I stumbled back home drunk, turned the television on, fell in bed with all my clothes still on and passed out immediately. I woke up disoriented and displaced, with no clear notion of what day it was or whether I had to be at work. This state of discombobulation was exacerbated by the infomercial that was playing on the television I’d left on the night before. I turned it off and chuckled to myself. It had been a while since I’d slept with the television on.
See, when I was a kid, I couldn’t go to sleep without leaving the TV on. It would always be on The Cartoon Network, their late-night roster at the time consisting of Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the 60s and 70s that would seep into my dreams from time to time. Top Cat, Huckleberry Hound, Hong Kong Phooey– all these silly characters are ingrained deep in my subconscious thanks to years and years of falling asleep to their theme songs.
For the longest time, I was convinced that the reason I needed to have the television on in order to go to bed was a fear of the dark. But it became evident over time that I was actually scared of the silence. There was something deeply unnerving about the quiet, the creeping stillness of the night. I needed some assurance that there was still a world going on outside. I needed to hear voices, music, anything but that disquieting blankness.
As I approached my teens, the television was replaced by my sound system. I started listening to music to fall asleep. I put together a playlist. I called it “sleep-music” (I’ve never been too great with titles). I remember most of what was on it: Chopin’s Nocturnes, Rachmaninoff, Schubert’s string quartets, Chet Baker, Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky, The Sea and Cake. There was probably some Flaming Lips in there, too– this was right around the time I went through a Flaming Lips phase, and I remember freaking my little brother out with “All We Have is Now” one night that he had to sleep in my room. I also remember that Lou Reed’s “Berlin” was in the playlist for a short while– I cut it out after waking up during “The Bed” once and thinking “man, this album is a fucking bummer and a half.”
I remember this was also right around the time that I bought that Reindeer Section album “Y’all Get Scared Now, Ya Hear”, on the recommendation of a girl with whom I was very deeply infatuated. I remember falling asleep to that album a lot, and not just because I associated it with a girl I liked. The somber tones and austere melodicism are just absolutely perfect for late-night listening. It’s like a steady heartbeat. To this very day, I’ll play that album when I need something to calm me down. I guess that’s the reason why Gary Lightbody’s voice makes me instantly sleepy. Well, one of the reasons.