When I set about doing this column, I thought it would be relatively simple. I was wrong. There were not a huge number of songs about nightmares (or bad dreams), and many of those were just not that good. So, this is a slightly shorter list than has been the case recently. Also, a lot of these songs are from the heavier side of the musical world.
The word nightmare does not necessarily appear in the title here, but the concept of a bad dream does. Normal rules apply otherwise – one song per artist, one version of each song, and I need to like the song.
'Nightmares' by J.Geils Band (1974)
We open with a short song from a strange album in the JGB catalogue (I have about 10 of their albums), a song that even sounds like the disconcerting idea of a nightmare. Weird but strangely mesmerising. (I was informed by a friend who pre-read this that this song appears on the soundtrack for the Disney film Cruella? Really?)
'Welcome To My Nightmare' by Alice Cooper (1975)
This is possibly the definitive nightmare song, the title track from Alice Cooper's debut album, as unsettling as the nightmare it represents. The whole album looks at the dreams of a character named Steven, but the opener is really the lynchpin.
'I Like Nightmares' by The Who (1981)
Face Dances is not a widely loved Who album, the first after Keith Moon died, but I reckon there are still quite a few good songs on the collection. This song, sung by Pete Townshend, was recorded at the time but did not see release until the 1997 CD re-issue of the album as a bonus track.
'The Nightmare' by Stevie Nicks (1985)
We have something a little more upbeat now, and yet it is still about a nightmare. Stevie Nicks was on fire as a solo artist in the 1980s and rarely put a foot wrong musically.
'Dream Evil' by Dio (1987)
The title track from this Dio album is standard Dio metal – not as hard and heavy as many examples, but still distinctively Dio. The whole album is an underrated part off Dio's discography (I bought it on cassette when it was released…).
'A Nightmare On My Street' by DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince (1988)
Okay, this song might not have aged brilliantly, but I do remember when it came out and it was just a fun bit of early rap. 1980s rap music was so strange compared to what it's become and, truth be told, I think I prefer it a lot of the time.
'Living Bad Dreams' by Judas Priest (1990)
Slower than many Judas Priest songs, this is a showcase for singer Rob Halford to really let loose on his last JP album until 2005. It is a foreboding piece, suiting the lyrical content rather well.
'Enter Sandman' by Metallica (1991)
There were two Metallica songs to choose from, but listening to them both, this stands out so easily. The song is just an amazing bit of hard rock from the eponymous "Black Album", and that child's voice saying the prayer just adds to the creepiness level.
'Bad Dreams' by Bonnie Tyler (1993)
Surely I'm not the only one who gets an Alannah Myles ('Black Velvet') vibe from this track? And that is not a bad thing, by the way, and is certainly something different in Tyler's discography.
'Nightmares By The Sea' by Jeff Buckley (1998)
A release from Buckley's posthumous album, this is a track that just soars amongst his best, in my opinion. It is an album cut and all but forgotten today, and that's a shame.
'Perfect Nightmare' by Griffin (1999)
I band from Australia (Canberra), I got the CD Single of this song at a second-hand store a few years after its release, and it is a great song. I don't remember hearing it when it was released, but am glad to have found it now.
'Nightmare' by Smith Street Band (2022)
From one of the better albums of 2022, this song is, like most SSB songs, going to appeal to you depending on how much you like the singing. I know a few people who find it a turn-off, but I find it real and enjoy it quite a bit.
And to finish, making this a list of 13 because that seems appropriate, here's a track not meant to be taken seriously.
'Rock'n'Roll Nightmare' by Spinal Tap (1979)
VERY early Spinal Tap here, they would go on to re-record the song in 2009 for the Back From The Dead album. Just a bit of ST awesomeness, and the perfect way to finish a list about nightmares.
And there we are, 13 songs about nightmares in all their myriad forms. I hope you found something here to enjoy, and this also means we are almost finished with the day and night songs.