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.

In January 1989 THE SWOON recorded a live demo for Charlie Peacock to review prior to the Neverland sessions. The song titled “Epiphany” was at the beginning of the tape because we assumed that one was going to make it to the final cut. We were considering including it on the Neverland recording all the way up until we did our first rehearsal in studio. At that point, for whatever reason, we decided to ditch it, and I’m not sure we ever played the song again.

Emmett recalls that Derri Daugherty of THE CHOIR liked Epiphany a lot and really wanted us to put it down on tape but that Charlie Peacock was less confident about the song’s value. Peacock was right. Austin points out that, despite the clever lyrics, it doesn’t hold up musically. It’s a silly and pretentious composition. One can hear a lot of U2’s Joshua Tree era at play. Nevertheless, Emmett still speaks fondly of the drums for the song, and I still likes the story of the bride’s transcendent out-of-body experience that leaves the things of this world strangely dim.

As we considered the lineup for the Neverland recordings, Charlie Peacock asked me, “What do the lyrics to Epiphany mean?”

I replied, “Whatever you want them to mean.”

He said, “I really hope that’s not true.”

I wish we had a studio version, but this cassette-demo version from the AGRAPHA material is the only extant recording of the song.


A million angels danced on the head of a pin that was held by Rose as she sewed her wedding dress. Her father was downstairs, in his chair, snoring softly, dreaming just how costly it would be to give her up. Her mother’s in the kitchen doing dishes and she wishes she was young again and soon a young man’s bride. With an anxious, simple sigh, Rose let go, learned to fly, left her body sitting listless and aloof. Rose came down the stairs unaware that her stare, devoid of cares, betrayed her empty state of being. Epiphany, speak to me. You’re a symphony. Set my soul free.

“What’d I do to you?”

I don’t remember exactly what he did or what he said, but whatever it was, it irritated Jeana, our keyboard player, and she let him know about it. We had enlisted my college roommate Mark Derby (The Derb) to manage bookings for THE SWOON. His efforts met with varying degrees of success, landing lucrative college shows and terrible little American Legion Halls in small-town Minnesota. He brought to the mix a tactless forthrightness which sometimes transgressed the boundaries of our keyboardists’ sense of dignity. It happened once again during a SWOON rehearsal while we were still putting together a new song to be titled “Sister Mary Francis.” Picture the scene in the unheated, unfinished second-story addition to the Gillispie family home in Cottonwood. In the winter, it was so cold up there that we had to light up a kerosene heater at least an hour before rehearsal just to thaw our instruments out. Perhaps while waiting for the room to warm up, Mark made some seemingly innocuous comment which was probably not innocuous at all, thus inciting Jeana’s retort and inspiring his protest of innocence, “What’d I do to you?”

There was something a rhythm to the way he said it that made us laugh. To his amusement, Austin and I dropped the outburst into the new song we were writing on the spot.

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Here’s an old song from THE SWOON you might not have heard before. “Medicine” was in the set list for a long time, and it was one of the songs that we submitted for inclusion in the Neverland project, but it didn’t make the selection for the studio work. This version, recorded during a live rehearsal in January of 1989, in preparation for the Neverland recordings, captures the song’s energy and REM-inspired guitar riffs. Thirty-two years later, the message of the song seems no-less pertinent, nor the petition less urgent.

daniel thomas

Emmett and I walked the Via Dolorosa while visiting Jerusalem in 1985. I sort of remember him saying, “That would be a good name for a song.” It’s the name of a street in the Old City on which Jesus allegedly carried his cross as he went to Golgotha. Every Good Friday, Christian pilgrims commemorate the stations of the cross and walk the Via Dolorosa. The name literally means “Way of Sorrow.”

You can hear the influence of U2’s The Joshua Tree in the chord progression of Via Dolorosa. It wasn’t intentional, but we liked it that way. A short version of the song went down on the ben son Beatrice demo. The live version could roll on for a long, long time. We almost always closed out our live shows with that hypnotic rambling extended version—right before the big-bang showstopper GO NO STOP.

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It’s a song about monogamy, getting lost in the dating game, and forgetting who’s who and who you’re supposed to be with. And there’s something in it about the slow progress of the soul learning to love. I must have been either a freshman or sophomore in college when I attended my first and only square dance. I went as square dance partner for eleven-year-old Nicole Evans, granddaughter of the head of the college art department along with her sister and step-dad. My radiant dance partner and I dutifully learned the choreography and protocols, and we followed the instructions of the caller: “Bow to the corner, bow to your partner. Two steps forward, one step back.” The switching of partners seemed an apt metaphor for the ever-revolving relationships of the dating scene. In contrast to that inconstant world, eleven-year-old Nicole beamed like a bright candle of innocence and untainted joy as she rotated through her dance partners. She got props for the inspiration in the liner notes. Shine on!

The freshly recut music video (below) features original 1988 footage Mark Derby shot in the Southwest State University AV department studio, b-roll of THE SWOON hanging around in Cottonwood that same weekend, and the square dance scene from the 1949 movie Roseana McCoy. (Watch for a photobomb from the Daceys’ sister Fay.)

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.

It’s a war song. Sort of. Tim O’Brien’s book Going After Cacciato, the story of a soldier who walks away from the Vietnam war, inspired the vibe. Florence Dacey, the mother of the Dacey brothers and adopted mom of the band, campaigned tirelessly as an activist against the Cold War Era war machine and nuclear proliferation. Thompson’s Confusion vectors on the mystical unity of every human being. There are no strangers. This song never made it to the studio, but a cassette bootleg from a 1989 live show preserves its memory.

Thompson’s Confusion

We recorded Let’s Talk About Love in 1988 for the ben son ben son Beatrice demo, but this version of the song is scooped from a bootleg cassette recorded at a live show in 1989. The song itself, while pretending to bounce along as just another silly love song, contrasts pop culture’s infatuations with the the expensive price of perseverance in a relationship gone wrong. Video clips from a 1948 version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina tells it like it is.