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Does anybody really care (about time)?

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Albums from Chicago Transit Authority, fIREHOSE, Larry Norman, Simon & Garfunkel and Roland Kirk.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – There’s an amusing scene in the devilish, 2000 Adam Sandler comedy Little Nicky, where Nicky is talking with some pals and one of the Satanic metalheads gleefully plays some Ozzy Osbourne backwards on a turntable and asks Nicky about it.

Nicky dismisses the song and blows their minds when he pulls out a Chicago album and plays their 1970 hit “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” – backwards – and a voice is heard saying “I command you, in the name of Lucifer, to spread the blood of the innocent.” Another metalhead in a Motorhead T-shirt smiles and says “Oh my god, Chicago kicks ass!”

Indeed. The fern-bar faves have a dark side. Well, maybe not today. I saw a “reconstituted” Chicago play a show here in Oklahoma City and, well, lets just say that the two remaining members of America (“A Horse With No Name”) blew them off the stage. Chicago had seen better days. Perhaps a deal was made with El Diablo? Peter Cetera, pick up the white courtesy phone …

Anyway,  back to Chicago and their brassy, upbeat hit “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and its significance. It actually was recorded in 1969 and was first featured on their debut album Chicago Transit Authority. A great fusion of rock and jazz, when such sounds were becoming popular.

I bring up this song only because it featured prominently in last night’s “dust devil dream.” As I recall it, I am in an amphitheater surrounded by people I know (“You were there and you were there …” – oddly,  Judy Garland’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” appears in Little Nicky). I am singing “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and remembering every word, while I’m getting help with the harmonies from friends. It was actually a very exciting moment, singing that song.

But why? Until today I had not heard that song for at least a number of weeks. And although I have yet to see the new film American Hustle, I am told the song appears prominently in a scene where a “decadent pool party” is taking place. Interesting to see how the song is viewed by some.

Sung by Chicago vocalist Robert Lamm, he starts off by singing: “As I was walking down the street one day / A man came up to me and asked what / The time was that was on my watch, yeah … and I said … (I don’t) Does anybody really know what time it is? (Care) Does anybody really care (about time) / If so I can’t imagine why (Oh no!) We’ve all got time enough to cry.”

Lamm continues on, singing about “people runnin’ everywhere” and “being push and shoved by people trying to beat the clock …” Beat the clock? People running everywhere?

In the last verse, Lamm sings “We’ve all got time enough to die.”

Did I try playing this song backwards? Okay, yes. But only for a spin or two. Silly, I know. After “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” ends, it transitions into the transcendent tune “Beginnings.” Again, vocalist Robert Lamm takes the lead here, having written the song about being with his significant other and the feelings he is experiencing, as time passes. Time is a big theme on this album.

Channeling Paul McCartney and the Beatles, Lamm sings: “I’ve got to get you into my life, mama. I’ve got to get you next to me.”

The Chicago Transit Authority album was produced by James William Guercio and his “Poseidon Productions.” He helped make Chicago a big deal in the 1970’s and had played with everyone from Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention to The Beach Boys. Guercio would later become a millionaire and would buy the CMT country music channel, later selling it to Oklahoma’s late billionaire businessman and media mogul Edward Lewis Gaylord, who helped lead The Oklahoman (The Fat City Times) deeper into a state of irrelevancy.

With my original Chicago Transit Authority LP, I noticed the Columbia Records “inner sleeve” highlighting the fact that Simon & Garfunkel’s epic 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water had won multiple Grammys in 1971. So many great songs on that record. It's a popular one at our house. 

Upon reading this, I glance down and immediately see that very album on my shelf. I grabbed it. Above it was Jesus rocker Larry Norman’s 1972 clasic Only Visiting This Planet, featuring – “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?” Above that was The Inflated Tear, a 1968 album by avant-garde jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk – a man after our own hearts here at Dust Devil Dreams. Kirk was born “Ronald Theodore Kirk” but “felt compelled by a dream to transpose two letters in his first name to make Roland.” As for “Rahsaan,” Kirk would add that to his name in 1970 (a big year for high weirdness, apparently) after “hearing it in a dream.”

Kirk would die of a stroke in 1977, but his contributions to jazz, as a “unique” saxophone player (Jay Leno used to open up for him) are immeasurable. As for The Inflated Tear getting my attention, it could only remind me of Sri Lanka, an island nation that looks a bit like “an inflated tear.”

And this is where I transition into current events. The “show case” track by Kirk on The Inflated Tear is “Fly By Night.” Kirk said he wrote this “on a plane headed for London about one o’clock in the morning and in some way I heard the melody come through the airplane motor.”

Listening to “Fly By Night” I immediately think of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The missing plane that at this point could be practically anywhere and nowhere at the same time. They left at night, not headed for London, but Beijing. Did they head towards Sri Lanka?

fIREHOSE, the Ohio band that featured Ed Crawford, along with ex-Minutemen Mike Watt on bass and George Hurley on drums, released fROMOHIO in 1988. The first song, “Riddle of the Eighties,” is a favorite of mine and features the line “Still the clock was running, so I kept running and did the job – others counting on my clues.” A musical theme of time and running and clues. And 1970. And good and evil. The riddle of the 1980’s included the Cold War and America vs. “The Evil Empire.” Could these be synchomystic clues about Flight 370? Something about the potentially explosive situation in Ukraine?

“We’ve all got time enough to die,” Chicago’s Robert Lamm sings on “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Time enough, indeed.

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Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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