Just when we just got done saying that as good as the top half of this single was, it would’ve been better if it had been recorded with Dave Bartholomew because he would’ve improved upon the rather stark instrumental support that record received, here comes Dave to try and back that statement up in a way we didn’t quite see coming.

Rather than simply show what he brought to the table on a typical song where the music would be in support of Domino’s vocals and take a back seat to the lyrics, Bartholomew dispenses with those things altogether and gives us an instrumental.

Further making his case, this isn’t one of those cuts where Fats gets to pound the piano keys in what ostensibly was a showcase for his barrelhouse playing abilities, but rather this is true band performance in a style that Domino would rarely, if ever, show again.

It may not have been quite as intentional as it seems in retrospect, but the effect it has in proving his worth is the same.


While You Were Sleeping
By now the chronology should be engrained in people’s heads if you’ve been following along even reasonably close the last few years, but in case you’ve forgotten here’s the capsulized breakdown of events.

From December 1949 through the end of 1950, Dave Bartholmew was Fats Domino’s producer and frequent co-writer in the studio. When he did not receive proper credit via a cash bonus that was given instead to Al Young, a white record store operative in Imperial’s orbit, he quit right after the new year began and Young took over production despite having no musical talent whatsoever.

The next four sessions from the winter of 1951 through winter ’52, Domino and his road band essentially worked up their own arrangements while Young got paid for sitting there doing nothing and while some good records came from it, including Domino’s first chart topper, Goin’ Home, the musical complexity was scaled back.

In April 1952 however it had become obvious that they were missing out on the best producer in rock who just happened to be recording all the time in the same J&M Studios in New Orleans, and so fences were mended and Imperial admitted their mistake, ousting Young and rehiring Bartholomew who oversaw his first Domino session in 19 months. But there was still a few earlier sides, ostensibly made under Young’s watch, that got issued, including How Long on the top side of this single. Though it was very well written and sung, the one drawback to it was how simple and redundant the musical qualities were.

Which is why it’s so interesting to see it paired with a more recent song that came from Fats’ second session back with Bartholomew. Dreaming was the last of four songs cut in September and on the surface it seems like something they did just to fill out the day, as it’s an atypical instrumental with Domino taking just a supporting role on piano, hardly an obvious candidate for single release.

But what it reveals is just how talented Bartholomew was, for not only was he the solely credited songwriter, but obviously the arranger and producer as well and though it’s hardly a very commercial side, that doesn’t mean it’s not an ideal song to slow dance your way to a hoped for paradise with your sweetheart, showing that rock ‘n’ roll was more than capable of competing in what normally was a realm dominated by pop or jazz music.


Waking Up
Like all forms of music from pop to blues, country to jazz, rock ‘n’ roll presented the full scope of the human experience in its music… just tailored to fit the audience it was intended for.

That obviously included romance. Not simply the story-based songs in which the protagonist was seeking a partner, or even breakup songs about the way those relationships ended, but rather songs that were ideally suited for listening to while actually in love.

Dreaming may not have any words to explain this, but it doesn’t really need to. Get somebody you share an attraction with, hold them close and sway to the record and let the music do the rest. Or simply look across the room at someone you’re sweet on when this starts to play and neither one of you should have to say a word to convey the thoughts in your head.

Dave Bartholomew crafts this record with those specific goals in mind, letting the track slowly wrap itself around you starting with the pulsating repetition of Papoose Nelson’s guitar, which is quickly joined by Fats Domino’s piano and then Frank Field’s throbbing bassline, mimicking the sensation of a quickening heartbeat when you’re around the one you love.

The instruments suddenly stop cold, reminding you of that moment when the two of you are now face to face but still in a panic thinking of what to say. Luckily for you Buddy Hagans is there to speak for you with his tenor sax, delivering his lines a lot smoother than you’ll probably deliver if you decide to open your mouth and speak.

In fact what he plays with his horn almost takes the form of a melodic question… “May I have this dance?” it seems to be saying, and as the other nods their assent the two of you slowly head out onto the floor, only semi-conscious of your actions as you’re quickly swept up in the moment.

From here on in it’s mostly atmospheric, the horn giving more than enough melodic catchiness to keep you effortlessly moving around the floor, eyes closed, breathing in each other’s scent as you slowly become a singular entity, joined at the shoulders and hips as you dance maybe, but really joined at the heart. Throughout this it’s Bartholomew’s arranging skill that ensures you remain rooted to the ground rather than floating away in a dream, as the underpinning rhythm that opened the song never relents and yet never intrudes either.

The piano solo by Fats lets that rhythm get a little more notice, simply because of the nature of the keys playing individual notes rather than notes on a horn which merge in – and out of – the next notes.

When the sax returns and you start noticing Nelson’s guitar embellishments behind it your lost in the moment, something which sadly comes to an end as the song wraps up even though you’re sure there plenty more to uncover if they kept it up a little longer.


Dreams Come True
Though everyone involved, from Bartholomew and Domino to Lew Chudd, owner of Imperial Records, had to know this was not a candidate for chart action, there are still very good reasons for releasing it as half of a single.

The first of course is this record has a charmingly infectious quality to it, one which might be applicable only in certain settings, like the private romancing in a public place we laid out above, a musical tête-à-tête if you will, which anybody in love, past, present or future, can relate.

The second is to show the versatility of the artist in question, for while it was highly doubtful that Fats Domino was going to change his style in the long run to explore this kind of thing more frequently, it doesn’t hurt his image any to show he’s at least capable of taking part in a presentation that is both more elaborate and more low-key at the same time.

But above all else releasing such an atypical song as Dreaming was done as sort of an olive branch from Chudd to Bartholomew, a discreet mea culpa from the owner of the company who’d wronged him in the past to show that he was definitely appreciated now that they’d welcomed him back into the fold.

Granted it was something that no record buyers at the time would even be aware of, and something that would be unlikely to even cross the minds of most fans today, but it was the one way in which Chudd could publicly acknowledge his appreciation of what Bartholomew brought to the table and yet do so in an what was still an ostensibly private manner.

While this is hardly the song most people would think of to celebrate their reunion, for what they all went through to get to this point it may just be the most appropriate way for everybody to say that we’re just glad they’re all together again.


(Visit the Artist page of Fats Domino for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)