Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dylan Covers: My Back Pages

The Byrds: My Back Pages


The Byrds are well known for their many excellent Dylan covers. My favorite is probably their version of My Back Pages.

I like Dylan’s recording of the song mostly because of it's great lyrics, especially the famous refrain: “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” One of the great lines in rock music. Musically, Dylan’s version employs a foreboding tone, which is appropriate for the darker themes in the song: “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.” In Dylan's voice, the song is a rejection of the false idealism of the "protest" movement.

The Byrds’ folk-rock style completely transforms the song, as the best covers do. The jangly guitars, amped-up melody, and reassuring vocal harmonies, take the edge off the song--but in a good way, I think. The effect is to infuse the song with a youthful, hopeful feeling that stands in contrast to the darker lyrics in the verse, but which perfectly matches the song’s “I’m younger than that now” refrain.

In this way, the song itself is conflicted. The result is one of the most iconic pop songs of the 1960’s.

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