David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 290: The Smithereens (Behind The Wall Of Sleep)

October 11, 2023

All this Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift b.s. has particularly bothered me, but I wasn't exactly sure why. It wasn't simply the never-ending press, whether from ESPN or E-Entertainment Television (does the latter stick exist?). Something more philosophical about the relationship playing out publicly was the rub. Then, I read this OpEd piece for CNN, and figured it out. The Traylor (isn't it time for a cute couple name) narrative, as it played out for millions of guys across the world was, "keep trying guys. Eventually you'll wear the girl down." Truthfully, all of those guys more realistically need the message, "it's o.k., guys, there are lots of other women out there."

The Traylor trash also reminds me of the same kind of creepiness permeating one of my favorite songs of all time: The Smithereens' "Behind A Wall Of Sleep." That song seems so innocent, Pat DiNizio entranced by the female bass player in a small band, lending two fantastic pop references to the attraction, her "hair like Jeanne Shrimpton back in 1965," and her stage stance "just like Bill Wyman." 1960s Rolling Stones and supermodel references? How cool were these Smithereens evoking such allusions 20 years past their prime? (Yeah, I know the Stones were still pretty big in 1986, but even by then they were more caricature than icon.)

With its irrepressible hook, the chorus spoke for every young man with a crush (which is every young man at some point): "Now I lie in bed and think of her/sometimes I even weep/and I dream of her behind the wall of sleep." In addition to the hook-driven chorus and DiNizo's wonderful pop allusions, Jim Babjek provides a killer guitar for the instrumental bridge, cementing the song as the power pop delight that it was.

If only everything had remained behind that wall of sleep. Instead, by the third verse, DiNizio seems to need to take matters into his own hands during waking hours. He initiates stalking with the purposeful acquisition of her contact information: "got your number from a friend of mine/who lives in your hometown/called you up to have a drink/your roommate said you weren't around." That's right, Pat! Be assertive to get the girl; us men always believe that. Show confidence!

Sure, let's have someone forward a woman's telephone number without her consent so that she can be asked to meet a stranger for a drink. Not cool.

Even if those lines can be seen as innocent enough, we still get the only repeated part of the verses right after: "Now I know I'm one of many/who would like to be your friend/and I've got to find a way/to let you know I'm not like them." DiNizio admits the song is based upon a musician he once saw in a local band. Apparently the Shrimpton hairstyle and the indifferent Wyman stance were accurate. Yeah, well, soliciting a third party for the bass player's phone number and calling out of the blue for a date didn't work. What's next? Drive through the night to her show in Duluth to hang around the back stage door?

Or, was his song the next way he hoped to get a message to her?

Go back to Kelce and Swift. Kelce's brother, Jason, appeared to take the middle man role in all of this, the friend supplying the phone number, by talking about Kelce's potential interest on podcasts. Eventually Kelce put out his own interest publicly with the infamous "I've seen you rock the stage in Arrowhead. You might have to come and see me rock the stage in Arrowhead." And the next thing we know, Taylor is in the stadium suite, bringing along lesser celebrities like Ryan Reynolds (in what world did we ever think he could be called a lesser celebrity), and making the media lose their collective mind (or whatever gross matter collects when they all get lumped together).

We'll never know what happened in DiNizio's case, although there is no indication he got anything more out of the situation than a damn catchy song on a debut album full of catchy songs. That album's title, though, Especially For You, certainly isn't diminishing the creep factor.

I have no doubt Kelce and DiNizio are basically pretty nice guys who wouldn't resort to perhaps hanging outside of a woman's apartment, dressed in black, ready to surprise his unrequited love. I know these suggestions, like the one in the CNN Op-Ed piece claiming the situation's "toxic," seem over the top. But they can (and do) inspire others. We could ask Rebecca Schaeffer, but her stalker took away her ability to say "yes," or "no," or even "please, God, no."

If nothing else, can we at least stop the Kelce/Swift publicity? If common sense can't work, can at least common decency?

The Smithereens. "Behind The Wall Of Sleep." Especially For You. Enigma, 1986. Link here.

Day 289: Led Zeppelin "Carouselambra"

Day 291: Four Tops "It's The Same Old Song"

See complete list here.