I Never Dreamed (1977)
“I Never Dreamed,” from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic LP, Street Survivors, is about as perfect an unheralded album cut as was ever recorded. It’s been flying below radar since 1977 because of the presence of a trio of bona fide hit singles: “What’s Your Name,” “You Got That Right” and “That Smell.”
“I Never Dreamed” embodies everything that is engaging about Rock music in its post-’60s phase. Through it, Southern Rock comes of age again, as it does across the entire album. (It actually came of age the first time with “Free Bird.”)
Listen now to “I Never Dreamed”
The only complaint a listener can have about “I Never Dreamed” is that it is too short, even at nearly 5-1/2 minutes.
A leisurely introductory guitar solo with Swamp-Rock gumbo seasonings opens the song, a bit of exhibitionism that sets us in mind of rockers’ machismo. The licks are clean and super-confident, although the country-toned rhythm guitar warns us of something more pained. The interplay among Skynyrd’s three guitar players is exciting, artful and touching. Steve Gaines, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington have what amounts to a conversation spoken in “guitar.”
The lyrics tell a tried and true story. An insatiable playboy at last falls for the right girl and, repeating his past bad behavior, takes her for granted. (Read this as “he cheats.”) This is a constant strain – not just in Rock, but in classic Country music as well.
And, just to plant it more firmly in the Country tradition, the opening lines call on recollected advice from “daddy.” Dear old dad’s advice is almost immediately shot down in flames. Casanova is in love, and he is crying because the object of his affection has dumped him.
My daddy told me always be strong son
Don’t you ever cry
You find the pretty girls, and then you love them
And then you say goodbye
I never dreamed that you would leave me
But now you’re gone
I never dreamed that I would miss you
Woman won’t you come back home
In the next verse, the singer tells us he’s had countless women, the intimation that on the road with the band, hey, that’s the way it is. His regret as it is fleshed out in each subsequent verse and chorus grows more pathos filled. As always, Ronnie Van Zant’s voice reaches the highest peak.
I never dreamed that I would beg you
But woman I need you now
It seems to me, I took your love for granted
It feels to me, this time I was wrong, so wrong
Oh Lord, how I feel so lonely
I said woman, won’t you come back home
The music grows more and more bluesy. We can hear and feel the desperation of the miscreant as he begins to grovel not just lyrically, but musically.
In the last verse, the wounded soul, perhaps paying for the sexual sins of his past, again invokes his daddy. (Contrast “I Never Dreamed” with “What’s Your Name,” also from Street Survivors, a song about bedding down an under-the-drinking-age groupie). That damned daddy teaches his boy a mean ol’ lesson. Maybe his momma would have told him different. Then again, Smokey Robinson, in his classic, lightheartedly informs us “My momma told me, you better shop around.”
I tried to do what my daddy told me
But I think he knew
Someday I would find
One woman like you
I never dreamed it could feel so good Lord
That two could be one
I never knew about sweet love
So woman, won’t you come back home
Oh baby, won’t you come back home
The guitar outro solo is blazingly fast and fat, as they used to say. Its pleading and wailing encompass almost every Rock guitar tradition there is, from Chuck Berry to Freddie King, from Clapton and Cray to Harrison and Duane Allman. There is a lot of hat-tipping in this one.
If you’ve ever had regrets over a bungled love affair, “I Never Dreamed” is the song for you. It’s sad, it’s sweet, verges on funny and it has a power-guitar feel second to none.
- Three days after the release of “I Never Dreamed” on Street Survivors, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Gaines’s sister Cassie were killed in a plane crash on their way to Baton Rouge.