Lay Lady Lay: Wikis


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"Lay Lady Lay"
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Nashville Skyline
B-side "Peggy Day"
Released July 1969
Format 7" 45 RPM
Recorded February 14, 1969 Columbia Studio A, Nashville, Tennessee
Genre Country rock
Length 3:20
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer Bob Johnston
"Lay Lady Lay"

1969 Dutch picture sleeve.
Single by The Byrds
B-side "Old Blue"
Released May 2, 1969
Format 7" single
Recorded March 27, April 18, 1969, Columbia Studios, Hollywood
Genre Rock
Length 3:18
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer Bob Johnston
The Byrds singles chronology
"Bad Night at the Whiskey"
"Lay Lady Lay"
"Wasn't Born to Follow"

"Lay Lady Lay" is a song written by Bob Dylan and originally released in 1969 on his album Nashville Skyline. Like many of the tracks on the album, the song is sung by Dylan in a warm and relatively low sounding voice, rather than the more abrasive nasal singing style with which he had become famous. Dylan attributed his "new" voice to having quit smoking before recording the album, but some unreleased bootleg recordings from the early 1960s reveal that Dylan had used this softer singing style before.[1]

Released as a single in July 1969, it became one of Dylan's top U.S. hits, peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[2] The single did even better on the UK Singles Chart, reaching #5.[3] The song is often performed live by Dylan, and was included on the Hard Rain and Before the Flood live albums. It also appears on his quintuple-platinum Greatest Hits, Volume II album, as well as on the compilations Biograph and The Essential Bob Dylan.



The song was originally written for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but wasn't submitted in time to make the final cut.[4]

Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers has stated in interview that Dylan offered the song to them backstage after an appearance by the duo at the Bottom Line in New York. Phil asked Dylan if he had any new songs that they might record, and answering yes, Dylan picked up a guitar and proceeded to sing the song so quietly that the Everlys thought they heard Dylan sing "Lay lady lay, lay across my big breasts, babe." Thinking it was a song about lesbians, Don Everly declined the song, saying "thank you, it's a great song, but I don't think we could get away with that." Dylan did not question them about it and went on to record the track himself. Months later, they heard Dylan's version on the radio and realized they'd misunderstood the words. The Everlys felt they'd missed a big opportunity and later recorded the song on their album, EB 84.

Music and lyrics

Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" chord progression features a descending chromatic line in the upper voice: \hat 8\hat 7\hat 7\hat 6.[5] (About this sound Play )
Chromatic descending 5-6 sequence from which "Lay, Lady, Lay" sequence is derived.[5] (About this sound Play )

The chief hook in "Lay, Lady, Lay", a song with far more hooks than is typical for Dylan, is the recurring four-note steel guitar riff, while the lyrics speak of "romantic, and probably sexual, anticipation".[1]


The Byrds' version

The Byrds' recording of "Lay Lady Lay" was released as a single on May 2, 1969[6] and reached #132 on the Billboard chart[7] but failed to break into the United Kingdom charts. The song was recorded shortly after the release of The Byrds' seventh studio album, Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde.[6]

The Byrds decided to cover the song after Bob Dylan played the band his newly recorded Nashville Skyline album at guitarist Roger McGuinn's house.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6] The group were incensed, feeling that the choral overdub was incongruous and an embarressment.[8] The Byrds were so upset at Johnston's tampering with the song behind their backs, that they never again worked with him.[6]

Despite the band's displeasure with the finished single, many critics felt that the precence of the female choir added a dramatic touch which heightened the song's emotional appeal.[6] Journalist Derek Johnson, writing in the NME, commented that "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."[6]

When "Lay Lady Lay" was released on The Byrds box set in 1990, it was presented without its choral overdub at McGuinn's insistence.[6][8] This alternate version, without the female choir, was included as a bonus track on the remastered Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde CD in 1997[8] as well as being included on the 2002 reissue of The Byrds Play Dylan and the There Is a Season box set.

Duran Duran's version

Duran Duran recorded a version of the song, appearing as track five on their 1995 covers album Thank You. The band released the song as a single in Italy to promote the album.

Nick Rhodes has stated on their official website (answering an Ask Katy question in 2008 about Thank You's second single) "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."[9]

Ministry version

"Lay Lady Lay"
Single by Ministry
B-side "Paisley"
Released February 1996
Format 7" single, CD
Recorded 1995, Chicago Trax Studios, Chicago, Illinois
Genre Industrial rock
Length 5:44 (album version)
5:11 (edit)
Label Warner Bros
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer Hypo Luxa, Hermes Pan
Ministry singles chronology
"The Fall"
"Lay Lady Lay"

The American band Ministry released a version of the song as a single and as part of their 1996 album, Filth Pig.[10][11] The song also appears on the band's 2008 covers album, Cover Up.[12] The single release included two versions of "Lay Lady Lay"; one being the standard album version and the other being a shorter edited version.[10] The single also included "Paisley", which appeared on the Escape from L.A. soundtrack album, and a live recording of "Scarecrow", which had originally appeared in a studio version on the band's Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs album.[10][13][14]


Track listing

  1. "Lay Lady Lay" (edit) – 5:11
  2. "Lay Lady Lay" (album version) – 5:44
  3. "Paisley" – 4:50
  4. "Scarecrow" (live) – 8:18

Other covers

Many other cover versions of the song have been recorded by numerous performers,[15] including:


  1. ^ a b "Lay Lady Lay review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-09-20.  
  2. ^ "Bob Dylan chart data". Ultimate Music Database. Retrieved 2009-09-20.  
  3. ^ Brown, Tony. (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8.  
  4. ^ Trager, Oliver. (2004). Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7974-0.  
  5. ^ a b Capuzzo, Guy. (2004). Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 26, No. 2. University of California Press. pp. 188.  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited. Rogan House. ISBN 0-95295-401-X.  
  7. ^ "The Byrds chart data". Ultimate Music Database. Retrieved 2009-08-28.  
  8. ^ a b c "Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde". ByrdWatcher: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2009-09-20.  
  9. ^ "Thank You's Second Single". Retrieved 2009-09-20.  
  10. ^ a b c "Lay Lady Lay: Ministry version". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-12-29.  
  11. ^ "Filfth Pig review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-12-29.  
  12. ^ "Cover Up review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-12-29.  
  13. ^ "Escape from L.A. Soundtrack review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-12-29.  
  14. ^ "Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-12-29.  
  15. ^ "Lay Lady Lay cover versions". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-09-20.  

External links


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