Demonstration Tapes: Sleepless
Hand it over, hand it over
This song is really two songs, and they both had been kicking around for a while, unrecorded. In 2007 we were invited to contribute a song to a compilation that the guys from The National were putting together. It was going to be a new volume of songs to benefit the Red Hot Organization. I’d always loved the earlier Red Hot comps, No Alternative and Red Hot + Bothered, and the cause was near to my heart — HIV/AIDS research and awareness-raising — so we jumped at the chance. It can be a tough call, though, being asked to contribute a previously unrecorded song to a compilation — you might have a body of work collected for another record; why hand away a song that could be the lynchpin to a record?
Sleepless, which was written in the early days, the Castaways and Cutouts days, never quite had found its place on a record, for whatever reason. For the demo, I appended another early orphaned song to the top of it for reasons I cannot now fathom. That song, the D minor bit that kicks the song off, was written in the early early days, when I’d been asked to put a band together to score a silent film at the Medicine Hat, a long-gone rock club in NE Portland. I picked out this Russian silent film, and in the film a man thinks his wife has died and he’s bereft. He sits down by her body and sings her a song. This being a silent film, there’s no words to the song, you just see him singing. So for that portion of the film, I wrote a song for him to sing. It was too long for the scene, and I ended up going with a different movie anyway, so the song was put aside. And then, for reasons beyond me, in 2007, I put it on the top of this song, Sleepless, and handed it off to the band to record it for The National and the Red Hot Organization. I remember worrying that they were going to be aghast at how long it was, but they didn’t say anything.
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