The Vietnam War, the Iron Curtain, the threat of nuclear conflict – most of the famous rock musicians of the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century touched on these topics in their work. As a rule, they recorded protest songs in which they spoke out against armed clashes and called for peace.
The British band Deep Purple also paid attention to the dramatic events of that era, dedicating a ten-minute rock ballad Child in Time to them.
The story and meaning of the song Child in Time
The co-authors of the composition are all members of the Deep Purple group Mark II: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Ritchie Blackmore.
Gillan talked about the sources of inspiration and shared memories of how Child in Time was written:
It was in 1969, and the group was rehearsing at the Community Centre, which is in the western part of London: either in Southall, or in Hanwell. Jon Lord fiddled (or “improvised with a theme,” as they say in the profession) with a tune from the new It’s a Beautiful Day album. It was Bombay Calling. I began to sing, and the words came easily because we were all aware of the nuclear threat looming over us at what was probably the height of the Cold War.
Gillan also explained what Child in Time is about:
This song has two sides: musical and textual. In terms of music, there was once a Bombay Calling song by a band called It’s a Beautiful Day. It was fresh and original when John played it on keyboard one day. It sounded good, and we thought we should play with it, change it a little and create something new based on it. Only I never heard the real Bombay Calling.
We ended up creating this song using the Cold War as the theme and wrote the lines “Sweet child in time you’ll see the line”. This is how the text part appeared. John then prepared the keyboard part and Richie the guitar part. In fact, the song reflects the mood of that time, and that’s why we became so popular.
Release and achievements
In June 1970, Child in Time was released as a single from Deep Purple’s album in Rock.
Deep Purple included Child in Time in most of the shows they played in the early seventies. When the band reunited in 1984, they barely played the song because Gillan had a hard time pulling it. On tour in 2002, a guitar part came to his aid.
The track is included in several prestigious ratings of the best songs. So, in 1989, the famous Radio Veronica put Child in Time in first place in the Super All-Time List, and in 1998, Guitarist magazine readers ranked the guitar solo sixteenth in the Top 100 Guitar Solos of All-Time list.
Video of Child in Time
Watch the music video Child in Time and listen to the legendary Deep Purple song.
The Ian Gillan Band played a jazzy version of Child in Time. Blackmore’s Night with Ritchie Blackmore presented their own version of the composition, including it on the album The Village Lantern. The track was called Mond Tanz/Child in Time.
Yngwie Malmsteen recorded Child in Time for the Inspiration album.
- In response to the borrowing of their song, It’s a Beautiful Day used a Deep Purple track called Wring that Neck, writing Don and Dewey based on it.
- Lars Ulrich of Metallica called Child in Time one of his favorite songs. He recalled being with his father at a Deep Purple concert that changed his life.
Lyrics of Child in Time by Deep Purple
sweet child in time
You’ll see the line
The line that’s drawn between
good and bad
See the blind man
Shooting at the world
Bullets flying taking toll
If you’ve been bad
Oh Lord I bet you have
And you’ve not been hit
Oh by flying lead
You’d better close your eyes
Oh bow your head
Wait for the ricochet
I wanna hear you sing
Child In Time Lyrics by Deep Purple Alternate
Sweet child, in time
You will see the line
The line that separates
Good and bad.
You see the blind
Shooting at the world
Flying bullets taking their toll.
If you were bad
Oh God, I’m willing to bet it was
And didn’t hit you
Oh flying lead
You better close your eyes
Oh bow your head
Wait for the ricochet.
I want to hear you sing.
I’ve heard it 92,000 times and it always sounded nothing short of great.
Lars Ulrich, Rolling Stone
Thanks to the mediation of Radio Free Europe, this and many other songs reached the ears and hearts of like-minded people behind the Iron Curtain. As I learned many years later, it was a great comfort to them to know that there were world-loving friends beyond.
Ian Gillan, gillan.com