The opening number from Can’s landmark Future Days album (1973), the eponymous track is very possibly the band’s finest moment.
It’s a beautiful number, lasting for almost 10 minutes and bubbling along with some radical concepts and sounds.
The Mysticism Behind Can’s Future Days Song
The whole album is packed with atmospherics and radical ideas, but Future Days as a song is the most composed.
Its intro is magnificent, bubbling along with nods to oceanic sounds (see also Led Zeppelin’s Down by the Seaside), accordions, congas, violins, and nods to traditional Japanese music (hōgaku—邦楽).
It’s like a steampunk melody, like the song is emerging from the mists of time, drummer Jaki Liebezeit leading it with his basic rimshot technique (tapping the stick on the snare drum’s rim).
As with much of the band’s songs, the lyrics are (purposefully) indistinct.
This was a group consisting of German musicians and a Japanese singer they found busking in Munich on day in 1970—diversity was their thing. And despite singing in English, the muddling of the words adds a mystical edge to proceedings that can be enjoyed on a global scale.
What you can here is singer Damo Suzuki at his lyrical best, with some beautiful sentiments.
But it does seem like he’s deliberately singing in broken English, like a man having had an epiphany and expressing it in the best way he can.
Future Days’ album cover features artwork from graphic artists Ingo Trauer and Richard S. Ludlow. There are arcane symbols there, a trident and a Hexagram. The latter is from the Chinese I Ching book of ancient symbols.
That nods at the spiritual mood Can were clearly in during 1973.
This is what we think he’s singing:
I just think there’s room to end,
I’ll commend them from their dreams,
Save my money for a rainy day,
For the sake of future days.
You better have nothing for me,
You better prove you’re on your face,
You hide behind a borrowed chase,
For the sake of future days.
Future Days is more like a piece of classical music than a traditional song, along the lines of Tago Mago’s Halleluwah.
It works its way to a prophetic conclusion, with a bizarre but compelling sandpaper type echoing noise to the sound of, “For the sake of future days!” Quite how they created those noises we don’t know, but it’s once again magnificent to listen to.
The song (and entire album) showcased Can’s immense versatility as musicians.
From hard rock (borderline heavy metal), to the harmonic indie of Vitamin C, and then landmark atmospheric efforts like this.
It seems to be a song about the future and better times, whilst basking in the moment and enjoying that.
And for Suzuki, it marked the end of his time with Can.
Soon after the album launched, he married his girlfriend, quit the band, became a Jehovah’s Witness, and abandoned music for some time. He still works to this day as a solo artist creating instant compositions (we’ve seen him live twice), but doesn’t perform Can songs.
Looking back on his time with the band, one of Can’s missions as a set of musicians was to overcome the aftermath of WWII. To prove to the world what Germany was really capable of.
With Future Days arriving in 1973, way ahead of its time and sounding better than anything anyone else was doing, the band did just that.
Can’s Future Days Live
From our research, it doesn’t appear like the band ever performed the Future Days song live. We guess it was a bit too technically advanced to replicate… but that’s a guess.
Suzuki left the band shortly after its release, which was a big factor. The recording above was apparently his last gig with the Can—August 25th, 1973.
Another thing here is Can didn’t play many of its songs live.
To see the band live was to see musicians making real-time compositions, only occasionally heading off into its catalogue of music. They were all experimental and innovative.
The 30-minute number above was an instant composition, doesn’t have a name, but is clearly inspired by their recent work on Future Days, and is an absolute obscurity in the band’s catalogue.
Everything covered here marks an incredible end to a partnership, but also a sad turning point.
Can went off in new directions after Suzuki left, but his time with the band marked a landmark creative peak. The effects of which reverberate to this day. To Future Days, eh?