13. The Night Owl Café – (1993) John Sebastian (folk rock)
14. The Night Owl Homeward Turns – (1997) Steve Tilston (folk)
15. Night Owl – (2010) Sadist (death metal)
16. Night Owl – (2010) Willie Ames (folk)
17. Night Owl – (2011) Kathleen Kruze (country)
18. Night Owl – (2011) Madeline Adams (indie/folk)
13. The Night Owl Café – (1993) John Sebastian
John Sebastian channels his nostalgia for the old Night Owl Café at the corner of 3rd and MacDougall in Greenwich Village into a bittersweet lament to its demise. It’s a tribute song, much like John’s classic “Nashville Cats” was a tribute to the “Mothers and the music of Nashville.” Sadly though, since 1993 there’s been “no more music at the Night Owl Cafe.”
The song reflects John’s casual relaxed attitude and has a nice folk – country – rock style, plus one of John’s sweet harmonica solos.
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14. The Night Owl Homeward Turns – (1997) Steve Tilston
It’s probably only fortuitous that Steve Tilston’s song is a Night Owl song since the title is simply the first line of his folk song about the English resistance to Viking invaders in the 10th century: “The night owl homeward turns.” For the only role of the night owl is how it marks the dawn by returning to its nest, signaling the English to gather forces and defend their land.
In this way, though, it’s like one other Night Owl song I found, Slapshock’s “Night Owl,” which I’d also say is a call to action song. Of course, though the themes are similar, the two songs and artists couldn’t be more different from each other in style.
In the video, Maggie Boyle sings the song accompanied by Steve Tilston.
Tilston’s “Night Owl” is often sung by people protesting for rights, as in Ireland and in the women’s rights movement in the U.S.
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15. Night Owl – (2010) Sadist
[This is the full album; “Night Owl” starts at 22:10]
The Italian techno-progressive death metal band Sadist has composed a terrifying Night Owl. If you’re not that familiar with death metal or its many sub genres (me, not much), this music will take a few listens to get used to. But Sadist’s “Night Owl” is quite interesting.
As the “Night Owl” track on the album begins, the first thing we notice is how the rapid broken chord figures sounding like chimes that underscores most of the album has stopped. But the atmosphere isn’t any less chilly for the change. We are entering a blizzard. Following a short jazz chord progression, vocalist Trevor Nadir and the band explode with sound. He screams blood-curdling grunts and snarls against a free-for-all of pounding cymbals and drums, guitar chords and ascending four note runs. Eventually, the drums and rhythm section assert a triple meter rhythm.
The intensity is too much to keep up though and soon, the force of that explosion dissipates and there’s a brief calm. The bass plays rapid figures against synth chords and light cymbal drumming. We start to discern an eerie voice calling out. It must be the night owl. But then, chaos returns. We hear snarling vocal lines again, the triple rhythms are back, accompanied by increasingly frantic drumming.
Finally, guitar and synth join in harmony for a sweet melodic passage which for a brief moment makes us wonder if the song will transition to something soft and jazzy. No, here comes chaos again, though with less force this time. It fizzles quickly, as Nadir’s snarls end with a roar and the sound of the night owl returns. Underneath the owl’s moaning we hear the bass play little eighth note patterns and the drummer taps his cymbals lightly with drumsticks.
Just as the music presents a varied and often violent soundscape, the words paint a world of unsettling images and extreme contrasts. Sadist’s “Night Owl” is about lost innocence, a theme which is to death metal what nostalgia is to country music. Though others dance and rise and fall to the music, the song of the bent man is gone. Maybe because he’s dead. The only song in this world is the night owl’s. It kills everything. Just another day in death metal hell.
Even if you listen very carefully and though the lyrics are in English, it’s impossible to make them out. This, however, suits the band’s intent, to make you focus on the sounds and the feelings they arouse, not cognitive understanding. Each cut of the album, including “Night Owl,” is a journey through strange unpredictable soundscapes.
Gerry Rafferty created a Night Owl world that represented his state of mind. In that sense what Sadist has created is no different. Sadist creates its sonic world by pushing limits. That spooky night owl chant we hear is a reminder of our mortality, our lost innocence and even the meaninglessness of life. Darkness, despair, pessimism? Well, the band’s name is Sadist.
Here’s another take: In 2010, the Encyclopedia Metallum reviewed the concept album Season in Silence, which “Night Owl appears on and said this: “The album consists of a dazzling exhibit of inner torments as Sadist free[s] the very spirit from your being through a graceful aggression of chugged guitars, popping bass and smooth, corporeal solo work. … ‘Night Owl’ flows like a stream of cold melancholy through a room full of low-key 80s progressive rock dreamers, their music store branded t-shirts tucked deep into their clean blue jeans, their mullets and thin ‘staches flexing against the inevitable breakout of monstrous thrashing that Sadist will often explode into out of almost nowhere.”
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16. Night Owl – (2010) Willie Ames
Willie Ames’ 2010 “Night Owl” is the only Night Owl song I’ve ever heard that’s actually about a night owl. Ames was probably inspired by the film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, also released in 2010. His music video includes clips from the film.
Ames finger picks his acoustic guitar, singing about the night owl looking for a kill, “it’s rodent’s guts he’s hungry to spill.” The night owl soars through the air, locates his prey with the help of his powerful hearing, scoops up a rat and brings it to his nest. Afterward, the night owl displays some anthropomorphic behavior (asserting his unwillingness to “share” with others, “getting laid,” “providing a nest”) and gets a “full days rest” after a “hard night’s work.”
It’s not clear what’s become of Willie Ames the past couple of years. There are no posts to his website or his Facebook after 2015, but his Night Owl single and the other tunes on his Night Owl album were well received by critics.
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17. Night Owl – (2011) Kathleen Kruze
Kathleen Kruze is a night owl because she thinks about her lover all night long. She can’t “get no rest,” she’s “just that obsessed.”
The song opens with a sugary piano played Nashville style that reminds you of Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t You Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” There’s no signature piano hook, though, like the one Hargus “Pig” Robbins created for Gayle’s song, which really made that song work so well. Plus, the country piano keeps morphing into cocktail jazz.
“Night Owl” has a bluesy vibe and while Kruze’s voice is smooth and silky, we’re not convinced she’s troubled much about her night owl obsession. Her voice is so soothing you get the impression she’s not complaining about her lover’s lack of attention. More likely she’s doing a little buttering up, testifying about her devotion, putting her insomnia to good use.
I was shocked that the YouTube video had received only 6 views since it was posted in 2014. It’s a sweet little tune.
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18. Night Owl – (2011) Madeline Adams
Madeline, a folk singer from Athens, Ga, doesn’t want to be a night owl. Night owl life is a party scene and she wants no part of that. It bores her.
Her voice on “Night Owl” is clear and strong. She sounds a like a southern Carly Simon, but back in the 70s at least, Carly didn’t mind being a night owl. Madeline, on the other hand, will go to bed with someone who loves her but basically, she’s there to sleep. Not party.
She also has a lot of “don’ts” for her lover, the first being that she doesn’t want to be a possum. That’s a curious comparison, I thought. I looked up possum in the Urban Dictionary and found two definitions that might fit here. The top definition of possum is “a great drinking game where players have to sit in a tree, like a possum and consume a pack of 24 beers, preferably Speights [a New Zealand beer], until they fall out of the tree from drunkenness.” I could see how that’s not a party game she’d want to repeat often. She also says “I don’t want to act a fool,” so there’s that too.
And there’s also this possum definition: “The act of a girl faking she is asleep after 1-2 drinks at a party to avoid the creepy guy in the corner that has been trying to get with her all night.”
I am labeling this the definitive anti-Night Owl song.