Almanac Music: I’m Only Sleeping and/or Dreaming

 

 

Landscape with the Dream of Jacob, by Michael Willman, oil on canvas, c. 1691. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Germany. [Wikimedia Commons.]

 

 

I’m Only Sleeping and/or Dreaming

 

Continuing my series of Footy Almanac music pieces about key themes of popular songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era (1950s onwards), we are now in the world of sleep and/or dreams. Almanackers – and indeed, anyone – please place your contributions of relevant songs in the comments section below the article.

 

 

‘I’m Only Sleeping’, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, performed by the Beatles (1966)

 

Just about the ‘sleep song’ par excellence, ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, mainly written by John Lennon, from the watershed Beatles album Revolver, is a drifty, dreamy distillation of Lennon-esque genius, with some oddly apt Indian-influenced (backwards) lead guitar work by George Harrison. A key line of the song: ‘Please don’t spoil my day, I’m miles away / and after all I’m only sleeping’ – very Lennon, indeed.

 

 

 

 

‘Dream A Little Dream of Me’, written by Fabian Andre, Wilbur Schwandt and Gus Kahn, performed by The Mamas and the Papas (1968)

 

Cass Elliot’s beautiful voice and tender performance married to this sentimental standard makes for a magical, transporting outcome. “Stars shining bright above you / Night breezes seem to whisper ‘I love you …’ Once heard, never forgotten.

 

 

 

 

‘I’m So Tired’, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, performed by The Beatles (1968)

 

In a good way, the singer in this recording – John Lennon – at times sounds as if he is in danger of actually falling asleep. (Method singing, perhaps?) Though the song lollops along in a suitably weary way for much of the time, it also builds to a fine number of jolting climaxes, such as:

‘You’d say I’m putting you on
But it’s no joke
It’s doing me harm
You know I can’t sleep
I can’t stop my brain
You know it’s three weeks
I’m going insane
You know I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind …’

 

 

 

 

‘Sleep’, by Mic Conway and Tony Burkys, performed by The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band (1978)

 

This song, for some unknown reason, has stuck in my mind since I was a teenager in the nineteen-seventies – I write ‘for some reason’ because I’ve never been a fan of Whoopee Band lead singer’s Mic Conway’s ponderous baritone voice. That said, ‘Sleep’ does possess wit and an interestingly idiosyncratic quality. It’s from the band’s fourth studio album, Slightly Troppo.

 

 

 

 

‘Dreaming’, written by Chris Stein and Debbie Harry, performed by Blondie (1979)

 

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands, this fast-paced, tuneful rock number, is most notable for Clem Burke’s frenetic Keith Moon-esque drumming. It appeared as the Blondie’s first single from their fourth LP, Eat to the Beat, and, interestingly, was strongly influenced by ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ in writing terms. Also, a song with its first two rhymes being ‘restaurant’ and ‘debutante’ has my instant attention!

 

 

 

 

‘I Go to Sleep’, written by Ray Davies, performed by The Pretenders (1981)

 

This song, composed by Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies in the mid-sixties, has a suitably languid, sleepy feel, a beguiling 12/8 tempo and came to me via the recording by the Pretenders. Surprisingly, perhaps, the Kinks didn’t record their own version of it.

 

 

 

 

‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’, written by Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart, performed by Eurythmics (1983)

 

The 1980s were a time of considerable international success for new wave/synth pop band Eurythmics. ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ was their breakthrough international hit, from their second studio album of the same name.

 

 

 

 

‘And Dream of Sheep’, written and performed by Kate Bush (1985)

 

This beautifully spare, piano-based ballad first appeared on Bush’s Hounds of Love, an album many listeners believe to be her best. ‘Let me be weak, let me sleep and dream of sheep …’

 

 

 

 

‘Enter Sandman’, written by Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. performed by Metallica (1991)

 

Everything is spot on in this riffy, iconic heavy metal song: title, lyrics (‘Exit light / Enter night …’), exploration of the sleep theme, vocal performance and production. ‘Enter Sandman’ was a worldwide hit for Metallica, and appeared as the first single from their self-titled fifth studio album.

 

 

 

 

‘Wake Up, Jeff’, written by M Cook/J Fatt/A Field/G Page, performed by The Wiggles (1996)

 

This clever children’s song is from the album of the same name by the internationally successful Australian group, The Wiggles. It is commendably brief, and runs for less than two minutes, including a natty lead guitar solo by Murray, the red Wiggle. Ah yes – that’s (children’s) entertainment!

 

 

 

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So, dear readers, it’s that time again! Over to you. Your responses to this topic are warmly welcomed. Please add your own choice of a song (or songs) featuring sleep and/or dreams in the comments section, along with any other points you’d like to make.

 

[Note: Wikipedia has been a good general reference for this piece, particularly when it comes to checking dates and other details.]

 

 

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, was published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    KD, I have to suggest a Bob dream song, also one of his best: ‘I dreamed I Saw St Augustine’ from ‘John Wesley Harding’.. I’ve included a link to the song.
    https://youtu.be/ZE9bjdXCU_Q

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for the beautiful Bob song, Col. I love the harmonica work in it a lot, too.

  3. How can we leave out the1959 Bobby Darin classic, Dream Lover?

    Glen Shorrock did a nice cover of this.

    Glen!

  4. Liam Hauser says

    Am I a dreamer? (Kelly Groucutt)
    Only a dream (Belinda Carlisle)
    #9 Dream (John Lennon)
    All I have to do is dream (made famous by Everly Brothers; written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant)

  5. Dave Nadel says

    Three songs from the late 50s/early 60s
    Tossing and Turning by Bobby Lewis
    In Dreams by Roy Orbison
    Endless Sleep by Jody Reynolds – this last was almost necro rock except that (spoiler alert) he saves her.

  6. Rick Kane says

    Dream Baby Dream, by Suicide
    The River, Springsteen
    I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, Warren Zevon

  7. Do we have licence to include Flash and the Pan’s , ‘Down Among the Dead Men’ in this collection?

    Death is often known as pejoratively as a long/big sleep.

    Speaking of the ‘Big Sleep’ that was a track on the Sports 1979 album ‘Don’t Throw Stones’.

    Glen!

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Glen! Thanks. Yes, ‘Dream Lover’ is a beauty – Glenn Shorrock has a fine ‘all round’ voice, too, I feel.

    Liam H.- Thank you for your selection. Just to pick out one at present – John Lennon’s ‘#9 Dream’, what a beautiful, haunting song! Interestingly, Lennon was big on being in bed, and the number 9!

  9. Kevin Densley says

    Dave N. – Many thanks for your picks I’ll give the Jody Reynolds song a special nod, just for its special peculiarity.

    Thank you, Rick ‘Glenn A’ Kane! Interesting and varied, as always. I’ve been in Zevon listening mood lately. ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ – brilliant!

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Hi again Glen! (I missed your second response the first time around.) Thank you – fine choices and excellent ‘big sleep’ link between the two songs concerned.

  11. DBalassone says
  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Hey KD, here’s a few from my digital jukebox

    No Sleep Till (sic) Brooklyn – Beastie Boys
    Sleep of the Just – Costello Show
    The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens
    The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight – REM
    They Thought I Was Asleep – Paul Kelly
    Asleep – Smiths
    All I Have To Do Is Dream – Everly Bros
    Daydream Believer – Monkees
    Dream Police – Cheap Trick
    Girl of my Dreams – Bram Tchaikovsky
    If I Can Dream – Elvis Presley
    In Every Dream Home A Heartache – Roxy Music
    Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me – Smiths
    Living In A Child’s Dream – Masters Apprentices
    Moonage Daydream – Bowie
    Quasimodo’s Dream – Reels
    Sparky’s Dream – Teenage Fanclub
    When I Dream – Teardrop Explodes
    Waking Up Tired – Hoodoo Gurus
    Tired Of Me – Sports
    Last Night (I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All) – 5th Dimension
    Hey Hey My My – Neil Young and Crazy Horse

  13. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks so much for this extensive list, Swish! Excellent stuff – most of which I know well, but there’s the odd one I’ll have to check out on Youtube or something similar.

    And Damian, thanks for your link – that’s a classic instrumental, isn’t it, Santo and Johnny’s ‘Sleep Walk’. I note the Italian heritage of the two guys, too, and that Santo seems to be doing most of the musical heavy lifting, with his extended soloing on steel guitar.

  14. Rick Kane says

    Tombstone Blues, Bob
    Can I Sleep in your Arms, Willie
    By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Glen Campbell
    I’m Dreaming, Randy Newman
    Sleep at Night, The Chicks
    Wake Me Up When September Comes, Green Day
    Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Wham
    Crying in my Sleep, Art Garfunkel
    Yesterday’s Dreams, The Four Tops
    Send Me the Pillow that you Dream On, Hank Locklin
    Welcome to my Nightmare, Alice Cooper
    Venus in Furs, VU

  15. Liam Hauser says

    Sleepwalk (Ultravox)
    Walking in my sleep (Roger Daltrey)
    Narcolepsy (Ben Folds Five)
    Sea of Dreams (original by Kelly Groucutt, and cover version by Orkestra)
    How do you sleep? (John Lennon)

  16. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Dunno how my mind works but it just summoned up

    Chick-A-Boom by Daddy Dewdrop

  17. Luke Reynolds says

    “Nod Off, Dream” by Broads, a Melbourne duo with exquisite harmonies.

  18. Liam Hauser says

    Runnin’ down a dream (Tom Petty)
    Walking in the Dreamtime (James Reyne)
    Dream of Unwin (Wizzard)
    Gemini Dream (Moody Blues)
    Dreaming of 4000 (Electric Light Orchestra)
    Hold on tight (to your dream, Electric Light Orchestra)
    House of broken dreams (Crosby Stills and Nash)

  19. The beautifully languid “Golden Slumbers” on the Beatles “Abbey Road” segues into the rockier “Carry that Weight”. Astonishing album.
    “Mr Sandman (bring me a dream)” is a breezy country waltz first recorded in 1954 with the most popular version by Emmylou Harris.
    Another similarly sleepy “sandman” reference is the “Mornington Ride” children’s lullaby made popular by our own Seekers.
    (Rockabye) “Sweet Baby James” is one of James Taylor’s sweetest and a beautiful lullaby in waltz time.

  20. Kevin Densley says

    I’ll do a couple at a time with the most recent comments/choices of songs …

    Rick – thanks again for another great list – ‘By the Time I get to Phoenix’, I recall, was in heany rotation on the family stereo when I was a kid, being part of my father’s Country music collection.

    Liam – thanks again, for more fine contributions, especially Ben Folds’ wonderful, almost symphonic ‘Narcolepsy’, which reminded me just how good this guy is.

  21. Kevin Densley says

    Swish – thanks for the quirky, funny, catchy ‘Chick-A- Boom’. It certainly put a spring in my step, with which to start the day!

    Luke – thanks for the interesting, alternative ‘Nod Off, Dream’ – love its touch of psychedelia, too.

  22. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your further contributions, Liam H. You often make me realise how diverse ELO’s songlist is.

    And Peter B – I love your choices, basically on the tender side of the ‘sleep’ song theme. I totally agree with you about the ‘astonishing’ nature of Abbey Road, too – for me, there’s a richly elegiac quality, a kind of self-awareness on the album that is is the last time the group will be as one. (How much one feels this because one knows after the event that it is the Beatles last recorded album is another matter, I suppose.) Even the last song on Abbey Road, is called ‘The End’; of course.

  23. Kevin Densley says

    The last three lines immediately above (minus a couple of typos) should read:

    *quality, a kind of self-awareness on the album that this is the last time the group will be as one. (How much one feels this because one knows after the event that it is the Beatles last recorded album is another matter, I suppose.) Even the last song on Abbey Road, is called ‘The End’, of course.*

  24. Peter Crossing says

    Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream
    Motorpsycho Nightmare
    Sardonic Bob at his best.

  25. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Peter,

    Fabulous – two versions of the one song, do you think?

  26. Tony Forbes says

    Sleepwalk by Santo & Johnny is a beautiful dreamy instrumental. Jeff Beck does a great version on his tribute to Les Paul DVD.

  27. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Tony. That’s two for this instrumental (so far) – Damian Balassone sent a link to Santo and Johnny playing it. However, your mention of Jeff Beck’s version is a most welcome additional bit of information..

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