There are few phrases in the English language more capable of killing a lively conversation than the following:
“I had the weirdest dream last night. Let me tell you about it.”
Or, if not that, then:
“I have this very unusual recurring dream. Let me tell you about it.”
Or, if your hatefully self-absorbed conversation partner is attempting to give the impression that he or she cares about you:
“You seem like a fairly well-rounded and educated person. Do you have any experience in dream interpretation? Because I’d really like to get your thoughts on a dream I had.”
Frankly, I find nothing more dreary or useless than hearing about another person’s dreams — I cannot imagine anything less substantive or meaningful. Want to share with me your half-baked ideas on foreign policy, global warming or the new Batman flick? Go ahead! I’m all ears! But your dreams? No. Please no. Please. No.
So, with that out of the way and three-quarters of a column still to write, I was hoping you might indulge me a bit here, and let me tell you about one of my own very unusual recurring dreams. Actually, I don’t know if you’d call them “recurring” dreams, or merely dreams in which a recurring theme or scenario presents itself? Would that be a recurring dream? Do you have any experience in this field? Look, I’ll just explain in excruciating, tedious detail and you can let me know, OK? Thanks a bunch!
I noticed this yesterday when I fell asleep on the train on the way home. Don’t ask me how I managed to fall asleep on the train — my motion sickness is usually so severe that the nausea keeps me awake — but somehow, yesterday, I nodded off. And in my slumber, with the train providing a gentle but insistent rhythm, I…wrote a song.
And not just a song, but a hit. I mean, the hook in the chorus was sublime: something you’d listen to over and over again for 40 minutes straight because it feels like it’s actually scratching an itch in your soul or your psyche or your gut or your heart or wherever it is that a song hits you. It was a pop song but it had muscle: distorted, churning guitars and a melody just slightly off-kilter, so that it didn’t seem obvious or trite. And in my dream, as I knew I was dreaming, I was desperately trying to remember the song — not because I had any intention of writing or recording it (I am a very, very inept musician), but because I wanted to hear the song when I was awake and able to be objective. I wanted to know if it was as good as it sounded in my dreams. And I wanted to hum it to myself later on, to scratch that itch in my waking moments.
Of course, the song was slipping away from me as I tried to grab onto it; I lost hold of the verse, and with that gone, I could no longer find the chorus, and then: “THIS STOP IS JAMAICA. TRANSFER HERE FOR ALL TRAINS TO…”
I shot up, jolted from my subconscious state, half-awake, wildly confused, and the song evaporated. I ran out of the train, frantically trying to find my bearings, my subway line, and as the car doors behind me drew closed, it hit me:
I don’t get off at Jamaica. I get off at Woodside. Two stops after Jamaica.
At that point, of course, the song was an afterthought, but as I waited for the next train to Woodside, I considered how frequently it happens that I write a great song in my sleep, only to lose it when I wake. And, you know, it does happen kind of often, like at least once every two or three weeks. If I could somehow come up with a formula for actually remembering these damn songs (and then, if I could manufacture an ability to play an instrument/write and record music/etc.), I would probably be doing pretty well for myself here. I wouldn’t have to be a rock star or anything — that’s not really my style anyway. No, if I could be a musician, any musician in the world, you know who I’d be? Not Thom Yorke or Kanye West or Bob Dylan or Morrissey. Nope. I’d be Max Martin.
Do you know who Max Martin is? Oh yes you do. He’s the guy who wrote Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” and the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it That Way” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and a million other pop songs that are nearly as good and well-known. (In a recent review of Katy Perry’s One of the Boys, my colleague Dave Gil de Rubio called Martin an “antichrist boy-band mogul”…and then he went on to praise a song Martin co-wrote — hit single “I Kissed a Girl” — as being the album’s highlight!) And I don’t want to be Max Martin because he’s rich or successful or influential: I just think he writes great music.
Anyway, there’s my dream: to be Max Martin. So, what do you make of that?