I’ve made it a tradition already of starting each Sunday morning with a comment on the new album of the week, or the first of them when there was been two releases. I’m breaking that today because I need to give Blonde on Blonde more time to soak in. You see, despite the fact that Rolling Stone called it the ninth greatest album of all time (one slot behind The Clash’s London Calling, one in front of The Beatles’s White Album), I was never a huge fan. Based on my memories alone, I’d have dumped down around the tenth best Dylan album. So I’m going to take some time to re-appraise.
Why the low regard? I think a lot of it has to do with the lead track and first single, “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35”. Oh how I hated this song when I was young. Oh how I hate this song today. (Actually, though, I wish I did like it so that I could justify buying this t-shirt which is clever where the song is dumb).
Hitting number two on the pop charts, it is an epic drudge (though the single version was shorter than the album version, though not really any less dull). What is there to hate about this song? Let’s try everything:
The lyrics. Repetitive, boring nonsense. While fiddling around with the Basement Tapes Dylan would craft a lot of nonsense lyrics, and these anticipate that trend. “Well they’ll stone ya…” ad nauseum, building to the big chorus: “Everybody must get stoned!”. Only a stoned person could care about this song.
The brass band. Tuba, trombone, that damned tambourine. Oh how I can’t stand that tambourine. It’s all played out in a simple F progression in slow motion that drones on and on forever.
The chatter. Oh the sounds of happy cavorting people in the background, mixed low. Awful. Self-indulgent. Repulsive. All the fake laughing and singing and carrying on to remind us all of how fun it is to be stoned. It’s all so forced.
That this song was a hit is, to me, the greatest indictment of the 1960s possible. Seriously, there are a ton of great songs on Blonde on Blonde, but it starts with this and it just puts me in a bad mood every time. I’m thinking of deleting it from the 1966 playlist on my phone in the hopes of not hearing it again this week.
Here, at least on Lester Flatt and Earl Scrugg’s version you get some great banjo picking: