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America was a band that was formed in the 1970's. The lyrics of their song Sandman are as follows:

Ain't it foggy outside
All the planes have been grounded
Ain't the fire inside?
Let's all go stand around it
Funny, I've been there
And you've been here
And we ain't had no time to drink that beer

'Cause I understand you've been running from the man
That goes by the name of the Sandman
He flies the sky like an eagle in the eye
Of a hurricane that's abandoned

Ain't the years gone by fast
I suppose you have missed them
Oh, I almost forgot to ask
Did you hear of my enlistment?
Funny, I've been there
And you've been here
And we ain't had no time to drink that beer

Only the chorus of the song talks about the 'Sandman'. The other verses does not mention it at all and seems to be about a conversation between two people. Who is the 'Sandman'? Is the 'Sandman' a real person or a representation of something else? How is it relevant to the events presented in the other verses?

I have read articles explaining the song, like this one, claiming to have been from the song writer himself but it has no references so I cannot verify whether they are true or not.

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  • Does this stack not have ticked answers? Ms Yarden's below is the right one: It's a personification of Sleep and not code for some other specific person or thing.
    – lly
    Jun 18, 2023 at 3:12

7 Answers 7

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Posted on https://www.songfacts.com/facts/america/sandman

Djflwb from Tampa, Fl says: Per America's official website: Highway Highlight (from the box set booklet) 


"Sandman," another Bunnell composition, is an unsettling number that features an effects-laden electric guitar line for color. Dewey based the lyric, in part, on conversations he'd had at West Ruislip with airmen returning from Vietnam: "They'd buy us a beer at the commissary and tell us stories about the war. We weren't very political or very military. But 'Sandman' came out of our eyes being opened to the fact that these guys weren't much older than us. One of the things that I vividly remember hearing one guy say is that he hardly ever slept in Vietnam--he was afraid to go to sleep. So there's the line, 'You've been running from the man who goes by the name of the Sandman'--you don't want to go to sleep because you might be killed. I thought, What a lousy way to live."

This is the version I’m more entitled to believe.

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I'm surprised that no-one has answered this already so maybe I'm missing the point.

If you search for "Sandman" on the English Wikipedia, there is a whole page about him, he is a mythical character of European origin.

Having said that, this character has no place in the collective consciousness where I live - the UK - except for the references that have crept-in from the US, like the song from the 50's "Mr. Sandman".

The Wikipedia page mentions a number of songs that reference the Sandman, like Metallica's "Enter Sandman", but doesn't reference the America song at all.

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  • Pretty sure Neil Gaiman was British. The Sandman is absolutely part of the English collective consciousness, even if it didn't happen to show up in your particular childhood.
    – lly
    Jun 18, 2023 at 3:08
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The, "Sandman" in the song by America is in reference to the M.P.'s (military police). The song is about a serviceman who went A.W.O.L. (absent without leave) and thus, is being pursued by, "The Sandman". The lyrics, "....he flies the sky like an EAGLE in the eye of a hurricane that's ABANDONED". And the final verse that asks, "...oh, I almost forgot to ask - did you hear of my ENLISTMENT?" These back up that so-called theory. It has roots in the military, as do the members of America, whose primary original members met as teens growing up on a military base. I have a sibling who was in the Marines back in the 70's who told me that about, "Sandman". I cannot swear to it but it has always been my belief about the song. It all fits and makes sense.

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  • 1
    the link you mention (giving explanation as being sandman=sleep) could be along the lines of fearing sleep because of PTSD nightmares, related to military service
    – Angst
    Feb 1, 2021 at 18:04
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    There's an interesting comment in the YouTube video for the song that also suggests "running from the Sandbox" is about avoiding sleep. The context given is soldiers in Vietnam who feared that they were helpless while sleeping and could be killed. The idea being that if you stayed up, by whatever means including amphetamines, that you had a better chance of surviving. If so, then it's one of many anti-war songs form the era.
    – cnamejj
    Feb 2, 2021 at 8:46
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I feel that the sandman is an enemy pilot of the Americans. The pilots are all scared of him and do not want to cross him. They may refer to him as sandman because, it is normally shown as the guy who puts children to sleep at night because they will not do it themselves. So the sandman is sending the these young pilots "to sleep" (to their grave more like) essentially.

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I was actually in VQ-2, Rota, Spain. I arrived 7/80. Some old timers I spoke with told the story of the Sandman painted on the tail of our airplanes. Also, there is a bodega nearby that produces Sandeman wine, so they coopted the figure as it looked like a spy in a cloak.

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Sandman, From the Middle East, (terrorist) I believe is about 911 written 30 years ahead of its time? he rides the sky like an eagle in the eye of a hurricane that’s abandoned that’s the plane hitting the towers, ain’t it foggy outside, All the planes have been grounded, and the fire inside, let’s all stand around it that’s all of the press radios and TV footage of the building is burning almost forgot, Have you heard about my enlistment, everybody joined the military.

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  • Hi Robert, can you please rephrase your answer more carefully? It is hard to understand what you're saying exactly. And do you have any external sources to back this up?
    – Joachim
    May 16 at 11:46
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I believe it’s about a P3 Navy aircraft and the Squadron VQ2 from Rota Spain.If you research the squadron and the plane you will piece together the puzzle

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