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My Back Pages

(„Another Side Of Bob Dylan”, 1964 Columbia)
słowa i muzyka: Bob Dylan
Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin' high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
”We'll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud 'neath heated brow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
”Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Girls' faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
”Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

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
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.
”My Back Pages” is a song written by Bob Dylan and included on his 1964 Another Side of Bob Dylan album (see 1964 in music). It is stylistically similar to his earlier folk protest songs and features Dylan's voice with an acoustic guitar accompaniment. However its lyrics and in particular the refrain „Ah, but I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now” seem intended as a rejection of Dylan's earlier personal and political idealism, coupled with his growing disillusionment with the 1960s folk music „protest scene” with which he was associated.
Dylan's disenchantment with the protest movement had previously surfaced in a speech he had given in December 1963 when accepting an award from the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (NECLC) in New York. Author Mike Marqusee has commented that „No Song on Another Side distressed Dylan's friends in the movement more than 'My Back Pages' in which he transmutes the rude incoherence of his ECLC rant into the organized density of art. The lilting refrain… must be one of the most lyrical expressions of political apostasy ever penned. It is a recantation, in every sense of the word.”
Others have not fully agreed with Marqusee's interpretation, instead seeing the change in Dylan's philosophy as part of a slow transition. Pointing to the fact that Dylan still performed many of his earlier songs after „My Back Pages” was written, and in fact still does. In an interview with the Sheffield University Paper in May 1965, Dylan himself made the following comments on the situation;
Q: Your songs have changed a lot over the last couple of years. Are you consciously trying to change your style, or would you say that this was a natural development?
A: Oh, it's a natural one, I think. The big difference is that the songs I was writing last year, songs like „Ballad in Plain D”, they were what I call one-dimensional songs, but my new songs I'm trying to make more three-dimensional, you know, there's more symbolism, they're written on more than one level.
Q: How long does it take you to write a song? Say a song like „Hard Rain”?
A: Well, I wrote „Hard Rain” while I was still on the streets, I guess that was the first three-dimension song I wrote. It took me about - oh, about two days.
Also in early 1966 Margaret Steen wrote the following for The Toronto Star after interviewing Dylan in late 1965;
”…But though his words are new he was still writing in old musical forms - and why was this any less artificial than singing dated lyrics? I mean the way-out electronic Space Age sound was the natural next step - electric music is what's happening today, it's sheer 20th-century. „Before,” he says of his first protest songs, leaning forward with one of his rare stares right at me, „every song had to have a specific point behind it, a person, a thing. I would squeeze a shapeless concept into this artificial shape, like, like….” Like 'With God on Our Side, his ironic commentary of three years ago on how people justify fighting, which ends with the lines:
The words fill my head And fall to the floor, If God's on our side He'll stop the next war.
”Yeah! Yeah! Like that one,” says Dylan, excited that I'm catching on to what he means. „It's a good song, I'm not putting it down; but this thing I wanted to say, I had to jam it into a very timed, rigid stylized pattern. „Now!….Well for one thing, the music, the rhyming and rhythm, what I call the mathematics of a song, are more second-nature to me. I used to have to go after a song, seek it out. But now, instead of going to it I stay where I am and let everything disappear and the song rushes to me. Not just the music, the words, too. Those old songs I used to write, everyone is imitating them now. What I'm doing now you can't learn by studying, you can't copy it, someone else can't say he's writing a song 'like that'.””
Dylan also added later in the same interview;
” There is silence for a few moments while I think of some of the more intriguing lines from his songs. What, I asked him did he mean by:
Ah, but I was much older then, I'm younger than that now.
”My God, did I write that line?” He smiles. „I was in my New York phase then, or at least, I was just coming out of it. I was still keeping the things that are really really real out of my songs, for fear they'd be misunderstood. Now,” with another smile, „I don't care if they are.” Like, he had all the answers, then. If we can get rid of the Bomb nobody will fight any more. If we integrate the schools every one will love one another. It was so simple, he was so much older then.
”No, I'm not disillusioned. I'm just not illusioned, either. The civil rights and protest songs, I wrote when nobody else was writing them. Now everyone is. But I've found out some things. The groups promoting these things, the movement, would try to get me involved with them, be their singing spokesman - and inside these groups, with all their president vice-president secretary stuff, it's politics, all politics. Inside their own pettinesses they're as bad as the hate groups. I won't even have a fan club because it'd have to have a president, it'd be a group.”


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