Sunday, November 28, 2010

Don McLean invades my dreams

This weekend, New York's Q104.3 marked its 10th anniversary by breaking out its list of the top 1,043 classic rock songs of all time, a staple of all classic rock stations - with the actual number depending on the station's frequency. No big surprises with the Top 5:
5. "Let it Be"
4. "Layla"
3. "Born to Run"
2. "Hey Jude"
1. "Stairway to Heaven"

Fairly standard, though other stations toss in "Satisfaction" somewhere.

I only tuned in at about No. 20, so I'm not sure which songs came in at the bottom of the list. Was "Red Rubber Ball" No. 1,043 with a bullet?" Did "Revolution 9" snare the 1,033rd slot?

The songs came on as I settled in for a Sunday nap. I need silence at night to fall asleep, but for a nap it doesn't matter what's playing in the background, whether it's Seinfeld reruns or never-ending classic rock countdowns. Just as long as it's not car alarms or jackhammers out on Broadway. But there are side effects to having the TV or radio playing: the lyrics or characters enter my dreams.

Today I fell asleep just as "American Pie" started, and because it wasn't the shorter version, I had drifted off by the time the children screamed and the poets dreamed. Yet the song infected my sleeping thoughts. At one point I dreamed that I was falling out of a hot air balloon piloted by Ritchie Valens. Psychological meaning? Because I have lucid dreams, I told myself to wake up before I hit the ground, but that also meant I didn't get the chance to ask Ritchie why he was up in the air in a balloon, if, as everyone who's seen La Bamba knows, he was afraid of flying? And did he win another coin flip? Was the Big Bopper aboard?

This almost always happens if there's background entertainment when I fall asleep. A phone rings on the TV and it rings in my head. Dan Dierdorf offers nonsensical commentary on TV and he's doing the same thing in my dream, only instead of wondering about Eli Manning's ability to handle the blitz he's saying things like, "Boy, you wanna talk about some type of shot. Take a look at this shot by Shawn Fury with the shot clock winding down."

Also today, Billy Joel sang "Piano Man" - number... something on the list - and in my dream I was in a dark bar watching a sad middle-aged man at the piano. I have to believe this is fairly common, correct?

Still, always a bit strange.

The last time I wrote about dreams, I mentioned how I wished I could pull off the lucid dream more often during good dreams. Perhaps because I wrote that and it crept into my subconscious - or maybe because I saw Inception twice - I've been able to occasionally pull that off, but it remains frustrating. In the past few months there have been times when I've told myself in the dream, "This is a dream, and it's going well. Don't wake up." This gives me a few more seconds, but because I'm now thinking about this in the dream, it still leads to me inevitably waking up.

Fortunately, I've pulled off a new trick. Even if I wake up, if I can go back to sleep within, say, 30 seconds, I'll sometimes be able to pick up the dream where it left off.

As I get older I feel like I'm gaining more control of my dreams, though maybe that's impossible and I'm simply, well, imagining things. I still have nightmares nearly every night, but they're not as scary when you can tell yourself the monsters aren't real, even before you wake up with a pounding heart.

Most nights I don't know what causes the nightmares. Today, I blame Don McLean for tossing me out of that hot-air balloon. Him and his worries about widowed brides. So the key to avoiding nightmares during naps? Don't have any songs about death playing in the background. No "Tell Laura I Love Her," no "Leader of the Pack," no "Dead Man's Curve."

Basically, avoid any song from the 1950s and '60s that focused on teenagers and their tendency to love too much and drive too fast. They're still classic songs, but all they'll give you is restless nights.


Mike said...

Don't forget the tragic anthem, "Teen Angel." This was the song where the car gets stuck on the tracks and the girl goes back to get her boyfriend's class ring. The song was so morbid the radio banned it in the early 1960's.

Shawn Fury said...

Here's a creepy video of Teen Angel.

There's also Last Kiss. I guess instead of seat belts, highway safety consisted of morbid songs designed to frighten teenagers.

Neil R said...

"Last Kiss"? Was Pearl Jam around in the 60's?? Just kidding.. Dead Man's Curve is a song that goes with one of my earliest memories. My brother had a 8-track in his 77 Trans Am and I remember listening to that on our way to McDonalds one night. I'm always amazed how a song can take you back to some point in time like nothing else. And why when "Unbelievable" by EMF comes on, I can sing it verse for verse even though I haven't heard it for a decade, but can't remember what i had for lunch yesterday??