‘Time’ is one of Pink Floyd’s best-loved tracks, arriving as the fourth song taken from their 1973 magnum opus The Dark Side of the Moon. The progressive masterpiece was first released through Harvest Records and produced by Alan Parsons. Fitting in with the album’s iconic stature, it was recorded at the fabled Abbey Road studios where, in 1971, the band had put the finishing touches to their fifth album, Meddle.
The LP carried on in the trajectory that Pink Floyd had been following since their inception in 1965. The overarching idea for the LP was to focus on the pressures the band were dealing with in the tumultuous lifestyles. This, in addition to the 1968 departure of former bandleader Syd Barrett, largely attributed to a declining mental state, culminated in the band reaching a pivotal crossroads.
The Dark Side of the Moon also represents the band honing their craft. It explored and employed ideas that Pink Floyd utilised in their earlier recordings and performances, however this time they cut the extended instrumentals that had characterised a lot of their earlier work.
Perhaps more critically, lyrically, the band would become more direct. In 2003, guitarist and co-vocalist David Gilmour recalled: “I think we all thought – and Roger definitely thought – that a lot of the lyrics that we had been using were a little too indirect. There was definitely a feeling that the words were going to be very clear and specific.”
This newfound forthright direction can be regarded as one of the main reasons why Dark Side of the Moon became one of the world’s most critically revered albums of all time.
Following the release of Meddle in 1971, during a meeting at drummer Nick Mason’s home in Camden, bassist Roger Waters planted the seed for what would become the band’s defining work. His idea was to deal with things that “make people mad”.
In addition to a new mode of lyrical directness, the main themes explored on the album would become definitive. Conflict, greed, time, death and mental illness. It was originally known as Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics.
When previewed to the press under its original title more than a year before its release in February ’72, the album was critically acclaimed. Michael Wale of The Times described the earlier version of the album as “bringing tears to the eyes.” Understanding its nature, and the band’s newfangled trail of thought, he continued: “It was so completely understanding and musically questioning.”
The album also came with that iconic sleeve. Designed by legendary album cover artist and long-term collaborator, Storm Thorgerson, it became as classic as the sonic compendium it sealed. Thorgerson created it in response to Richard Wright’s request for a “simple and bold” design, representing the band’s lighting and more importantly, the album’s themes.
While every moment album on The Dark Side of the Moon is epic, ‘Time’ is one of the most memorable compositions. The music is credited to all four band members. Even more iconically, keyboardist Wright shares the lead vocals with David Gilmour, this would be his last until ‘Wearing the Inside Out’ from 1994’s The Division Bell.
In addition to the music, the lyrics make ‘Time’ stand out. Unsurprisingly, the deal with the passage of time. They explore the notion that time can slip by without one noticing it until its too late. Roger Waters had the idea when he realised that he was right in the middle of life, no longer preparing for the future, as you do as a child or young adult. In interviews, Waters has discussed the theme, and has described the realisation taking place around 28 and 29. Ultimately, the song’s main theme is about self-determination, and grabbing control of your own destiny. In this sense, ‘Time’ can be regarded as a memento mori.
‘Time’ also has that long introduction, featuring clocks chiming and alarms ringing. They were initially recorded as a quadrophonic test by engineer Alan Parsons, and were not intended for the inclusion on this, or any album.
In 1984, Gilmour spoke about how the multiple measurers of time came to be included in the album, stating: “He (Alan Parsons) had just recently before we did that album gone out with a whole set of equipment and had recorded all these clocks in a clock shop. And we were doing the song ‘Time’, and he said ‘Listen, I just did all these things, I did all these clocks,‘ and so we wheeled out his tape and listened to it and said “Great! Stick it on!” And that, actually, is Alan Parsons’ idea.”
This pertinent lyrical content, in addition to Gilmour, Wright and the backing singer’s powerful vocals, culminates in the meaning of the song truly hitting home. They certainly have Waters’ desired effect. The theme becomes an imposing notion that is hard to ignore.
“Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”
Listen to the powerful isolated vocals, below.