Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
I must confess I've never gravitated towards Fleetwood Mac. Something about their folky whimsical style always made me feel uncomfortable; like they were speaking truths I didn't want to hear. Perhaps they were.
Dreams is from the 1977 album Rumours, which I'm reliably informed is one of those great popular music landmarks: incredibly difficult to produce, but a much-vaunted achievement in song-writing and musicality. Still, Stevie Nicks wrote Dreams in ten minutes, and it wound up being their only US number one hit, so I'll take that with a grain of salt.
That's perhaps harsh, and indicative of how awkward I find myself feeling while listening to this fairly simple little ditty about a break-up, and the message that what you think might be freedom could actually end up trapping you. "Thunder only happens when it's raining/Players only love you when you're playing" goes the chorus, a warning that the sheen of attraction can quickly wear off. Women, you see, they may come and they may go, but "When the rain washes you clean you'll know". Ain't no hiding reality after a shower, baby.
Nicks' rough-edged trills perfectly complement the minor chord progressions and occasional guitar twangs. Dreams is perfectly named: the whole effect of the song is to paint a cloudy, dreamlike state where confusion gives way to knowing acceptance (even if I still don't understand what a "dream of loneliness" is). Whether I like this or not is hard to decide, as it does make me feel somewhat like I'm watching the world go by through a fogged-up window.
Dreams by Van Halen
They may not be the most well-known opening notes in rock 'n' roll, but they'd be up there. Enough to make fans of big hair 80s bands don the stars & stripe pants a la Sammy Hagar and start rocking out.
From 1986's 5150 album, Dreams is everything 80s rock could be and should be; an anthemic, fist-pumping classic, with some wailing guitar solo work from Eddie Van Halen. No wonder the band made a charmingly self-aggrandising second music video showing all their fans going nuts for a performance circa 1993, complete with crowd control and helicopter oversight (It's a treat, and the source of my Hagar pants joke.)
Dreams is a one-song motivational campaign. "Higher and higher, straight up we'll climb/Higher and higher, leave it all behind" Hagar belts out, gravel tones in full flight (much like the Blue Angels stunt pilots in the hilarious first music video, cashing in on the Top Gun craze, no doubt).
I'm being mocking, but honestly, I can't think of any woman who wouldn't want to have Hagar look at them and sing "So baby dry your eyes/Save all the tears you've cried/Oh, that's what dreams are made of". Come to think of it, I can't think of any man who could resist that either. Dreams delivers what it promises: to sweep you off your feet, inspire you and show you a rocking good time. All you've got to do is spread your wings.
Verdict: Van Halen. For inspiration, perms and shirtless drummers.