Let Me Sleep Beside You


For the completists out there, a rarity. One of David Bowie’s earliest music videos, in which he can be seen adorably failing to become a huge star. Like a lot of people, Bowie spend a few years dicking around with ideas that didn’t quite gel before he hit on something viable. His problem in the sixties was that his image and his music didn’t see eye to eye. He was making some of his weirdest music at the time, experimenting with surprising influences and honing his songwriting skills. The songs he put out for Deram in the late sixties are unique, completely unlike anything he’s done since and at the same time having every unmistakable mark of David Bowie. Yet at the same time, he was trying to market an image that wasn’t particularly imaginative. He looked great in his mod suits, but the music scene didn’t really need another good-looking dude in a mod suit. The market was already glutted with handsome young men shaking their shaggy hair and their skinny legs. And this handsome young man didn’t even have commercially viable catchy dumb pop songs to offer. He was coming in with tales of alienated Tibetan monks, apocalyptic cannibalism, homicidal gravediggers and cross-dressing G.I.s, among many other unusual topics. All of which we’ve since come to expect from David Bowie, but no one was buying it at the time. Nowhere is this more awkwardly obvious than this video. It is, on its own terms, a great song. An underrated ballad, which is both seductive in a fairly typical sense, and on another level, quite touching and inspiring in its depiction of sexual awakening as a liberating moment for the heroine; “Child, you’re a woman now, your heart and soul are free.”  It is a deep and thoughtful song disguised as a sex romp – as you would expect no less from Bowie. It is not, however, a song to shake your too tightly pantsed ass to on television, which is the approach someone chose to take with the video. Bowie strikes many ridiculous poses and wiggles his legs with great enthusiasm in what appears to be a sincere emulation of Mick Jagger. He looks thoroughly foolish and blissfully unaware of it. It’s almost a parody of sexy Jaggeresque posturing. And it would have worked with a different song, one that doesn’t demand to be treated with dignity. It perfectly illustrates exactly where the young David Bowie made his mistakes. He had the material, he just didn’t know quite how to present it. He’d figure it out soon enough, though.

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