Rainy Day Women ♯12 & 35

"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Blonde on Blonde
B-side"Pledging My Time"
ReleasedApril 1966
RecordedMarch 10, 1966
GenreBlues rock, jazz, comedy rock
Length4:36 (album version)
2:26 (single edit)
6:17 (full version)
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bob Johnston
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)"
"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"
"I Want You"
Blonde on Blonde track listing

"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" is a song by Bob Dylan. It is the opening track of his 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde. It was initially released as a single in April 1966, reaching No. 7 in the UK and No. 2 in the US chart. "Rainy Day Women", recorded in the Nashville studio of Columbia Records, features a raucous brass band backing track. The song's title does not appear anywhere in the lyrics and there has been much debate over the meaning of the recurrent chorus, "Everybody must get stoned". This has made the song controversial, being labelled by some commentators as "a drug song".

Background and composition

The song is notable for its brass band arrangement and the controversial chorus "Everybody must get stoned". Al Kooper, who played keyboards on Blonde on Blonde, recalled that when Dylan initially demoed the song to the backing musicians in Columbia's Nashville studio, producer Bob Johnston suggested that "it would sound great Salvation Army style.[1] When Dylan queried how they would find horn players in the middle of the night, Charlie McCoy, who played trumpet, made a phone call and summoned a trombone player.[1]

The song is essentially a simple blues chord progression in the key of F. The parts played by the trombone, tuba, piano, bass, drums, and tambourine remain practically the same in all of the verses. Much laughter and shouting in the background accompanies the song, mixed down to a low volume level, and Dylan laughs several times during his vocal delivery.

The track was recorded in Columbia Music Row Studios in Nashville in the early hours of March 10, 1966.[2] In the account of Dylan biographer Howard Sounes, the chaotic musical atmosphere of the track was attained by the musicians playing in unorthodox ways and on unconventional instruments. McCoy switched from bass to trumpet. Drummer Kenny Buttrey set up his bass drum on two hard-back chairs and played them using a timpani mallet. Wayne Moss played bass, while Strzelecki played Al Kooper's organ. Kooper played a tambourine.[3] Producer Bob Johnston recalled, "all of us walking around, yelling, playing and singing."[4]

Sean Wilentz, who listened to the original studio tapes to research his book on Dylan, wrote that at the end of the recording of "Rainy Day Women", producer Bob Johnston asked Dylan for the song's title. Dylan replied, "A Long-Haired Mule and a Porcupine Here." Johnston commented, "It's the only one time that I ever heard Dylan really laugh... going around the studio, marching in that thing."[4]

Sounes quoted musician Wayne Moss recalling that in order to record "Rainy Day Women", Dylan insisted the backing musicians must be intoxicated. A studio employee was sent to an Irish bar to obtain "Leprechaun cocktails". In Sounes's account, Moss, Hargus "Pig" Robbins, and Henry Strzelecki claimed they also smoked a "huge amount" of marijuana and "got pretty wiped out". Sounes stated that some musicians, including McCoy, remained unintoxicated.[3] This version of events has been challenged by Wilentz's study of the making of Blonde on Blonde. According to Wilentz, both McCoy and Kooper insisted that all the musicians were sober and that Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, would not have permitted pot or drink in the studio. In support of this view, Wilentz pointed out that three other tracks were recorded that night in the Nashville studio, all of which appeared on the final album.[2][4]

In Robert Shelton's biography of Dylan, Shelton said he was told by Phil Spector that the inspiration for the song came when Spector and Dylan heard the Ray Charles song, "Let's Go Get Stoned" on a jukebox in Los Angeles. Spector said "they were surprised to hear a song that free, that explicit", referring to its chorus of "getting stoned" as an invitation to indulge in alcohol or narcotics.[5] (This anecdote may be questioned, because the Ray Charles song was released in April 1966, after "Rainy Day Women" was recorded.)[6]

After recording Blonde on Blonde, Dylan embarked on his 1966 "world tour". At a press conference in Stockholm on April 28, 1966, Dylan was asked about the meaning of his new hit single, "Rainy Day Women". Dylan replied the song was about "cripples and orientals and the world in which they live... It's a sort of Mexican thing, very protest... and one of the pro-testiest of all things I've protested against in my protest years."[7]

Shelton stated that, as the song rose up the charts, it became controversial as a "drug song". Shelton says that the song was barred by some radio stations in the United States and from airplay in Great Britain. He pointed out that Time magazine, on July 1, 1966, wrote: "In the shifting multi-level jargon of teenagers, 'to get stoned' does not mean to get drunk but to get high on drugs... a 'rainy-day woman', as any junkie [sic] knows, is a marijuana cigarette."[5] Dylan responded to the controversy by announcing, during his May 27, 1966, performance at the Royal Albert Hall, London, "I never have and never will write a drug song."[8]

Critical comments

According to Dylan critic Clinton Heylin, Dylan was determined to use a "fairly lame pun"—the idea of being physically stoned for committing a sin, as opposed to being stoned on "powerful medicine"—to avoid being banned on the radio. Given its Old Testament connotations, Heylin argued that the Salvation Army band backing becomes more appropriate. Heylin further suggested that the song's title is a Biblical reference, taken from the Book of Proverbs, "which contains a huge number of edicts for which one could genuinely get stoned". He suggested that the title "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" refers to Proverbs chapter 27, verse 15 (in the King James Bible): "A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike."[1]

Dylan critic Andrew Muir suggested that the sense of paranoia suggested by the recurring phrase "they'll stone you" is a reference to the hostile reaction of Dylan's audience to his new sound. "Dylan was 'being stoned' by audiences around the world for moving to Rock from Folk," wrote Muir, who also suggested the seemingly nonsensical verses of "Rainy Day Women" can be heard as allusions to social and political conflicts in the United States. For Muir, "They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat" evokes the refusal of black people to move to the back of the bus during the civil rights struggle. For Muir, "They’ll stone you and then say you are brave / They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave" reminds listeners that Dylan also wrote "Masters of War" and other "anti-militarism songs that mourned the waste of young men being sent off to be maimed or killed".[9]

Muir quoted a comment Dylan made to New York radio host Bob Fass in 1986: "'Everybody must get stoned' is like when you go against the tide....you might in different times find yourself in an unfortunate situation and so to do what you believe in sometimes.... some people they just take offence to that. You can look through history and find that people have taken offence to people who come out with a different viewpoint on things."[9]

Charts and positions

The song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week of May 21, 1966, kept off the top spot by The Mamas and the Papas' "Monday, Monday". It also reached No. 7 on the UK Singles Chart. Unlike Dylan's previous six-minute hit single "Like a Rolling Stone", the single edit of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" was significantly shorter than the original album version, omitting the third and final verse.

Weekly singles charts

Year-end charts

Cover versions


  1. ^ a b c Heylin 2009, pp. 309–310
  2. ^ a b Björner, Olof (November 8, 2013). "The 10th Blonde On Blonde session". bjorner.com. Retrieved May 6, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Sounes 2001, pp. 203–204
  4. ^ a b c Wilentz 2009, p. 123
  5. ^ a b Shelton 2011, pp. 224–225
  6. ^ Whitburn 2010, p. 122
  7. ^ Sounes 2001, p. 209
  8. ^ "Dylan View On The Big Boo", Melody Maker, June 4, 1966
  9. ^ a b Muir, Andrew (January 10, 2013). "Everybody Must Get Stoned" (PDF). a-muir.co.uk. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  12. ^ "UK Top 40 Database". everyHit.com. Archived from the original on March 19, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2010.
  13. ^ "Bob Dylan Billboard singles". Allmusic. Retrieved October 26, 2009.
  14. ^ "Cash Box Top Singles 1966". Archived from the original on April 23, 2018. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  15. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1966/Top 100 Songs of 1966". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  16. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1966". Web.archive.org. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2019.


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