The Byrds: when folk-rock got higher and higher
In honour of Vin Garbutt, in support of a venue he loved

Who Knows Where the Time Goes - or where it went? Sandy Denny's song and its covers

            Oct 2022 mini-update: I reposted this and plugged it a little on social media, with warm and encouraging results ... RIP Sandy

March 2021 update:
My tribute to Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, a great song by an even greater departed heroine of folk and folk-rock, Sandy Denny, first appeared when I was living in Abu Dhabi in 2008.
It was republished in slightly amended form in 2017 but the enduring interest in Sandy, and the sharply growing reach of Salut! Live, committed me to a third outing.
It seems tailor-made for inclusion in my Cover Story series comparing and contrasting different versions of the same songs.
Some of the versions first mentioned of this classic Sandy song (actually one of several classics but certainly her best known)  have disappeared from view and one or two added in 2017 have met the same fate .
Along the way, including now, I have added or re-added Eva Cassidy, Judy Collins, Nanci Griffith, Nina Simone, Rufus Wainwright, 10,000 Maniacs , Full House with Chris While , Mary Black and Kate Rusby. I have been reminded of Barbara Dickson's gorgeous singing of it - Barbara also tells me of the formidable accompaniment she received from Danny Thompson and Dave Mattacks plus "a beautiful bell-like motif  [devised by Ian Lynn] to depict the passage of time. Other versions have appeared here but have been dropped or become unavailable. There's still lots out there and I shall leave you to explore at YouTube.
The version by Sandy that I have chosen in 2021 is a much lesser visited one than those attracting hundreds of thousands or even a million views. It is far from being her best,  but is a fascinating reminder of a time when she was such a breath of fresh air in British music and John Peel was among music's greatest broadcasters. And for the record, I admire many of the other versions but if forced to choose would always plump for Sandy ...
See also the Comments: I have finally acted on Tom Bliss's request and added links from each artist's name back to YouTube.  And my thanks, again, to Ross Anderson for alerting me to a tremendous BBC Soul Music mini-documentary on the song, quoting Sandy, Judy Collins, Rufus, Sandy's biographer Mick Houghton, Fairport founder Simon Nicol and several others. There's a link in the footnote ...

Jean-François Perroy, a French urban stencil artist better known by his pseudonym
Jef Aérosol, consented very early in Salut! Live's life to the reproduction of this
 great work



...well, I'd like to know what happened to the time that has elapsed since I agreed to an acquaintance's request to compile for him a cassette - that dates it already - of versions of Sandy Denny's spellbinding Who Knows Where The Time Goes?, his favourite song.

It began with good intentions on my part. As a reviewer of folk albums, I already had several renditions - quite a few different ones recorded by Sandy, come to that - and you can be sure that more have reached me since.

But I never quite got round to it. I am not sure exactly how many years have passed since my undertaking to prepare the tape. But with thanks to YouTube subscribers and apologies to Julian, the husband of one of my wife's then colleagues, here at least is a start.

A search for the song produces the good, the not so good and the downright ugly. I came across some assaults on the ear that were simply so gruesome that it would be unkind to everyone concerned to expose them to Salut! Live's small but probably quite discerning audience.

I have embedded a few versions. Feel free to commend others to me, or to comment on those I have included.

And sorry again, Julian, I still haven't got round to making a tape.


Chris While, with the House Band at Chester Folk Festival 2008


Kate Rusby, also from 2008


Eva Cassidy 'Depth and beauty from two souls gone too soon,' said someone at YouTube of the singer and writer



10,000 Maniacs, from 2010



Nina Simone, live at the Philharmonic Hall, New York, 1969

Rufus Wainwright at the 2016 British Folk Awards


Nanci Griffith, a clip posted in 2014


Judy Collins, Sandy's friend and occasional drinking buddy when in the UK. Unbelievably from 1968


Mary Black, from a "best of" album around 2001


And finally, for now, Barbara Dickson, also from a "best of'': collection sort of album ...



Already a long list and one that could easily be extended ... I can but hope that I have not put you off the song for life.



Tom Bliss

Reposted in 2021 but first appeared several years ago

That's a fantastic version with Chris singing with Nick Mitchell and Full House - what a coup eh?
But how on earth did people start thinking the song starts "Across the morning (or even purple) sky?" Are they getting muddled with the Prince song?
PS Colin, it could be great if you could provide a text title for each clip - specially for the Houses (Oh and did my CD arrive ok?).

Philip Ward

Reposted in 2021 but first appeared several years ago

Tom, "Across the purple sky" was Sandy's original wording, used on her first recording of the song with The Strawbs. This was the version that found its way to Judy Collins, and those singers who learned the song from the Collins recording follow her lyrics (and phrasing).

Bill Taylor

This is such a beautiful song but, depending on the singer, it can be almost TOO beautiful. I know - that doesn't really make sense, except it does to me. I have to say I've never much liked Sandy Denny singing it. There again, I've never liked Ewan MacColl singing Ewan MacColl songs.
I'm a great fan of Nanci Griffith but nor do I think this is the song for her. Eva Cassidy, on the other hand, totally nails it. Really, really good.
I like the 10,000 Maniacs version, too, but for my favourite I'm with Tom Bliss - definitely Chris While and Full House.

Colin Randall

I stood in a field in Oxfordshire and watched Fairport Convention recreate their great Liege and Lief album. The original lineup reassembled but without, of course, Sandy. Chris While took her place and was absolutely stunning. No 'Who Knows', of course; wrong album. And Sandy’s remains my favourite but Chris is superb


I first heard Judy Collins version, many, many years ago and immediately fell in love with it, but having just now listened to all these, I do agree - Sandy’s is simply riveting. She sings it without can imagine that it is with this sense of quiet wonder that it must have originally come to her. Thanks for posting it this way.

Cathy Forster

(The next few posts come from a Twitter conversation)

I just love Judy Collins's cover.

Colin Randall

I do, too. But I also admire Kate Rusby, Nina Simone, Eva Cassidy and many more for how they approached the song. Sandy’s shone the brightest for me but no wonder so many great singers were drawn to it

Cathy Forster

Heard Kate's and Nina's versions. Said on here before that covers are only relevant if something different is invited on board.

Colin Randall

Well Nina meets your test as did Mary Black with uillean pipes but surely almost all other fine versions are just excellent singers covering an exceptional song

Colin Randall

Most of them. Was never a never an Eva Cassidy fan but that's just my opinion. Just like folks referring to Aretha Franklin as "The Queen Of Soul" and Spruce Spring clean as I call him as ""The boss".

Colin Randall

Tom mentions Chris While as does Bill Taylor. This was how I reported her magnificent presence at Fairport Convention's 2007 Cropredy festival, when all original male members of the band re-assembled to recreate, in a memorable live performance, the Liege and Lief album and Chris took the place of Sandy:

The piece is riddled with dead links and has the occasional typo, none of which I can fix because Typepad, which hosts this site, inexplicably won't let me

Levent Varlik

Deanna Kirk is an American jazz musician. She recorded two different covers of Who Knows Where the Time Goes on her "Live at Deanna's", and "Mariana Trench" albums. First one is a beautiful jazz version, and the second is a bit pop/art work. Both are, IMO, different and interesting covers. Worth to listen.


Sunday the Scotish Duo DOGHOUSE ROSES played my place and I asked for "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" because it was not on the planned, was not on their setlist.... anyway, they did a great version I think.... hope you enjoy .

Mike Yeomans

Christine Collister does a version on her Love album that I rather like.

Colin Randall

Great singer, Mike. I’ll look this up

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