Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Tom Getter Slack: Blog

Song Story #3 - If I Had Time

Posted on March 13, 2011

Every song has a story. The 9 songs on Looking Glass are no exception. This is the third installment of a blog series to talk about how each of them came about.

The genesis of the song If I Had Time was a melody I had written for the verse way back in the mid 90's. It didn't come to me with any lyrical inspiration, so I started thinking about different ideas when the song was fresh in my head.

I took a trip to Europe around that time, and had a thought about how strange it was that I could wake up one morning and go to sleep later on halfway around the world. This was also around the time the Internet was really just starting to pick up speed, and I met some friends in London on that same trip whom I knew only because we all participated in an online forum for fans of the band XTC called Chalkhills. (This was very cool by the way - I had some beers with Neville Farmer and we talked about the book he had just written Song Stories. Great stuff.)

Anyway, I started thinking about how the world was getting smaller, and this became the original first line of the verse: "It's a small world, keeps getting smaller." But somehow, this thought never developed into a full blown lyrical concept, and the song was basically kept on the shelf.

In early 1999, I was in a very pensive and mournful state of mind following the death of my father on December 7th, 1998 - the 57th anniversary of Pearl Harbor - an incredibly ironic date considering he was a WWII veteran in the Signal Corps who helped break the Japanese Code. Of course, my father could never escape irony; he was a professor of Victorian Literature, an accomplished scholar of Thomas Hardy, whose main focus was dark irony. In planning for my father's funeral, we dug up a poem he had written and published entitled "Time and the World", and we had it printed on the In Memorium cards handed out at the funeral. The gist of the poem was that's pretty much all we get - time and the world.

In my state of sorrow, I mourned the fact that I had not said the words "I Love You" to my father in recent memory. This thought plagued me, and I had to express it somehow. It all came out one night as the first verse to the song, and everything else just fell in to place to express some thoughts I've had for a long time. But I owe the inspiration for writing this song solely to Dr. Robert Charles Slack.

Even though the story I just told is kind of sad, I don't think of this as a sad song. It's more like a sort of reckoning. As time slips away, I have to face the fact that many words don't get spoken, many dreams don't get realized, many important events live on only in memory. Of course, it's never too late to chase dreams and make more memories, but truly in the end this thing we call life is just a brief visit.

I'm convinced there is much more in the realm of a spirit life - I believe we live on in some other reality, and possibly come back as something else - but in the grand scheme these little bodies on this little planet are like ticks of the clock. And I like to try to remember that so that I don't have too many regrets for what I did not do when my time comes.