“My Back Pages” (3:08)
Written by Bob Dylan
Produced by Gary Usher
From “Younger Than Yesterday,” Columbia Records, February 6, 1967, also released as a 45 single, March 13, 1967
You’ve patiently stuck with me as we reviewed the first 10 songs in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown. Only 2 of those songs were released as singles and none received any significant airplay. This week we present #15 in our countdown, “My Back Pages,” a Top 40 hit that many of you baby boomers may have actually heard on AM radio way back in 1967.
The album, “Younger Than Yesterday,” saw the Byrds entering their peak creative phase with pioneering and eclectic forays into jazz-rock, raga-rock, psychedelia, and country-rock. But “My Back Pages” is a throwback to the band’s earlier folk-rock roots with an anti-protest-song twist. With this song, Bob Dylan basically disavowed all of his previous protest material.
In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
Sisters fled by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now
The Byrd’s lead guitarist and unofficial leader, Roger McGuinn, later stated that the song was suggested by the band’s ex-manager, Jim Dickson, when McGuinn’s and Dickson’s cars were coincidentally stopped side-by-side at an L.A. intersection. An increasingly radicalized David Crosby strongly resisted recording “My Back Pages” because he felt it was a step backwards both musically and politically.
“My Back Pages” was a very good song on an exceptional album. McGuinn’s simple-but-catchy guitar solo stayed in my head for quite a long time. As a single, “My Back Pages” reached a respectable #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the last Byrds’ single to crack the Billboard Top 40. Looking ahead, we’ll be revisiting the outstanding “Younger Than Yesterday” an unparalleled four more times (!) in our countdown to #1.
Trivia: Guest artist, Van Dyke Parks, plays organ on this tune, as he also will on song #6 in our countdown. An obscure internet article notes that the Byrds’ cover of “My Back Pages” actually reached the #3 slot on Rochester, NY’s AM radio Top 40 local chart.