought Drake’s own records. Time has told us they perhaps should have. 
  • Vera Hall Death, Have Mercy (1959). The Alabama-born folk and blues singer pleads with death to spare her over another year, this version recorded by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. 
  • Ray Charles (The Night Time Is) The Right Time, live (1958). Up-beat 12-bar blues by the king of R&B in this live version at the Newport Jazz Festival, Marjorie Hendricks joining Charles with some devastating vocals. The studio version is on Spotify.
  • Irma Thomas Time Is On My Side (1964). The Rolling Stones had the hit, but it’s not a patch on this version, recorded the same year by soulful Thomas.
  • Tobi Legend Time Will Pass You By (1968). One of the final three songs played at the end of Wigan Casino all-nighters. Arguably the greatest Northern Soul record? The YouTube film is from 1999.
  • Jimmy Radcliffe Long After Tonight Is All Over (1965). Another Wigan closer, this Bacharach & David-penned song was a modest hit in the UK, but Radcliffe did not live to see its bigger success in the 1970s on the talc-covered Northern dance floors.  
  • Tyrone Davis Turn Back The Hands Of Time (1970). More evidence of Soul music’s enduring capacity to crystallise profound musings on the passage of time in under three minutes.
  • Gene Chandler There Was A Time (1968). Frantic cover of James Brown’s take on a lifetime of dancing, this litany of soul dance crazes proving big on the Northern scene. 
  • Quentin Crisp Stop The Music For A Minute (1981). Another short interlude from the Miniatures compilation, as the gay icon and author of The Naked Civil Servant speaks his mind on the ‘musical pandemonium’ of the jukebox.    
  • Simon & Garfunkel Old Friends/Bookends Theme (1968). I imagine Simon today sitting on a park bench, not finding it ‘terribly strange’ at all to be 70.
  • Sandy Denny with The Strawbs Who Knows Where The Time Goes? (1968). Released before the better-known version with Fairport Convention (this is on the Spotify playlist), Denny’s earlier version has an even greater poignancy. 
  • Roy Harper Another Day (1970). Another aching reflection on time passed, this one  from Harper, whose rendition of the song at the Liverpool Philharmonic on his ‘farewell’ tour in 2019 had us all weeping.
  • The Zombies Time Of The Season (1968). Recorded the year before, as the Zombies evolved from beat to psychedelia, this was on their (mis-spelled) Odessey And Oracle LP. It sold poorly but many know the track from its inclusion on CBS sampler The Rock Machine Turns You On.
  • Chris Farlowe Out Of Time (1966). This Jagger Richards composition (from the Stones’ Aftermath LP) gave Mod favourite Farlow a number one hit. We never really find out why his baby is so ‘out of time’.
  • Love Affair Everlasting Love (1967). The London pop group had a hit with this in the UK, while US soul singer Robert Knight’s stomping version later became big on the Northern scene.
  • Fleetwood Mac Sands Of Time (1970). Danny Kirwan wrote this song for Future Games, the largely overlooked LP by the post-Peter Green/pre-mega-stardom Fleetwood Mac. A foretaste of the successful FM sound that he would not stay to enjoy. 
  • Easy Star All Stars (feat. Sugar Minott) When I'm Sixty-Four (2009). Taken from the reggae LP version of Sgt Pepper, Minott’s chirpy vocal - with a little bit of dub - proves the adaptability of Beatles’ songs to different musical genres over the years.
  • The Mighty Diamonds Right Time (1976). Reggae trio’s righteous exhortation for Natty Dread to stand firm whenever, as prophesied by Marcus Garvey, his back is against the wall.  
  • Dubwood Allstars Under Dubwood (2012). Richard Burton’s rendition of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood mashed up with a King Tubby mix of Tony Curtis’ Weed Dream. ‘Listen, time passes…’ Not available on Spotify.
  • Louis Armstrong All The Time In The World (1969). Written by John Barry and Hal David for James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Satchmo sings like there’s no hurry but, apparently, he was too ill to play trumpet.
  • Leonard Cohen Tower Of Song (1988). An ageing Cohen may have complained about aching ‘in the places where I used to play’, but he was at the top of his game on his I’m Your Man LP, from which this song comes. And he still had another two decades ahead of him.
  • Demis Roussos Forever And Ever (1973). From the sublime to the ridiculous? Maybe, but the former singer of Greek psych band Aphrodite’s Child revels in eternal bouzouki bliss, ‘beyond imagination’ in this timeless easy listening classic. 
  • Buzzcocks Time’s Up (1977). Enough ethereal reflections on time. Back to reality. Manchester’s finest, recorded live at The Electric Circus on a 10” EP that captured the city’s punk urgency that year. 1977 ‘Spiral Scratch’ EP release on Spotify.
  • The KLF 3 AM Eternal (1991). From the cradle to the rave! The Ancients of Mu Mu remind us that ‘time is eternal’. As expected, not on Spotify
  • Steve Miller Band Fly Like An Eagle (DJ DSK DNA edit) (2019). Recent dance-friendly remix of Miller’s 70s hit. Time indeed seems to have slipped into the future. The original 1976 recording is on Spotify. 
  • Cat Power Time Is The Great Healer (2005). Apparently never recorded, this song is captured on YouTube from a live performance in Paris, Power’s voice and piano exploring the old maxim about time.  Not available on Spotify.  
  • Roy Harper When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease (1975). Harper at his most elegiac. Cricketing metaphors abound, as a brass band (the Grimethorpe Colliery) evocatively comes in half way through.
  • McGuinness Flint When I’m Dead And Gone (1970). To finish, a cheery singalong death disc that charted at No 2 by musicians previously in Manfred Mann and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Two other members had further success as Gallagher and Lyle.  




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