Song of the Day: Elvis Perkins “While You Were Sleeping”

Back when I was on Blogspot, there were 3 things that I enjoyed doing most: posting movie trailers, posting links to news for the week, and posting songs of the day. This also worked pretty well in my Tumblr-ing days (which I may eventually return to at some point). And so, I figure that these things, which I enjoy so much, also have room to be placed on this blog of mine.

I was listening to Pandora today (my current station was: Neutral Milk Hotel) and whilst I tried to make sense of the mess in my room while avoiding the mess in my head, this song came on.

Elvis Perkins, son of famed swoon-worthy actor and former “Psycho” Anthony Perkins, is the man behind the music. This is my first time hearing anything of his, but this song has already convinced me to download his discography and give it a good listen. I’ve been in a slight musical rut the past couple of days, so it was nice to get this breath of fresh air, or fresh sounds anyway.

The song is simple and the chords repeat and repeat and lull you in to a longing that you might not have even noticed was in you to begin with. I’m a huge sucker for acoustic guitar and the throaty voices of the many who have obviously been kicked around, had their hearts and egos bruised, and spent many a restless night alone.

Read the lyrics below if you’re interested in the poetry of Perkins’ tune (with favorite excerpts in bold):


while you were sleeping
your babies grew
the stars shined and the shadows moved
time flew, the phone rang
there was a silence when the kitchen sang
its songs competed like kids for space
we stared for hours in our maker’s face
they gave us picks
said go mine the sun
and gold and come back when you’re done
while you were sleeping
you tossed, you turned
you rolled your eyes as the world burned
the heavens fell, the earth quaked
i thought you must be, but you weren’t awake
no, you were dreaming
you ignored the sun
you grew your power garden
for your little ones
and you found brides for them on christmas eve
they hung young cain from the adam trees
and danced
while you were sleeping
i tossed and i turned
til i closed my eyes
but the future burned
through the planet turned a hair gray
as i relived the day
while you were sleeping
the money died
machines were harmless and the earth sighed
the wind, you slept sound
and gravity caught my love around
the oceans rose, sang about decay
while witches flew
and the mermaids stayed
full of dreams, you overslept
and keeping with the quiet, through the walls i crept
i walked on tiptoe, sent darkness swirling over all the kitchen in the early morning
i’ll never catch up to you
who sleeps so sound
my arms are useless
my heart beats too loud to go to sleep
my mind’s too crowded
while you were sleeping
the time changed
all your things were rearranged
your vampire mirrors face to face
they saw forever out into space
and found you dreaming in black and white
while it rained in all the colors of the night
i watched the tvs
vanished to sea
could it be, my honey between you and me
so i waited for the riddled sky
to dissolve again by sunrise
and i’ve made a death suit for life
for my father’s ill widowed wife
did you have that strangest dream before you woke
cos in your gown you had the butterfly stroke
did it escape you like some half told joke?
when you reached for your plume of smoke
it’ll haunt you, my honey bee
anyone who is anyone has that same dream
were you falling
were you flying
and were you calling out
or were you dying
well, thank god you’re up now
let’s stay that way
else there’ll be no mornings
and no more days
cos when we’re dreaming
our babies grow
the sun shines
and the shadows flow
time flies
the phone rings
there is a silence
and everybody tries to sing


Coincidentally, while hunting this song down, I found a person that has been uploading Songs of the Day on their YouTube account for years now. While that might be a bit more of a challenge at the moment, I might attempt something similar in the future. For now, i’ll just enjoy what others have to offer and hopefully we’ll all expand our musical knowledge over time. Let me know what you think or if you have suggestions for future Songs of the Day!

2 responses

  1. Person who introduced me to this song a couple of years ago said that he wrote this song about his mother, who died at the World Trade Centre. Don’t know if it’s true, and never completely trust what someone from Santa Cruz says, but it adds an extra layer to the song.

    • According to Wikipedia, he wrote that one before her death but that he wrote the 2nd half of the songs on the album about her. I did read about her dying on Flight 11 on 9/11 on another site as well, though. It’s still a pretty beautiful song. Need to see how I feel about the rest of the album, listening to a few tracks now.

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