Lauper wrote this song with Rob Hyman, who also sang backup. Hyman was in a Philadelphia band with Eric Bazilian and Rick Chertoff. When Rick took a job as a staff producer at Columbia Records, he kept in touch with Rob and Eric, who formed The Hooters. Chertoff was assigned to produce Lauper, a then-unknown artist. Lauper's band, Blue Angel, had broken up, so she needed musicians. Rick suggested Rob and Eric, then brought her to see The Hooters at a club called The Bottom Line. Says Rob:
"It was the first time we met her. We talked and right from the jump she was so unusual. She was definitely different and striking and creative. One thing led to another - she saw our band, we got a chance to hear one of her demos. She came down to Philadelphia and was staying with a friend. She worked with us in our rehearsal studio and did a bunch of demos, so it was really a tryout period - we also tried out some drummers and bass players, but it ended up being Eric and myself doing most of the guitars and keyboards, and Rick producing. We became her band for that album."
Hyman: "With 'Time After Time,' we wrote that very quickly. We were recording Cyndi's debut album. We had all the songs chosen, and quite simply the producer, Rick Chertoff, suggested to all of us that the album could use 'One more song.' We had 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun
,' we had 'She Bop
,' we had 'All Through The Night
,' we had what would end up being really strong songs. It felt good to us, but for Rick, he's been known to say that on every album - you could always have 'One more song,' but in this case, he absolutely was right and in this case we delivered. We had most of the album recorded and we were close to mixing the record when he suggested this fateful 'One more song.' Cyndi and I sat at the piano one night and after the sessions we would just stay in the studio. It was over several days. We would start after the session, we would just stay. This was at the Record Plant studios in New York, and we would just sit at the piano and throw these ideas around into a cassette machine."
Cyndi came up with the title when she saw it in the magazine TV Guide. "Time After Time" was the name of a 1979 science fiction movie starring Malcolm McDowell as a man who invents a time machine. Says Rob:
"When she saw 'Time After Time,' something clicked - she said 'I think I have a title.' I was sitting at the piano and just started banging out what would eventually be the chorus, hook, and the way we sing it. It almost had like a Reggae feel, it was a little bouncier and a little more upbeat. We started getting off on that chorus, then the verse melodies started to appear. It's a deceptively simple song. The verses are just a little repeating 3 note motif - almost like a nursery rhyme, a very simple song. Then we started to realize we were on to something. The mood of the lyrics came from both of us. I think Cyndi came in and really started the lyric flow, then all of the sudden we realized it wasn't such a bouncy song, but it was a little more bittersweet and a little deeper in its feeling and a little more poignant, so the music started to change. We wrote a little bridge section and I think the last thing we really wrote was the chorus. We had 'Time After Time,' we just had to get the words that would surround it."
Hyman: "A lot of things happened in that song. It was the first song we ever wrote together. We had just finished recording her first album together - this was going to be a big debut for her. We all felt there was something special in the works, but it was still very fresh to us. We were really just getting to know each other in a way. At this point, we were both going through some personal relationships and some personal things that were both meaningful and deep for us, and somehow the lyrics just started to come out. It's almost one of those things where you can open up to a stranger or a more casual acquaintance than a deep friend or family member. Sometimes you meet someone at a party and you start saying things about yourself that you might not say to your closest friend. I think with the things we were both going through - for me it was a relationship that was just breaking up and for Cyndi with her manager, which was also a personal relationship - I think the song reflected that mood."
Hyman: "We never did a demo of the song. We just kind of bashed it out on the piano over a couple of days, maybe a week or two period. It really did happen pretty quickly, and we needed to because the album was being finished. I'd say in 2 or 3 sessions the song was pretty much done. Didn't do a demo, we went right to the 24-track machine. The demo was what you hear. That was literally the first real recording besides some little cassette ideas. We were in the studio, we figured, 'All right, we have no time to waste, let's just put it down.' The process with all the other songs was, we spent months and months in our rehearsal studio doing various arrangements and demos before we went in the studio. In this case, there was no pre-production. We went right to the tape, and what you hear is our first take on it, which I think added so much to the overall feel of that song, not just the impact as a composition, but the idea that we were capturing that spontaneous feel. That's always a great thing to do. In the studio you're always chasing that magic that you caught on your first demo. Her vocal was incredible. I think she was singing it and we were playing it for the first time. That's such a rare thing to happen, and I know that communicates to people."
Hyman and Bazilian had several hits with The Hooters, including "And We Danced
" and "Day By Day
." They went on to write and produce for many artists, including Joan Osborne, Amanda Marshall, Ricky Martin and Jon Bon Jovi. At the time, they did not have a record deal. Rob explains how it came together:
"We had an independent label that would put out 45s. When we finished Cyndi, and I think prior to when the album was released or around the same time, we put out an independent album called Amore
. We were playing a lot in the Philly area, we were selling our records ourselves at shows. We got a local distributor eventually, but it was really a homemade project. It was a combination of constant playing in the Northeast area and also getting some airplay on radio stations that were bold enough to play us in those days. It's a lot harder now for local bands to get that, but we actually had some great radio support even from the bigger commercial stations, as well as college stations. We were creating a buzz, and by the time Cyndi hit, that independent buzz got big enough and it got to Columbia Records. The band was really ready to pop, and I think Cyndi was what really put it over the top." (Thanks to Rob for speaking with us about this song. For more, check out www.robhyman.com)
This was Lauper's first #1 hit. She had another US #1 in 1986 with "True Colors
Wrestler Captain Lou Albano, who appeared in the "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" video, played a cook at a diner in this one. Lauper's mom and boyfriend were also in the video, portraying her mom and boyfriend.
At the beginning of the video, Lauper is watching the 1936 film Garden of Allah
The tear that Lauper sheds at the end of the video is authentic. She rejected the director's suggestion to manually induce a tear because she was confident in her ability to cry when she wanted to.
Jazz great Miles Davis recorded an instrumental cover of this in 1985. George Cole, author of The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991
, explains: "Miles had always played popular tunes - in the past, tunes such as 'My Funny Valentine' and 'If I Were A Bell' were part of his repertoire - and when Miles heard the Cyndi Lauper track, he just fell in love with the melody. In fact, Miles played this tune in almost all of his concerts from 1984 until just before his death in 1991. If you get a chance, try and hear a live version of it, which is superior to the album version."
Lauper told The Sun
July 25, 2008 that this is her favorite of all the many cover versions of this track. She added: "I mean it's Miles. Wow. Mindblowing!"
This was used in the 1997 movie Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
. It was played in two scenes, the first when Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino's characters were at their prom and they danced to this, the second toward the end when Kudrow and Sorvino were doing some odd dance with Scottish actor Alan Cumming.
This appears at the end of the 2004 movie Napoleon Dynamite
Quietdrive recorded this on their 2007 album When All That's Left Is You. Their version, with a male lead singer, hit #33 in the US.
Other covers of this song that charted include INOJ's 1998 pop/R&B version, which peaked at #6 on the singles chart and The Voice contestant Javier Colon, whose R&B-tinged take also reached the Hot 100.
This song was used in a 2016 commercial for McDonald's titled, "A Better McNugget." In the spot, the screen is split with a boy from a generation earlier on the left passing items to a girl in modern times on the right. In the end, we learn that he is her father, and that McDonald's is no longer using artificial preservatives in their McNuggets. An acoustic cover version by a male singer was used, likely by Sam Beam, who records as Iron & Wine.
Chrissy Metz sings this at a nursing home in a moving scene during a 2016 episode of the TV series This Is Us.