Time to Kill (song)

Last updated
"Time to Kill"
The Band Time to Kill German cover.jpg
German single cover
Single by The Band
from the album Stage Fright
B-side "The Shape I'm In"
ReleasedOctober 1970
RecordedMay to June 1970
Bearsville Studios
Woodstock, New York
Genre Roots rock
Label Capitol
Songwriter(s) Robbie Robertson
Producer(s) The Band

"Time to Kill" is a song written by Robbie Robertson that was first released by the Band on their 1970 album Stage Fright . It was also released as a single off the album, backed with the more famous "The Shape I'm In" and, although it failed to reach the Top 40 in the United States, it peaked at #13 in the Netherlands. It has also been featured on several Band compilation and live albums.


Lyrics and music

On the surface, the lyrics of "Time to Kill" extoll the joy of country life, which the Band members had enjoyed prior to becoming famous. [1] Music critic Barney Hoskyns states that the song sounds like a "celebration of the 'mountain hideaway' to which they'd at last returned," and the lyrics explicitly reference the town Catskill in the Catskill Mountains, near Woodstock where the Band recorded The Basement Tapes with Bob Dylan. [2] [3] The music is also happy and upbeat. [2] [3] Steve Millward described the song as "a catchy medium-pacer." [4] Rolling Stone critic John Burks describes the music as having an old fashioned sound that a Kentucky moonshiner may have hummed to himself in the 1890s. [5] Burks also describes Robertson's guitar intro to the song as sounding like 1956 rock 'n' roll and also sounding like "like tier of sound in motion." [5] The Band FAQ author Peter Asron notes that the song has an unusual rhyming structure, in which rhymes do not occur at regular intervals and sometimes appear to be out of sync with the song's meter. [3]

The happy lyrics and music belie the song's irony. [2] [3] Hoskyns notes that the song may just as easily be expressing the group's fear about how the world has encroached on their bucolic lifestyle since their first two albums made them famous. [2] Aaron states that the music and title are misleading and that the real theme of the song is the danger of having too much idle time on one's hands. [3] Allmusic critic William Ruhlmann similarly states that the song's theme is the "pitfalls of fortune and fame." [6] Something Else critic Nick DeRiso points out that around the time of the song's release the group in real life acted in accordance with the sentiments of the song, flying back to Woodstock by private plane when the opportunities arose during their concert tour. [1] Burks notes that even the reference to Catskill may be a pun on a darker phrase "cats kill." [5]

Rick Danko and Richard Manuel sing the lead vocal. [1] [2] [7] Garth Hudson plays electric piano, in a style that DeRiso describes as sounding like coming from a "red light-district" and Hoskyns describes as "tinking." [1] [2] Normal Band drummer, Levon Helm plays rhythm guitar on the song while Manuel takes the drums. [1] [2] [7] Robertson plays lead guitar and Danko plays bass. [1] [2] [7]


Hoskyns feels that this song plays it safe, describing it as "the most harmless piece of music the group had yet recorded as the Band." [2] Hoskyns does praise Hudson's piano, and the combination of Helms' "funky" rhythm guitar with Robertson's "piercing" guitar solo. [2] DeRiso states that "Robertson’s guitar weaves in with a serrated economy, working in counterpoint to Levon Helm’s tough rhythm riffs." [1] Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh described "Time to Kill" as one of the most notable "fine moments" from the Stage Fright album, along with "Stage Fright" and "The Shape I'm In." [8] Burks praised Robertson's guitar opening and described the song as "a controlled performance, if, paradoxically, a bashing one," with "a complacent lyric" that he compared to Dylan's work at the time. [5] Cash Box reviwed the song, stating that "cleaning up their grit a touch, the Band puts together a twinkling country - rock track that could become one of the group's most commercial singles yet" and also commented on the "stellar material and instrumental work." [9] Record World said that "the Band seems to have 'Time to Kill'...and money to make with their latest hit." [10]

"Time to Kill" peaked at #77 in the US on the Billboard Hot 100. [11] It peaked higher in Canada at #45. [12] But it did much better in the Netherlands, reaching #13. [13]

Other appearances

"Time to Kill" has been released on several of the Band's compilation albums, including the UK and Australian versions of The Best of the Band , Greatest Hits and A Musical History . [3] [14] [15] [16] The Band also played the song live in concert on several tours, including in 1970 and 1974. [2] A live recording from 1971 was included on the 2001 CD release of Rock of Ages . [17] [18] That same recording was included on Live at Watkins Glen . [3]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Band</span> Canadian-American rock band

The Band was a Canadian-American rock band formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1967. It consisted of Canadians Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, and American Levon Helm. The Band combined elements of Americana, folk, rock, jazz, country, and R&B, influencing musicians such as George Harrison, Elton John, the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton and Wilco.

<i>Stage Fright</i> (album) 1970 studio album by the Band

Stage Fright is the third studio album by Canadian–American group the Band, released in 1970. It featured two of the group's best known songs, "The Shape I'm In" and "Stage Fright", both of which showcased inspired lead vocal performances and became staples in the group's live shows.

"Acadian Driftwood" is a song by the Band. It was the fourth track on their sixth studio album Northern Lights – Southern Cross (1975), written by member Robbie Robertson. Richard Manuel, Levon Helm and Rick Danko trade off lead vocals and harmonize on the chorus.

"Powderfinger" is a song written by Neil Young, first released on his 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps. It subsequently appeared on several of Young's live recordings. A 2014 Rolling Stone special issue on Young ranked it as Young's best song ever.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stage Fright (The Band song)</span>

"Stage Fright" is the title track of the Band's third album, Stage Fright. It features Rick Danko on lead vocals and was written by Robbie Robertson. According to author Barney Hoskyns, Robertson originally intended it to be sung by Richard Manuel but it became clear that the song was better suited to Danko's "nervous, tremulous voice."

"It Makes No Difference" is a song written by Robbie Robertson and sung by Rick Danko that was first released by The Band on their 1975 album Northern Lights – Southern Cross. It has also appeared on live and compilation albums, including the soundtrack to the film The Last Waltz. Among the artists that have covered the song are Solomon Burke, My Morning Jacket, Trey Anastasio and Over the Rhine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Shape I'm In (The Band song)</span> 1970 single by The Band

"The Shape I'm In" is a song by The Band, first released on their 1970 album Stage Fright. It was written by Robbie Robertson, who did little to disguise the fact that the song's sense of dread and dissolution was about Richard Manuel, the song's principal singer. It became a regular feature in their concert repertoire, appearing on their live albums Rock of Ages, Before the Flood, and The Last Waltz. Author Neil Minturn described the song as "straightforward rock." Along with "The Weight," it is one of the Band's songs most performed by other artists. It has been recorded or performed by Bo Diddley, The Good Brothers, The Mekons, The Pointer Sisters, She & Him, Marty Stuart and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rag Mama Rag</span> 1970 single by The Band

"Rag Mama Rag" is a song by The Band which was first released on their 1969 album The Band. It was also released as a single, reaching #16 on the UK Singles Chart, the highest position for any single by the group. The single was less successful in the US, reaching only #57 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Sleeping" is a song by The Band, first released on their 1970 album Stage Fright. It was also released as the B-side to the "Stage Fright" single. It was co-written by Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel. This and “Just Another Whistle Stop” are the only two songs Manuel receives credit for on the album. Music critic Barney Hoskyns rates it as "one of Richard [Manuel's] liveliest performances" and "one of The Band's most intricate arrangements." The Band never featured the song on a live album.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">You Can Close Your Eyes</span> 1971 single by James Taylor

"You Can Close Your Eyes" is a song written by James Taylor which was released on his 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. It was also released as the B-side to his #1 single "You've Got a Friend". It has often been described as a lullaby. It was initially recorded by his sister Kate Taylor for her 1971 album Sister Kate. The song has been covered by many artists, including Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Maureen McGovern, Richie Havens, Sheryl Crow, Sting, Eddie Vedder with Natalie Maines, and the King's Singers.

"Daniel and the Sacred Harp" is a song written by Robbie Robertson that was first released by The Band on their 1970 album Stage Fright. It has been covered by such artists as Barrence Whitfield.

"When You Awake" is a song written by Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel that was first released on The Band's 1969 self-titled album The Band. A live performance was included on the Bob Dylan and The Band live album Before the Flood.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Whispering Pines (The Band song)</span> 1969 song by The Band

"Whispering Pines" is a song written by Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson that was first released by The Band on their self-titled 1969 album The Band. It was released as a single in France, backed by "Lonesome Suzie".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ophelia (The Band song)</span> Song performed by The Band

"Ophelia" is a song written by Robbie Robertson that was first released by The Band on their 1975 album Northern Lights – Southern Cross. It was the lead single from the album. It has also appeared on several of the group's live and compilation albums, and has been covered by such artists as Vince Gill and My Morning Jacket.

"Across the Great Divide" is a song written by Robbie Robertson. It was first released by The Band on their 1969 album The Band and was subsequently released on several live and compilation albums. According to music critic Barney Hoskyns, it was one of several songs that contributed to The Band being something of a concept album about the American South.

"Jemima Surrender" is a song written by Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson. It was first released on the Band's self-titled album in 1969. Usual Band drummer Levon Helm played guitar and sang the lead vocal while usual Band pianist Richard Manuel played drums. The song's lasciviousness helped inspire Naomi Weisstein to form the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band.

"The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show" is a song written by Robbie Robertson that was first released on the Band's 1970 album Stage Fright. It was also frequently performed in the group's live sets and appeared on several of their live albums. Based on Levon Helm's memories of minstrel and medicine shows in Arkansas, the song has been interpreted as an allegory on the music business. Garth Hudson received particular praise for his tenor saxophone playing on the song.

"The Unfaithful Servant" or "Unfaithful Servant" is a song written by Robbie Robertson that was first released by The Band on their 1969 album The Band. It was also released as the B-side of the group's "Rag Mama Rag" single. It has also appeared on several of the Band's live and compilation albums.

"4% Pantomime" is a song written by Robbie Robertson and Van Morrison. It was first released on the Band's 1971 album Cahoots.

"Tonight's the Night" is a song written by Neil Young that was first released on his 1975 album Tonight's the Night. Two versions of the song bookended the album, with one version as the first song, and the other as the last. "Tonight's the Night" has also appeared on some of Young's live and compilation albums.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 DeRiso, Nick (December 19, 2013). "Across the Great Divide: The Band, "Time to Kill" from Stage Fright (1970)". Something Else. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Hoskyns, Barney (2006). Across the Great Divide: The Band and America. Hal Leonard. pp. 236–239, 248, 310. ISBN   9781423414421.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Aaron, Peter (2016). The Band FAQ. Backbeat Books. pp. 23, 92–93, 240, 274. ISBN   9781617136139.
  4. Millward, Steve (2014). Different Tracks: Music and Politics in 1970. Troubador Publishing. p. 118. ISBN   9781783064762.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Burks, John (September 17, 1970). "Stage Fright". Rolling Stone . Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  6. Ruhlmann, William. "Stage Fright". Allmusic . Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  7. 1 2 3 "Stage Fright". The Band. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  8. Marsh, Dave (1983). Marsh, D.; Swenson, John (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (2nd ed.). Rolling Stone Press. p.  26. ISBN   0394721071.
  9. "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. September 26, 1970. p. 26. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  10. "Single Picks of the Week" (PDF). Record World. September 26, 1970. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-04-25.
  11. "Billboard: The Band". Billboard . Retrieved 2017-03-19.
  12. "RPM 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. November 7, 1970. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved 2017-03-19.
  13. "The Band – Time to Kill". Duch Charts. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  14. Ruhlmann, William. "The Best of the Band". Allmusic . Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  15. Unterberger, Richie. "Greatest Hits". Allmusic . Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  16. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "A Musical History". Allmusic . Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  17. Harris, Craig (2014). The Band: Pioneers of Americana Music. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 126, 135. ISBN   9780810889040.
  18. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Rock of Ages". Allmusic . Retrieved 2017-03-15.