I Was So Much Younger Then…

I’ve had a song stuck in my head, on endless loop, since it popped up on my playlist during my afternoon walk yesterday. That song is “My Back Pages,” written by Bob Dylan, sang by The Byrds. Dylan recorded it first in 1964 on his album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, but it’s The Byrds’ rendition released in 1967 that I’m most familiar with. And like the best. Dylan was a hell of a poet-songwriter, a master wordsmith, but his singing left something to be desired—in my opinion.

The reoccurring line “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” in “My Back Pages” brings to mind something my daddy told me long ago, something to the effect that the older he gets, the less he knows. When I was a young adult, I didn’t get the meaning of his words, even though at the time, I thought I knew everything. As I grew older, though, I understood that as one matures, one becomes aware there’s so much they don’t know, and what one thought they knew, was often wrong, assumptions based on missing or faulty information. And along with the understanding, realized that in our youth, most of us believe “…lies that life is black and white…” (another line from the song). That’s when I began to think for myself.

The song also got me thinking about the current state of pop music—and I include country because it has devolved into pop. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there’s still good singers and songs out there, they’re just few and far between. Think Maggie Rose and Ryan Bingham, two artists who I think are highly underrated unless you like your music to all sound the same.

60s and 70s music has soul. And to a lesser extent, so do the offerings from the 80s and 90s. But somewhere around the turn of the century, music lost its way, began to sound canned, so to speak, as if it all came out of the same place. Nowhere is the difference more apparent than songs with a message; here, the disparity is quite clear. Let’s compare the lyrics of “My Back Pages” with Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down”—

"My Back Pages"

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 their 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 I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My existence 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.

"You Need To Calm Down"

You are somebody that I don’t know
But you’re taking shots at me like it’s Patrón
And I’m just like, “Damn!

It’s 7 AM”
Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out
But you say it in a tweet, that’s a cop-out
And I’m just like, “Hey!

Are you OK?”

And I ain’t tryna mess with your self-expression
But I’ve learned the lesson that stressing and obsessing
‘Bout somebody else is no fun
And snakes and stones never broke my bones

So, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to calm down
You’re being too loud
And I’m just like

“Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to just stop
Like, can you just not step on my gown?
You need to calm down”

You are somebody that we don’t know
But you’re coming at my friends like a missile
Why are you mad
When you could be GLAAD?

(You could be GLAAD)

Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark ages
Just making that sign
Must’ve taken all night

You just need to take several seats
And then try to restore the peace
And control your urges to scream
About all the people you hate
‘Cause shade never made anybody less gay

So, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to calm down
You’re being too loud
And I’m just like

“Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to just stop
Like, can you just not step on his gown
You need to calm down”

And we see you over there on the Internet
Comparing all the girls who are killing it
But we figured you out
We all know now
We all got crowns
You need to calm down

Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to calm down

(You need to calm down)
You’re being too loud

(You’re being too loud)
And I’m just like

“Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to just stop

(Can you stop?)
Like can you just not step on our gowns
You need to calm down

“My Back Pages” reads like poetry written by a thinking adult while “You Need to Calm Down” sounds like a child’s scribbles. I’m not running down Taylor Swift, she’s preaching to the choir; she’s a savvy businesswoman, knows what her fans want to hear. But tell me this—which song will pass the test of time? (Hint, one already has.)
What has happened to originality? What has happened to heart and soul? Where the hell has it gone? And what has happened to our youth that they accept this pablum? Why don’t they demand more from their songwriters/storytellers/singers?

Or is it just that, like the generations before me, I think everything was better in The Good Old Days of my youth? Hmmm…

Naw, the music sucks.

©️2020 KT Workman

This version contains the two verses not included in the Byrds’ cover:


	

Published by

KT Workman

KT Workman grew up in the rural South without the benefit of cell phones or the Internet, a time and place that has heavily influenced her writing. To this day, when she puts pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—nine times out of ten her mind veers south onto that old, familiar road. It goes home. KT resides in Arkansas where she writes a wide variety of gothic and speculative fiction, and dabbles in poetry.

42 thoughts on “I Was So Much Younger Then…”

  1. I agree with you, Kathy. On both counts: Bob Dylan always sounds like he’s singing through his nasal cavity…and the majority of tunes today have less poetry and honest human emotion. And many of them sound the same because they are using canned music programs to cut and paste music tracks together…which is easier than trying to come up with something original.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Isn’t it strange how some songs just get stuck in your head? My Back Pages by The Byrds is a case in point for me too. I had just reached 60, I was in Nepal again and intending to climb Imja Tse, a peak just under 22,000ft. We were overnight at our high camp, perhaps 19,000ft with the remaining 3000 to reach the summit next morning, all on snow and ice. As the sun was setting, I sat outside my tent on a rock, switched on my iPod and played over and over ….. you’ve guessed it! It was going through my head, “what the heck am I doing at 60 years of age still trying to summit big Himalayan peaks” but this tune got inside my head that night, and the next day it took around 8 hours to complete those 3000ft and get back down safely, and all the while I was singing to myself … ah but I was so much older then I’m YOUNGER than that now”! Great song, great memory.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it is indeed a great memory. I have memories also that are tied to a particular song. One of my favorites is a simple one, made way back with my cousin and best friend when we were almost teenagers. We were sitting on top of a storm cellar built into the side of a steep hill at our grandparents house. As we looked out over the valley and talked about boys, I remember “Eve of Destruction” playing on my small transistor radio. My cousin died of cancer quite a few years ago, but lives on in my mind and in that song.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Kathy.
    I absolutley agree with you.
    When I listen to the lyrics from songs like
    The Beatles, Let it be, Yesterday,
    or The Monkees Alternate title, or
    What a waste, from Ian Dury and the Blockheads,
    I think, totally different league.
    Poetry set to music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly, so much of modern music lacks that poetry.
      I remember when I was a kid, reading in the backs of magazines ads saying something like “Have you written a poem? Send it to us and we’ll turn it into a song!” Of course, I never did. 😊
      Thanks for the visit, Alan…always good to see you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you KT. I was never enamored with Dylan’s voice, but his words left strong vibrations. If, at this time, I want to listen to music, I go back to what shaped me and gave me meaning. Don’t even bother with what might be out there now.

    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Though Dylan was a master, I dare to disagree that modern music sucks. there’s tons of great music, it’s just bloody difficult to get beyond the populist drivel on the radio. Until recently that is. Spotify is brilliant for finding new music. Algorithms help search and what I like to do is listen to ‘artist radio’. I’m a big fan of festivals, especially Rock Werchter in Belgium (practically in my back garden). Voted best in Europe many times, I love to prepare playlists, then listen and discover…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with your statement that it’s difficult to get beyond what’s on the radio. One would think that originality would be praised and put out there front and center for the masses, but like in the case of other forms of artistic expression, the powers that be are of the mindset that “if it works, don’t fix it, don’t change it—imitate it.” Thank’s for stopping by and adding your thoughts. 🙂

      Like

  6. Kathy, just want to thank you for all of your visits to the “Soul’s Music” site. They are deeply appreciated. It’s been a bit difficult to get back inside this woman of too many words, lol, but is the only thing I have to offer to a world tipped over and struggling.

    Elizabeth (who hears music inside her head everyday)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No thanks necessary, Elizabeth. It’s my pleasure to read your writing. Your words are deep and delicate and beautiful…they make this sad old world a better place.
      We all do what we can—most do, anyway—but I don’t feel as if I have much to offer anymore. I think I’m feeling my age, and then some.
      Kathy (who also hears music inside her head every day 🙂)

      Like

      1. About the age thing. It’s irrelevant. I mean that in the nicest way. I thought I’d said everything I had to say, lol… Obviously that isn’t true. Don’t let this current insanity leach away your ability to speak and reach out to others. About three years ago, I taught an online class concerning the stages of the Heroic Journey that is life. It was both exciting and exhausting as all get out. And it became my excuse for turning away. Until the pandemic and all those rules about social distancing. I know one thing about you. Like me, you are a rebel. And rules are the reasons we rebels still breathe. No matter how you might feel, saying something is better than being silenced. If it’s something you’ve said before, find a new and different metaphor. That’s the best challenge of all… and it is exactly what I am doing myself.

        Elizabeth

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The “current insanity” has nothing to do with how I feel…it’s more personal than that. But writing is therapeutic, so I keep on keeping on.
          Thank you for your kind words, Elizabeth. You are indeed a rebel.

          Like

  7. I agree with you 100% The only song I can think of that of Bob Dylan’s that I like, that he sang was “Stuck in the Middle With You”.
    He was an awesome writer. I also prefer classic rock/country to today’s, for the most part.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. GOOD OLD DAYS
    Song by Macklemore

    I wish somebody would have told me babe
    That some day, these will be the good old days
    All the love you won’t forget
    And all these reckless nights you won’t regret
    ‘Cause someday soon, your whole life’s gonna change
    You’ll miss the magic of the good old days

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Could I have agreed with you any less? Wow you just wrote every thought from my mind. I was hooked, couldn’t skip a line. I agree with you so much. You know I am so terrorised by the music of this century, I have actually stopped listening. Sometimes I go back and listen the old songs otherwise not. Bob Dylan is one of my favourite. It has so much of reality in it. I remember listening to his songs late at night during school days when cell phones were just on the rise and listening to music on the phone was the biggest delight. Till date and forever I shall be his fan.

    You know Indian music in the 70’s and 80’s had the same soul in it, which clearly the songs of this generation lacks in every term. Some are good I would agree but max of it is gibberish. Anyways I think I talked too much. It feels nice to talk about views sometimes.

    Nice finding your blog.

    Best wishes from The Strong Traveller and have a great day

    Do have a look at my blog whenever you find the time. There is some travel and lifestyle content which you may find interesting. Your thoughts will surely be very valuable. Stay connected. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kathy, your article is spot on.

    One of my favorite singers, Don Mclean, also agrees. He didn’t hold back his opinion when he recently said that modern music doesn’t exist because this is a nihilistic society and nobody believes in anything anymore.

    And there you have it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Nobody believes in anything anymore…” ain’t it the truth. I struggle every day to believe in some thing or some one, but life has a way of disabusing me of the notion that there’s anything to believe in.
      Don McLean…who can forget American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful KT piece and I agree completely! I wonder if you know about Bob Dylan’s son Jakob and the group “The Wallflowers.” He has inherited some talent from his father though I think he has a better singing voice. Do you know the song The Wallfowers released in 2009 called “One Headlight?” It is a fantastic song written by Jakob. Here is one line from it and the chorus and see if you agree that he writes like his dad.
    Well this place is old,
    It feels just like a beat-up truck,
    I turn the engine but the engine doesn’t turn.

    Well it smells of cheap wine and cigarettes,
    This place is always such a mess,
    Sometimes I think I’d like to watch it burn.

    I’m so alone, and I feel just like somebody else,
    Man I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same.

    But somewhere here in between the city walls of dying dreams,
    I think her death, it must be killin’ me.

    Chorus:
    Hey come on try a little, nothing is forever,
    There’s got to be something better than in the middle.
    But me and Cinderella, we put it all together,
    We can drive it home,….with one headlight.

    Take care KT and keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t heard of The Wallflowers, but will definitely check them out…and the song. The lyrics are intriguing.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, D. T. Good to see you.

      Like

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