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With the line, "Everybody Must Get Stoned," this song is often associated with smoking marijuana, although Dylan insists it isn't, stating, "I have never and never will write a 'drug song.'" It is more likely about trials of relationships with women, and Dylan has hinted that it could have a Biblical meaning. 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."
The Book of Acts is from the Gospel of Luke, and contains an account of a stoning: "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God... And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul."
In this story, Stephen received his sentence after giving a speech to authorities who were going to kill him no matter what he said. This relates to how Dylan felt about his critics, who were going to figuratively "stone" him no matter what he did.
The "official" explanation of how this song got its name: A woman and her daughter came into the recording studio out of the rain. Dylan guessed their ages correctly as 12 and 35.
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. (thanks, Dave - Ballarat, Australia)
If you multiply 12 by 35, you get 420, a number commonly associated with smoking marijuana. 420 came about because 5 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. (thanks, Dave - Boise, ID)
This was one of the few songs Dylan released that was a traditional hit record, reaching the Top-10 in both the US and UK, and spending a week at #2 in America behind "Monday Monday
" by The Mamas & The Papas. Perhaps relishing the opportunity to turn a song that repeats "everybody must get stoned" into a radio hit, Dylan cut the song down to 2:26 for the single release. On the Blonde On Blonde
album, where it is the first track, the song runs 4:33. The single cuts out two verses and some instrumental passages.
Many radio stations received a publication called the Gavin Report
that discussed new songs, and this one was described as a "drug song." Many stations refused to play it, but Dylan was so influential at the time that the song had no trouble getting plenty of airplay.
You can hear Dylan burst out laughing in this song. According to Down the Highway: the Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes, the musicians were having a lot of fun in the studio, passing around joints and swapping instruments as they kept the mood light and jovial.
This song was covered by The Black Crowes for the 1995 album Hempilation, a collection of songs about marijuana. (thanks, Tim - Columbus, OH)
Guitarist and bassist Charlie McCoy played the trumpet on this. He recalled to Uncut magazine March 2014: "(Producer, Bob) Johnston said,'Tonight he wants to do a song with a Salvation Army sound – we need a trumpet and trombone.' I said, 'Does the trumpet need to be good?' He's said, 'no!' I kept track: It took 40 hours to cut Blonde on Blonde."
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