*9.02-PASSING THE TIME (Cream)




It is a cold winter;
away is the songbird
and gone is her traveler.
She waits at home.

The sun is on holiday;
no leaves on the trees.
The animals sleep
while cold north wind blows.

The snowflakes are falling;
the roof a white blanket.
There's ice on the window pane.
She waits alone.

She sits by the fireside;
the room is so warm.
Her children are sleeping.
She waits in their home.

        Passing the time.
        Passing the time.
        Everything fine.
        Passing the time, having good wine.
        Passing the time, drinking red wine.
        Passing the time, having some wine.
        Passing the time, everything fine.
        Passing the time, having good wine.
        Passing the time, everything fine.
        Passing the time, wine and time rhyme.
        Passing the time.


It is a long winter;
away is the songbird.
She waits for her traveler
so far from home.

She sits by the fireside;
the room is so warm.
There's ice on the window.
She's lonely alone.

Passing the Time was written by drummer Ginger Baker and his friend Mike Taylor. According to Wikipedia, “Taylor was a prolific and much-respected composer during his brief career. Three Taylor compositions were recorded by Cream: Passing the Time, Pressed Rat and Warthog and Those were the Days, all of which appeared on Wheels of Fire. Mike Taylor drowned in the River Thames in January 1969, following years of heavy drug use (principally hashish and LSD). He had been homeless for three years, and his passing went almost entirely unremarked.”

Another grand introduction (though not quite so grand as White Room) takes up the first thirty seconds of Passing the Time, with the same guitar chord struck like a tolling bell (again reminiscent of Pete Townshend’s guitar technique) while a melody all its own is being sung against a steady beat. Unlike White Room, this introduction does not return, and is quite separate from the song that follows.

Rolling Stone magazine was initially quite critical of Passing the Time. The magazine’s reviewer, Jann S. Wenner, wrote that it was “a soft sad-circus tune with various instrumental paraphernalia thrown in; a stone bore. The transition from verse to chorus is absolutely absurd. Ginger Baker stands out on glockenspiel." Wenner fails to even mention the song’s introduction. I can sense the change in psychedelic aesthetic with the reference to “various instrumental paraphernalia”, sense the impatience with sounds that were not representative of the group on stage. However, nearly fifty years later, the juxtaposition between the note per syllable slow lullaby of the A section played on the organ and the frantic drum and electric guitar driven rant of the B section (which really isn’t a chorus) works for me. During the break, the B section opens up into a very busy, seemingly “live” instrumental performance between the three members of the group. The A section, which returns after the break, represents the peaceful if sad image of a wife waiting for her husband’s return while sitting by the fireplace, in contrast to an unseen internal mania while she tries to “pass the time” almost brimming over with anger at being “lonely alone”.