2 x 2 – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan 1990

Bob Dylan 1990

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

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
29 comments on “2 x 2 – Bob Dylan
  1. hanspostcard says:

    Interesting selection. Even bad Bob albums have a gem or two worth hearing.

    • That’s true, but I wouldn’t call it a gem. It made the 150 or so songs of Bob that I get a kick out of listening with some regularity. Cheers Hans.

      • hanspostcard says:

        But how many songs has Bob written and recorded over the years? I haven’t sat down and made a list but I think I’d have more than 150 on my Bob ‘go to list’- so if it makes your list- I think it would be considered at least to you- a gem! I don’t think it would make my list….but that’s the great thing we all like different songs.

      • I’m not certain. I think he’s written and recorded over 500. That’s great you would have more on your go-to list. So you’re telling me that I consider it a gem because it’s on my list? OK, if it makes you feel better, I’ll call it a gem. No, I wouldn’t expect we would all like the same songs and 2 x 2 particularly is a bit hit and miss even with fans. That’s why I called it a ‘guilty pleasure’.

      • hanspostcard says:

        Just finished listening to Gurrumul’s Rrakala album- I can’t understand a word he sings but enjoyed it- even not knowing what he sings about you can feel the emotion. Thanks.

      • Which album? I recommended the album ‘Gurrumul’. Yes much of it is in his native language.

      • hanspostcard says:

        the album- Rrakala- it was his first album- they had i believe 4 albums in apple music- I was planning on listening to them all- so I started with the first one.

      • No it’s not his debut. ‘Gurrumul’ is his debut and I consider it a masterpiece. I heard it only again yesterday. It blows me away.

      • hanspostcard says:

        I was just going by the dates Apple provided. the debut must have been released later in the US.

      • Strange. That’s ashame you didn’t hear that one because it’s immense.

      • hanspostcard says:

        I plan on listening to them all.

      • Sweet! How do you procure your albums these days? Do you have a subscription with Apple? How do you listen to them?

      • hanspostcard says:

        I listen to my vinyl albums- CD’s -I have a couple IPODS- and I do have an Apple subscription where I listen to stuff I don’t own. I listen to the Apple stuff on the computer.

      • Ok, it looks like you are taken care of. You have a good set up. I’m afraid all my Vinyl gold (including 24 still sealed Dylan LPs) is back in Australia which I’m in the process of reacquiring. I mainly listen to music here on my puter and via my audiphones on my cel. At least I have all of my music on mp3 so I can listen to at will. I would like to procure a great LP player and start collecting LPs again, but I gather that will not happen in the forseeable future.

      • hanspostcard says:

        For some reason I thought you were in Australia currently.

      • No, I have lived in Colombia for over 10 years. Where abouts are you from in the States?

      • hanspostcard says:

        I live in eastern Ohio– about an hour west of Pittsburgh– and 2 hours east of Columbus, Ohio.

      • Nice. I still haven’t been to the US but I will visit soon. Do you support Pittsburgh in the MLB? I read they had a brawl last night with Cincinnati.

      • hanspostcard says:

        yes I am a Pittsburgh sports fan- the Pirates being my favorite sports team. That was a crazy fight they had… they’ve had a rough season.

      • Rough season indeed. Despite not growing up in a baseball culture I have always felt drawn to it despite not following any team. My dream one day is to see an actual MLB game and go to the Field of Dreams baseball site in Iowa. Interestingly I’ve always had a penchant for the Pitsburgh team since they wear the same colours as my favourite Australian football team – the Richmond tigers.

      • hanspostcard says:

        I went to the Field Of Dreams- early 1990’s it was well worth the journey…. my dream is to see an English Premier League football game.. my team is Liverpool.

      • Funny my club in the epl is also Liverpoool. I wish I had set foot on that ground. it will happen

      • hanspostcard says:

        Maybe this will be Liverpool’s year to win the league! Close last year. That would be great- to see a match there.

      • Yeh, I wanted to see them win it last season so much.

      • hanspostcard says:

        I knew when they fell behind Man City- Man City wasn’t going to stub their toe…

      • It was a fascinating season and I believe Liverpool won more points as the second place team than any other team in the history of the Premiership.

  2. badfinger20 says:

    I had this album… it’s been a while since I heard this one. I had Down In The Groove…another one that got bashed by critics. I liked Ugliest Girl in the World and the cover Lets Stick Together.

    • Yeh, I like 2x 2, Born in Time and Cats in the Well from that album. The songs I listen to regularly from Down in the Groove are Shenandoah, 90 miles an hour and When did you leave Heaven. But I probably have to hear all the other songs again from both albums. It’s been a while.

  3. musicofbobdylan says:

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