My Back Pages

One day I walked into my chemistry class to take a mid-term and found the following written on the blackboard:

“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.”
-Bob Dylan

No one in the class, other than the teacher and myself, knew the reference. Then again, how could they? The Byrds infamous cover of Dylan’s My Back Pages was released nearly twenty years prior. It was a song the parents of my peers knew and one I technically should not have. But things like this have always happened in my life. I am the product of an alternate universe. I am 44, going on 29, listening primarily to the music of the youth of those 20 years older.

About 15 years ago I overheard someone, in about my own age range, say that some things were not nostalgic for him because he never stopped doing or listening to them. Is this what makes some things timeless? We usually attribute that to staying power. But is staying power driven by those who never lose the connection or by new people enjoying history? I think it’s a little of both.

I was a teenager in the 80’s and that music is nostalgic to me. Occasionally I will chose to listen to it, and it does bring back memories.

I was a child in the 70’s, yet that music holds very little nostalgia—unless it is disco. I’ve never stopped listening to, and discovering, 70’s rock.

I was born in the 60’s, and the music from then has been my favorite since I was exposed to it—in the 70’s and 80’s. Most of my truly favorite bands reigned in the 60’s. So if I did not experience it originally, what does that make it? It brings about no sense of nostalgia because there are no direct memories associated with it. Does that just plain make it timeless? I don’t think so, because a lot of it sounds very dated. However, I can hear its influence to this day.

So what defines timeless? Do all these things, or none of them?

And as for My Back Pages, it has always haunted me. At a time when I feel I am battling so many things I shouldn’t, and have learned what battles are worth fighting, the song’s liberation strikes me now stronger than ever.

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