Here’s the track. You might at first think it’s hokey, but give a listen all the way through. You may end up somewhere darker than where you began.
Keeping in mind that the girls were all still in their teens when the song came out, it’s discomforting how the song allows you to project all manner of horrendous situations onto the narrator. She’s talking about something bad, yes, but she offers no details, so her trauma can be however awful your imagination wants to make it.
So there’s that. But there is also a second reason I love this song: It’s kind of hilarious if you imagine it being just one side of a conversation of some poor guy’s date with a batshit crazy woman. I’ve thought this for years, to the point that when “Past / Present / Future” starts playing on my iPod — and yes, I have this song on my iPod — I can actually time it about right where I play the part of the guy on the date and squeeze my lines in between the ones in the actual song.
And here is what that sounds like, more or less. (Shangi-Las on the left, me on the right.)
[Past. Past.] Well, now let me tell you about the past.
Oh, great. I actually didn’t know that much about —
The past is filled with silent joys and broken toys, laughing girls and teasing boys.
That’s, um, expressive.
I actually hadn’t asked that.
Is there someone I should be calling?
Do you also hear people speaking in unison?
What? We’ve been at the restaurant for, like, twenty minutes.
I definitely did not bring up dancing.
We’re in Ohio. Do you know we’re in Ohio right now?
Waiter! Check please!
Believe me — we’re good.
I don’t think I — oh, okay, you’re kind of going on of your own there, twirling.
I actually cannot wait for tomorrow.
Like, you’re going to cut off someone’s hand?
Like, a doctor?
Hey. Hey! Waiter!
That’s why you brought a suitcase, I guess.
Wow. No, it does not.
[Lights dim but do no go completely dark. The actors remain frozen on stage.
Eventually, the audience decides for themselves that it’s time to go.]