I was tossin’ and turnin’ all night

How are you sleeping these days?

It’s common knowledge that a good night’s sleep — six, seven, eight hours of uninterrupted slumber — is crucial to one’s well-being.

images-194If you typically enjoy restful sleep, well, consider yourself lucky, for there are millions of people out there who struggle often with restless sleep, or no sleep at all.  They may have acute or chronic insomnia, brought on by anxiety, stress, depression or grief.  When you want to sleep but can’t, it’s one of the more frustrating things humans can experience.

Insomnia has evidently affected more people since the quarantine for COVID-19 began.  The uncertainty of it all has only increased stress levels and affected sleep patterns for many.

A friend of mine has said he’s been sleeping poorly and wondered if I might put together a blog that focuses on rock songs about sleeping (or not sleeping).  I’ve done my usual due diligence and found quite a few that fit the bill.  Let’s take a look at 15 or so that provide a cross section of views on how sleep affects us.  As always, there’s a Spotify playlist at the end.


“I’m Only Sleeping” (1966) “I’m So Tired” (1968), The Beatles

Unknown-344When he was with The Beatles, John Lennon wrote two songs that explore both sides of the subject of sleep.  It’s no secret Lennon liked to experiment with recreational drugs, some that put him to sleep and others that kept him up.   For the “Revolver” album, he wrote “I’m Only Sleeping,” which Unknown-6celebrates sleep as a wonderful thing:  “When I wake up early in the morning, lift my head, I’m still yawning, when I’m in the middle of a dream, stay in bed, float up stream, please don’t wake me, no, don’t shake me, leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping…”  Then, for “The White Album,” he wrote “I’m So Tired,” which laments the exasperation of being unable to sleep:  “I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink, I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink…  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…”

“Talking in Your Sleep,” The Romantics, 1983

Unknown-348The Detroit-based group The Romantics had graduated to become a warm-up act for The Cars, Cheap Trick and The Kinks, and that exposure helped them when they released their fourth LP, “In Heat,” which included “Talking In Your Sleep,” a #3 hit in the US and #1 in Canada.  The lyrics talk about a man whose woman has been tight lipped about her feelings, but she reveals her love for him when she talks in her sleep:  “I can hear the things that you’re dreaming about when you open up your heart and the truth comes out… You tell me that you love me and I know that I’m right ’cause I hear it in the night, I hear the secrets that you keep when you’re talking in your sleep…”  (In 1971, Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song with the same title, in which the results are quite different:  “From your lips, there came that secret I was not supposed to know…”)

“Daysleeper,” R.E.M., 1998

Unknown-349Singer Michael Stipe said he saw a “Daysleeper” sign on an apartment door one afternoon and realized how noisy he was being for the poor guy living there who evidently worked at night.  “I wrote this song about a daysleeper that’s working an 11–7 shift,” said Stipe, “and how difficult the balance is between the life that you live and the work that you have to do in order to support the life that you live.”  Said R.E.M. guitarist Mike Mills, “It’s about the sort of alien nature of working a night shift — the weird lighting, the fluorescent lights, the isolation of working the graveyard shift and how it screws up your sleep patterns.”

“Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” Petula Clark, 1967

Unknown-350Clark was a child actress who also recorded many French language songs before she reached stardom in the mid-’60s with “Downtown,” “I Know a Place,” “My Love” and a half dozen others singles that charted well in the US and the UK.  One of my favorites was the intriguingly titled “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” which centers on a romantic relationship from which the self-centered man leaves in a huff, only to return at the woman’s urging:  “Goodbye means nothing when it’s all for show, so why pretend you’ve somewhere else to go?/Don’t sleep in the subway, darlin’, don’t stand in the pouring rain, don’t sleep in the subway, darlin’, the night is long, forget your foolish pride, nothing’s wrong, now you’re beside me again…”

“Asleep,” The Smiths, 1985

ThornsmithsSinger-songwriter Morrissey, who was leader of the UK band The Smiths before he began a more successful solo career, is an amazing wordsmith with many thought-provoking lyrics.  Many of his songs, however, lean toward pessimistic and morose, even suicidal.  “Asleep,” which served as the B-side of The Smiths 1985 single “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side,” is one of those, in which the sleep he’s referring to is of the permanent variety:  “Sing me to sleep, sing me to sleep, and then leave me alone, don’t try to wake me in the morning ’cause I will be gone, don’t feel bad for me, I want you to know, deep in the cell of my heart, I will feel so glad to go…”

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” Lead Belly, 1948

Unknown-354Also known under the title “In the Pines,” this traditional folk song dates from late 1800s, and was first recorded in 1925.  It has been reinterpreted as a blues tune by numerous artists, most notably Huddie Ledbetter, known professionally as Lead Belly, a major figure who influenced everyone from Bob Dylan to Eric Clapton.  His recording of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” in 1948 is considered definitive, and has influenced such latter-day artists as Kurt Cobain, who recorded it with Nirvana in the MTV Unplugged sessions in 1993.  The lyrics question the fidelity of the narrator’s lover:  “My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me, tell me where did you sleep last night, come on and tell me, baby, in the pines, in the pines where the sun don’t ever shine, I would shiver the whole night through…”

“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All,” The 5th Dimension, 1972

Unknown-346In 1971, songwriter Tony Macauley was visiting Tokyo and was struggling with the time change from England.  He wanted to sleep but couldn’t, so he wrote about it in this famous song.  He thought it would be perfect for The Carpenters, but they declined because of the lyric about taking sleeping pills.  “We don’t do songs that mention drugs,” he was told.  So he offered it to The 5th Dimension instead, who took it to #5 on the charts.  “Oh, last night, I didn’t get to sleep at all, no, no, the sleeping pill I took was just a waste of time, I couldn’t close my eyes ’cause you were on my mind, and last night, I didn’t get to sleep, didn’t get to sleep, no, I didn’t get to sleep at all…”

“How Do You Sleep?” John Lennon, 1971

Unknown-347Following The Beatles’ breakup, Lennon and McCartney took turns writing song lyrics disparaging each other.  McCartney’s “Too Many People” criticized Lennon for sabotaging  the band he founded:  “That was your first mistake, you took your lucky break and broke it in two, now what can be done for you?…”  Lennon responded with this vicious tune in which he belittled McCartney’s lightweight music and public persona, wondering how he could look himself in the mirror:  “A pretty face may last a year or two, but pretty soon they’ll see what you can do, the sound you make is muzak to my ears, you must have learned something all those years, how do you sleep? Ah, how do you sleep at night?…”

“Sleepwalker,” The Kinks, 1977;  “Sleepwalker,” The Wallflowers, 2000

Unknown-352Here are two completely different songs with the same title released 23 years apart.  Both have lyrics that address the disorder of sleepwalking that affects hundreds of thousands of people every year.  For The Wallflowers’ third LP, “Breach,” Jakob Dylan wrote about how a sleepwalking episode might Unknown-353prove beneficial:  “Sleepwalker, don’t be shy, now don’t open your eyes tonight, you’ll be the one that defends my life while I’m dead asleep dreamin’…”  Ray Davies of The Kinks, on the other hand, came up with a more menacing perspective on what a sleepwalker might do:  “I’m a sleepwalker, I’m a night stalker, when everybody’s fast asleep, I start to creep, through the shadows of the moonlight, I walk my beat, better close your window tight, I might come in for a bite…”

“I’m Not Sleeping,” Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, 1999

Unknown-351This swing revival band from Ventura, California, got its name when guitarist Scotty Morris met blues guitar legend Albert Collins at a concert.  “He signed my poster ‘To Scotty, the big bad voodoo daddy’,” Morris explains. “I thought it was the coolest name I ever heard, so when it came time to name this band, I didn’t really have a choice.  I felt like it was handed down to me.”  This track comes from the band’s third LP:  “I’ll get right down to it, and I said, I’ve stopped sleepin’, I told myself I’d never close my eyes again, I’m not sleepin’, I’m doin’ now the best that I can…” 

“You Can Sleep While I Drive,” Melissa Etheridge, 1989

Unknown-359Etheridge has had an enviable career, beginning with her debut in 1988 and still ticking 14 albums later, with both commercial and critical success for most of her work.  She is known for her mixture of confessional lyrics, pop-based folk-rock, and raspy, smoky vocals.  On her breakthrough album, “Brave and Crazy,” Etheridge came up with this fine tune about the desperate desire to hang on to a lover who seems to be losing interest in the relationship:  “I’ll pack my bag and load up my guitar, in my pocket I’ll carry my harp, I got some money I saved, enough to get underway, and baby, you can sleep while I drive…”

“Who Needs Sleep?” Barenaked Ladies, 1998

Unknown-355One of Canada’s most entertaining bands of the past 30 years, these guys have written dozens of lighthearted, catchy songs like “If I Had $1,000,000” and “Be My Yoko Ono,” and have scored high on the charts in Canada but also occasionally in the US.  Their live performances feature comedic banter and freestyle rapping between songs.  Their fourth LP, “Stunt,” is one of their best, reaching #3 in the States, and included the #1 hit single “One Week.”  Also on the album is this track that bemoans the narrator’s inability to get a decent night’s sleep:  “My hands are locked up tight in fists, my mind is racing, filled with lists of things to do and things I’ve done, another sleepless night’s begun…”

“Sleep Song,” Graham Nash, 1971

Unknown-345Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young didn’t last long initially, chiefly because there were four talented songwriters and not enough room on albums to fit all the excellent songs they were writing.  Each went off on their own to create strong solo albums that were well received.  Nash’s debut, “Songs For Beginners,” is a magnificent LP that included not only the hit single “Chicago” but also “Military Madness,” “I Used to Be a King,” “Simple Man” and this affectionate lullaby with its gentle acoustic melody and tender lyrics:  “And when I return, I will kiss your eyes open, take off my clothes and I’ll lie by your side, and then I will wait ’til the sandman has done with you, and as you sleepily rise, you’ll find I’ll be there…”


Honorable mention:

“I’m Not Sleeping,” Counting Crows, 1996;  “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” The Tokens, 1962;  “Sleeping With the Dogs,” Jethro Tull, 1991;  “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone,” Paul Anka, 1975;  “Sleeping with the TV On,” Billy Joel, 1980;  “Sleepy Time Time,” Cream, 1966;  “Sound Asleep,” Blondie, 1979;  “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn,” Beastie Boys, 1986;    “Sleepless Nights,” Norah Jones, ;  “We All Sleep Alone,” Cher, 1987;  “Who’s Been Sleeping Here?” The Rolling Stones, 1966;  “Sleeping Around the Corner,” Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie, 2017;  “Sleep Walk,” Santo & Johnny, 1959.








The old songs never end

Whenever I dig back into vintage albums, I almost always end up rediscovering wonderful songs I’d forgotten about.  In rare instances, I even find great tunes I somehow never heard before.  Then, of course, there are the excellent tracks I’ve always Unknown-342enjoyed but the rest of you may need to learn about.

Sone of these songs, or the artists who recorded them, remind me of specific music-loving friends and family members who played an important role in introducing them to me or sharing a deep love for their music.  In this edition of Lost Classics (#22), I give credit where it’s due.  I have a lot of music-loving friends, so don’t be offended if I left you out.  I’ll no doubt include you in the next “lost classics” chapter.

Share the music!


“Calling Elvis,” Dire Straits, 1991

Unknown-326Anything by Dire Straits or from the solo records of Mark Knopfler remind me of my friend Raj Sandhu, with whom I saw a fantastic Dire Straits show in 1991 at the old Richfield Coliseum outside Cleveland, Ohio.  It had been six years since their mega-platinum “Brothers in Arms” LP, and we were both thrilled when “On Every Street” was released, followed by a tour.  The opening track, “Calling Elvis,” is one of our favorites.  Knopfler has said the idea for the song came to him one day when he inadvertently left his phone off the hook and his brother-in-law tried repeatedly to get hold of him.  Upon finally doing so, the brother-in-law noted that Mark “was harder to get hold of than Elvis!”  At one point, the lyrics use Elvis song titles to creatively build a narrative about a fan who thinks Elvis is still alive:  “Well, tell him I was calling just to wish him well, let me leave my number, heartbreak hotel, oh love me tender, baby dob’t be cruel, return to sender, treat me like a fool…”

“Drowned,” The Who, 1973

Unknown-327The Who’s magnum opus “Quadrophenia” came out in the fall of 1973 when I was a freshman at the University of Cincinnati.  My friend Craig Cooper was the first to buy it, and he played it relentlessly in his dorm room, where several of us often congregated.  Pete Townshend initially wrote “Drowned” as an ode to the spiritual guru Meher Baba in 1970, and it later became one of the pivotal pieces of “Quadrophenia.”  Said Townshend:  “When the tragic hero sings ‘Drowned,’ it’s desperate and rather nihilistic, but really, it’s a love song.  God’s love is the ocean, and we are the drops of water that make it up.”  Townshend invited Chris Stainton, who played piano in Joe Cocker’s band, to make a guest appearance on this track, and the intro is actually lifted from the Cocker classic “Hitchcock Railway.”  In an amazing concurrence of events, the studio in which “Drowned” was recorded was flooded just after the song was completed.  “It was raining so hard in Battersea, where the studio was, that water was gushing in through the walls,” said Townshend.  “A glorious coincidence!”

“Old Brown Shoe,” The Beatles, 1969

Unknown-328The music of The Beatles reminds me of several different friends, depending on the album.  “Sgt. Pepper” and “The White Album” take me back to the days when my friend Paul Vayda still lived in Cleveland before his family moved to Hamilton, Ontario.  One of the last songs the band recorded and released before he moved was the single “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” an old fashioned rocker with Lennon’s controversial line, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy… They’re gonna crucify me.”  We were buying only albums at that point, not singles, so George Harrison’s lively rocker “Old Brown Shoe” on the B-side escaped our attention until nearly a year later when it was included on the US compilation album “Hey Jude.”  Harrison wrote the lyrics as “a study in opposites and duality.”  Musically, it makes use of the new recording equipment installed at Abbey Road studios a few months earlier, which made all the instruments really pop, especially the lead guitar solo and the bass part, both played by Harrison on this track.

“Shine On,” Heartsfield, 1974

Unknown-329Just a few days ago, my friend Lynn Rogers Vail picked Heartsfield’s “The Wonder of It All” as one of her “10 albums that influenced me” on Facebook.  I had never even heard of Heartsfield, which baffles me, because they sound like a cross between Pure Prairie League, The Eagles and The Grateful Dead, all of whom I like a lot.  They released four albums in the 1973-1977 period when the country/Southern rock genre was very popular, but they apparently didn’t chart very well or I would’ve turned on to them.  I spent a very pleasant couple of hours listening to Heartsfield’s music this week, and decided that I should share their music with the rest of you, too.  Lynn clued me in to her favorite songs by this band, and I have to say I agree especially with her choice from “The Wonder Of It All” called “Shine On.”  It starts acoustically but ramps up quickly with electric guitars and then some luscious three-part harmonies, finally settling into a full-band groove with dual lead guitars on top.  Fantastic!

“Can’t Take It With You,” The Allman Brothers Band, 1979

Unknown-330The A-Bros, as they’re lovingly referred to by fans, had a career arc that was every bit as long and strange a trip as any other band of the last 50 years.  When I hear the superb recordings of this group, I instantly see my friend Ed “Tobar” France playing air guitar as Duane Allman or Dickey Betts cranked up one of their amazing solos.  Although the group’s 1969-1973 period remains their most lasting, individual tracks from later albums are well worth your time.  After three years apart, The A-Bros reunited in 1979 with their “Enlightened Rogues” LP, which includes some ferocious blues and energetic country rock tunes featuring more of that great dual-guitar attack of Betts and new second guitarist Dan Toler.  The instrumental “Pegasus” is incredible, and their cover of B.B. King’s “Blind Love” beats the original.  But I’m also partial to the quintessential A-Bros classic groove of “Can’t Take It With You,” with a revitalized Gregg Allman nailing the vocal.  Here’s a weird footnote:  The song is co-written by Betts and “Miami Vice” actor Don Johnson!

“I Will Be There,” Van Morrison, 1972

Unknown-332I confess to having been slow on the uptake when it came to the wondrous music of Van Morrison.  Sure everybody knew “Brown-Eyed Girl,” and I became familiar with radio hits like “Moondance,” “Domino” and “Wild Night.”  But I didn’t fully get hip to most of his catalog until the early ’80s when my friend Mark Frank loaned me a half dozen Van LPs to peruse.  I was knocked out by so many of the songs on albums like “Moondance,” “Tupelo Honey,” “Hard Nose the Highway” and “Beautiful Vision.”  Morrison has dabbled in American jazz and Celtic folk, and has also shown a real flair for R&B and traditional blues.  On his “St. Dominic’s Preview” album, along with an amazing Irish soul rave-up called “Jackie Wilson Said,” Van the Man gives us “I Will Be There,” a piano-based blues love song that I’ve loved from the day I first heard it.  He has said he wrote this in the style of, and as a tribute to, the late great Ray Charles.  I can imagine this track being covered frequently in tiny blues bars all over Chicago.

“Pretty Persuasion,” R.E.M., 1984

Unknown-339The pride of Athens, Georgia, R.E.M. was one of the first “alternative rock” bands to become mainstream superstars, although it took them a few years.  My brother-in-law Jerry Gentile was a big fan early on and urged me to buy their second LP, “Reckoning,” and I liked the jangly guitars and Michael Stipe’s cool voice.  I was particularly taken with “South Central Rain,” “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” and “Pretty Persuasion,” with a sound that recalled The Byrds and Tom Petty.  Still, I didn’t pay attention to the next several albums, but thanks to my other brother-in-law John Gentile, who gave me the critically praised “Automatic For the People” album for Christmas, my appreciation for R.E.M. blossomed, and I ended up buying every album they put out from that point on.  Their 15-album catalog is pretty darn fabulous, from the frenetic “Radio Free Europe” on the debut LP “Murmur” in 1982 to the sumptuous “Walk It Back” from the “Collapse Into Now” LP in 2011 that proved to be their swan song.  Thanks, brothers, for taking me for a ride on the R.E.M. train!

“Talk of the Town,” The Pretenders, 1981

Unknown-334I didn’t immediately embrace the New Wave sound revolution of the early ’80s, but I was living in a house with a guy who was more receptive, and he would expose me to the latest LPs by great new artists like Joe Jackson, The Police and The Pretenders.  My former roommate and friend Stu Van Wagenen loved all three of these acts, and if not for his influence, it might have taken me a while longer to wise up to the great talent of Chrissie Hynde.  I recently read her autobiography, “Reckless,” an exhilarating read about her misadventures and victories, and it made me revisit and broaden my knowledge of the Pretenders’ repertoire.  Stu has continued to make sure I was aware of newer stuff like “I’ll Stand By You” from “Last of the Independents” (1994) and the excellent live unplugged LP “The Isle of View” (1996).  But there’s nothing like those first few albums, which featured tracks like the hard rocker “Message of Love” and the more seductive “Talk of the Town.”  Hynde’s vocals seem to match the tough-girl sneer of her stage presence.

“Scenes From a Night’s Dream,” Genesis, 1978

Unknown-340I knew virtually nothing about the music recorded by the early lineup of Genesis when vocalist/frontman extraordinaire Peter Gabriel was in the fold.  My first exposure came at a party in a Syracuse University dorm when I heard “Trick Of The Tail,” the 1976 LP on which drummer Phil Collins took over lead vocals.  Even though I enjoyed it, I didn’t buy it, instead waiting until the next release, 1977’s “Wind and Withering,” which I found disappointing.  A few years passed when my friend Barney Shirreffs admonished me for ignoring the three great Genesis albums that followed:  “And Then There Were Three” (1978), “Duke” (1980) and “Abacab” (1981).  As it happened, I had tickets to review an upcoming Genesis concert, so I immersed myself in these albums and came away an avid fan.  I’d heard the hits (“Follow You Follow Me,” “Misunderstanding,” “No Reply At All”) but soon preferred the deep tracks featuring Tony Banks’s inventive keyboards and Collins’s powerful voice.  “Scenes From a Night’s Dream” is one of my favorites.

“Remember My Name,” Toy Matinee, 1990

Unknown-337Some artists we learn about all on our own.  In the ’80s and ’90s, I was writing concert and album reviews for Scene Magazine, an entertainment weekly in Cleveland.  I’d stop by the editorial offices and riffle through the latest album releases to see if anything looked interesting.  Among the ones I took home with me, simply because I liked their name, was the debut (and, as it turned out, only) LP by a band called Toy Matinee.  Before I got around to listening to it, WMMS-FM in Cleveland and other album-oriented rock stations elsewhere started playing the catchy rocker “Last Plane Out,” a modest hit in late 1990.  I eventually played the rest of the LP and discovered a compelling, bright pop sound as exemplified in tracks such as “The Ballad of Jenny Ledge,” “Things She Said” and especially “Remember My Name.”  Toy Matinee was basically singer-guitarist Kevin Gilbert and producer-songwriter Patrick Leonard with backing session musicians, so when Gilbert wanted to tour but no one else was interested, that was all she wrote.

“Candy’s Room,” Bruce Springsteen, 1978

Unknown-335When I first started dating my wife Judy, we quickly bonded over a mutual love of great music, and we turned each other on to various artists the other didn’t know much about.  Judy gave me an education in early Genesis while I turned her into a big Joni Mitchell fan.  One artist we both thoroughly embraced was Bruce Springsteen, but even there, we had different preferences.  I learned about Bruce in the summer of 1975 when I first heard “Rosalita” from “The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle.”  She was most fanatical about the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album, which came out as she was graduating high school.  (Obviously, we agreed fully about the magnificent “Born to Run.”)  I give her credit for reviving my interest in, and revising my opinion about, “Darkness,” which I found somewhat disappointing after “Born to Run.”  One of those hidden tracks I’d forgotten about was “Candy’s Room,” with its desperate lyrics and Springsteen’s wicked lead guitar passages.

“The Royal Scam,” Steely Dan, 1976

Unknown-338I was a huge fan of Steely Dan from the very beginning, when “Do It Again” was a hit single in late 1972, followed by “Reelin’ in the Years” in spring of 1973.  Donald Fagen and Walter Becker showed a keen talent for writing catchy tunes and creative arrangements, and they had fantastic guitarists like Denny Diaz and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter in the lineup to bring the songs to life on the “Can’t Buy a Thrill” and “Countdown to Ecstasy” LPs.  By the time of their third album, “Pretzel Logic,” Steely Dan was no longer a band, just Fagen & Becker and some of the best guitarists, drummers, singers and horn players in the business sitting in to play on individual tracks.  That routine continued for the remainder of Steely Dan’s recorded output.  In the spring of 1976, I was visiting my friend Chris Meyer at Miami University when we noticed their latest LP, “The Royal Scam,” had arrived in the record store.  We spent the next 72 hours playing it over and over, and agreed one of the best tracks was the haunting title song about the homeless in New York City.