Bob Dylan – Rainy Day Women #12 And 35

I would say this is a little out of character for Bob. A very commercial song with laughter and what sounds like a drunken Salvation Army band.  With the popular sing-along chorus of “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” many people thought it was a drug song at the time. Dylan has denied it saying “I never have and never will write a drug song. I don’t know how to. It’s not a drug song, it’s just vulgar. I like all my songs. It’s just that things change all the time.”

Bob’s story was that while he was recording the song, two females happened to come into the studio to get out of heavy rain that was falling. As the story goes, Dylan correctly guessed their ages to be 12 and 35. I t was recorded in Nashville.

Whatever is true…it didn’t hurt it’s climbing up the charts. it peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, #3 in Canada, #13 in New Zealand and #7 in the UK in 1966. It was banned on some radio stations but that probably only made it more popular.



From Songfacts

With the line, “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” this song is often associated with smoking marijuana, although Dylan insists it isn’t, stating, “I have never and never will write a ‘drug song.'” It is more likely about trials of relationships with women, and Dylan has hinted that it could have a Biblical meaning. Answering a question about people interpreting this song to be about getting high, Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2012: “These are people that aren’t familiar with the Book of Acts.”

The Book of Acts is from the Gospel of Luke, and contains an account of a stoning: “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God… And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

In this story, Stephen received his sentence after giving a speech to authorities who were going to kill him no matter what he said. This relates to how Dylan felt about his critics, who were going to figuratively “stone” him no matter what he did. (More on the meaning of “stoned” in popular songs.)

A less official explanation: The song is about two women who came into the studio on a rainy day. Dylan apparently read an article about punishment for women in Islamic states – hence “Everybody must get stoned” because relationships are a trial and error thing. 

If you multiply 12 by 35, you get 420, a number commonly associated with smoking marijuana. 420 came about because five high school students in California could only smoke at 4:20 in the afternoon. This time was after school and before their parents came home, so it was a good time for them to get high. 

This was one of the few songs Dylan released that was a traditional hit record, reaching the Top 10 in both the US and UK, and spending a week at #2 in America behind “Monday Monday” by The Mamas & The Papas. Perhaps relishing the opportunity to turn a song that repeats “everybody must get stoned” into a radio hit, Dylan cut the song down to 2:26 for the single release. On the Blonde On Blonde album, where it is the first track, the song runs 4:33. The single cuts out two verses and some instrumental passages.

Many radio stations received a publication called the Gavin Report that discussed new songs, and this one was described as a “drug song.” Many stations refused to play it, but Dylan was so influential at the time that the song had no trouble getting plenty of airplay.

You can hear Dylan burst out laughing in this song. According to Down the Highway: the Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes, the musicians were having a lot of fun in the studio, passing around joints and swapping instruments as they kept the mood light and jovial.

This song was covered by The Black Crowes for the 1995 album Hempilation, a collection of songs about marijuana. 

Guitarist and bassist Charlie McCoy played the trumpet on this. He recalled to Uncut magazine March 2014: “(Producer, Bob) Johnston said,’Tonight he wants to do a song with a Salvation Army sound – we need a trumpet and trombone.’ I said, ‘Does the trumpet need to be good?’ He’s said, ‘no!’ I kept track: It took 40 hours to cut Blonde on Blonde.”

This was included on the soundtrack to the 1994 movie Forrest Gump.

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good,
They’ll stone ya just like they said they would.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home.
Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ ‘long the street.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ on the floor.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ to the door.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table.
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck.
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, “good luck.”
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end.
Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again.
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car.
They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar.
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they’ll stone you when you walk all alone.
They’ll stone you when you are walking home.
They’ll stone you and then say you are brave.
They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

20 thoughts on “Bob Dylan – Rainy Day Women #12 And 35”

  1. Bob knew how to produce a mainstream hit when they wanted to. :p Hearing him perform this live at Desert Trip just a few days after the announcement that he was being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, was priceless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What timing that was! That is great.
      I’ve seen him 8 times but it is one song I’ve never seen him play…
      It took to the 6th concert before I heard Tangled Up In Blue.


      1. I’m envious that you’ve seen him multiple times. That was the only time I’ve ever seen him. I had long ago given up hope of seeing him perform. I got very lucky; that is all. He did a string of his hits, including Tangled Up In Blue with new lyrics and a unique arrangement. I was way back in general admission, where it felt like I was a mile from the stage, but that didn’t matter to me. 🙂 Does he regularly change up Tangled Up In Blue? I’m glad you finally got to hear that one.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes he did it different each time. The last time I saw him…Mavis Staple opened up for him which was great. He did a lot of Sinatra covers…they were really good. Tangled Up In Blue was the only pre-2000 song he did. I think it was the same year you saw him…but he played that huge event…he probably played more old ones.

        I’m waiting for the 9th time. I told Bailey to pick between him and the Stones… they came roughly at the same time…he picked Dylan…which surprised me. He is a huge fan.


      3. A tough choice for sure, between him and the Stones, but I would have made the same choice, I think. I’ve heard he does a lot of covers like the Sinatra stuff that aren’t characteristic of his own music. I’m glad I got to hear the hits, for my one and only time to see him.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You did get lucky that he was playing them. Well really until this last time he did usually play the old ones…he went out of his way not to play them this time but it’s just his mood. It was still great.
        I heard he does a cover of a James Brown song now…THAT I would like to hear.


      5. Oh…two readers who follow me posted that Justin Hayward commented and followed one of them. I didn’t know he looked at blogs. I meant to tell you that a week or so ago.


  2. I have the album this is on and purposely skipped this song, as at the time I was fed up with my pothead significant other, who kept saying, “I’m cutting down.” It never occurred to me he was singing about anything other than weed. It makes sense though, as he used to be a lot more concerned about his critics than promoting reefer at the time. Good post, Max.

    Liked by 1 person

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