Let's go down to where it's clean
To see the time that might have been.
The tides have carried off the beach.
As you said
The sun is out of reach.
Let's go back to where it's green
To see what year it might have been.
The roads have carried off the smiles.
As you said
To judge them at the trial.
So let's go back to now and bad
To see the time we might have had.
The rails have carried off the train.
As you said
I'll never come again, again, again, again.
As You Said is a basically a folk tune, heavy on Jack Bruce’s strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by his cello on double track, with a smattering of Ginger Baker’s beat from the drums. Eric Clapton does not play on this cut. The song seems related to the long held notes of Moroccan inspired melodies that Donovan was recording about the same time, Peregrine and Tangier, for his album The Hurdy Gurdy Man. The exotic melody using Arabic scales makes the song immediately recognizable as psychedelic, even before one can reflect on the oddness of the lyrics. The words long to return to some place in the past, where it’s clean, where it’s green, and they mourn the impossibility of this return. In the 21st century the line the tides have carried off the beach seem to be speaking about global warming. Later in the song, the roads have carried off the smiles implies that in the present some judgment, some trial, makes a light heart impossible. And finally in the last verse, we have something like the situation in White Room—“you” have left on a train never to be seen again. The song, like White Room, repeats the introduction, between these verses, but in this case, they provide an instrumental B section that is played almost exactly the same until the last few bars of the coda, at which point the guitar and cello wrap up a conclusion. The melody is lovely; unfortunately the lyrics stumble. I can’t make any sense out of the line Let’s go back to now and bad.
Here is a good a point as any to comment on the engineers of the studio recordings for Wheels of Fire. Tom Dowd was the premier engineer at Atlantic Records since the 1950s, responsible for the sound of Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife and the decision to break Ray Charles’ What’d I Say into two parts as an A & B side of a single. He was the first American recording engineer to use an eight track machine, and was instrumental in the popularization of stereo music. He continued to record Eric Clapton throughout most of his career. Dowd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, ten years after his death. Adrian Barber, also an engineer for Atlantic Records, mixed several albums for artists signed to the company, including Last Time Around by the Buffalo Springfield.