Maybe it’s because we’re experiencing a solar eclipse today (August 21st). Maybe it’s the recent terrorist attacks. Maybe it’s North Korea. Maybe it’s the Trump presidency…
Whatever the reason, today I’m thinking about “the future”. Out of curiosity I did a quick search of songs dealing with this subject. It’s rather awe-inspiring to see the lists of songs compiled on the subject… many titles are unfamiliar to me. But even without the aid of the internet I still have more than enough songs to fill this post (just relying on memory). And my compilation doesn’t include In the Year 2525, Que Sera Sera or Annie‘s Tomorrow…all deliberately avoided (I might add).
So…what is included? Let’s start with…
Listen to the lyrics… not exactly a rosy picture, eh? Leonard Cohen always had the gift of bringing the most somber of messages while still managing to make you smile. The song is the title track from his 1992 album The Future. The song was (apparently) originally titled “If You Could See What’s Coming Next” . The album went double-platinum in Canada and garnered Cohen a Juno award for Best Male Vocalist in 1993. In his acceptance speech, he observed “Only in Canada could somebody with a voice like mine win Vocalist of the Year.”
Fortunately not all songs looking at the future have such a dark vision.
Cass Elliot enjoyed a brief but successful solo career following her tenure with The Mamas and The Papas. This live performance of New World Coming on The Music Scene (with host David Steinberg) in 1969 anticipated the song’s release as a single. It reached #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #22 on the Canadian charts (RPM). Unfortunately Elliot’s future was abbreviated by her passing (in her sleep) in 1974 following a performance at the London Palladium. In a further future irony The Who‘s drummer Keith Moon died in the same flat four years later (also aged 32 at the time of death).
I think we need another hopeful “future song”. Let’s try…
Rumours, released in 1977 by Fleetwood Mac, is one of the great albums of the rock era (achieving diamond certification in both Canada and the US). The single Don’t Stop reached #3 on the Billboard charts and was a #1 hit in Canada.
How about this for a cinematic vision of the future…
- the voting age lowered to 14 (at the time it is 21)
- mandatory retirement at 30
- those over 35 rounded up and placed in “re-education camps”, permanently dosed on LSD
- the military becomes solely”age police”
- other security agencies disbanded
- proclamation of a fully hedonistic society
(in a further twist at the conclusion the preteen segment of the populace begins to threaten their elders [ie. those in their 20’s]) That scenario is to be found in the 1968 film Wild in the Streets. The movie’s theme song… Shape of Things to Come by Max Frost and the Troopers.
The song? Well, it did reach #22 on the US charts and #2 here in Canada (we’re a revolutionary lot).
And lowering of the voting age to 14? Well, it hasn’t happened…yet.
And just to show that songwriters can do “light” and “dark”, it should be noted that New World Coming (light) and Shape of Things to Come (dark) were both written by husband and wife team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
If you want prophetic, you will want a little Strawberry Alarm Clock. Here’s a little Tomorrow today…
Although it didn’t match the success of the band’s #1 hit Incense and Peppermints (1967), Tomorrow reached a respectable #23 on the charts in 1968.
With a subject like “the future” it seems appropriate to conclude this post on a more ambiguous note. The lyrics of After the Goldrush (1970) contain imagery suggestive of both past, present and the future. If you want the definitive word on the lyrics of this song, however, you may want to discuss it with the writer, Neil Young. While his interpretation is probably the most authentic, I do have a fondness for an a cappella version recorded by Prelude and released in 1973. The single charted, reaching #22 in the US and #21 in the UK. Here’s the group performing the song live in concert…
And my future? Well, DV (deo volente) it will include one more post which follows my whim at the time of writing.