We are jumping into 2021 with both feet, as we turn our attention to the song, “Lay Lady Lay”, this week. The original was written by Bob Dylan, released in 1969. It has been covered over the decades since by far too many artists to count. What makes Duran Duran’s version different and notable? Let’s dive in and see!
Lay lady lay lay across my big brass bed Lay lady lay lay across my big brass bed Whatever colors you have in your mind I show them to you and you see them shine Lay lady lay lay across my big brass bed Stay lady stay stay with your man a while Until the break of day let me see you make him smile His clothes are dirty but his, his hands are clean And you are the best thing that he's ever seen Stay lady stay stay with your man a while Why wait any longer for the world to begin you can have your cake and eat it, too Why wait any longer for the one you love when he's standing in front of you Lay lady lay lay across my big brass bed Stay lady stay stay while the night is still ahead I long to see you in the morning light I long to reach for you in the night Stay lady stay stay while the night is still ahead
Once again, Duran Duran chose to include a song on this album that has been widely—and some may say too widely—covered. As for other songs, I adhere to the belief that in order for a cover to really be effective, it needs to be reimagined into something different. If a band is going to do it, then they need to say something completely original. This is the headspace I am in as I begin this review.
Truthfully, it has been many years since I last sat and listened to Lay Lady Lay, much less listened in succession to the original. While Dylan’s version is written in the country vein, Duran Duran turned it on it’s head and made into a modern pop song. Listening to both Dylan’s version and Duran Duran’s really makes one appreciate the art behind doing a cover album. The band had something to add to the conversation with this one, and did so artfully.
There is so much going “right” on this cover. The vocals sound and like liquid silk pouring over me, and I can’t help but feel the sex appeal. Not forced, but 100% natural and pure. I don’t think it’s simply coincidence that the opening guitar chords sound an awful lot like Come Undone (in fact, if I were just tired enough, and squinted just the right way, I might mistake one for the other for a couple of measures!). I love the way the guitar changes color throughout – going from somewhat muted to bright and full – as each track of guitar is brought up and then lowered again in the mix. I’d also like to give a nod of approval to both the bass and the keyboards. Neither one takes center stage per se, but they certainly do their job to create foundation and atmosphere, respectively.
The production quality on this song is stellar, from the more vivid and bright rock guitar, to the softer, yet lush keyboards, as well as the drums and bass, all of which are heard, felt, and highlighted appropriately. This song has the best production quality of the album so far, and it really makes all the difference. The sound is full, round, and whole, rather than shallow and tinny or full of nonsensical effects. Often, fans point to Perfect Day as the best song on the album, and after listening so carefully to this, I’m not quite so sure.
True confession time. I’m not sure how much I have ever listened to the original, Bob Dylan, version of this song. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I cannot say that I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan. (Does that make me a terrible person?) I can admire his songwriting ability and influence on others while also admitting that he just isn’t really for me. The original Lay Lady Lay reminds me of why. It is just far too country for me despite whatever elements that I might appreciate. So, that probably means that the Duran version has a pretty good shot of being better, right?
As soon as the Duran version begins, it is easy to tell that it has the same feel as the original, yet being so incredibly different. Unlike the original that has minimal instrumentation that gathers your attention only periodically, this one is full and lush. It isn’t about a few notes here and there but about creating a complete, full circle musicality that the original just lacks. Now, of course, I think Bob Dylan did that intentionally with the goal being the vocals and lyrics would be in the spotlight. It is interesting to me how Duran is able to still create a modern version of the instrumentation without overshadowing either the vocals or the lyrics. Speaking of those things, as soon as Simon’s vocals begin the word that instantly pops into my head is seductive. Simon is seducing the audience with his singing on this one. He wants all of us to be the lady on the big brass bed. This leads me to wonder if that was the original intention. Did Mr. Dylan want to create that feeling? If so, I’m just not sure he can do it. Simon, on the other hand, is built for it.
So, here we have a version of a song that feels like so much more than the original. It feels like a full sensory experience with complete but not overwhelming instrumentation and a beautiful vocal that actually fits the lyrics as written. I think it is save to say that, in my opinion, Duran’s version is much, much better than the original. It is as perfect as it can be based on what they started with.