Endless Loop: Lay Lady Lay

ministryHave you ever had one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days…weeks…years? Sure you have. These are the songs that always make the cut. The songs on repeat. We all have them. I have a ton. Welcome back to Endless Loop.

“Lay Lady Lay” by Ministry

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece that I intended to use for this column about my favorite Bob Dylan song, the wonderful, swaying, Mariachi-esque “Wigwam,” taken from one of Dylan’s lesser albums, 1970’s Self Portrait. A Youtube search for the song then proved fruitless, generating a bunch of terrible covers, but not the actual song. Seeing as I want people to be able to listen to the tunes I write about, I had to move on. So, sadly I killed it. Still wanting to write about Dylan, I chose my second favorite song by the legend, “Lay Lady Lay,” from 1969’s Nashville Skyline. After listening to the song and thinking it over for a few minutes, I realized what I had to do. I had to abandon Bob Dylan again and write about motherfucking Ministry instead.

I’m pretty sure “Just One Fix” was the first song by Ministry that I ever heard, seeing the video on MTV when I was in junior high, Jourgensen’s echoed scream kicking me in the ears while images of tornadoes, destruction, and William S. Burroughs burned into my retinas. Psalm 69* would eventually find it’s way into my collection, and remains the band’s pinnacle, but the follow up four years later would spawn quite possibly the strangest move the industrial mainstays ever made (even stranger than morphing from a darkwave synthpop group into an industrial heavy metal band), the rough-edged, hard, and beautiful cover of Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay.”

No one expected that. No one. And, maybe I’m alone in this feeling, but who even would have thought that it would be as good as it is too. While remaining faithful to Dylan’s original version, the melody and sentiment intact, Ministry managed to make the song sound like a Ministry song, or at least a kind of poppier Ministry song than we had grown accustomed to, like what an old love song would sound like filtered through crunchy, distorted guitars and drum machines. Up to that point, 1996’s Filth Pig, Ministry had been a dancey pop band, and then a darker, icier synth band, and then a noisy, cacophonous metal band. Their cover of “Lay Lady Lay” seems to draw from all of that, a summation of the past crafted into a song they didn’t write, all while still moving their sound forward. I know I’m alone in this feeling, but it’s perfect.

Ministry never really got under my skin again like they did in the 90’s, releasing a string of albums that I’ve never paid any attention to, but for a little while there, they were everything music was supposed to be.


*There is much debate as to what the actual title of that album is.  I won’t get into it here.  You know what Google is.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

3 Responses to Endless Loop: Lay Lady Lay
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    They’re. They’re all pretty fucking awesome.

  2. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    A) what’s the debate? I’ve never heard this (or at least don’t think I have or don’t remember).
    B) I wholeheartedly agree with you.
    C) Skip Dark Side of the Spoon and maybe Rio Grande Blood and give the others up to and including The Last Sucker another shot. Their all pretty fucking awesome.

    • Tommy Reply

      I have heard arguments as to whether the album’s title is “Psalm 69,” or “The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs,” or even “ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ,” as it’s written on the album’s spine. From what i understand, “ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ” loosely translates to Psalm 69, so it’s ultimately just a bunch of semantics among industrial music fans.

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