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Music / Time

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With your head held high and your scarlet lies, you came down to me from the open skies.
"Just on the border of your waking mind,
There lies another time
Where darkness and light are one.
And as you tread the halls of sanity
You feel so glad to be, unable to go beyond.
I have a message from another time."

Time is the ninth album by the Electric Light Orchestra, released in 1981. On release, it swiftly topped the UK Albums Chart for a while before wearing off, and the more immediate retrospective didn't look so kindly on it when comparing it to the likes of Out of the Blue. Still, it maintains a rather sizeable cult following to this day (particularly among those interested in Zeerust), and is generally considered to be one of ELO's more spectacular albums.

The story of ELO's second Concept Album is about someone from The '80s who is magically whisked 20 Minutes into the Future - specifically, the year 2095. Things look interesting... but then he realises that he's unable to go back. He's there to stay. It turns out he's committed an Accidental Time Travel, and before long he starts suffering from a constant Nostalgia Filter that nearly all of the album's lyrics go into detail about. And then things go From Bad to Worse; he then realises that he can't see his girlfriend or anyone close to him, because they're all in the past. Or all of this might just be a dream. Not even Jeff Lynne knows the interpretation.


There are many reasons as to why this album is one of their more significant releases. Firstly, there's the more polarising aspect of this being the point where "electric" began to completely supplant the "light orchestra" - synthesizers and electronic effects play a much bigger role here, and would go on to play an even bigger role in the next two albums (this is cited as a musical inspiration in itself). Secondly, it was the first and, to this day, one of the few notable Concept Albums to have Time Travel as its main plot point. Thirdly, the album is widely considered to be a Trope Codifier for a lot of Time Travel tropes, in particular the aforementioned Accidental Time Travel and Fish out of Temporal Water ones.



Side One

  1. “Prologue” (1:15)
  2. “Twilight” (3:35)
  3. “Yours Truly, 2095” (3:15)
  4. “Ticket to the Moon” (4:06)
  5. "The Way Life's Meant to Be" (4:36)
  6. "Another Heart Breaks" (3:46)

Side Two

  1. “Rain Is Falling” (3:54)
  2. "From the End of the World" (3:16)
  3. "The Lights Go Down" (3:31)
  4. "Here Is The News" (3:49)
  5. "21st Century Man" (4:00)
  6. "Hold On Tight" (3:05)
  7. "Epilogue" (1:30)

Bonus Tracks

  1. "The Bouncer" (3:13)
  2. "When Time Stood Still" (3:32)
  3. "Julie Don't Live Here" (3:44)

Principal Members:

  • Jeff Lynne - lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, synthesizers, vocoder, production
  • Bev Bevan - drums, percussion
  • Richard Tandy - acoustic piano, electric piano, synthesizers, vocoder, guitars
  • Kelly Groucutt - bass guitar, backing vocals

Here are the tropes, coming to you every hour on the hour:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The year is 2095. Among other things, space travel is now a fact of life as are trips to the moon, and automation technology has advanced considerably.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Given the Shrug of God, several possibilities exist:
    • All Just a Dream: The narrator never went into the future.
    • Bittersweet Ending: The narrator did go into the future and came back, but his wife has left in the time he was gone.
    • Downer Ending: The narrator went into the future, but he's pretty much trapped in the future forever, so he won't be able to see anyone that was close to him in the past ever again.
    Though you ride on the wheels of tomorrow,
    You still wander in the fields of your sorrow.
  • Bad Future: The year 2095 isn't described in a particularly positive light. There's weather events like meteor showers, prison satellites are a thing, and even the crime and justice system is dominated by computer automation.
  • Book-Ends: The start of "Prologue" and the end of "Epilogue" are certainly similar enough.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Prologue", which introduces "Twilight".
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: The entire album is about a man from 1981 who is given a one-way trip to 2095 and ends up struggling to comprehend the scale of change inside the world that he's stuck in.
  • Rip Van Winkle: That's more or less the case in "Prologue" where the narrator awakens to find themselves in the late 21st century.
  • Robot Girl: The android girl in "Yours Truly, 2095".
  • Zeerust: Considering this is an album from 1981 which looks through a crystal ball to a time over 100 years into its future, it's taken the best part of just a few decades for most of the visions to look completely... hilariously unlikely.
    • The robot girl from "Yours Truly, 2095" is said to be an IBM model.
    • In "Here Is The News", trade unions are rife - especially in the space travel sector.

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