Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone?

I think we’ve talked about this before, but that’s such a good song.  I think you can tell it’s a good song because it stretches to fit the singer.

It’s like when Dr. J and I went to hear Gillian Welch and David Rawlings did the cutest, more-forelorn version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”  That’s a good song, but hearing it completely transformed like that brings into focus that it’s a Good Song.

And isn’t that the thing about a Willie Dixon song or a Robert Johnson song?  They can stand a little transformation.

So, “Would You Lay With Me (in a Field of Stone).”  When Tanya Tucker did it, you could understand why people thought it was scandalous.  It seemed like she was asking “Will you be willing to make these big sacrifices for me since I am about to be willing to make this big sacrifice for you (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)?”

But to hear the songwriter, David Allan Coe, do it, it sounds more like a man who loves a hard life asking if his woman is up for tending to him through the shit he does to himself and, sometimes, to her.

Adn then you have Johnny Cash’s version if it, in which it’s hard not to hear the “field of stone” as representing a cemetery and a man asking if his woman will spend eternity with him if she can.

It’s a beautiful song and, as much fun as other Coe songs can be, in my opinion, he never came close to writing another song this perfect.

According to Wikipedia, “The theme and melody is suspiciously similar to the song ‘If I Needed You’ by Townes Van Zandt.”  You music folks probably could say better than I whether there’s any merit to this claim.  But, to me, considering how Good Van Zandt’s songs are, it feels like it might be true–that a song of his might be good enough to have a strange life as two different songs.

8 thoughts on “Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone?

  1. That’s always been one of my all-time favorite songs and I prefer hearing David Allen Coe sing it over anyone else’s version. I actually have that one on my iPod.

  2. Man, I don’t hear Tanya Tucker’s version that way. If you didn’t know her age when she recorded it, would you interpret it the same way?

    As for the relationship between “If I Needed You” and “Would You Lay with Me,” IINY was released in 1972 and WYLWM in 1974, so it’s possible. But the household music historian suggests that they’re both influenced by an old Scottish tune, which he claims Steeleye Span recorded a couple of years before either of those others, but I personally can’t recall, FWIW.

  3. Hmm, NM, good question. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to not listen to Tanya Tucker and not know my own age at which her songs had an impact on me. It’s not just that she was a young, young woman when singing. It’s that I was a young, young woman when I first heard it.

    It would be awesome if your household music historian could come up with a name for the tune as I’m afraid this will soon drive me crazy otherwise.

  4. Ummm, don’t hold your breath. Because the household music historian’s attention is pretty much elsewhere, and while I’m pretty sure it wasn’t on a Steeleye Span record from the early ’70s, I don’t feel up to tracking down all the Albion Band, Silly Sisters, Pentangle, and even Fairport Convention albums one would logically investigate next.

    I’ve read interviews with Tucker about how she sang songs at that age. She says that she generally didn’t get the sexual references, but identified with the sadness, longing, anger, or whatever that a child could understand. I’m pretty sure she had to be aware that there was something a tad transgressive about a kid singing WYLWM, though.

  5. Hmm, how old was Tanya Tucker when she sang WYLWM? And how did WYLWM come to be credited as hers?? I’ve seen this music (widely held as Johnny Cash’s) with her name after it, which is confusing. There are some very suspect reproductions of both songs scattered around the web.

  6. Garyh, I can’t remember off the top of my head. I think she was 14 or 15. She definitely made the song famous, but David Allan Coe for sure wrote it and his version, depending on if you hear the one with the back up singers or the one where he’s clearly drunk, is pretty awesome.

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