Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rock Goes Country: Lay Lady Lay

Today’s Rock Goes Country selection doesn’t feature “Mr. Hughes in Dylan’s shoes,” but rather, Mr. Zimmerman in his own shoes. Picking up where he left off with the album “John Wesley Harding” in 1967, Bob Dylan returned to Nashville to record “Nashville Skyline” in 1969. The album propelled to the #3 slot in the US and topped the charts in Britain.

Part of the album’s success was the inclusion of the popular single release “Lay Lady Lay.” It was the second of three singles from the album and peaked at #7 on the Hot 100. Dylan’s new vocal sound, which he attributed to his cessation of smoking, coupled with the performances from a host of Nashville session men produced a sound most palatable to the American record buying public.

Dylan wrote the song in 1968 and it was to be the main theme for the movie “Midnight Cowboy”; however, delays in recording the song got it bumped from the project being replaced by Harry Nilsson’s cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking.”

In addition to his vocals, Dylan played guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. In my opinion, four instrumental elements “make” this song. These include Pete Drake’s pedal steel guitar, Bob Wilson’s organ, Kenny Buttrey’s percussion, and Charlie Daniels’ occasional electric guitar. In addition, the cut features Charlie McCoy on bass.

The percussion part is highly unusual and it was suggested to Kenny Buttrey that he play either cowbells or bongos for the drum part. Much to his chagrin, both were needed for this song and the distinctive percussion on the track was born. Buttrey uses drumsticks on both. He also turned around to play the drum parts on the chorus, but the drums were not miked and they are actually heard as leakage through other studio microphones. Another great country influenced tune for our second week feature.

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