California is known for many things. Hollywood. Smog. Bad traffic. People who wore jheri curls about ten years past their sell-by date. Me? Not so much a fan of the state beyond great Mexican food, Amoeba Records and legal weed. Oh, and the music. Beck Hansen was born in Los Angeles, and the most popular iteration of Fleetwood Mac came to epitomize ‘70s California pop. Despite similar roots, a lot more than a generational divide sums up the difference between their two songs called “Dreams”.
Fleetwood Mac’s version is a hazy reminiscence of a relationship that has shattered. It’s also a cautionary tale. Much ink has been spilled over Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s relationship, and I’m not going to add much to it except to say that Stevie’s lyrics capture the perfect combination of warmth and bitterness that can occur when discussing an ex-lover. Looking through the Wiki page for “Dreams”, I admit to still being astonished that “Dreams” is Fleetwood Mac’s only chart topper (and that includes all of their solo tracks, too).
Beck’s “Dreams” captures the moment of infatuation; long before the bitterness sets in. In a different world, it would have soundtracked the moment Stevie and Lindsey met. It’s a huge-sounding pop song, quite possibly the biggest mass-appeal earworm Beck has ever recorded. Matter of fact, it was my favorite song of 2015. While Beck has proven himself to be one of the most dependably good record-makers of the past quarter century, at least some of the props I’m doling out for “Dreams” has to go to producer Greg Kurstin. Greg’s got to have one of the more colorful resumes in the modern music biz; from being ½ of Geggy Tah to being Beck’s touring guitarist to being ½ of the fucking excellent Bird & The Bee to supa-producer for Adele & Sia. So if “Dreams” is a slam dunk from Beck, Greg is the guy who threw the alley oop leading to that slam.
NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…
“Dreams” by Boyz II Men (2000): Boyz II Men got tired of the bullshit and self-produced 2000’s Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya. The album was kind of a mess (and their label bungled the promotion something awful), but there were a handful of knockout songs on that album. “Dreams” was one. I mean, we know these dudes can harmonize their asses off, but listen to this singing!! It’s so understated, and so pretty.
“Dreams” by The Cranberries (1993): “Linger” and “Zombie” were more popular, “Dreams” is the better song (actually, it’s the Cranberries’ best song). It’s got a melody that sticks in your head for days at a time, and it’s the perfect soundtrack for that road trip you always wanted to go on but never got the chance to.