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Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

One of Chicago's early hits, this is an existential song about how people's actions and thoughts are so controlled by the time of day, their lives pass them by without their being aware of it. (thanks, Mike - Santa Barbara, CA)
Chicago singer and keyboard player Robert Lamm wrote this song and sang lead. He explained on The Chris Isaak Hour: "I was a teenager walking down the street in Brooklyn, New York where I grew up. I walked by a movie theater and there was an usher standing outside taking a cigarette break. I said to him, 'Hey man, what time is it?' and he said, 'Does anybody really know what time it is?' I remembered that when I was trying to write this sort of Beatle-esque shuffle and just explore the idea of 'Does anybody really know what time it is?'"
The album version contains a piano intro by Lamm that was removed for the single release. Lamm would often play the intro when they performed this song live, which can be heard on their Chicago At Carnegie Hall album.
This is an example of an early Chicago song featuring their horn section of Walter Parazaider, James Pankow and Lee Loughnane.
Chicago Artistfacts
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Comments (11):

It always calms me down whenever I get in a hurry. That song is a reminder not to worry about the time but to focus on relationships.
- Martin, Fresno, CA
The talking at the end of the song is Robert in the background.

People running everywhere
Don't know where to go
Don't know where i am
Can't see past the next step
Don't have time to think past the next mile ( guessing on this line)
Have no time to look around
Just run around, run around and think why..

Thanks to
- Robert, Houston, TX
What is that talking that goes on toward the end of the song?
- rocco, New York City, NY
Great song; their first two LPs are just simple great!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
There's a live version where Robert introduces the piece and then says "Terry hates this song."
- Jim, Indio, CA
Want a real true story. Got on a CTA bus asked if anyone knew what time it was, a guy laughed and asked me if anyone cares, he told me he wrote a song called that, and said it was good, sang some right then and there but i reallycould not hear it.. a woman turned around and asked him to stop singing , he told her someday yoiu will have to pay to hear it. Guess who it was...true story Real nice guy then and now
- Robert Lamb, Chicago, Virgin Islands (U.S.)
my dad phil cano wrote a song like this in 1969 he sent it to a ad on a comic book for requesting poems and never got a response?
- nicholas cano, san antonio, TX
The title comes from a doorman whom Robert Lamm asked for the time and he said, "Does Anybody Really Know...."
- Henry, Pawtucket, RI
I like the interesting intro that doesn't have the melody of the actual song.
- Confidential, Confidential, NY
The word 'alternative' has been used a lot these days in reference to music, but Chicago was alternative way before the modern use of the word -- they did not start out getting airplay in their own hometown, at least not on AM top 40 radio; no, they got discovered by the college crowd, and first got aired on the FM underground stations of the time -- they even impressed Jimi Hendrix! Now people think that they are 'mainstream', or 'corporate'. HA!
- Michael, Chicago, IL
Consider the times: by 1969 nobody'd heard horns in popular music since Perry Como's Christmas Special. Wind instruments were strictly Lawrence Welk, and here comes Chicago (the 'Transit Authority' was removed from their name when the real CTA, the ones that own the trains in Illinois, complained.) Everyone liked the sound, but somehow it felt like a guilty pleasure; we were committed to guitars, drums, and the occasional ocarina for ethnic effect. But Chicago didn't care, and it was great.
- Mark, Lancaster, OH
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