"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" is a song by Bob Dylan which is the opening track of his 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde. The song was recorded in the Nashville studio of Columbia Records, and features a raucous brass band backing track. The recurrent chorus "Everybody must get stoned" meant the song became controversial and was labelled by some commentators as "a drug song".
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, has recalled 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. When Dylan queried how they would find horn players in the middle of the night, Charlie McCoy made a phone call and summoned a trombone player.
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 overnight on 9–10 March, 1966. In Sounes's account, 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. Moss played bass, while Strzelecki played Al Kooper's organ. Kooper played a tambourine. Producer Bob Johnston recalled "all of us walking around, yelling, playing and singing."
Wilentz, who listened to the original studio tapes to research his book, writes 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."
Dylan biographer Howard Sounes quotes 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 claim they also smoked a "huge amount" of marijuana and "got pretty wiped out". Sounes states that some musicians, including McCoy, remained unintoxicated. This version of events has been challenged by Sean Wilentz's study of the making of Blonde on Blonde. According to Wilentz, both McCoy and Kooper insist 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 points out that three further tracks were recorded that night in the Nashville studio, all of which appeared on the final album.
In Robert Shelton's biography of Dylan, Shelton says 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. (This anecdote may be questioned because the Ray Charles song was released in April 1966, after "Rainy Day Women" was recorded.)
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 argues the Salvation Army band backing becomes more appropriate. Heylin further suggests 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". Heylin suggests the title "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" refers to chapter 27, verse 15 (in the King James Bible}: "A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike."
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."
Shelton states that, as the song rose up the charts, it became controversial as "a drug song". Shelton points 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." 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."
The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #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.
The first cover version of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" was recorded not long after the original by "Blonde on Blonde" producer Bob Johnston and many of the musicians from the Bob Dylan session. It was released in 1966 by Columbia records on the album "Moldy Goldies: Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston and His Mystic Knights Band and Street Singers."
The song was performed by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs on their 1968 album Nashville Airplane.
The song was covered by The Black Crowes, first released as a B-side from the 1992 "Hotel Illness" single. In 1995, The Black Crowes' version was included on the "Hempilation: Freedom Is NORML" benefit album for the NORML organization.
Ben Fong-Torres recorded a parody entitled Rainy Day Bookstores for the 1998 charity compilation album Stranger Than Fiction.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have covered this song many times between 1985-2008, one version which appeared on the Bob Dylan tribute album, "The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration"
The song was covered by Sammy Hagar on his 2006 album Livin' It Up. Country music artist, Jessi Colter, recorded a version for her 2006 album, Out of the Ashes. Jimmy Buffett performed a cover version in concert on his 2007 and 2008 tours. A parody/cover of this song can be found on The Meatmen album Toilet Slave.
Lenny Kravitz also covered the song on the 2012 compilation "Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International".
- Heylin, Clinton (2009). Revolution In The Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, Volume One: 1957–73. Constable. ISBN 1-84901-051-X.
- Shelton, Robert (2011). No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan (Revised & updated edition). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-184938-458-2.
- Sounes, Howard (2001). Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1686-8.
- Whitburn, Joel (2010). Hot R&B Songs: 1942-2010. Record Research Inc. ISBN 978-0-89820-186-4.
- Wilentz, Sean (2009). Bob Dylan In America. The Bodley Head. ISBN 978-1-84792-150-5.