Sleep That Burns

Album: Sunburst Finish (1976)

Songfacts®:

  • Be-Bop Deluxe was an English prog-rock band known for their hit single "Ships In The Night" from their third album, Sunburst Finish. The album also features "Sleep That Burns," a guitar rocker that shifts into a dreamy café sequence. "The song is about dreams," the band's frontman, Bill Nelson, explained to Mix magazine in 2019. "I had a fascination with how we spend so much of our time asleep, dreaming. And dreams don't make sense. It was intended to be an epic track. I thought of the song as being kind of a movie, with a cutaway to this scene in the center, where the mood changes. And you get this picture in your mind of a café, the narrator sitting there with waitresses around him, from both the style of the music and the sound effects."
  • Sunburst Finish was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. To create the café atmosphere, the band dug into the studio's sound effects library in addition to recording their own sounds. Nelson, who prompted the guys to provide shout-outs and laughter, remembers: "There's even a kiss you can hear. I can actually still picture Charlie [Tumahai, bassist] doing that at the mic!"
  • The high guitar part at the end of the intro is actually keyboardist Andy Clark playing a MiniMoog synthesizer, using the modulation wheel to mimic a lead guitar sound.
  • Clark also used studio's Mellotron (a keyboard that triggers loops of recorded taped instruments at different pitches), the same one featured on the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever," to create a choir-like part. "We had to hire one for when we went out on tour," he told Mix, "and it was always a nightmare because different voltages would take it slightly out of pitch, as would temperature changes."
  • In 2018, Esoteric released a deluxe edition of the album, featuring 5.1 surround sound and stereo mixes of the original master tapes by prolific engineer Stephen Tayler, who used Pro Tools to emulate vintage pre-digital sounds and techniques. "The main motivation was to do the 5.1 surround mix. The stereo is just a bonus," he told Mix. "I would try to match the original, up to a point, and then would discover things that I felt were interesting that I might want to bring out a little more."

    On this track, Tayler teased out the lyric "Sleep is coming, don't you worry," toward the end of the song.

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