Isn't the line "Perhaps when they awake they'll remember everything" a reference to The Band's mysterious song "When You Awake", whose chorus starts "When you awake you will remember everything"? Putting in a completely obscure reference to some classic 1969-era Americana very very close to the end of the album definitely chills me to the bone. - The Silver Chauffeur
Might be reading too much into it, but I always thought this was a covertly political song, a cynical exortation (!) not to 'make a racket' about the things that are wrong in the world and to let the people who aren't politically 'attuned' carry on unaware of the injustice around them "Don't make any noise, cry out loud or stamp your feet / You'll wake the girls and boys who are walking in their sleep." - don't make a fuss or you'll make people realise what's really going on.
To me it sounds like the "Sleepwalkers" are the subject of discrimination in this society, as the singer advises the children to "move aside" and to "not make any noise" when the Sleepwalkers walk by. He goes on to tell the children how to recognize these people, but admits that he doesn't know what they want. Then he says that maybe that when the Sleepwalkers "awake", they will "think it's all a dream", they will come to their senses and accept what he believes is right. But who are the "Sleepwalkers"? They could be any minority, any small group of people with a particular religious belief, political affiliation, or sexual preferance. I guess the "message" of this song is that the detractors of these minorities really don't know to much about them, their wants or their needs. - Stiddy
I don't think it's a message song. I think it's literally about lots of sleepwalking children. Apparently it's dangerous to wake sleepwalkers, though I don't know how true this is.
I think it might be people just living their lives just day to day with no real aim in life. They're not sure what they want but they're still looking for something more maybe. Not to waking the "sleepwalkers" might mean that it might cause them more harm than good if you explain to them their situation and hopefully they'll "wake up" and then they'll realize this. - Mattcnate
I think this song is just about sleepwalkers. All the exhortations not to wake them (which seem to me considerate, rather than discriminatory, perhaps since I like sleeping), the speculations about how aware or unaware they are - these are familiar legends I was told as a child about sleepwalkers. The idea of them as a group or phenomenon is fascinating all by itself. To imagine that there are many of them wandering around every night is childlike dream logic. Something about this song awakens rarely-invoked meme complexes, it's quite beautiful. It makes me think of zombies, the pied piper of Hamelin, storybooks, the Rapture, hot cocoa and comfortable pyjamas. - Viveka
This song always reminds me of a peculiar aside in Thomas Pynchon's novel The Crying of Lot 49. At one point (I may have some details wrong, as I read this a long time ago) the heroine is wandering around town at night and finds some kids in pajamas who have slipped out from home, are singing mysterious jumprope songs, and are unsure whether their secret nocturnal meetings are a dream or not.
This song reminds me of an old Sailor Moon movie. There was an elf with a magic flute, and when he played it, sleeping children would get up out of their beds, and walk down the streets and into the elf's boat, while still sleeping. The sleeping children would then be transported to a planet where they would sleep for eternity having only good dreams, while a parasitic demon queen would live off of their life energy. When the Sailor Scouts first noticed the sleepwalking children, they didn't know why they were sleepwalking, but tried to wake some of the kids up. The elf then warned them that waking up the children would be dangerous, etc...
I think it's pretty literal. And has a pretty melody. And bass clarinet. <3 --Lemita 00:06, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
To me, this is one of Linnell's most beautiful songs. I don't see any kind of cynical, political or specifically referential content. I think it works at an almost mythical level. The image of sleepwalking children resonates so deeply with me as a parent, and the last line of the last verse is almost heartbreaking: once they think it was a dream, it will all be forgotten. But the real truth is that it wasn't a dream, the children really were "moving down the road" and "roam(ing) across the country." It's such a beautiful, touching image. I think John wrote this song when his son was very young: I can easily imagine him watching Henry sleep and picturing him with his "rumpled hair and stocking feet," toddling down the road with his eyes closed. My own daughter used to listen to this song every night when she was falling asleep, so it kinda has special meaning for me that way. --Zeppyfish
This song is clearly a joke to parents who might let their kids fall asleep listening to this album. "Sleepwalkers" starts as one of those gently somnolent lullabies that you would expect to end a kids' album. For almost two minutes, the melody and instruments play along perfectly. Then out of nowhere comes two bars of a pounding, Byrds-like riff that wakes even the sleepiest kid. I imagine a child's eyes popping open as the drums kick in and Linnell belts "We don't know what it iiiissssss..."
- I dunno, I always found this song wonderful to fall asleep to. :D ...Perhaps that's too much information. - Jess Piece Face