Friday, February 8, 2013

"Can't Find the Time"

By Chet Williamson 

The second half of the 20th century certainly had its share of fine Worcester songwriters. However, none of their songs may have been deemed worthy of making the American Songbook – that is standing the test of time, covered, and remembered.  

The closest candidate to consider is “Can’t Find the Time (To Tell You),” made popular by the 1960’s rock band, Orpheus. It was written by Worcester boy Bruce Arnold and first released in January of 1968. The tune made the Billboard Magazine “Hot 100” list. And, although it made No. 1 in many New England markets, it only peaked as high as No. 80 on the national charts

It has since been covered by a collection of bands and singers from Rose Colored Glass to Hootie & the Blowfish and can be heard in the Farrelly brothers’ film, Me, Myself, and Irene, starring Jim Carrey and RenĂ©e Zellweger.

Arnold, a singer-songwriter and guitarist, is both a man of his time and a throwback. From the start, he was an old soul who was hard to peg. With a rich and articulate baritone, his voice smacks of beyond-his-years maturity and reaches back to a time when singers ruled the airwaves of the late 1940s and early ‘50s. 

His performance style grew out of the coffeehouse world of folk music. Arnold’s songs were surely intimate and direct, but rather than those of a social critic, his were ones of the hopeful romantic, who continued to look on the bright side of life.

“My brother, Lester, was the gatekeeper of what I heard when I was young,” Arnold told Los Angeles Music Examiner writer Marcus Singletary. “Twenty-two months older than me, he had already sorted out the good from the ugly.”

Arnold said the family home was filled with music. His parents loved all the big bands as well as singers like Peggy Lee and Patti Page. “Elvis had a big influence on me, but he didn’t write music,” Arnold pointed out. “Composers like Gene Vincent and Buddy Holly were great pop song crafters and singers. But Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lieber and Stoller, and Lennon and McCartney made me try to write pop songs.” 
Jerry Leiber, Elvis Presley and Mike Stoller

In the 2011 interview Arnold offered a list of songs and musicians that he emulated: "Mr. Lee" (The Bobbettes), "Party Doll" (Buddy Knox), "Love is Strange" (Mickey and Sylvia), "Little Darling" (The Diamonds), "At the Hop" (Danny and the Juniors), "Everyday" (Buddy Holly), "Cathy’s Clown" (Everly Brothers), "Splish, Splash" (Bobby Darin), and everything Elvis.

Student Bruce Arnold, 1964
Classical High School, Worcester, MA

A 1964 graduate of Classical High School, Arnold said that there were basically two radio stations in Worcester that he listened to growing up -- WORC and WNEB. "Later WAAB came along. WORC broke many records nationally. And later, Lester became a DJ on the station, which helped generate a huge audience for Orpheus.”

     Arnold suggests that after the Beatles first hit the American airways, “radio grew stale as bubblegum and crossover country fought for attention with B. J. Thomas emerging as the best of the bunch. I met him when I was very young and hanging around at Joe Aboody’s El Morocco in Worcester.”

Arnold also noted that he was inspired by what was happening in the folk music of the early 1960s. The influence and its impact turned out to be so great that he admits, “I have never left that world, spiritually, and much appreciate those who keep it pure -- even while adding new musical elements.”

As a guitar player, Arnold was exploring the more non-traditional approach to the instrument that he heard in the folk and blues genres. He said that he placed “importance upon those exemplary guitar parts and modal tunings.” And a childhood friend, Walter Crockett, was an excellent example. “His guitar piece 'Mary Jane,' written when he was 20, rates highly.”

Spider Hanson on tambourine and Walter Crockett
His early forays into the performance of folk music were with local guitarist Jack McKennes, a founding member of Orpheus. The two joined forces in 1964 to become the Villagers, named after a venue they played at on Cape Cod. They also gigged around the New England coffeehouse circuit, headlining and opening for many stars of the day.

By 1967, the Villagers were working clubs in Boston, like the Unicorn, and gaining wider recognition.  That summer, the duo became a band by adding Worcester bassist Eric “The Snake” Gulliksen and Brookline drummer Harry Sandler, taking the name Orpheus.

Bruce Arnold and Jack McKennes, the Villagers

The group also began shopping a nine-song demo that included "Can't Find The Time.” Interest was high and the band received a number of contract offers, eventually signing with MGM. Composer, arranger, and producer Alan Lorber was brought in to work with the quartet. Best known as the creator of the Boss Town Sound, Lorber presented Orpheus with high production, lush arranging, and studio savvy.

Alan Lorber
“Lorber and I hit it off immediately, and quickly began to build the orchestrations together,” Arnold told Singletary. “We sat at the piano, he copied my chords precisely, and in one case informed me that the third chord I was playing in "Can't Find the Time" was not just a B minor, but a B minor 11th with a double flatted third.”

After the album was released, Orpheus began touring nationally, appearing in clubs such as the Bitter End in New York, where a lip-synced version of the song was recorded on film. The first album hit the Billboard charts in May and the single, “Can’t Find the Time” spent nearly six months on the hit parade.

Bruce Arnold at the Bitter End

Orpheus recorded four albums in its lifetime and went through a score of players, including such heavy hitters as Bernard “Pretty Purdie, Brad Delp, and Tiger Okoshi, as well as such Worcester notables as Steve Martin, Howie Hersh, and Elliott Sherman. 

Arnold broke up the final version of the group in 1972 and relocated to California, where he also continues to play, write and record Orpheus songs. According to Wikipedia, in 1976, Arnold established a charitable foundation to oversee funding for ecumenical low-income housing, education and the arts.
Brad Delp

“In 1988 Arnold performed live at the Boston Music Awards with a further incarnation of Orpheus which re-enlisted Purdie, Sherman and Hersh and included the late Boston (band) member Brad Delp. Throughout 2000 Arnold performed "Can't Find the Time" with Hootie and the Blowfish in venues like the Fillmore and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and the House of Blues in L.A.

“In 2001 he was the featured performer at the San Francisco BMI Christmas Party. But it was Arnold's further collaborations with Bernard Purdie and second Orpheus incarnation bassist Howie Hersh that has produced some of the all-time best Orpheus recordings at Skywalker Ranch and other San Francisco studios throughout the 1990s.” 

Bernard "Pretty" Purdie

In February of 2010, Arnold released Orpheus Again, an album that features 10 new songs and a remake of “Can’t Find the Time.” 

Available at:

In November 2011 writer Singletary asked Arnold why "Can't Find the Time" has become his most enduring composition. The Worcester songwriter answered, “With over a million sold, nearly that much airplay, and, perhaps, because "ba da da da da" can be sung in any language, it appeals to people, internationally. Some have pointed to different verses as their favorite, but the lyric most commented on is, ‘I look at your pretty face and I fall in love with you every time I see you" -- a sentiment that every lover wants to hear.”

Bruce Arnold

DOB: October 19, 1946


“Can’t Find the Time” (1967)

Writer: Bruce Arnold (published by Interval Music, 1969)

According to the Annotated, Illustrated, Interactive History of Rock & Roll, the song, despite being a major hit, ‘Can’t Find the Time,” did not reach Billboard magazine's Hot 100. “It reached the top 10 -- or even number one -- in most of the major cities on the East Coast, but the timing was staggered between these markets. Had it hit all of them simultaneously, it would surely have reached the "Hot 100." The album, however, did reach the charts, where it rode for many months.”

Bass player Eric Gulliksen recalls that as good as the records were the band in performance was great. “People would leave our shows on a fantastic high, absolutely flying,” he said. “The highlight came at the end. We'd do ‘Never in My Life’ from the first album -- this was a three-quarter time waltz that shifted to a brief instrumental in 5/4 time at the end. Everybody would fade down …. Then Harry [Sandler] would fade in and I'd drop out. Harry was an incredible show drummer, and he'd give the fans several minutes of his artistry. Then he'd go 'rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat' and we'd break into ‘Can’t Find the Time.’ Audiences would go nuts!”

“Can’t Find the Time” -- performed by Orpheus 

“Can’t Find the Time” – performed by Hootie and the Blowfish

Other songs written by Arnold include: “All of the Time,” “As They All Fall,” “Brown Arms in Houston,” “By the Way,” “Cinnamon,”  “Don’t Be So Serious,” “The Dream,” “The Glow of Love,” “High Flying Bird,” “I Can Make the Sunrise,” “I’ll Fly,” “I’ll Stay with You,” “It’s Insane,” “Joyful,” “Just a Little Bit,” “Lesley’s World,” “Lonely,” “The Love Bite,” “Love Over Here,” “Lovin’ You,” “May I Look at You,” “Mine’s Yours,” “Never in My Life,” “Of Enlightenment,” “Playground,” “Round and Round,” “So Far Away in Love,” “Sweet Life,” “To Touch Our Love Again,” and “Tomorrow Man.” 

Collaborators: Eric Gulliksen, Jack McKennes, Steve Martin, and Harry Sandler. 


“Brown Arms in Houston

“I’ve Never Seen Love Like This”

“I’ll Stay With You”


“Never in My Life”


“Size of My Shoes”

“I Wanna Be Your Lover”

“Just A Little Bit”

“Love Over Here”

“Mine’s Yours”

“Sweet Life”

This is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome. Also see:



  1. I noticed no one has mentioned "Congress Alley," which was Worcester's diminutive version of Haight-Ashbury, complete with bell-bottom stores and the wafting of exotic incense. Also, a great song by Orpheus!

    1. Check out the Orpheus facebook page for the latest news and updates on upcoming shows:

  2. I'll mentioned Congress Alley. I lived at 16 Congress St back in the day.

  3. Hey The Sun Is still Shining And It Knows How To Shine Still...On Congress Alley:)