Monday, January 27, 2014

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - Rainy Day Women ♯12 & 35 by Bob Dylan

This song is often interpreted as a drug song about marijuana use. However there are people out there who strongly disagree and other music reviewers such as George Starostin, John McFerrin and Jonathan Hopkins who all find it funny that people are dumb enough to interpret it as a drug song.

This song is about "casting stones" in a sense of "let him who is without sin cast the first stone"

So the song is essentially a dig at his critics where they will stone him no matter what he does. He concludes in the chorus that he wouldn't mind getting stoned if everyone who cast stones at him were under the same level of scrutiny. Essentially this song is a message against hypocrisy for all the critics and cynics who choose to cast stones and to judge other people.

The lyrics certainly fit that interpretation and in fact Dylan also said "I have never and never will write a 'drug song.'" 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."

So that seems to answer that question. It's an open and shut case that this song isn't about drugs since the lyrics fit the casting stone interpretation and Dylan outright denies the drug message right?

Well I say no and I'll disagree with Dylan himself even though I have no reason to question his honesty and sincerity regarding his denial. The fact is he wrote a drug song whether he intended to or not.

You see lyrics are not the same as poetry. In poetry the entire message of the poetry is purely derived from the words. In lyrics the message of the song is derived from both the words and the music.

Dylan singing this same lyrics in a contemplative Freewheelin style ballad is completely different to singing the same lyrics whilst playing carnival music in the background, having people sounded like they are partying in the background with the "woo hoo" and having Dylan giggling and singing "everybody must get stoned" whilst sounding completely spaced out himself. In fact according to wiki "During the recording, Dylan was high on cannabis, having passed joints around before the recording"

So we have a bunch of people high on cannibis going on about "Getting stoned" and people like George Starostin are seriously saying this song isn't about marijuana use. That is completely utterly nonsense and I'm going to put a slight alteration of a quote from George here to prove my point.

"Yeah sure, go ahead and tell me how all the hippies were too thick to get the actual meaning of Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35, how they took it for a marijuana drug song when in reality it was condemning the hypocrisy of critics casting stone from the first to the last line. You know what? When Black Sabbath put intentionally Christian lyrics on Master Of Reality, they could hardly hope to evade the usual accusations of Satanism - just because your record says 'leave the Earth to Satan and his slaves', you can't really help yourself if it's essentially still brutal, dark, horrific style guitar riffs. 

Likewise, just because your song says ‘Well, they'll stone you when you're trying to be so good, They'll stone you just like they said they would, They'll stone you when trying to go home, And they'll stone you when you're there all alone’ you can't really help yourself if it's essentially still a loud, cheerful, drug party with an intoxicated guy yelling 'Everybody must get stoned' at the top of his lungs. 

And don't tell me Bob Dylan didn't know that. This is an intentionally bohemian album, an album whose creator knew it would appeal to the hippies who wouldn't be able to take the 'subtlety' of the lyrics into account - and then, when accused of being about marijuana and drug taking sympathies, he could always turn around and say, 'hey guys, why doncha read the lyrics right'. It's an intentional provocation, and of the meanest kind, at least according to my personal values"

My personal view is that this song is both about casting stones and about “getting stoned”. When Bob Dylan refers in the verse about the people who will cast stones at him no matter what he does. I would often think about the critics who denounce bohemian culture and cast stones at the drug use that involves in the subculture. When Bob Dylan sings out “But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned”, this is simultaneously about the hypocrisy of people who cast stones at him because those critics would never liked it if everything they do is scrutinized by other people whilst at the same time it’s a humorous reminder that if everyone get stoned people wouldn't be so much of a stickler and have more of a “live and let live” attitude. Essentially the “stoned” is used as a double entendre to mean both casting stones as well as getting stoned.

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