I don’t get to talk that much about time travel influences in music in the documentary, but something that I noticed while interviewing people for the film is just how impactful music can be. So many people want to go back in time to see their favorite musicians play live.
I’ve also noticed that a lot of a lot of 80’s rock ballads have time travel references in the lyrics. It makes sense when most songs are about reminiscing about a past love (here’s looking at you, Cher)!
Here are a few “time travel” songs that I’ve come across:
1. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
Considered one of the best love songs of all time by many media outlets, Time After Time was inspired when Cyndi Lauper saw the title of the 1979 movie with the same name in magazine TV Guide. Side note: “Time After Time” is a science fiction-murder mystery mashup where H.G. Wells (played by Malcolm McDowell) chases Jack the Ripper through time and end up in the year 1979. It was adapted into a T.V. show in 2017, also with the same name.
Cyndi Lauper’s version, however, doesn’t have as much time travel in it. But does have some really lovely clock references and evokes a lot of reminiscing and longing for a past love.
Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
I fall behind–
The second hand unwinds…
2. The Time Warp (Richard O’Brien, Richard Hartley)
Obviously I’m biased, but The Time Warp is one of the more well-known songs from the 1973 rock musical, The Rocky Horror Show (and it’s film adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show). My favorite time travel reference comes from Magenta, the castle maid, and her brother Riff Raff:
It’s so dreamy
Oh, fantasy free me
So you can’t see me
No, not at all
In another dimension
With voyeuristic intention
Well secluded, I see all
(With a bit of a mind flip)
You’re into the time slip
(And nothing can ever be the same)
You’re spaced out on sensation
(Like you’re under sedation)
Let’s do the Time Warp again!
3. If I Could Turn Back Time (Cher)
The lyrics say it all. I think this is such a great example of that poignant regret that we humans know so well, that timeless question “I wonder what would happen if I can go back in time and change x moment in time?”
While looking up some background about this song, I came across some interesting facts. One, that Diane Warren, the songwriter, had to beg Cher to record the piece since Cher apparently hated it when she first heard it, but eventually changed her mind. It’s a good thing she did because it’s such an iconic song! Two, the music video was so risque that it was banned on MTV, but they later changed their minds and played it only late at night after 9 pm.
If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that hurt you
And you’d stay
4. ’39 (Queen)
’39 is really special because while most songs are about reminiscing about a past love, etc, this one is about traveling to the future. Written by Brian May who studied astrophysics, the song follows a group of space explorers who go on a year-long voyage. But thanks to time dilation, they return to find that all their loved ones are gone.
Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew
5. Kashmir (Led Zepplin)
One of the most iconic Led Zepplin songs, I absolutely love the first few lines in the lyrics when the song opens:
Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face
And stars fill my dream
I’m a traveler of both time and space
Oh, father of the four winds fill my sails
Cross the sea of years
There’s also a really interesting interview with Jimmy Page, where he talks about the story behind Kasmir and how it was made.
Do you have any time travel music that you enjoy? Leave a comment!