Tobi Lark, aka Tobi Legend, once sang, ‘Time is gonna pass you by, so quickly and it waits for no man‘.
Not a theme exclusive to the songwriter, John Rhys, of course and, tangentially, it was serendipitous to learn Rhys was born in the sleepy Suffolk town of Saxmundham, a place a Sunday afternoon drive from my own adopted home, particularly given the sophistication and significance of the song. Rhys moved Stateside as a youngster and would become a distinguished music producer in Detroit and Los Angeles I discovered. Perhaps the influence of Michigan’s blue-collar ‘Motor-town’, historic home of the Ford motor company and Motown Records of course, as opposed to the coastal market town of his birth, explains the soul and beat in the tune and is why it resonated so deeply with a generation of British youngsters.
The thumping cocktail of melancholy and triumph in the Northern Soul anthem embedded Rhys and Legend’s sentiment deep into the psyche of a receptive audience in the 1970s. Tracks like ‘Time is Gonna Pass You By’ entranced a communion of working class kids; coal miners, steel workers, bakers and candlestick makers, longing to escape Lowry skylines, and the drudgery of daily life to converge, via all-night pilgrimages, to clubs and dance halls across the North of England.