Cyndi Lauper: Time after Time

Source: WSJ, Dec 2015

Cyndi Lauper’s first No. 1 hit was a ballad. Released in January 1984, “Time After Time” appeared on her debut album, “She’s So Unusual,” which peaked at No. 4 and remained on Billboard’s album chart for 96 weeks. The song helped her win a Grammy for best new artist, and in 1985 Miles Davis released “Time After Time” on his album “You’re Under Arrest.”

Cyndi Lauper: … . I thumbed through a TV Guide magazine. One movie title seemed good—a sci-fi film called “Time After Time” from 1979. I never meant for it to be the song’s real title. It was just supposed to get me thinking.

As I danced to what Rob played I started thinking about up and down, lost and found: “If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting / Time after time” and “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me / Time after time.” It sounded odd at first, but when I sang it, I realized what I was talking about. They were pieces of my personal life.

Mr. Hyman: As Cyndi sang, she and I realized the song was darker and more intense than a bouncy, happy song. When we slowed it down, the song became heartbreaking. There was suddenly so much emotion in the song. I was going through some relationship issues and Cyndi had similar experiences, so we both felt it. Even though we slowed down the song, the chorus retained a clipped calypso-type melody, which worked perfectly.

Ms. Lauper: In the days that followed, the first verse I wrote was, “Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick/and think of you.” That was about my life.
Ms. Lauper: My repeating “time after time” as a fading whisper at the end just happened. I had fallen into a trance and came out of it like that, singing softly. I wanted it to sound hushed, like my voice was trailing off into the distance.

Mr. Hyman: The craziest thing was when I overdubbed a harmony as Cyndi sang the melody line in the chorus. I added my voice just as a reference for another singer—a male-female dialogue thing, as if they’re singing to each other. When Cyndi listened back, she liked it and said, “We’re keeping it.”

If you listen carefully, you’ll hear that the song has no bass until each chorus—“If you’re lost you can look and you will find me.” The song had to lift off there, so I added a synth bass.

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