Don't Sleep In The Subway

Album: These Are My Songs (1967)
Charted: 12 5


  • This is a tale of a couple, who like many, have lots of disagreements. The man tends to retreat into his own little world instead of engaging the issue. When threatens to walk out on her, the woman tells him that it's better to come up with a solution and make up. When she tells him, "don't sleep in the subway," she is asking him to spend the night with her instead of leaving.
  • Petula Clark's producer/songwriter Tony Hatch co-wrote this song with his wife Jackie Trent. Of all the songs that Hatch has written or co-written, this song is Clark's favorite. When we asked her about the song in our 2013 interview, she said, "It's a bit of a mystery to me, the song. But it's got to be one of my favorites, though I'm not quite sure what it's about. It doesn't matter."

    Petula added that when she starred opposite Fred Astaire in the 1968 movie Finian's Rainbow, he asked her what this song was about, and she didn't have a good answer.
  • The entire song is actually a combination of three different songs which Tony Hatch had written but did not complete. The segments of the unfinished songs were molded into one to create one song.
  • This was Petula Clark's last hit to reach the Top 10 in the States. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerro - New Alexandria, PA, for all above
  • The "subway" in the song title is not a mode of transportation, but refers to the underground passages found throughout London to enable pedestrians to cross busy intersections with heavy traffic flow. Clark's other big hit, "Downtown," also had a different meaning across the Atlantic, as in America it means the center of urban activity, while in England at the time it was used to denote a downtrodden area. That song was written with the American meaning, as its writer, Tony Hatch, was inspired by New York City.
  • Gordon McLendon, known as "The Old Scotchman," was an ultra-conservative owner of radio stations in Dallas, Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and San Antonio in the 1960s -'70s. He refused to play this on his stations because he believed the words were: "...take off your clothes and close the door." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Frederick - Galveston, TX

Comments: 18

  • Ian Southward from UkThis is my favourite track of hers too, I asked Tony Hatch was it him who played that running 12 string riff throughout the song, My ears are tuned to it every time I play it as I play guitar too, There was a rumour that it was him doing the brilliant playing, He assured me it was someone with more talent than he, I found that hard to believe but as regards the guitar player I agreed. Is he/she still with us and does anyone know who indeed it was? I have been searching for a long time to find anything about them but I wouldn't be surprised if it was Jimmy Page as he was a session guitarist!
  • Shu from Hastings UkDowntown means exactly the same thing in the UK as it does in the US.
  • Ronald Vaughan from Hollywood,ca.Actually I was told the correct lyrics are, "Take off your CLOAK,my love/And close the door!"
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 18th 1890, the world’s first electric underground rail line began operations in London, England...
    And seventy six and a half years later on May 28th, 1967 Petula Clark was warning us to "Don't Sleep in the Subway"; for on that date the song entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #76...
    {See next post below}
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 28th 1967, "Don't Sleep In The Subway" by Petula Clark entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #76; and on July 2nd it peaked at #5 (for 2 weeks) and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on September 16th, 1967 it reached #1 (for 2 weeks) on the Australian Kent Music Report chart and on July 9th it also peaked at #1 (for 3 weeks) on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    Between 1964 and 1982 she had twenty-two Top 100 records; six of them made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, "Downtown" (for 2 weeks in 1965) and "My Love" (for 2 weeks in 1966)...
    Ms. Clark will celebrated her 82nd birthday this coming November 15th, 2014.
  • Martin from Fresno, CaI think there is a lot of witty lyrics in this one such as "Goodbye means nothing when it's all for show". I think she knows her boyfriends faults but loves him anyway.A sign of true love.
  • Matthew from Toronto, OnWas I the only one shocked by the line, "Take off your clothes my love and close the door." No one seemed to react but me. I thought it was an astonishing line to hear in the repressive atmosphere of 1960's pop radio, when songs were being banned all the time. And to hear it coming out of the mouth of that pristine songstress Petula Clark, who was approved of by everyone's parents, it just seemed incredible. Yet everyone talked about how the subway in the song wasn't a train, but just an underground walkway. Like, who cares?
  • Harry Iii from Honolulu, HiI also have the 45 single. It's on Warner Bros. Records.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaExcellent song....and memorable chorus!
  • Camille from Toronto, OhPetula Clark has a beautiful repertoire of songs and is perhaps underrated; maybe because her delivery is a lovely, subtle one. "Don't Sleep in the Subway" was the very first 45 record I ever purchased with my own money. I had to be in about 5th grade. I wanted to by "Dizzy" by Tommy Roe but my older sisters insisted I buy this one. Reading the lyrics now, I have to say that they make total and complete good advice for a long-lasting relationship (my marriage is 20+ years now):Problems often over-rated, (learn to) compromise, forget foolish pride, and one of my favorite lines: Why pretend you've somewhere else to go? Rereading these lines today I had to laugh. I always thought the lyrics said, "Take off your clothes, my love, and close the door." Very risque-sounding to a 5th grader! But apparently the lyric is "Take off your coat, my love, and close the door." Or IS it? And how about her name "Petula"--just sounds so lyrical all by itself.
  • Paul from Washington Dc, DcLyricaly, this is the best of CLark's hits. My favorite Petula song, however, is "Call Me".
  • Robert from Houston, TxJohn Cleese sang a brief snatch of this on an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. For a man who claims to have absolutely no musical talent, he was surprisingly on pitch.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdFrederick (Galveston): That's both sad and funny. I think that may have been a common misconception or gag about this song at the time, but rdon McLendon probably thought that because it actually goes, "take off your cloak, my love, and close the door" (not "take off your coat," as they have here -- I've submitted this and a few other minor corrections).
  • Rodney from Toronto, CanadaThe "backstory" that one gathers from the lyrics is that the couple has just quarreled, and that the woman won the argument by means of unanswerable reason--prompting the man, in embarrassment and with a deflated ego, to storm out of the dwelling they share with the intent of spending the night in a public place.

    The woman is coaxing the man back by telling him, in effect, that it is wrong to think anything's important enough not to compromise on. (A horrendous philosophy, but in love relationships it may have some valid application. And this is such a wonderful, moving song, so I forgive Jackie Trent!)
  • Tom from Largo, FlThe "subway" of the song title wasn't a train but actually referred to the underground passages that enable pedestrians to get across heavily-trafficked intersections in the UK, especially throughout London. These are often used by "buskers" (street performers) to earn money, since the acoustics are especially good, and the homeless as shelters when the weather is bad.
  • Tom from Largo, FlClark had much more than a "brief fling" with acting. She actually made several films as a child before starting her recording career at the age of seventeen, and by the time she made her American film debut in "Finian's Rainbow" in 1968, she had starred in twenty-five movies, co-starring with such luminaries as Alec Guiness and Anthony Newley. She also composed the score for a French film entitled "Daggers Drawn," in which she appeared as herself. Her last film appearance was in "Never Never Land," released in the UK in the early 80s. Clark went on to appear on stage in "The Sound of Music," "Someone Like You" (for which she composed the score), "Blood Brothers," and "Sunset Boulevard." She has played Norma Desmond in the latter more often than any other actress.
  • Tom from Largo, FlThe music to "Don't Sleep in the Subway" was actually pieced together from three different songs Tony Hatch had composed, none of which had been released on its own. Listen carefully to the way the song builds, and you can hear clearly where each musical style ends and the next begins. This was Clark's last single release to earn her a Grammy nomination. She has often referred to it as her favorite recording and to this day still includes it in her concert repertoire.
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcPetula had a brief fling with being an actress. She co-starred with Peter O' Toole in the 1969 remake of Goodbye Mister Chips.
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