In 1991, we created a short chapbook of lyrics from nine SWOON songs as a precursor to a compilation of music we never put together. Eight pages, nine songs, two folded pieces of paper. Thanks to SWOON super-fan, Brad Swenson, one paper copy survives. He photographed it and submitted his photos to our Facebook Page.

Here’s a link to download a PDF of the booklet titled Sleep Little Stash.

Sleep Little Stash

No, it’s not a book about getting high off your own stash. “Stash” was the name of one of the characters inhabiting the imaginary world of SWOON stories. The name is short for Anastasia, a Greek/Russian name that means “Resurrection.” The song Old Woman Willow (Sleep Little Stash) croons about the death of a fictional British girl named Anastasia who gets buried under a willow tree. (Think of Tolkein’s sinister man-eating Old Man Willow in The Fellowship of the Ring.) The tree absorbs her body through its roots to more-or-less resurrect her into leaves and branches via the cycle of physical death and rebirth while her soul takes flight passing out to sea over the chalky Dover cliffs before becoming one with the One who is I WILL BE AND I AM. Something like that. Perhaps we were getting little high.

We gave the chapbook away to fans and probably gave out copies along with other SWOON merchandise at our shows. The songs selected for inclusion shared some common connective tissue as half-told narratives featuring named characters. Most of them had been written on the heels of our exodus from the Christian music scene, and the bawdy lyrics are too eager to prove themselves scandalous. In those days, we were living together in a rented house just outside of the University of Minnesota’s Dinkytown area in Minneapolis. An enormous cast of compelling characters intersected our lives, coming and going at all hours, playing musical chairs with love and relationships. Their personalities and personal dramas inspired the fictional characters in the songs. The lyrics documented some of the swooning going on at the time, and they hint at some of the emotional wreckage left behind in the wake.

The broader theme followed the same path we first blazed in BEN SON BEATRICE/NEVERLAND by continuing to explore the world of innocence-lost, unrequited spiritual longings, frustrated eroticism, and angsty puzzlement over the question of how the soul fits so snuggly into the physical body. The chapbook contained lyrics from two songs recorded in the NEVERLAND sessions: Sweet Ally and Speak Soft. Three of the songs eventually went down on tape in the posthumous SPECTACULAR ILLUSIONS session: Old Woman Willow (Sleep, Little Stash), Seriously Sonny, and Dixon Berkman’s Tale. Four songs never made it to studio at all: The Tenth of May, Wishing Ring, When Things Go Well, and Happy Indeed (Sparrow). Recently, a cassette recording of a rehearsal showed up in the hands of a Cottonwood native named Tony Schwartz. It included a recording of Happy Indeed. (We played a live version in the 1989 Winona show. See the bootleg GLORY LIGHTS.)

One notable omission that should have been included with the collection is the ethereal Epiphany. It’s another of those half-told narratives about a named character undergoing some vague spiritual experience of unfulfilled longings consisting of deep sighs for intangible worlds. It’s the same type of romantic SWOON-worthy dish we we liked to serve. The lyrics to Epiphany don’t appear with the collection in Sleep Little Stash because, by 1991, our keyboard player was no longer part of the lineup. Songs that depended on her had to be cut.

What about the remaining three songs in the chapbook? It’s possible they might yet show up in Mr. Schwartz’s collection of vintage cassette tapes or elsewhere. In the meantime, it seems appropriate, on Easter Day 2023, to celebrate the Resurrection by resurrecting Stash. Here’s a Soundcloud link to the audio of Old Woman Willow (Sleep Little Stash) from the unreleased album SPECTACULAR ILLUSIONS.

daniel thomas

In 1994, three years after THE SWOON had disbanded, I received a phone call from someone (I think it was Emmett) about a guy trying to contact me. There was a Christian music and arts mag called kamikaze that wanted to interview me about THE SWOON. They were doing a feature piece on the band under the title “What ever happened to THE SWOON?”

I declined the interview. Now I wish that I hadn’t. But at the time, I was busy with a wife, a job, two little boys, and a headfirst plunge into Jewish studies. I had no sympathy for rehashing the THE SWOON.

A few months ago the editor of kamikaze, Stephen Knight, graciously sent me a copy of the article (as did one other SWOON fan). Knight did a bang-up job of marshalling what sources he could to put a solid article together.

Unfortunately, Knight’s primary source was a mostly obsolete 1988 interview in a Christian music fanzine called Ragtime. The editor of that fanzine, a guy named Charles Clark who had tried to help us kids out back in the day, also tried to assist by filling in a few of the gaps. As a result, some of the speculation is less than accurate, but that’s the way these things go. On the whole, it’s a good article. It mentions stuff I had completely forgotten about, like the early demo tapes we recorded under the name Restricted Access and how I sold cassette copies of Spectacular Illusions, repackaged under the title Piss and Vinegar, to SWOON fans working the 1991 Minnesota Renaissance Festival. For the record, the anecdote about Charlie Peacock sleeping through the Neverland sessions is not true. We all took turns sleeping on the couch in the Neverland studios, and Peacock put in some late hours on that project. He was very much involved in the whole production, whether he cares to admit it or not, and he was good friend to the band.

At the conclusion of the article, Clark speculates, “Had they continued, it probably would have killed ’em. It’s the excesses of rock and roll.” I don’t remember anything that dramatic. But my mom must have agreed with Clark’s sentiment. While I was gigging with THE SWOON, she took out a life insurance policy out on me.

Download a PDF of the whole article here.

Swooner Loyd Harp of Indie Vision Music selected our song SWEET ALLY for the “Song of the Day” (December 4, 2020) and did a write-up on the band. Well that’s a surprise! So far as we know, this is the first press THE SWOON has had since 1994 (when Stephen Knight of the arts-and-lit rag Kamikaze did a feature story titled “Whatever Happened to THE SWOON?”) Very cool. Here’s a link to the whole article. Give it a read.

Harp gives us a little back story about how he first heard the band on cassette, later got the CD, and ultimately fell in love with the music, referring to the CD as one of his desert island picks. That’s pretty high praise, so, gosh, thanks!

Harp introduces SWEET ALLY and speculates over the meaning the song:

“Sweet Ally” is a piano-led indie pop composition about falling in love with a girl who was a tightrope performer at the circus. The sentiment is either downright silly or youthfully romantic.

Harp’s right, but it’s not either/or. The sentiment is both downright silly and youthfully romantic. And it’s just one out of many similar unrequited-love songs that we wrote. But the inner meaning of the song intends to paint a metaphor about aspiring toward a spiritual vision and failing to obtain it. Isn’t that the story of every spiritual journey? It’s certainly been the story of my life. It’s like when you fall head-over-heals but later realize that “she’s out of your league.” It’s the way Salieri felt about composing music after he met Motzart in the 1984 movie Amadeus.

I was the comic, I was the clown. She was the angel, angel high above ground.

Harp says, “The piano ‘solo’ (if you can call it that) starting at the 2:00 mark slays me!” That’s Jeana Gillispie’s little diddy in the middle of the song where she makes the keys of the piano bounce like Sweet Ally’s feet balancing act on the high-wire. Good stuff.

Thanks to Indie Vision Music for helping us boost the signal on and for helping us build a little momentum for the re-release of the THE SWOON album and the new hoped-for new release of SPECTACULAR ILLUSIONS. Why not return the favor by going over to Indie Vision Music, checking out their work, and subscribing to their feed?

This song just wanted to be a rock song, but it got all tangled up with angst about faith, spiritual frustration, and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Several versions of the song existed before the one that coalesced onto tape in the Neverland Studio sessions. This version is a live, raw performance scooped from a bootleg of a show in Winona, MN (Sep, 1989), mashed up with video footage from a show at the New Union in Minneapolis (Nov, 1989).

Whose Hands are These? puzzles over the contradiction between substance and spirit, between a materialist reductionist worldview and the ineffable, transcendent spirituality leaking through consciousness and self-awareness … you know, the type of stuff kids are always crooning about. The audio of this live version, scooped from a 1989 bootleg recorded in Winona, MN, preserves the full-length song–unlike the truncated version that went down onto the Neverland recordings.