In dreams, you’re mine
all of the time.
There are a handful of beloved pop songs that somehow fill me with the most profoundly dark imagery, contrary to their buoyant reputation. In Dreams is one of those songs, a lifelong favorite and classic radio staple that shakes me to my core every time it plays.
Sure, it was painted the color of dread by David Lynch in the most iconic scene from Blue Velvet, but the song has been with me far longer than the film. The moment mobsters Dean Stockwell and Dennis Hopper begin their surreal lip-sync is a brilliant flash of lighthearted absurdity, a sudden bloom amid the dark landscape of the film. The visuals constantly insist that there’s something far more sinister running beneath the surface. While you’re smiling, keep this thought in the back of your mind: this is all wrong. As villain Frank Booth ends the scene, “Now it’s dark.”
In Dreams works on the same level. The warm familiar guitar chords, the hyperbolic puppy love of it all; it seems positively saccharine. And yet. Glossing over the fact that the song begins with a candy colored clown sneaking into your bedroom at night, the devotional lyrics hum with a sense of fatalism and loss. Sure, it could be a teenage lament for women he knows he’ll never have, but it reads more like a promise, a subconscious but implicit threat. Taken as a whole, it’s a deeply sad song, obscured by its own exuberance.
What I’m saying is that Lynch didn’t radically reframe Roy Orbison’s jaunty pop song as a nightmare. He teased out the inherent darkness that’s been there all along.
The image at the top is my favorite picture of Orbison. It’s dreamlike while feeling grounded, his legendary presence mirrored in an air of sadness. It could almost be a still from a Fellini set. I wanted to include this because it speaks clearly to how I’ve always viewed the man. One of my earliest music memories is singing Pretty Woman in the woods near my house, where my best friend and I performed in our pretend band to an audience of no one. He’s always been with me, whispering in my ear as I wake in the morning, leaving me with songs like In Dreams on loop for entire days. It’s never a bad thing.
Here are the full lyrics:
A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle star dust and to whisper
“Go to sleep, everything is alright”
Into the magic night, I softly say
A silent prayer like dreamers do
Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you
In dreams I talk to you
In dreams you’re mine all the time
We’re together in dreams, in dreams
I awake and find you gone
I can’t help it, I can’t help it if I cry
I remember that you said goodbye
It only happens in my dreams
Only in dreams
In beautiful dreams.
On a final note, I just wanted to include the scene from Blue Velvet. If you’re familiar with the film, you’ll know the hilarious yet terrifying thrill.