Anyone that has followed my blog for some time is probably aware that I am a Bob Dylan fan. There are varying degrees of Bob Dylan appreciation ranging from those who listen occasionally to his greatest hits package all the way across to the stark raving loonies who count ‘2 x 2’ a guilty listening pleasure. Throw away the keys, I’m in with that lot!
2 x 2 is a track off his critically scorned Under the Red Sky album which was released September 10, 1990. If the universally despised ‘Wiggle Wiggle’ had been left off it, I suspect it may not have been so widely panned although Dylan echoed critic’s complaints saying that the recording was rushed due in part to his Travelling Wilbury commitments. Anyway, it was considered a disappointing follow up to his critically acclaimed Oh Mercy album. He’s played 2 x 2 just 4 times in concert – all in 1992. Lamentably the original studio recording is unavailable online, but I found below an outtake from the studio sessions.
2 x 2 is one of a handful of tracks from the album seemingly rooted in children’s nursery rhymes. According to wikipedia: ‘The album is dedicated to “Gabby Goo Goo”, later explained to be a nickname for Dylan’s four-year-old daughter. This has led to the popular assumption that the album’s more childlike songs were for her entertainment, something that has never been confirmed nor denied by Dylan.’
One by one, they followed the sun
One by one, until there were none
Two by two, to their lovers they flew
Two by two, into the foggy dew
Three by three, they danced on the sea
Four by four, they danced on the shore
Five by five, they tried to survive
Six by six, they were playing with tricks
I enjoy listening to 2 x 2 much more so now than when I first listened to the record. It possesses this weird mythical symbolism within a Judaeo-christian substrate. Compare and contrast these verses if you will:
How many paths did they try and fail?
How many of their brothers and sisters lingered in jail?
How much poison did they inhale?
How many black cats crossed their trail?
Seven by seven, they headed for heaven
Eight by eight, they got to the gate
Nine by nine, they drank the wine
Ten by ten, they drank it again
Not exactly a nursery rhyme for the very timid, is it?
If you would like to read more about the interpretation of 2 x 2 you can check out Tony Attwood’s blog called Untold Dylan. He writes about Clinton Heylin’s account of how Dylan changed the last stanzas amidst recording reflecting a more cyclical and panpsychism interpretation as opposed to a ‘thy will be done’ old testament interpretation. This is demonstrated in the outtake below which ends with the following:
One by one Thy will be done
Two by two I’m telling it true
Three by three, why can’t you see
Four by four you’ve seen it before.
In the actual studio release version it ends:
One by one, they follow the sun
Two by two, to another rendezvous