Sandman

Songfacts®:

  • A track from America's first album, "Sandman" was written by Dewey Bunnell, who also sang lead. The song was never released as a single, but got a lot of airplay on Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio stations.
  • The three members of America - Bunnell, Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek - were sons of American military service members stationed in England. They formed the band while they were going to high school near London, and stayed in the area when they graduated in 1969 and got a record deal.

    This being the height of the Vietnam War, the trio would often encounter soldiers that had seen action and hear their war stories. Bunnell wrote this song based on some of those tales he heard, stories about how when stationed in Vietnam, they were afraid to sleep for fear of attack, so they would stay up as long as they could (sometimes with the help of various substances), since sleep could mean death. The "sandman" represents sleep, which they feared. Thus they were always "running from the sandman."
  • There is a widespread rumor that this song is about the US Navy's VQ-2 air squadron which was formerly based in Rota, Spain. It would stand to reason, since the members of America were all children of American servicemen. Rota, Spain's VQ-2 Naval base is the one known as "Gateway to the Mediterranean."
  • If you ask most comic fans today, they'll pin the origin of Sandman as a fictional comic character to either the Neil Gaiman comic, or one of Marvel Comics' Spiderman's foes (who can literally turn into sand). However, DC Comics had the Sandman years before that, in various forms as superhero rather than villain. The earliest was the delightfully noir and creepy Sandman introduced in Adventure Comics #40, July 1939. This character wore a business suit, a fedora, and a WWI-era gasmask, and fired a gun that shot sleeping gas to incapacitate his enemies.

Comments: 12

  • Robert Langford from Constantine MichiganI prefer to believe this was a prophetily inspired future song by God about 9/11. Think about it. Aint it foggy outside. All the planes have been grounded. See the fire inside, let's all go stand around it. We ain't had no time to drink that beer. Running from the man who goes by Sandman. He flys the sky like a eagle in the eye of a hurricane. Did you hear of my enlistment. All these items were present in the attack of 9/11. You couldn't see in the aftermath of the towers falling. Fire was in both towers and hundreds of first responder came to stand and operate around it. In the lower level lounges, beer and drink glasses stood undisturbed after people fled in panic to get out. Osama was the mastermind who lived in the desert sands and used American airlines to carry out his cowardly attacks. Enlistment in the military skyrocketed after that attack. I believed we were warned and didn't l iui sten. I pray we never miss His next warning. Just my thoughts.
  • Jim from Rochester, MnHow effing stupid am I to forget to mention I am a Navy veteran that was actually stationed in Rota Spain and an avionics technician assigned to that very same VQ-2 squadron.. I only found out about this connection today lol... so yeah, he might actually be more interested if/when we speak again
  • Jim from Rochester, MnI am an admittedly distant relative of Dewey; he is a great guy and even after performing outdoors in high humidity, at night, fighting bugs attracted by the bright lights last summer, he still was gracious enough to meet him backstage. I knew all he probably wanted was to get back to his hotel room and shower but he talked to me for a few mins. Next time I will ask him this very question!
  • Ricky Lynn from Navarre, FlI also was a military brat whose father was stationed in England. I went to Lakenheath American HS just north of London Central HS in the 70's. This group was very idolized by all the and we could kids at the time as we felt they were just like us and we could relate to what they were writing about in their music.
  • Ricky Lynn from Navarre, FlThis was written while they were in England as evidenced by the first few lines. They were on an Air Force Base in England where it is cold and foggy outside. The line says I've been there, you've been here is referencing one was in Vietnam while the other was in England.
  • Philip from Highland InAlways thought it was about an American soldier and a draft dodger who were friends during the Vietnam war. The draft dodger is running from the law or "The Sandman". Cool to find out what the song was really about.
  • Waterfall from Madison, WiGreat info, and so well written. However, Dewey Bunnell was the only band member born in England (to an American father and English mother). The other two were born in the U.S., then later moved across the pond. I had also thought it was otherwise. It's sort of confusing because they were essentially 'army brats' who moved all over the place.
  • Mark from ClovisI was told that the sandman was uncle Sam, the hurricane that's abandoned was victor alert. If so which base RAF Upper Heyford or Lackenheath in the UK.
  • Tom Scott from Hesketh BankThe man is running from the Sandman because if the Sandman catches you you fall asleep. This comes from the "sleeper" bit that you notice when you wake up on your eye lids.
  • Richard from TexasThe "Sandman" is a part of the VQ2 Navy story and the Logo has been on its planes for decades. See article, photos and hear song here: http://www.paratexas.com/Sandmancontroversy.htm
  • Djflwb from Tampa, FlPer America's official website: Highway Highlight (from the box set booklet)
    "Sandman," another Bunnell composition, is an unsettling number that features an effects-laden electric guitar line for color. Dewey based the lyric, in part, on conversations he'd had at West Ruislip with airmen returning from Vietnam: "They'd buy us a beer at the commissary and tell us stories about the war. We weren't very political or very military. But 'Sandman' came out of our eyes being opened to the fact that these guys weren't much older than us. One of the things that I vividly remember hearing one guy say is that he hardly ever slept in Vietnam--he was afraid to go to sleep. So there's the line, 'You've been running from the man who goes by the name of the Sandman'--you don't want to go to sleep because you might be killed. I thought, What a lousy way to live."
  • Jim from Pleasant Hill, CaThis page doesn't explain too much. Why is the character in the song running from this particular sandman? The oldest sandman was a figure who sprinkled magic sand in the eyes of sleeping kids. The sandman characters in "Logan's Run" (book circa 1967) make some sense in the context of this song, being as their dose of "sand" was fatal to anyone who passed a certain age. Then again, America was known for many cryptic lyrics.
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