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9.04-THOSE WERE THE DAYS (Cream)

Ginger Baker
Ginger Baker

LISTEN

[Intro]

When the city of Atlantis
Stood serene above the sea,
Long time before our time
When the world was free,
Those were the days.

Golden cymbals flying on
Ocarina sounds,
Before wild Medusa's serpents
Gave birth to hell
Disguised as heaven.

        Those were the days, yes they were,
        Those were the days.
        Those were their ways;
        Miracles everywhere
        Where are they now?
        They're gone.

        Those were their ways, yes they were,
        Those were their ways.
        Those were the days, yes they were,
        Those were the days.

[Break]

Tie your painted shoes and dance,
Blue daylight in your hair,
Overhead a noiseless eagle
Fans a flame;
Wonder everywhere.

        [Chorus]


Ironically, there was a hit single Those Were the Days by Mary Hopkin out about the same time as the release of the Cream cut with the same title. Ms. Hopkin was singing about remembering the present time decades later, making parallels with the nostalgia felt by the now elderly “revolutionaries” of the Roaring Twenties, the bohemians, and the socialists. Cream’s Those Were the Days sang instead about mythological times of Atlantis and Medusa, times the group had visited on Disraeli Gears with the song Tales of Brave Ulysses. (Atlantis had a particular fascination for hippies; Donovan recorded his song Atlantis in May 1968, but it wasn’t released as a single in the U.S. until March 1969. It would be the last of Donovan’s singles to break into the Billboard Top 10.) When I hear this poem over forty years later, it suggests the “mythological” status of the 1960s, from a singer who feels that those times are as remote and intangible as sunken Atlantis. The last verse turns then to the listener sharing the same time as the singer, the 1960s, and encourages that listener to dance and enjoy deeply a time granted by a supernatural force (the “noiseless eagle”) that fans the flame of wonder, the flame of a new consciousness, long gone to a future listener. Like the lyrics suggest, 1968 in particular, the year of this song’s release, when the spirit of revolution overtook the spirit of love in the young people, seems now like the birth of a “hell disguised as heaven” in comparison to just the year before. Already in the Summer of 1968 the psychedelic spirit of All You Need is Love seemed remote, impossible to reach.

On the other hand, the point of Cream’s Those Were the Days may be that through music and dance one can continue to tap the “wonder”, the “miracle” of a mythological time throughout history. An ocarina, by the way, for those who do not know, is an ancient flutelike instrument usually of a rounded rather than linear form, made from bone, horn, shell, or ceramic, with several holes by which to change the pitch. It might be an instrument of Neptune, who holds within the belly of his ocean the secrets of Atlantis.

Except for the use of hand bells to add an upper range of sound, Those Were the Days sounds more like a typical Cream record than any of the other songs of Wheels of Fire reviewed in Trance Love Airwaves. Ginger Baker rolls through with energetic drumming; during the 25 second break, the bells are dropped, and Eric Clapton takes the high notes while Jack Bruce roars on bass guitar. The break sounds a good deal like the live music on disc 2.

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