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.








Rackin’ your brain to recall the tune

When I introduced my first Hack’s Back Pages lyrics quiz several weeks ago, I kept it relatively easy, limiting my choices to well-known songs that topped the charts during the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s.

For the second installment of this fun feature, I am digging a little deeper to challenge my readers a bit more.  The lyrics included below are from 20 songs that are relatively well known, but not necessarily as popular as the million-selling hits of the previous quiz.


Test your knowledge by mulling over the lyrics, writing down your answers, and then scrolling down to see how well you did.

Have fun!


1  “I’ve been thinking ’bout our fortune, and I’ve decided that we’re really not to blame, for the love that’s deep inside us now is still the same…”

2  “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull, and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull…”

3  “She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe, ‘I thought you’d never say hello,’ she said, ‘You look like the silent type’…”

4  “I get the news I need from the weather report, oh, I can gather all the news I need from the weather report…”

5  “Go away then, damn ya, go on and do as you please, you ain’t gonna see me getting down on my knees…”

6  “Well, I hear the whistle but I can’t go, I’m gonna take her down to Mexico, she said, ‘Whoa no, Guadalajara won’t do’…”

7  “Grab your lunch pail, check for mail in your slot, you won’t get your check if you don’t punch the clock…”

8  “I said, ‘Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man,’ he said, ‘That’s okay, boy, won’t you feed him when you can?’…”

9  “It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you, there’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do…”

10  “I’m gonna be a happy idiot and struggle for the legal tender…”

11  “I can remember the Fourth of July, running through the back woods bare…”

12  “Sitting by the fire, the radio just played a little classical music for you kids, the march of the wooden soldiers…”

13  “I got my back against the record machine, I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen, oh can’t you see what I mean?…”

14  “Got to have a Jones for this, Jones for that, this runnin’ with the Joneses, boy, just ain’t where it’s at…”

15  “Come down off your throne and leave your body alone, somebody must change…”

16  “I’m not the only soul who’s accused of hit and run, tire tracks all across your back, I can see you had your fun…”

17  “Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove, and the eagle flies with the dove…”

18  “There’s too many men, too many people making too many problems, and not much love to go ’round…”

19  “I’ve acted out my love in stages with ten thousand people watching…”

20  “Jump up, look around, find yourself some fun, no sense in sitting there hating everyone…”




















1  “The Story in Your Eyes,” The Moody Blues (1971)

Unknown-319These guys have had at least three lives:  their early “Go Now” period; their stunning 1967-1972 era, and a rebirth in 1981 for another run in the Eighties.  There are so many fine songs in their repertoire, most of them written by singer-guitarist Justin Hayward.  My personal favorite is “The Story in Your Eyes,” an infectious track from their “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” album.

2  “I’m on Fire,” Bruce Springsteen (1984)

images-182On the multiplatinum “Born in the U.S.A.” album, Springsteen assembled a dozen songs he’d chosen from nearly four dozen he wrote and recorded with the E Street Band.  This track was unique in its use of spare percussion with synthesizer, and lyrics that describe the narrator’s sexual tension and longing.  The song reached #6 in 1985, one of an unprecedented seven Top Ten singles from the same LP.

3  “Tangled Up in Blue,” Bob Dylan (1975)

images-180Many critics regard Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” as one of his top three or four in a catalog of well over 50 albums in his career.  Part of the reason is this incredible song, which offers some of his best lyrics as he tells the story of a man’s recollections about his old flame, and his travels to try to find and reconnect with her.  Dylan himself has cited this song as one of his best compositions.

4  “The Only Living Boy in New York,” Simon and Garfunkel (1970)

Unknown-318Art Garfunkel had been picked for a role in the film “Catch-22,” which kept him on the Mexico movie set for nearly six months.  Meanwhile, Paul Simon was in New York writing songs and trying to complete the duo’s next album.  He felt lonely and a bit resentful, and this song came out of that feeling.  It’s one of my favorite S&G songs, with a crystal-clean production and outstanding vocals.

5  “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” James Taylor (1972)

Unknown-317For his “One Man Dog” album, released in December 1972, Taylor put together 18 songs, some barely a minute long, with seven of them assembled in an “Abbey Road”-like medley.  He recorded some of the LP in his new home studio on Martha’s Vineyard, with new bride Carly Simon contributing background vocals.  “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” was the single, which peaked at #14 in early 1973.

6  “My Old School,” Steely Dan (1973)

images-179Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met at Bard College in upstate New York, where the formed their lasting musical partnership, but they didn’t much care for the time they spent there.  In this song, they wrote about their unpleasant experiences and made their feelings quite clear with the chorus lyric, “And I’m never going back to my old school!”  It’s one of Steely Dan’s best tunes, from their “Countdown to Ecstasy” LP.

7  “Bus Rider,” The Guess Who (1970)

images-178I always loved this minor hit from the Guess Who repertoire.  Written by Kurt Winter, the guitarist who replaced Randy Bachman in the band’s lineup, it gallops along on the strength of Burton Cummings rollicking piano and strong vocals.  Winter had been a daily bus commuter when he worked a day job and thought the experience would be a good topic for a song.  He was right.

8  “The Weight,” The Band (1968)

Unknown-316Although it was released as a single which never reached higher than #63 on the charts, “The Weight” significantly influenced American popular music.  It was ranked an impressive #41 on Rolling Stone’s Best 500 Songs of All Time.  It’s essentially a Southern folk song, with elements of country and gospel, and Robbie Robertson said he wrote it during his first visit to Memphis, where singer Levon Helm had grown up.

9  “Africa,” Toto (1982)

Unknown-315Chief songwriter David Paich wrote this lyrical tribute to The Dark Continent without ever having visited it.  “I saw a National Geographic special on TV and it affected me profoundly,” said Paich.  The resulting track, fleshed out with some searing guitar work by guitarist Steve Lukather, turned out to be Toto’s only #1 hit, although it was “Rosanna” that won Grammys.

10  “The Pretender,” Jackson Browne (1976)

images-177When asked who “the pretender” was, Browne said, “It’s anybody that’s lost sight of some of their dreams and is going through the motions, trying to make a stab at a certain way of life that he sees other people succeeding at.”  As the title track of his fourth album, the song anchors a strong batch of tunes he wrote in the wake of his wife’s suicide, which share a mid-Seventies resignation to the fact that the Sixties idealism was long gone.

11  “Born on the Bayou,” Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)

images-176I’ve always considered this song the definitive CCR track.  The wonderfully swampy groove, John Fogerty’s vocal growl and biting guitar solo, plus lyrics that take the listener deep into Louisiana, bring all the band’s key elements together in one great recording.  The group’s “Bayou Country” and “Green River” LPs should both be minted in gold.  Every song shines.

12  “Sweet Jane,” The Velvet Underground (1970)

Unknown-314This great tune by Lou Reed had plenty of airplay on FM rock stations, both in its multiple recordings by Reed’s band The Velvet Underground and by Reed as a solo artist.  The 10-minute version on Reed’s 1978 live album “Take No Prisoners” is my favorite, but probably the best known version is by Mott the Hoople from their 1972 album, “All the Young Dudes.”

13  “Jump,” Van Halen (1984)

Unknown-313Instead of the guitar-driven sound that dominates the band’s catalog, the melody of “Jump” is carried by a synthesizer, which was much in vogue in the mid-’80s.  David Lee Roth has said the lyrics were inspired by a news story about a man threatening to jump from a tall building and how “there was probably at least one person in the crowd that mumbled, ‘Oh, go ahead and jump.'”  It was a big #1 hit from their “1984” album.

14  “Lowdown,” Boz Scaggs (1976)

Unknown-312Scaggs had been in the original Sixties lineup of the Steve Miller Band before going solo in 1969.  He fashioned an unusual mixture of country, blues and R&B in his music, which attracted a cult audience but didn’t click with the mainstream until 1976 when he released the superb “Silk Degrees” album.  His supporting cast included the top-notch session men who would later form Toto.  “Lowdown” reached #6 on the charts that year.

15  “Can’t Find My Way Home,” Blind Faith (1969)

images-175Steve Winwood, on hiatus from his band Traffic, teamed up briefly with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker for one album and a brief tour before disbanding.  Winwoods’s influence is strong on all six tunes on the record, but none more so than the acoustic gem “Can’t Find My Way Home.”  It would have fit perfectly on the subsequent “John Barleycorn” album, and in fact, many people have always presumed it’s a Traffic song.

16  “Crosstown Traffic,” Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)

images-174By the time of his third album, the sprawling double LP “Electric Ladyland,” Hendrix was experimenting more with different musicians brought in to work on individual tracks.  This song, though, features just the original trio as they power their way through a classic Hendrix blues/rock arrangement.  The lyrics compare a challenging relationship to the chaos of a Manhattan traffic jam.

17  “Love the One You’re With,” Stephen Stills (1970)

Unknown-311If you think this tune is from the Crosby, Stills and Nash catalog, you’re not far wrong.  Technically, it’s from Stephen Stills’s debut solo album, not a CSN album, but it pretty much qualifies as a group production because Crosby and Nash were both at the recording session singing background vocals.  Stills borrowed the title from a line he heard Billy Preston say one night while on tour.

18  “Land of Confusion,” Genesis (1986)

images-173Between Genesis albums and solo records, Phil Collins’s voice seemed to be on the radio every 30 minutes for a while in the mid-’80s.  The Genesis LP “Invisible Touch” sold a zillion copies on the strength of tracks like “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” the title song and this strong tune.  Although written more than 30 years ago, “Land of Confusion” seems like an apt description of the United States in the age of coronavirus.

19  “A Song For You,” Leon Russell (1970)

Unknown-310Russell not only spent many years as a member of the group of L.A. studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, he also wrote some iconic songs along the way.  The two that stand out for me are “This Masquerade” and “A Song for You,” both of which were eventually recorded by The Carpenters, George Benson and others.  Russell’s distinctive voice makes his own recording of “A Song for You” particularly memorable.

20  “Teacher,” Jethro Tull (1970)

images-172One of the anchors of the US version of Tull’s third album, “Benefit,” this song didn’t appear on the British version but was instead released as a single there.  It stiffed on the charts, but in the US it became very popular on FM rock stations, thanks to the catchy rock arrangement carried by Anderson’s distinctive flute and the first appearance of John Evan’s swirling organ passages.