Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 & 420
To hemp enthuisasts, April 20, aka 4/20, aka "420", is the most sacred of sacred days, when at 4:20 pm, they take some time out of their non-busy schedules to partake of their beloved herb. And at 4:30, partake of Cheez Doodles and Family Guy reruns.
There was an interesting article on the Huffington Post website today about the amazingly benign origins of the 420-marijuana connection. Turns out the number's significance was nothing more than the time after school when some California high school stoners would meet in the woods for a number or two in 1971. But those stoners wound up being friends with Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead, and, well, you can take it from there. You can read the full article here.
There have been many other theories over the years as to the significance of 420, but one of the most interesting is that it hails from Bob Dylan's song "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," better known to laypeople as the "Everybody must get stoned" song.
The song's title was one of many non-sequitir song titles Dylan was spewing out in the mid-60s (along with "Temporary Like Achilles," "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and "Bob Dylan's #115th Dream") but some mathematically minded doobie brothers figured out that if you multiply 12 x 35 you get, you guessed it, 420. Did I just blow your mind or what? Hey, pass me those Cheez Doodles. Did you ever hear the one about Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz?
Anyway, "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," while not a visionary masterpiece like "Visions of Johanna" or "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" is a funny track with some nice copywriter-like wordplay, a great New Orleans-influenced backing band — and a great way to kick off the double album Blonde on Blonde. But to me it always sounded more influenced by bourbon than bud.
As one of the great cannibis anthems of all time, it's not surprising that "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" has been taken on by many other like-minded musicians. Even The Beatles did a run-through of the tune during their tumultous "Get Back" sessions in early 1969.
Back in 1992, I saw Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers do a really fun version at the BobFest tribute show at Madison Square Garden. Petty, who often sounds like Dylan anyway, really gets his Bob on here.
I'm not sure whether Bob still takes part in the ol' 420 but he still plays "Rainy Day Women." Here's a clip from the 1994 Woodstock festival.