The World Of David Bowie album cover artworkWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 1 September 1967; July, October 2000
Producer: Tony Visconti

Released: 6 March 1970

Available on:
David Bowie (Deluxe Edition)
Bowie At The Beeb
Clareville Grove Demos
Conversation Piece
Nothing Has Changed
Toy

Personnel

1967:
David Bowie: vocals
John McLaughlin, Big Jim Sullivan: guitar
Tony Visconti: bass guitar
Alan White: drums
Siegrid Visconti: vocals

2000:
David Bowie: vocals
Earl Slick, Gerry Leonard, Mark Plati: guitar
Mike Garson: keyboards
Gail Ann Dorsey: bass guitar, vocals
Sterling Campbell: drums
Holly Palmer, Emm Gryner: vocals

Rejected as a single by Decca, ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ was David Bowie’s first collaboration with producer Tony Visconti.

According to Bowie’s then-manager Ken Pitt, it was written at a time when Bowie was frustrated by his lack of chart success.

One evening David was sitting watching television when suddenly he took his eyes from the screen and said to me “I’m going to write some top ten rubbish”. Nothing on television could have prompted this remark so he must quietly have been pondering the problem of his unsold records, the movements on the screen becoming as flickering flames of a coal fire. “I don’t think you could ever knowingly write rubbish of any kind,” I said. He laughed and replied “Wanna bet? You’ve seen nothing yet.” And so he went away and wrote ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’, which was neither rubbish nor top ten material, but another very good song. He then wrote two other songs which he also indexed under ‘rubbish’, namely ‘Karma Man’ and ‘In The Heat Of The Morning’.
Kenneth Pitt
The Pitt Report

Decca reportedly declined to release the song, believing it too risqué for record-buyers in 1967. It was, nevertheless, an important stepping-stone in Bowie’s music, marking a move away from the quirky, jaunty storytelling of his debut album, and into a more rock-oriented sound.

In the studio

‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’, and the proposed b-side ‘Karma Man’, were Bowie’s first collaboration with Tony Visconti, a pivotal figure in his life. Their first encounter was at Visconti’s office on London’s Oxford Street.

[Essex Music president] David Platz said that I had a way with the weird people – I guess Marc Bolan was weird to David Platz – and would I be interested in David Bowie? Platz then introduced me to David Bowie, who was waiting in the next room. Bowie and I started talking at about 2.30pm and continued until 6pm when the office closed. We became fast friends and began to work together. We did singles like ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’. We did ‘Karma Man’, which was about Tibetan Buddhism. If you were The Beatles you could get away with that, but we weren’t and we couldn’t.
Tony Visconti
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The session took place on 1 September 1967 at Advision Studios in central London, where Bowie and Visconti would later record parts of The Man Who Sold The World.

David played a wicked 12-string rhythm guitar and had a flair for putting odd chords together but the LP was not very youth orientated and seemed out of kilter with what was happening on the scene. But there was something that was consistently evident in his latest songs, a kind of acoustic folk-rock style. One song especially, ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ sounded very cool, almost American. On 1 September we went into Advision Studios, in New Bond Street and recorded it along with another of David’s songs called ‘Karma Man’

The sessions went very well, with both Big Jim Sullivan and John McLaughlin on guitars, but we were in trouble from the start. Deram’s A&R people said ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ was too sexual in context and the BBC wouldn’t play it. After this was put to David he reluctantly bowed to their wishes and punched in the line ‘Let me “be” beside you.’ Of course it changed the meaning and didn’t have the same impact. Deram then dropped their concern for the suggestive original title and it went out that way. The BBC ignored the single.

Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy

During the making of Bowie’s 1969 film Love You Till Tuesday, he recorded German-language versions of three songs to help the film succeed abroad. The songs were ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’, ‘When I Live My Dream’, and ‘Love You Till Tuesday’.

Ken Pitt wrote phonetic versions of the translations for Bowie to work from, and the new vocals were recorded at Trident Studios in a two-hour session on 29 January 1969. Despite this, the German-language version of the film was never completed.

There were five days to go to the next day’s shooting and in the meantime David concentrated on learning and recording German translations of some of the songs, which I hoped would make the film an even more attractive proposition to ZDF. During our visits to Germany, David and I had got to know Günther Schneider’s production assistant Frau Lisa Busch, who always displayed a great understanding of David’s work and often wrote to us on the subject. As her English was near-perfect I had arranged for her to translate parts of three of the songs and the spoken voice-over to The Mask. The songs were When I Live My Dream’, ‘Love You Till Tuesday’ and ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’. To assist David with the pronunciation of the German words I wrote them out as they would approximately sound in English…

Lisa Busch arrived on January 28 and immediately began to instruct David in the matter of the translations and on the following day the German language sound tracks were recorded at Trident Studios. David was most proficient and all four recordings were completed within two hours.

Kenneth Pitt
The Pitt Report

During Love You Till Tuesday Bowie mimed to a remix of the 1967 Deram recording.

Bowie and Visconti re-recorded ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ for the aborted Toy album in 2000.

The album, which was to be called Toy, revisited some of David’s earliest songs, including some I had already produced in the 1960s (‘Conversation Piece’, ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’). It was a great idea to give those old songs a fresh reading in the twenty-first century. But there wasn’t enough material, even though David had hundreds of his own compositions he could re-record, it was these particular songs he wanted to sing.
Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy