Dressed in white from head to toe, surrounded by smoke and stage lights, Freddie Mercury looks every inch an angel descended to earth in the video for “Time Waits For No One.”
Mercury first recorded the song in 1986, and a version featuring a massive choir of backing vocalists was released that same year. Yesterday marked the release of a never-before-heard demo of the song, featuring only his voice soaring over a triumphant piano backdrop. On it, the singer’s unmistakable vocals take center stage, and the stripped-down arrangement communicates the lyrics’ message even more powerfully than the original.
Freddie Mercury – Time (Official Video)www.youtube.com
“Time Waits For No One” is an almost painfully relevant song that seems handmade for our day and age—though, then again, its call to solidarity taps into something that humanity has seemingly always needed to hear. “We have to build this world together, or we’ll have no future at all,” Mercury sings, a resounding sentiment for our times and for all time.
The song is taken from a musical called TIME, with a book by David Clark and David Soames and music by Jeff Daniels. The show is about a rock star named Chris Wilder, who gets transported along with his band to the High Court of the Universe in the Andromeda Galaxy. Once there, he meets the Time Lord Melchisedic (allegedly inspired by the Time Lord of the Doctor Who series), who tells him that the moment has come to determine if the people on earth can be a part of the universal journey towards peace.
Time the Musical – Dave Clark and Cliff Richard, Freddie Mercury, Dionne Warwickwww.youtube.com
Though he never performed in the show, Mercury sang the main character’s part on its concept album, which also featured Julian Lennon and Dionne Warwick. The show’s spoken theme, which includes a philosophical speech narrated by Lawrence Olivier, was an unexpected hit on the charts in Australia, but in spite of this, the album remained offline until 2012, when a 25th-anniversary edition was released on iTunes.
“Time” (renamed with a longer title on the new demo) is the third track on the concept album. Apparently, Mercury preferred the demo to the official version. According to songwriter Dave Clark, “When we first recorded [the song], I went to Abbey Road and we ran through with just Freddie and piano. It gave me goosebumps. It was magic. Then we got down to recording the track and we [added] 48 tracks of voices, which had never been done in Abbey Road before, then the whole backing. It was fabulous—but I still felt there was something about the original rehearsal.”
That something is palpable in the chill-inducing video from that first rehearsal. In it, Mercury is a larger-than-life presence, an embodiment of conviction and hope, communicating a message that seems to be largely absent in modern music. “Let us free this world forever, and build a brand new future for us all,” he sings. His voice and presence, which radiate an almost unearthly star power even through the computer screen, are so powerful that you can’t help believe in the possibility of a better world.
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