Lay Lady Lay

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"Lay Lady Lay"
LayLadyLay45.jpg
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Nashville Skyline
B-side"Peggy Day"
ReleasedJuly 1969 (1969-07)
RecordedFebruary 14, 1969
StudioColumbia, Nashville, Tennessee
GenreCountry rock[1]
Length3:20
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bob Johnston
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"I Threw It All Away"
(1969)
"Lay Lady Lay"
(1969)
"Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You"
(1969)
Audio sample

"Lay Lady Lay", sometimes rendered "Lay, Lady, Lay",[2][3] is a song written by Bob Dylan and originally released in 1969 on his Nashville Skyline album.[4] Like many of the tracks on the album, Dylan sings the song in a low croon, rather than in the high nasal singing style associated with his earlier (and eventually later) recordings.[5] The song has become a standard and has been covered by numerous bands and artists over the years, including the Byrds, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Guy and Anthony Hamilton, Melanie, the Isley Brothers, Bob Andy, Duran Duran, Magnet, Hoyt Axton, Angélique Kidjo, Ministry, Malaria!, Lorrie Morgan and Minimal Compact.[4][6][7]

Bob Dylan's version[edit]

"Lay Lady Lay" was originally written for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy but wasn't submitted in time to be included in the finished film.[8][9] Joel Whitburn said instead that the song was "written for his wife Sarah Lowndes".[10]

Dylan's recording was released as a single in July 1969 and quickly became one of his top U.S. hits, peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.[11] The single did even better in the United Kingdom where it reached #5 on the UK Singles Chart.[12] Like many of the tracks on Nashville Skyline, the song is sung by Dylan in a warm, relatively low sounding voice, rather than the more abrasive nasal singing style with which he had become famous.[5] Dylan attributed his "new" voice to having quit smoking before recording the album, but some unreleased bootleg recordings from the early 1960s reveal that, in fact, Dylan had used a similar singing style before.[4]

Don Everly of the Everly Brothers recounted in a 1986 Rolling Stone interview that Dylan performed parts of the song for them after a late 1960s appearance by the duo in New York, as they were "looking for songs, and he was writing 'Lay Lady Lay' at the time."[13] Despite a popular story that the Everly Brothers rejected the song due to misunderstanding the lyrics as sexual in nature, Everly continued "He sang parts of it, and we weren't quite sure whether he was offering it to us or not. It was one of those awestruck moments."[13] In a 1994 interview Don Everly further explained the encounter, stating that "It really wasn't a business meeting ... It wasn't that kind of atmosphere."[14] The Everly Brothers later covered the song on their EB 84 album, 15 years after Dylan's release.

According to country musician Johnny Cash, Dylan played the song first in a circle of singer-songwriters at Cash's house outside of Nashville. Cash claimed that several other musicians also played their own new, unheard songs.[citation needed]

Drummer Kenny Buttrey has said that he had a difficult time coming up with a drum part for the song. Dylan had suggested bongos, while producer Bob Johnston said cowbells. In order to "show them how bad their ideas were", Buttrey used both instruments together. Kris Kristofferson, who was working as a janitor in the studio at the time, was enlisted to hold the bongos in one hand and the cowbell in the other. Buttrey moved the sole overhead drum mic over to these new instruments. When he switches back to the drums for the choruses the drumset sounds distant due to not being directly mic'd. The take heard on the album is the first take and is one of Buttrey's own favorite performances.[15]

The song was also a favourite of popular singer Madonna, "I used to listen to that one record, 'Lay Lady Lay', in my brother's bedroom in the basement of our house," she recalled. "I'd lie on the bed and play that song and cry all the time. I was going through adolescence; I had hormones raging through my body. Don't ask me why I was crying – it's not a sad song. But that's the only record of his that I really listened to."[16]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" chord progression features a descending chromatic line in the upper voice: .[17][18] (About this soundPlay )
Chromatic descending 5-6 sequence (I-V-VII-IV) from which "Lay, Lady, Lay" sequence is derived,[17] through use of the parallel minor on the third chord (I-iii-VII-ii) (About this soundPlay )

Written in the key of A major, or A Mixolydian,[19] the song's chord progression features a descending chromatic line and Dylan's voice occupies a range from F#2 to D4.[20] The bass is most often based on the chromatic descent or otherwise emphasizing the modal center of A. The chief hook in "Lay Lady Lay", a song with far more hooks than is typical for Dylan, is a recurring four-note pedal steel guitar riff.[4] The song's distinctive drum part is performed by Kenny Buttrey, who regarded his contribution to the song as one of his best performances on a record.[21] Lyrically the song speaks of romantic and sexual anticipation as the singer beseeches his lover to spend the night with him.[4]

Live performances and other releases[edit]

Dylan played the song live for the first time at the Isle of Wight on August 31, 1969; a recording is included on Isle of Wight Live, part of the 4-CD deluxe edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971). Performances of the song from 1974 and 1976 are included on the Before the Flood and Hard Rain live albums. The song has frequently been performed by Dylan since the late 1980s during his Never Ending Tour.

"Lay Lady Lay" appears on Dylan's Greatest Hits, Volume II album, as well as on the Masterpieces, Biograph, The Best of Bob Dylan, Vol. 1, and The Essential Bob Dylan compilation albums.[4][22]

Charts[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Other recordings[edit]

The Byrds' version[edit]

"Lay Lady Lay"
TheByrdsLayLadyLay.jpg
1969 Dutch picture sleeve
Single by the Byrds
B-side"Old Blue"
ReleasedMay 2, 1969 (1969-05-02)
RecordedMarch 27 & April 18, 1969
Studio
GenreRock
Length3:18
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bob Johnston
The Byrds singles chronology
"Bad Night at the Whiskey"
(1969)
"Lay Lady Lay"
(1969)
"Wasn't Born to Follow"
(1969)

The Byrds' recording of "Lay Lady Lay" was released as a single on May 2, 1969 and reached number 132 on the Billboard chart but failed to break into the UK Singles Chart.[33][34] The song was recorded as a non-album single shortly after the release of the Byrds' seventh studio album, Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde.[35] The Byrds decided to cover the song after Bob Dylan played the band his newly recorded Nashville Skyline album at band leader Roger McGuinn's house.[36] The Byrds recorded "Lay Lady Lay" on March 27, 1969, but producer Bob Johnston overdubbed a female choir on to the recording on April 18, 1969 without the Byrds' consent.[37] The single was then released and it was only after it had been issued that the band became aware of the addition of the female choir.[36][37] The group were incensed, feeling that the choral overdub was incongruous and an embarrassment.[38] The Byrds were so upset at Johnston's tampering with the song behind their backs, that they never again worked with him.[36]

Despite the band's displeasure with the finished single, many critics felt that the presence of the female choir added a dramatic touch which heightened the song's emotional appeal.[36] Journalist Derek Johnson, writing in the NME, commented "The harmonic support behind the solo vocal is really outstanding, largely because the Byrds have been augmented by a girl chorus. This, plus the familiar acoustic guitars, the attractive melody and the obstructive beat, makes it one of the group's best discs in ages."[36] When "Lay Lady Lay" was released on The Byrds box set in 1990, it was presented without its choral overdub at McGuinn's insistence.[38][39] This alternate version, without the female choir, was included as a bonus track on the remastered Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde CD in 1997.[38] It was also included on the 2002 reissue of The Byrds Play Dylan and the 2006 box set, There Is a Season.[40][41]

Duran Duran's version[edit]

Duran Duran recorded a pop rock version of the song, appearing as track five on their 1995 covers album, Thank You.[42] Nick Rhodes has stated on the band's official website (answering an Ask Katy question in 2008 about the second single taken from Thank You) "I seem to remember my concern at that time was, in fact, our record label's - Capitol in America and EMI for the rest of the world - deciding to split their decision on their choice for the first single, "White Lines" in the US and "Perfect Day" for the rest of the world. Hence, there was no worldwide focus and both territories forced to use the other track as their second single, so it didn't really work out to be an ideal situation for anyone. I'm not sure what I would've chosen for a second single, possibly "Lay Lady Lay", but then I am still very happy with the way "Perfect Day" turned out."[43]

Ministry version [edit]

"Lay Lady Lay"
Ministry - Lay Lady Lay single artwork.jpeg
Single by Ministry
from the album Filth Pig
B-side"Paisley"
ReleasedFebruary 1996 (1996-02)
Recorded1995
StudioTrax, Chicago
GenreIndustrial metal, alternative metal
Length
  • 5:44 (album version)
  • 5:11 (edit)
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Hypo Luxa, Hermes Pan
Ministry singles chronology
"The Fall"
(1996)
"Lay Lady Lay"
(1996)
"Reload"
(1996)
Music video
“Lay Lady Lay” on YouTube

American industrial metal band Ministry covered "Lay Lady Lay" during the eighth Bridge School Benefit charity concert in October 1994, with Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder performing backing vocals.[44] Studio version of the song was recorded and released as a single from Ministry's sixth studio album, Filth Pig, in February 1996.[45] The song also appears on the band's 2008 covers album, Cover Up.[46] Initially, frontman Al Jourgensen wanted to cover Jimmy Webb song "Wichita Lineman", but had to choose another song after watching Urge Overkill performing it live.[47] During the recording, Bill Rieflin was asked to perform drums, but he rejected and quit the band shortly after,[48] with Rey Washam replacing him and thus making his debut with Ministry.[47]

The single release included two versions of "Lay Lady Lay"; one being the standard album version and the other being a shorter edited version. In the Rolling Stone magazine's review of Filth Pig, critic Jon Wiederhorn wrote that the cover "amalgamates a deep distorted bass line, clicking electronic percussion, jangling acoustic guitars, ominous curls of feedback and [Al] Jourgensen's trademark howls."[49]

CD single track listing

No.TitleLength
1."Lay Lady Lay" (edit)5:11
2."Lay Lady Lay" (album version)5:44
3."Paisley"4:50
4."Scarecrow" (live)8:18

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fontenot, Robert. "What is Country Rock?". ThoughtCo. About.com. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  2. ^ "Bob Dylan Songs". The Official Bob Dylan Site. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  3. ^ The meaning of the lyric is better conveyed by the intransitive verb "lie", rather than the transitive "lay": "lay is the past tense of "lie", but the past cannot be used as an imperative.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Bob Dylan - Lay Lady Lay review and album appearances". AllMusic. Retrieved September 20, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Nashville Skyline review". AllMusic. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  6. ^ "Albums Containing "Lay Lady Lay"". AllMusic. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  7. ^ "Minimal Compact - Lay Lady Lay Cover". YouTube.
  8. ^ Heylin, Clinton. (1991). Dylan: Behind The Shades - The Biography. Viking Books. p. 193. ISBN 0-670-83602-8.
  9. ^ Trager, Oliver. (2004). Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7974-0.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. p. 213. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  11. ^ "Bob Dylan Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  12. ^ Brown, Tony. (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 266. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8.
  13. ^ a b Loder, Kurt (May 8, 1986). "The Everly Brothers: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. United States: Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  14. ^ Freeman, Paul (1994). "DON EVERLY: HEARTACHES AND HARMONIES". Pop Culture Classics. Paul Freeman and Pop Culture Classics. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  15. ^ Heylin, Clinton (1995). The Recording Sessions 1960-1994. St. Martin's Press. pp. 74, 75. ISBN 0312134398.
  16. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (December 1994). "Music, Maestress, Please!". Q: 117.
  17. ^ a b Capuzzo, Guy. (2004). Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 26, No. 2. University of California Press. p. 188.
  18. ^ Toft (2010), p.60.
  19. ^ Toft, Robert (2010). Hits and Misses, p.58. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781441116857
  20. ^ "Bob Dylan". Therangeplace.forummotions.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  21. ^ "Musicians at heart of this mission". The Tennessean. Retrieved February 6, 2010.
  22. ^ "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Volume II RIAA Awards". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  23. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts - 18 October 1969". Poparchives.com.au. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  24. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. September 20, 1969. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  25. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. November 10, 1969. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  26. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Lay Lady Lay". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  27. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  28. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 77.
  29. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 9/20/69". Tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on February 11, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved February 11, 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1969/Top 100 Songs of 1969". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  32. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1969". Tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on January 25, 2019. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  33. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 544. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  34. ^ "The Byrds chart data". Ultimate Music Database. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
  35. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 627. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  36. ^ a b c d e Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 289. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  37. ^ a b Hjort, Christopher. (2008). So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day (1965-1973). Jawbone Press. pp. 208–209. ISBN 1-906002-15-0.
  38. ^ a b c "Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde". ByrdWatcher: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles. Archived from the original on October 28, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2009.
  39. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 471. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
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  43. ^ "Thank You's Second Single". duranduran.com. Retrieved September 20, 2009.
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  47. ^ a b Dasein, Deena (February 1996). "Ministry Comes Clean" (transcription). Illinois Entertainer. Vol. 22 no. 4. pp. 26, 28. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  48. ^ Wurster, Jon (October 2011). "Back Through The Stack: Bill Rieflin" (pt. 1). Modern Drummer. Retrieved October 23, 2017. I have been known to say, with great pride, that my last act in Ministry was to refuse to play on their version of Dylan’s "Lay Lady Lay," which appeared on Filth Pig.
  49. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (February 2, 1998). "Ministry: Filth Pig : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. No. 728 (published February 22, 1996). Archived from the original on January 13, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2018.

External links[edit]