Until I read a bit about the history of “My Back Pages”, written by Bob Dylan, I hadn’t realized that it was about abandoning one’s youthful ideals. I always paused at the refrain, “Ah, but I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now,” but never listened to the words that closely or read the lyrics. I guess that refrain refers to the faux wisdom of the young and the adoption of the Socratic “I am not sure of anything” stand of the old.
Truth be told, I’m not a gung-ho Dylan fan in the sense of liking more than half of what he’s put out. I like the early Dylan, up to “Nashville Skyline”, and some individual songs since then, but as for the later Dylan, well, meh. (Yes, I know there’s no accounting for taste, and your mileage may vary.)
At any rate, by 1964, when this song was released, Dylan was apparently already disillusioned with the Sixties’ “we’re gonna change the world” mentality. (It took me decades longer.) One sign of that is although Dylan recorded the song in 1964, the first time he performed it in public was in 1988. Since then he’s played it publicly many times, and one of them was this performance at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert (celebrating three decades since his first album) in 1992.
I found this on YouTube and hadn’t heard it. So when I got into the shower, I took my laptop into the bathroom and blasted this song on high volume. I hadn’t looked at the participants, but when Clapton soloed, bending notes right and left, I thought to myself, “Damn! That’s Eric Clapton.” And then I identified several voices, the easiest being the plaintive whine of Neil Young, and then Young’s guitar solo, too. Dylan’s voice is unmistakable, of course, and if you want to test yourself, close your eyes and guess who’s singing or playing. You may have trouble with Roger McGuinn, but Tom Petty is easier.
This is a splendid live performance, and it’s clear that everyone’s having fun and enjoying jamming with the other greats. One thing’s for sure: regardless of his voice or his playing or his later, unmemorable songs, Dylan was one of the greatest songwriters of our time