Friday, August 16, 2013

Song Review: "In Dreams" (1963) by Roy Orbison

Those of you who have read my list of Top Ten Songs By Roy Orbison post I wrote two years ago know that the "Big O" is a favorite singer of mine. This makes it no surprise that one time or another, I will use this song review segment to review songs from Orbison's songbook. Perhaps, one of his more intriguing songs to analyze is his 1963 hit, "In Dreams." No, I am not going to analyze it like Blue Velvet portrayed it, where the candy-colored clown was a drug dealer and he referred to this favorite song of his as "Candy Colored Clown." I am going to analyze it the way that the song was portrayed and made it one of the greatest songs to ever be written. This song would eventually be remade by Roy Orbison in the 1980s in time for Blue Velvet, but in my mind at the very least, the 1963 version is the best version.

Roy Orbison co-wrote many of his songs with writers Joe Melson and Bill Dees during the 1960s, which was the first stage of his notable career (the second would be his comeback in the 1980s). When it came to "In Dreams," he wrote this one completely on his own. Known for dreaming up lyrics to his songs, he came up with these lyrics when he was half-asleep and had the lyrics completed within twenty minutes for this song.

"In Dreams" is intended to be a love song where the narrator dreams of being with his lover before realizing that he awakes to find this lover gone, just as a dream is meant to work. He begins by referring to "a candy-colored clown they call the Sandman" tiptoeing into his room every night. These opening lyrics were included on Spinner's list of their greatest lyrics of all-time (which is where "she's a very kinky girl" from Rick James' "Superfreak" took #1). This Sandman is the source that puts the narrator to sleep. This beginning is so mellow that it mesmerizes you regardless of your current location. When describing his sleeping ritual, he goes up an octave, vocally and musically, until he finally reaches his dreams.

The dreams he sings about in "In Dreams" are the main meat of the song and the vocals and powerful to the point that they just cause you to drift away with Roy Orbison. The dreams have to do with how he gets to walk and talk to his love and how she's always his during these dreams. This is the part that he also hits some good notes as the song continues to flow.

Inevitably, he wakes up just as he left off. This is meant to be the sad part that exists in plenty of Roy Orbison's music. Realizing the truth, he becomes uncontrollably emotional, but to assure himself that everything was okay, he mentions that the girl who he was with said goodbye. This here could either be truth, because it's in the dream, or an act of denial that allows him to feel better about the situation of reality. At the very least, dreams happen every night they are able to (I don't want to get all Freudian with specifics).

The song ends with a response to how it's just too bad that some things can only happen while dreaming. Toward the last two verses is when Roy Orbison begins to reach his emotional peak that can be seen in some many of his hits. Eventually, a sequel would come out of his comeback titled "In The Real World." Whether you can call it a direct sequel is up for debate, because the song primarily has to do with how when relationships end "in the real world," they are over, and goodbye is goodbye. I would consider it a sequel, but not a direct one.

"In Dreams" to me falls under my favorite category of music that came from him and that's the category in which there are no choruses or reprises. He repeats the song's title to add description to the song, but there's no chorus that's referred to two or three times during the song and would be the meat of a reality show performance. There are reasons that this falls under the category of his greatest hits and that has to do with the lyrics, the power, and the execution that Orbison is known so well for doing. While it was strangely portrayed in Blue Velvet, it did elevate him back into American households and allow him to finish his singing career on top. It's unfortunate his career ended because he died from a heart attack in 1988, leaving behind plenty of posthumous material that would be released in the years to come. Fortunately, his legacy is larger than ever.

I will leave a link to the song, which can be found on YouTube, at the bottom of this post. I'm sure listening to this will be a mellowing and powerful experience, just as I get when I listen to the song. If you don't get goosebumps at anytime during the song, I don't know what I can say.


  1. My friend recently told me that this was Orbison's favorite song that he wrote. The guy who told her this is a huge fan of Roy's and had the opportunity to ask when he met him.

  2. This is such incredible information and it's quite incredible how your friend knew somebody who had the opportunity to meet him, let alone ask him such a question. This song is one of the best he has ever written!