I think I usually reference the fact that my go to source for information on songs is the wonderful songfacts.com, written by DJs and rock journalists and originally built as a database of facts for radio djs to throw out before or after a song. “You know, before Cyndi Lauper won a Tony, she wrote this little song with one of The Hooters…”
Anyway, the Songfacts entry on Time After Time is exhaustive about the composition and recording of the song and there’s nothing to add in that department. The rest of this post will assume you went to their site and read about the song.
Meanwhile, I want to consider the idea of this song becoming a standard, like “I Got Rhythm” or “All of Me.”
Cyndi Lauper’s video:
The trailer for the 1979 film “Time After Time” whose title inspired Lauper. H.G. Wells follows Jack the Ripper into the present (1979) and falls in love with Mary Steenburgen along the way. Yikes.
Hyman says that the chorus originally had an upbeat reggae feel. That changed when the lyrics of the verse suggested a more bittersweet tone. Still, if you want to know what a reggae version would sound like,
One definition of a musical standard is simply that everyone knows the song. A plethora of cover versions helps suggest ubiquity. (SAT vocabulary words bonus!) We’ll slowly work our way towards some jazz versions.
A pop-punk version with male lead vocal from Quietdrive, because that’s the name of a band. (As a reminder, I link to videos that I am ashamed to make you watch here. For this song, especially, there are a LOT of covers).
Cool dancing in the R&B version by INOJ but the song is simply faithful to the original, with a new drum track and some gospel echoes.
Canadian twins Tegan and Sara. That’s another weird accent. Does this song bring out odd accents that I never noticed before? That said, their commentary at the end — that the song can’t sound too happy and loyal, but has to have an undercurrent of tears — seems right.
This is just weird, but if it’s from a group called Science-Monkey and it’s from Japan and it’s under 2 minutes long, I need to embed it:
Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 solo acoustic. (And sometimes I embed just because it’s a car wreck that you can’t turn away from.) What’s with his odd enunciation? He sings like he’s simultaneously trying to get a glob of peanut butter unstuck from his teeth:
Okay sorry for that. Seriously, though, here’s a nice version by the amazing Eva Cassidy. Nice, simple accompaniment with a beautiful voice — I like the pause before the chorus but I think that kind of thing works only after the audience has internalized the song, as they would with a standard. We all know it, we’re waiting for something, and then the silence builds on our anticipation.
Similarly, when Cassidy plays around with the melody a bit, we know where the “real” melody is and this lets her be an echo or harmony to the tune in our head.
I have no idea who this kid is, but this is an amazing instrumental version on acoustic guitar:
Speaking of amazing guitarists, jazz player Tuck Andress and his wife Patti (aka Tuck and Patti) include the song in their repertoire. Tuck really hits the harmonics on his guitar solo, and Patti just goes off on a tangent around the world, before getting the audience to sing harmonies (the crowd could be a little more enthusiastic).
Jazz, with its emphasis on improvisation needs standards precisely for the reasons cited above regarding Eva Cassidy. Familiarity allows for a contained creativity that allows the audience to explore while still having structure.
Cyndi Lauper said that her favorite cover artist was Miles Davis. Well, why not? Aside from being one of the great jazz musicians and composers of the 20th century, his use of her song helps solidify its position as a pop standard (of course he also covered Scritti Politti but that’s another story).
Okay, here’s Cyndi from a recent 2005 performance with Sarah Mclachlan singing alongside.