The Singles Series: “Sleep” (live)

Transparent recording process reveals all.

My wife walked over to the piano with our new born in her arms. She dipped down with one hand to show the babe how the piano makes noise. I stood across the room, witnessing this, and in her five random notes, received the vision for an entire song.

I ran to the piano, and put three chords below the melody, knowing that this passage would begin the song.

And then, in what must’ve been some diaper-changing emergency, I forgot about the song. Until three months later…

…when suddenly remembering the event, I ran panic-stricken to the piano fearing that the best song I’d ever ACCIDENTALLY written was now gone. At the piano it was important to not play a thing, knowing that if even one note was struck, that the only remaining thread of my memory would sink back into the ocean of possibilities.

So I stared, cogitating on the work done three months ago: the geometry of how fingers syncopated on the whites and blacks. Eighth, quarter, half and dotted notes – how did the five of them flow together?

It started on the minor two, and was probably a series of pick-up notes before the one of the first full bar. The third chord was a major 7, but what was the second chord? It was a tired song, the tempo sleepy. I moved my hands over the keys, guessing, parsing, deducing, listening to the piano’s silence.

Enough drama. I played it. And there it was, birthed in full form, just as it had felt months ago. Continuing work, the chorus was written in the next 20 minutes, whereupon I dutifully recorded the affair, knowing something very exciting was now locked inside the computer. Close call.

Friends, this never happens. Ask any songwriter. The stuff just vanishes and it’s never the same, usually after only a few minutes, much less three months. Positively miraculous!

The bridge was written a couple weeks later in St. Paul on a couch in my mother-in-laws basement. And now it is here, in its first coherently performed version with John Fields tickling the keys at Kulak’s Woodshed. One other rag-tag version exists from my last Japanese tour both on YouTube and as a free mp3 download (“Live In Japan Vol. 1”). Grab it.

But dig the video first! And leave suggestions as to how you think it should be recorded for the studio version? We begin work soon.

Here’s a listing for the entire collection of my “Singles Series” blog posts.


    Sleep is all I need
    It should come naturally
    I’m lost when I’m awake

    I’ll toss this way and that
    Stare at where you slept
    And think of bitter sweet

    I can’t sleep
    Knowing I’ll never sleep beside you
    I can’t dream
    No ‘Cause my dream’s to live my life around you
    There’s no peace, no, no peace for me

    Sun down fills up with dread
    A pill to fix my head
    I’m carrying that weight

    When air becomes so deep
    The clock begins to leak
    But I can’t forget your face

    I can’t sleep
    Knowing I’ll never sleep beside you
    I can’t dream
    No ‘Cause my dream’s to live my life around you
    For me there’ll be no peace, no, no peace for me

    As long as I’m alone
    I’ll lay here with the night
    And beg my senses peace

    Then suddenly a footfall, on a floorboard
    In a staircase, post haste, no!
    You leaving without saying goodbye
    No goodbye, no good, then why’d
    You gave me your love
    You gave me love
    You showed me your love

    I wish I could sleep
    Knowing I’ll never sleep beside you
    I’ll never dream
    No ‘Cause my dream is to live my life around you
    For me there’ll be no peace, no, no peace for me

    My head may never rest
    Till I feel your soft caress
    And you whisper sweetly sleep

Sleep unseen invisible

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