Thank you for your question.
Judas Magazine has a very interesting interpretation of this Dylan song:
"...Rainy Day Women #12 & 35? is a novelty song, whose sheer fun is
compellingly infectious, with enough ?serious? points being raised to
make it the perfect opener for the Blonde On Blonde double album. It
is a tissue of outrageous and outrageously successful puns, both
musical and lyrical.
The song?s main pun, of course, is that of ?being stoned?. ?Being
stoned? as in being high on dope, or ?being stoned? literally and
metaphorically by those entirely too quick to judge. The reason this
pun is so successful is that it has so many connotations on both of
what for convenience?s sake I will call the ?fun? and the ? serious?
The article quotes Dylan interview as well:
...Dylan himself, in interviews, kept such things going with
references to New Mexico and wild flights of fancy:
Well, you know my songs are all mathematical songs. Now, you know what
that means so I?m not gonna have to go into that specifically here.
It happens to be a protest song. ...and it borders on the
mathematical, you know, idea of things, and this one specifically
happens to be ... ?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
And another interview quote:
... JC: You can?t really dance to one of your songs.
BD: I couldn?t.
JC: Imagine dancing to ?Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35?. It?s kind
of alienating. Everyone thought it was about
being stoned, but I always thought it was about being all alone.
BD: So did I. You could write about that for years..."
You might read this entire article as it delves into quite a few
interpretations of individual lines.
Several sites, including this listserv at the University of Buffalo,
make the following claim:
"...I asked the question here about a month ago, and someone told me
that the only thing Dylan said about it, was that as he was recording
the song, a mother and daughter walked into the studio drenched due to
the rainy day outside. Mother was 35, daughter 12. I don't know if I
believe this, but that's what I heard..."
"...A less official explanation: The song is about 2 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 6 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. .."
Even folks at phish.net have interpreted the 12x35 as 420 and the
marijuana connotations that go with that:
"...For instance, Bob Dylan's famous "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" is a
possible reference, or source -- 12x35=420..."
In a review of Hard Rain by Alfred Knopf, I found:
"...Analyzing "Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 and 35" (Everybody Must Get
Stoned), he says the line, "They'll stone you when you're trying to
take your seat," "can be read as a reference to the Montgomery
Alabama bus boycott."..."
A good article on Dylan at differnet says:
..."Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" is essentially a novelty song, a way
of making fun of the burden of expectations placed on him. It is still
somewhat about his relationship with the audience ("They'll stone you
when you're playing the guitar"), defusing the pressure by turning it
into a joke. The party atmosphere of the recording session further
this impression, as do the offhand lyrics which sound like they were
improvised on the spot...
On a UK review site, you will find this interesting interpretation:
"...It remains only to say that in Dylan?s case the matter of
references and possible allusions is slightly complicated by that
aspect of him that plays the Riddler or the Jokerman. ?Rainy Day Women
#12 & 35?, anyone? Well, 1, 2, 3, 5 are the first four prime numbers,
and the next in the sequence is 7, and this is the first track on
Dylan?s seventh album. I?ve also speculated that they?re the numbers
of hexagrams in the I Ching ? something else he?s known to have been
interested in, and once refers to openly: ?I threw the I Ching
yesterday, it said there?d be some thunder at the well.? An
interesting reading in the light of Blood on the Tracks, though
ambiguously put. I?d assume it was hexagram 51, Thunder, moving to
hexagram 48, The Well, but it could be the other way round. Either
way, the judgment on The Well is fitting for that fresh tapping of
former powers: ?The town may be changed, but the well cannot be
changed. It neither decreases nor increases?? And the Thunder of the I
Ching, as described in the translator Richard Wilhelm?s commentary ?
?A yang line develops below two yin lines and presses upward forcibly?
It is symbolised by thunder, which bursts forth from the earth? ? is
something that might well be called Planet Waves.
So to return to Nos 12 and 35 ? hexagram 12 is Standstill or
Stagnation, and Blonde on Blonde is all about stasis and stuckness.
Richard Wilhelm comments: ?This hexagram is linked with the seventh
month? when the year has passed its zenith and autumnal decay is
setting in.? That seventh album again, and according to my seasonal
arrangement of Dylan?s records, Blonde on Blonde is an autumnal work.
And 35? That?s called Progress and the image is of the sun rising over
the earth. What lies beyond the stasis of Blonde on Blonde is,
whaddyaknow, a New Morning.
These are plausible references for the numbers, if you think they are
there for any reason. They?re also both biblically important. Twelve,
as in tribes and apostles, and 35 as a number of the apocalyptic
proportion, as stated in the formula of Revelation, ?a time, and
times, and half a time?, i.e. 1 of any unit, plus 2 of it, plus a half
= 3.5 and any of its multiples, like 7, or 70, or 35. The formula
occurs, in fact, in chapter 12 of Revelation: ?And to the woman were
given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the
wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and
times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent
cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might
cause her to be carried away of the flood.? (?Rainy Day Women?,
anyone?) ?And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her
mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his
mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war
with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and
have the testimony of Jesus Christ.? (?They?ll stone ya when you?re
tryin? to be so good? anyone?)
Yet the suspicion is strong that they could actually be any numbers,
and that what they mean at the beginning of the record, attached so
arbitrarily to a title so arbitrarily attached to its song, is:
prepare to be baffled. And yet, and still ? why those particular
numbers? Follow the Riddler into the labyrinth, but let a thread
unwind as you go, or you may end up lost in there. A final quote from
Northrop Frye. Of Blake he says: ?He is not writing for a tired pedant
who feels merely badgered by difficulty: he is writing for enthusiasts
of poetry who, like the readers of mystery stories, enjoy sitting up
nights trying to find out what the mystery is..."
So, I think most agree that marijuana is at least one side of the
double entendres of this song. Religion another and then persecution.
"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" +interpretation OR meaning
"Rainy Day Women" +interpretation OR meaning
"Rainy Day Women" +analyze
explain OR explanation +"Rainy Day Women"
I trust my research has provided you with a number of interpretations
and interesting read on Rainy Day Women. If a link above should fail
to work or anything require further explanation or research, please do
post a Request for Clarification prior to rating the answer and
closing the question and I will be pleased to assist further.