Time Warp (song)

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"The Time Warp"
Song by Richard O'Brien/Patricia Quinn/Nell Campbell/Charles Gray
from the album The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Songwriter(s)Composer: Richard O'Brien, Richard Hartley
Lyricist: Richard O'Brien

"The Time Warp" is a song featured in the 1973 rock musical The Rocky Horror Show and in its 1975 film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a 2016 TV production, as well as a dance performed during the chorus of the song. The song is both an example and a parody of the dance song genre in which much of the content of the song is given over to dance step instructions. The dance is one of the major audience-participation activities during screenings of the film and performances of the show.[1] It has become a popular song beyond the reaches of the film and show, and is often played at dances and weddings.[2]

The song is in the key of A major.[3]

Choreography of the "Time Warp" dance, song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O'Brien.


"The Time Warp" was the fifth song in the original stage show (after "Science Fiction/Double Feature", "Dammit Janet", "Over at the Frankenstein Place" and "Sweet Transvestite"), but fourth in the film (following "Over at the Frankenstein Place" and preceding "Sweet Transvestite"). Stage productions continued to use the original placing until Richard O'Brien revised the script for the 1990 West End revival in which he moved the song to the film's placing. For reasons of pacing, most productions now follow this order.

The song begins at 19:35 in the DVD release.

The song consists of verses sung by alternating characters, serving as the introduction to two of them, and choruses sung by the chorus of "Transylvanians" (Movie) or "Phantoms" (Musical), and the Criminologist/Narrator (played by Charles Gray in the movie). The characters that sing the verses are, in order, Riff-Raff (Richard O'Brien in the movie), Magenta (Patricia Quinn in the movie), and Columbia (Little Nell Campbell in the film). After the second full chorus, Columbia often launches into her tap dance.

The order of the solos varies in certain albums. In the movie and Roxy cast album, Columbia's solo is right after Magenta's, then Columbia does her tap dance after a second chorus. The version that has been in stage shows more recently is similar to the movie and Roxy cast, with Columbia singing her solo right after Magenta's, but then she does her tap dance right after her solo, leaving only two choruses. Occasionally, Columbia's solo and tap dance come after the chorus after Magenta's solo.

Meat Loaf's voice is prominent in the chorus of the film version of the song. It is assumed[by whom?] that he is voicing a Transylvanian rather than the yet-to-be-introduced character of Eddie.

The song is reprised/revisited briefly at the end of the film, in flashback, and in the show as an encore, led by Dr Frank N. Furter.

In 1976, the song reached number 12 in South Africa, and in 1980, it peaked at number three on the Australian ARIA chart.[4]

Notable cover versions[edit]

The song was released as a single by Damian in 1987, achieving little chart success. However, a remixed version of the song made No. 7 on the UK charts in 1989.

Other uses[edit]

The Hillywood Show used the song in a Doctor Who parody, which David Tennant called "extraordinary".[5][6][7]

Italian comedy rock band Elio e le Storie Tese recorded a parody cover of the song in 1996, entitled "Balla coi barlafüs" (i.e. "Dance with the idiots" in Milanese dialect), with completely new Italian lyrics which mock Umberto Bossi and his attempt, earlier that year, to rally up a human chain in order to link Polesine and Monviso, symbolically blocking the course of the river Po. Apart from the lyrics, the band's cover follows the original song in every detail. The music video for the cover, made as the opening credits sequence for the 1996 edition of Gialappa's Band's popular sport satire show Mai dire Gol, is also a very faithful reproduction of the original scene from the movie (characters, sets, props, costumes and dances), down to the Criminologist, played by Giacomo Poretti of Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo, asking what sort of dance is it. Daniele Luttazzi and Sabrina Ferilli starred as Brad and Janet, band leader Elio appeared as Riff Raff, Marina Massironi starred as Magenta, while the rest of the band (together with the cast of the show) were featured as Transylvanians.[8]

In an episode of The Drew Carey Show, the song was played in alternating fashion with Peaches & Herb's 1978 hit Shake Your Groove Thing, during a dance-off in front of a movie theater between Drew and Mimi, where Drew wants to see Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Mimi wants to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert instead (which is also displayed on the marquee outside the theater). Drew's group dances to Time Warp, while Mimi's group counters with Shake Your Groove Thing; this back-and-forth competition continues until they are arrested by the police.[9]


  1. ^ "TRHPS Official Fan Site: Participation: How to do the Time Warp". rockyhorror.com.
  2. ^ "Teach Yourself The Time Warp". Disco Therapy.
  3. ^ "Time Warp - Sheet Music". Scribd.
  4. ^ http://www.aria.com.au/pages/aria-charts-end-of-year-charts-top-50-singles-1988.htm
  5. ^ Anderson, Kyle (May 27, 2014). "The Hillywood Show: Doctor Who Parody Does The Time Warp". Nerdist.com. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  6. ^ Campbell, Tina (May 28, 2014). "David Tennant does the Time Warp in Doctor Who musical parody video". Metro.co.uk. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  7. ^ "David Tennant Knows Who We Are!". YouTube. April 21, 2015. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  8. ^ Original music video on YouTube
  9. ^ "Drew Carey Show's Time Warp/Groove Thing Mashup". YouTube. January 25, 2013. Retrieved August 1, 2019.