BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in April 2005We've left it here for reference.More information


Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Music
Sold on Song. Classic songs, covers, songwriting and more. Listen Live.

 Full Schedule
-













Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
IN-DEPTH
SONG HOME COVER VERSIONS YOUR VIEWS
"Who Knows Where The Time Goes"
Fairport Convention
Listen
Sandy Denny

Although she only spent 18 months with the band Sandy Denny remains, for many, the abiding voice of Fairport Convention. During 1969 alone, Sandy and Fairport released three extraordinarily accomplished albums and the second of these “Uhalfbricking” showcased the definitive version of Sandy’s finest song.

Alexandra Elene Maclean Denny wrote “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” in her pre-Fairport days. She was just 20 years old, but already building her reputation as a singer around the network of folk clubs that peppered London during the mid-1960s. Her repertoire at the time drew mainly on the folk tradition and the work of newly emerging singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, but Sandy was also tentatively starting to write her own material.

Joe Boyd
"she was very funny raucous humour, liked a drink."


Using the title “Ballad of Time” she began her best-known work sometime during 1967 renamed “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” it became only the second song Sandy had ever completed. It was in 1968 during her brief six month stint with the Strawbs that Sandy first recorded the song. This version – slower and looser than the more familiar Fairport take – has Sandy accompanying herself on guitar and the familiar opening line to “Across the purple sky...”

Dave Cousins
"We just stood there with our mouths open thinking 'God that's a good song'"


Later that year, just after Sandy joined Fairport, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” reached its widest audience when Judy Collins chose the song as title track to her eighth album. Released before either of Sandy’s versions, the Judy Collins cover was also heard on the soundtrack of the 1968 Martin Sheen film, The Subject Was Roses.

However it is Sandy’s own recording with Fairport that remains definitive. There is a lacy delicacy to her reading making it a song of autumn and fireside intimacy: a sad reflection on love found, time lost and ache of parting…all infused with the poignant perfection of Sandy’s vocal, and underpinned by Richard Thompson’s glorious spider’s web guitar.

Ashley Hutchings
"I heard recordings of the Strawbs with Sandy singing and I thought they were terrific"


Proud as Sandy was of “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” it became – like so many classic songs – a bit of a millstone for its composer. “I just wish people would listen to some of the other songs" Sandy reflected in the mid 70s, when she was struggling to build a solo career.

Sandy Denny
"I communicate to a lot of people, but it's not enough yet.."


Nanci Griffith, Kate Bush, Beth Orton, The Bangles, Pete Townsend and Robert Plant all count themselves fans. Indeed, in 1971, Plant invited Sandy to duet with him on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, earning her the accolade of being the only guest vocalist ever to feature on a Zeppelin album.

Before her untimely death in 1978, aged only 31, Sandy formed the short-lived Fotheringay and made four acclaimed solo albums but it is her work with Fairport Convention that has really stood the test of time. It was a brief but blazing musical union. Looking back on her audition for the band, Fairport’s Simon Nicol reflected: “it was a one horse race really...she stood out like a clean glass in a sink full of dirty dishes”.

"'Who Knows Where The Time Goes' is in my opinion the perfect song ...


Mike Harding

 Listen to Mike Harding's song view

READ MORE COMMENTS...
Make a comment







Songwriting tips

Write your own moving lyrics with the help of our guide to Writing A Song
Test your knowledge

Have a go at the "Who Knows Where The Times Goes" quiz!





More songs.




Like this song? Try these...

Yesterday 
The Beatles

 DON'T MISS
Doves Doves
Special guests on Dermot's show this week

What's on

Radio 2 Documentaries
Find out more about current and forthcoming documentaries on Radio 2.







About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy