Cross Canadian Ragweed: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Admittedly, this song is nowhere near one of Dylan’s best. But it is undeniably one of the most fun. The lead-off track from the seminal Blonde On Blonde is a raucous barroom ballad full of jangly instruments, huge sing along lines, and off-stage banter. What makes Rainy Day Women so intriguing, however, is the mystique behind it. The song’s meaning has been examined and scrutinized for years. On the surface, the casual listener will undoubtedly hear the persuasion to partake in illegal activity. Upon further review, one may realize that Dylan means “stoned” in the proverbial sense. But to take the song into any further consideration will only confuse the listener more. Dylan, in one of many slaps-in-the-face to interviewers, once described the song like this:
“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 happens to deal with a minority of, you know, cripples and Orientals and, uh, you know, and the world in which they live,.... It’s another sort of a North Mexican kind of a thing, uh, very protesty. Very, very protesty. And, uh, one of the protestiest of all things I ever protested against in my protest years.”
Cross Canadian Ragweed covered the song on their 2001 release Live and Loud at the Wormy Dog. The Wormy Dog Saloon in Stillwater was the home venue for the Oklahoma band (among many others) in their early years. Because of the song’s live setting in a small bar, this cut contains many similarities to Dylan’s version – and it is just as fun.
As far as the meaning behind the song – I believe Dylan achieved his goal – to create a tune that people would be talking about for years, with no answer as to the writer’s intentions. Why is this the only song on the album to feature a full horn section? Why did he choose to lead off album with it? And what’s with the numbers 12 and 35? I have no answers for you, but just for fun, multiply them together…..