That was just a dream, just a dream

The subject of dreams has come up fairly often in recent conversations I’ve had with friends and family.

Unknown-526My wife is always relating her sleeping dreams to me (I even show up in a few of them), and she loves to try to speculate what might be the hidden meaning behind her dreams.

My grown daughters do this, too, but they also like to talk about the other kind of dreams — their goals, their hopes, their images-293aspirations.  They’re both in the process of pursuing their professional dreams, and their personal dreams as well.

Both definitions of dreams have proven to be fertile ground for songwriters over the years.  Indeed, there are at least three songwriters I know (hint, hint) who are patiently pursuing their own dreams of fame and fortune, however long that might take.  As Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler sang, “Dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come true.”

My research into the rock music catalog of the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and Eighties has turned up several dozen songs about dreams and dreaming.  I’ve selected a dozen to discuss here, and my Spotify list includes those 12 tunes but also 16 more “honorable mentions” that didn’t quite make the cut.  All are worthy of your attention.

Pleasant dreams to you all.


“Dreams,” Fleetwood Mac, 1977

Unknown-517I couldn’t very well leave this mega-platinum hit off my list, even if mostly because of its title.  In the writing of this tune, Stevie Nicks was doing what she does best — revealing her thoughts and feelings about her relationships, which, in this case, was the tempestuous back-and-forth she had with band guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.  Truth be told, I think “Dreams” has been overplayed.  She has better tracks with the band that deserve more attention (“Silver Springs” comes immediately to mind).  But the lyrics do deftly offer a gentle reminder that dreams can sometimes haunt the sleep of those who are unkind in how they end relationships:  “It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams, and… /Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?  Dreams of loneliness…like a heartbeat… drives you mad… /In the stillness of remembering what you had, and what you lost….”

“A Dream Goes On Forever,” Todd Rundgren, 1974

images-291It’s not an exaggeration to call Rundgren one of the real revolutionaries of rock music.  Beginning with his bands Nazz and Runt in the late ’60s, he has always been keen on experimentation.  At only 24, he released “Something/Anything?,” the astounding double album which yielded two pop hits (“Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light”), then followed it with a far more challenging LP, “A Wizard/A True Star,” inspired by his use of psychedelics at the time.  By 1974, he would release yet another double album, titled simply “Todd,” including “A Dream Goes on Forever” as the single that died on the vine at #69.  To me, it seemed an unfinished work, lasting only 2:21, but its lyrics took a look at both kinds of dreams:  “A thousand true loves will live and die, but a dream goes on forever, /The days and the years all go streaking by, but the time is stopped within my dream…”

“These Dreams,” Heart, 1985 

220px-Heart_(Heart_album)Pretty yet powerful, Heart’s 1976 debut single “Crazy on You” became a template of sorts for the band’s catalog, which struck a balance between heavy and light.  Lead vocalist Ann Wilson, on her own and in tandem with her sister Nancy on harmonies, struck a distinctive sound that brought them much success throughout the late ’70s and ’80s.  On the 1985 LP simply titled “Heart,” they struck gold with the irresistible ballad “These Dreams,” the band’s first #1 hit, with Nancy Wilson singing lead.  I was surprised to learn that the tune was written by lyricist Bernie Taupin in collaboration with songwriter Martin Page.  They wrote it about a woman who enters a fantasy world when she falls asleep, hoping to forget whatever difficulty she’s having in real life:  “These dreams go on when I close my eyes, /Every second of the night I live another life, /These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside, /Every moment I’m awake, the further I’m away…”

“Daydream,” The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966

Unknown-515During his tenure with the New York City band he formed, John Sebastian was among the hottest singer-songwriters in the business.  “Do You Believe in Magic,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” “Younger Girl,” “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind” and “Summer in the City” beautifully captured that wildly creative 1965-1969 period, and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ubiquitous appearance at or near the top of the charts proved their widespread appeal.  Their huge hit “Daydream” uses a sing-song melody, whimsical lyrics and funky instrumentation in its spot-on exploration of what we feel and think when we sit back and let our minds wander in the afternoon:  “I’ve been having a sweet dream, /I been dreaming since I woke up today, /It’s starring me and my sweet thing, ’cause she’s the one makes me feel this way…”

“Runnin’ Down a Dream,” Tom Petty, 1989 

Unknown-516Petty and his early band Mudcrutch hailed from Gainesville, Florida, where they played small clubs and struggled for more than just regional recognition.  They concluded that they should move to music hot spot Los Angeles where they secured their first record deal, but still no chart success.  Mudcrutch disbanded, but Petty pursued a “solo” career with a new band of accomplished musicians who became The Heartbreakers.  From the late ’70s until Petty’s death in 2017, they were one of America’s most successful groups, with eight Top Ten albums and a ton of classic rock singles.  In 1989, when he belatedly released his first actual solo album, “Full Moon Fever,” he got around to writing “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” inspired by his 1974 drive from Florida to California in search of fame:  “Yeah, runnin’ down a dream that never would come to me, /Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads…”

“All I Have to Do is Dream,” The Everly Brothers, 1958

Unknown-519In rock and roll’s earliest years, recording artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis were keeping the nation’s dance floors hopping, but the dancers needed a slow number now and then so they had the chance for a little cheek-to-cheek romance to develop.  That’s where acts like The Everly Brothers came in.  Their impeccable harmonies gave them the credibility they needed to pull off doing cheeseball songs like “All I Have to Do is Dream” (which may have been cheesy but went to #1 nevertheless).  Successful songwriter Boudleaux Bryant, writing alone or with wife Felice, composed lyrics that struck a nerve in every teenager who hoped real romance might come true if they just kept dreaming about it:  “When I want you in my arms, /When I want you and all your charms, /Whenever I want you, /All I have to do is dream, /Dream, dream, dream…” 

“Impossible Dreamer,” Joni Mitchell, 1985

Unknown-527Mitchell spent the first third of her remarkable career creating confessional music and lyrics, writing vignettes that borrowed from her own upbringing, her own love life, her own experiences in the music business.  That kind of songwriting served her very well, but when she branched out into jazz stylings in the late ’70s, she was abandoned by some of her audience, and betrayed by her record label.  In the ’80s and beyond, she grew bitter about the industry, and about society in general.  On her angry 1985 LP “Dog Eat Dog,” there’s a lovely track with callous lyrics called “Impossible Dreamer” that mocks those who continue to dream of utopian ideals:  “Land of the free, no hungry bellies, /Impossible dreamer…  No acid rain, love without pain, /Impossible dreamer…  Give peace a chance, don’t think, just dance, /Impossible dreamer…”

“Dream a Little Dream of Me,” The Mamas and The Papas, 1968

Unknown-514A trio of relatively unknown songwriters came up with the romantic song “Dream a Little Dream of Me” way back in 1931, and it became a standard recorded by many dozens of artists since then, from Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra to Doris Day, from Dean Martin to Barry Manilow, from Louis Armstrong to Diana Krall.  In 1968, Mama Cass Elliot suggested The Mamas and The Papas record the old chestnut, which they’d been toying with in rehearsals and soundchecks for a while.  On second thought, Elliot found the song a bit too campy and dated, but she treated it as if it were a brand new song, giving it just the right amount of charm to gain broad appeal during a tempestuous summer:  “Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you, /Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you, /But in your dreams, whatever they be, /Dream a little dream of me…”

“Gemini Dream,” The Moody Blues, 1981

Unknown-528Beginning with the arrival of singer/songwriter Justin Hayward to the band’s lineup, The Moody Blues emerged as pioneers in Britain’s progressive rock movement.  The music of The Moodies, with lyrical themes of fantasy and dreamscapes, became a soundtrack for listeners experimenting with recreational drugs.  Following some time off, the group reunited in the Eighties with a more commercial sound.  On the 1981 LP “Long Distance Voyager,” the first single was “Gemini Dream,” in which Hayward and bassist John Lodge merged two unfinished tunes to make a finished whole that went Top Ten in the US.  Hayward’s main theme was about a couple who share twin (Gemini) dreams of lasting love:   “There’s no escaping from the love we have seen, /So come with me, turn night to day, you’re gonna wake up, /You know you’re gonna wake up in a Gemini dream…”

“I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” The Electric Prunes, 1968

Unknown-522I remember, when this song came out, thinking, “What a great line!”  I admired the way the lyrics correlate the physical hangover you get from drinking too much with the emotional hangover you might get from dreaming too much.  I’ve had nights when I had three different dreams going in one night’s sleep, or dreams that went on too long, or were just too intense.  In each case, you wake up dazed, confused and not at all rested.  Songwriting duo Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz came up with “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” and saw it as a ballad, but once L.A.-based psychedelic band The Electric Prunes got a hold of it, it became a trailblazing Top 40 freakout, reaching #11 in early 1967.  The lyrics speak of the disappointment of dreaming about being with the one you love and waking to find it wasn’t real:  “Your gentle hand reached out to comfort me, /Then came the dawn, and you were gone, /You were gone, gone, gone, /I had too much to dream last night, too much to dream…”

“Poor Man’s Dream,” Batdorf and Rodney, 1972

Unknown-523My very favorite “shoulda been stars” of all time is this talented duo of acoustic guitarists/singers who released two of the most amazing records of the early ’70s, “Off the Shelf” (1971) and “Batdorf and Rodney” (1972).  John Batdorf showed an uncommon gift for writing thoughtful, optimistic songs that were perfect structures on which to place impressive guitar work and gorgeous harmonies.  Tunes like “Can You See Him,” “All I Need,” “You Are the One,” “Home Again” and “Oh My Surprise” have been indelibly etched in my mind since I first heard them nearly fifty years ago.  “Poor Man’s Dream,” the leadoff track on the second LP, talks of the wisdom in keeping one’s dreams simple and positive:  “Have no fears of growing old, /Have no need or use for gold, /In my life I’ve gone both ways and in between, /I know my day is coming, am I in a poor man’s dream?…”

“Dreams,” The Allman Brothers Band, 1969

Unknown-518Before the birth of The Allman Brothers Band, Duane and Gregg Allman marketed themselves as The Allman Joys, moving to California in their late teens to pursue their dreams of musical careers.  Duane became disillusioned and returned to Florida and Georgia, where he built a reputation as a brilliant session guitarist.  Gregg felt bound by the contract they’d signed in L.A., and stayed busy by writing some incredible blues songs that captured his depressed mood, including “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” and “Whipping Post.”  He too eventually went home, where he hooked up with Duane’s band and brought them the songs he’d written.  One of them, originally called “Dreams I’ll Never See” but shortened to “Dreams,” described how hard it is to chase dreams:  “Went up on the mountain to see what I could see, /The whole world was fallin’ right down in front of me, /’Cause I’m hung up on dreams I’ll never see…”


Honorable Mention:

Dream On,” Aerosmith, 1974;  “In My Dreams,” Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1977;  “I Can Dream About You,” Dan Hartman, 1984;  “In Dreams,” Roy Orbison, 1963;  “One Summer Dream,” Electric Light Orchestra, 1975;  “Music in Dreamland,” BeBop Deluxe, 1975;  “Dreaming,” Cream, 1966;  “Dream Weaver,” Gary Wright, 1975;  “#9 Dream,” John Lennon, 1974;  “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” Eurythmics, 1983;  “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” Billy Ocean, 1988;  “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Crowded House, 1987;  “Dreamer,” Supertramp, 1974;  “You Make My Dreams (Come True),” Hall and Oates, 1980;  “Dream Police,” Cheap Trick, 1979;  “These Dreams,” Jim Croce, 1973.


You can rely on the old man’s money

In the 5-1/2 years I’ve been writing this weekly blog, I’ve compiled quite a few playlists of classic rock songs with lyrics about various topics.  Songs about various holidays and the four seasons.  Songs about cars and driving.  Songs about animals, birds, dogs.  Songs about sleep, doctors, sex, rain, morning.  Songs about cities, states, countries.  Songs about fire, friends, food.


Somehow I’ve missed an obvious one:  Songs about money.

I’ve found nearly 30 songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s by songwriters who have explored the way money affects people, both positively and negatively.  I have put together my selection of a dozen songs with money in the title, and another 16 “honorable mention” choices.  I realize this leaves out certain songs that are clearly about money, but they don’t mention it in the title.  Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl” is a prime example (but I’ve used a lyric from the tune as the title of this post).  No doubt there are others my readers can think of that ought to be here.  My apologies for the omissions.

In these strange times, if you’re about to review your finances, maybe stop first and check out this playlist, just to escape for a bit.  Hack’s Back Pages hopes for better financial news for everyone as we look to the future.


“Money (That’s What I Want),” Barrett Strong, 1959

Unknown-498Written by Motown founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford in 1959 specifically for Strong to record, the song grew from a spontaneous session with Strong on piano and, incredibly, a couple of anonymous neighborhood teens on guitar and bass.  It became Motown’s (actually sister label Tamla’s) first hit, a #2 smash on Billboard’s R&B charts, and it reached a respectable #23 on the pop charts in early 1960.  Several other artists have recorded “Money” over the years, most notably The Beatles, whose cover version appeared on their “With The Beatles” LP in 1963 in the UK and “The Beatles’ Second Album” in 1964 in the US, which was my introduction to the song.

“For the Love of Money,” O’Jays, 1973

Unknown-500Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, songwriters and producers for their own Philly International label, came up with this song for The O’Jays to record for their “Ship Ahoy” LP, and it became their fourth Top Ten hit on the pop charts in early 1974.  The single version was only 3:42, but the album version (included on the Spotify playlist below) clocks in at over seven minutes.  The title comes from the oft-cited Bible verse:  “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith…”  The tune’s lyrics warn about how money can turn people greedy and selfish:  “I know money is the root of all evil, /Do funny things to some people, /Give me a nickel, brother, can you spare a dime, /Money can drive some people out of their minds…”  Other artists who have recorded the song include Defunkt, Erroll Starr and Todd Rundgren’s Utopia.

“Money Machine,” James Taylor, 1976

Unknown-506By the time he was writing and recording his sixth album, “In the Pocket,” Taylor was doing pretty well for himself, with four Top Ten albums and three Top Five singles.  He was now wealthy, and it occurred to him it might be interesting to write an energetic, whimsical song about how money can have an addictive pull to it.  A rollicking beat, a horn section and a chorus of voices made “Money Machine” easily one of the LP’s most compelling tunes, complete with plenty of self-deprecating humor in the lyrics:  “When I began the game, see me singing about fire and rain, /Let me just say it again, I’ve seen fives and I’ve seen tens, /It was a strong hit from the money machine, sitting on top, on top of the world…”

“You Never Give Me Your Money,” Beatles, 1969

Unknown-499In early 1969, The Beatles were struggling to keep it together.  Too much of their time, it seemed, was spent in business meetings discussing financial matters when they would have preferred to be creating new music.  Paul McCartney poured his frustrations into this unforgettable track that kicks off the famous “Beatles Medley” which fills nearly all of Side Two of “Abbey Road.”  The lyrics succinctly capture McCartney’s sinking feeling of an impending break-up, and hoping he can avoid the negotiations and investigations about the “funny paper” and instead just “step on the gas and wipe that tear away.”  Within the year, the band would be no more…but the financial entanglements continued for several more years.

“Take the Money and Run,” Steve Miller, 1976

Unknown-497Miller certainly has shown he knows how to write “earworm” tunes that get a ton of airplay.  One of them is “Take the Money and Run,” a road song about Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue, perhaps the most famous pair of robbers since Bonnie and Clyde.  I can’t help but mention what I think is one of the worst rhymes in pop music:  “Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas, /You know he knows just exactly what the facts is…”  Groan.  In Miller’s tale, crime paid off — “They got the money, hey, you know they got away, /They headed down south and they’re still running today…”  No doubt they’re still playing the song somewhere today too — it reached #11 in 1976, the first of three hits from the band’s Top Five LP, “Fly Like an Eagle.”

“Money’s Too Tight to Mention,” Simply Red, 1985

Unknown-501John and Billy Valentine were a soul duo from Ohio who had moderate success in the late ’70s and early ’80s.  They wrote “Money’s Too Tight to Mention” about their financial woes and made it into a minor hit on the R&B charts.  When British soul singer Mick Hucknall and his band Simply Red were preparing their 1985 debut LP, “Picture Book,” they recorded mostly originals but so loved the Valentines’ song that they made it their debut single, peaking at #28 in the US and #13 in the UK.  The group’s #1 ballad, “Holding Back the Years,” got all the attention, but I prefer the vibe of this track and its lyrical focus on making ends meet:  “I been laid off from work, my rent is due, /My kids all need brand new shoes, /So I went to the bank to see what they could do, /They said, ‘Son, looks like bad luck got a hold on you, /Money’s too tight to mention…”

“Money,” Pink Floyd, 1973

Unknown-9In 1993, on the 20th anniversary of the release of Pink Floyd’s legendary “Dark Side of the Moon,” Roger Waters was quoted as saying, “Money interested me enormously at that time.  I remember thinking, ‘Well, this is it.  I have to decide whether I’m really a socialist or not.’  I’m still keen on a general welfare society, but I became a capitalist that year.  You have to accept it.  I remember coveting a Bentley like crazy.”  The song, which  includes multiple sound effects of coins jingling and cash registers, reached #13, the band’s first appearance on the US singles charts.  (The album, of course, went to #1 and has sold an estimated 45 million copies.)  In the lyrics, Waters only half-jokingly sings about now being able to buy a football team or a Lear jet.

“Money Changes Everything,” Cyndi Lauper, 1983

Unknown-503This song was written by Rob Gray, keyboardist and lead singer of an Atlanta-based band called The Brains, who first released it as a single in 1978 and then re-recorded it for their debut LP in 1980.  Gray said he wrote it after being dumped by his girlfriend, who left him for a wealthier guy.  Three years later, as Cyndi Lauper was gathering material for her solo debut album, “She’s So Unusual,” she came across the tune and decided to turn it into an alluring piece of synth-pop that would be the album’s leadoff track.  As a single, it stalled at #27, far less successful than four other singles from the LP, but the album stayed on the charts for 77 weeks.  The lyrics tell Gray’s tale of how money does indeed change things:  “We swore each other everlasting love, /She said, ‘Well yeah, I know, /But when we did, /There was one thing we weren’t really thinking of, /And that’s money…'”

“Lawyers, Guns and Money,” Warren Zevon, 1978

Unknown-502The late Zevon, who died in 2003 at age 56, was critically acclaimed for his pointed, often macabre lyrics, which are in full evidence on “Excitable Boy,” his third album and biggest commercial success, peaking at #8 in 1978.  He wrote almost gleefully about serial killers, werewolves and headless gunners, and in “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” he described the danger that a young American man might confront in Cold War-era Latin America:  “I was gambling in Havana, /I took a little risk, /Send lawyers, guns and money, /Dad, get me out of this…  Now I’m hiding in Honduras, /I’m a desperate man, /Send lawyers, guns and money, /The shit has hit the fan…”

“Money for Nothing,” Dire Straits, 1985

Unknown-496Singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Knopfler was in an appliance store in New York one day when he heard an employee who spent all day moving refrigerators and dishwashers complaining to himself about the rock singer he was watching on the TV.  “That ain’t workin’,” he said, but added enviously, “That’s the way you do it — get your money for nothing and your chicks for free!”  Knopfler was amused by this and thought it would be appropriate subject matter for a song on Dire Straits’ album in the works, “Brothers in Arms.”  Sure enough, “Money For Nothing” ended up becoming one of the biggest singles of 1985, spending three weeks at #1 in the US.  Just like the guy in the MTV video, Knopfler made himself a pile of money — not for “nothing” but for writing and recording the hit song based on that overheard conversation.

“Blue Money,” Van Morrison, 1970

images-287Urban Dictionary defines “blue money” as “money that a person or business spends with poor management or accountability.”  In other words, it’s spent frivolously on fun things.  We all fall prey to that temptation on occasion, and Morrison chose to write about it in his catchy tune from the 1970 album “His Band and The Street Choir,” the great follow-up LP to “Moondance.”  You’ll notice the lyrics talk about spending “her blue money,” not his.  He said the song is based on the theme of the 1950 #1 hit by Lefty Frizzell, “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time.”  Morrison’s tune reached #23 on the US charts in early 1971, one of only four times he made the Top 40 in his lengthy career as a recording artist.  He’s still releasing albums of new songs nearly 50 years later.

“She Works Hard for the Money,” Donna Summer, 1983

Unknown-504Keyboardist/producer Michael Omartian, known for his work with artists like Christopher Cross, Steely Dan, Seals and Crofts and Johnny Rivers, co-wrote this song with Summer, which became a #3 hit on the pop and dance charts in 1983 and one of her signature tunes.  Summer said she was inspired by an encounter with a restroom attendant in a high-end L.A. restaurant who struggled to get along on tips alone.  The music video featured Summer as a leader of a troupe of women dancing in the street in their work uniforms, proudly seeking recognition for the work they do every day.  The verse about the restroom attendant explains her sense of purpose:  “She’s seen a lot of tears of the ones who come in, /They really seem to need her there, /It’s a sacrifice working day to day for little money, just tips for pay, /But it’s worth it all to hear them say that they care, /She works hard for the money…





Honorable Mention:

Money, Money,” Grateful Dead, 1974;  “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money),” Pet Shop Boys, 1986;  “Money Talks,” Rick James, 1982;  “It’s Only Money,” Thin Lizzy, 1974;  “What Do You Do for the Money Honey,” AC/DC, 1980;  “Easy Money,” Billy Joel, 1983;  “Take the Money and Run,” Crosby and Nash, 1975;  “Bag Full of Money,” The Byrds, 1971;  “It’s Only Money,” Robin Trower, 1975;  “I’ve Got Money,” James Brown and The Famous Flames, 1962;  “I Don’t Want Your Money,” Chicago, 1971;  “Easy Money,” King Crimson, 1973;  “It’s Only Money,” Argent, 1973;  “Shake Your Money Maker,” Elmore James, 1961;  “Made of Money,” Adam Ant, 1982;  “Easy Money,” Lowell George, 1979; “Money Can’t Save Your Soul,” Savoy Brown, 1970.