“My Back Pages” is a song written by Bob Dylan and included on his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan. It is stylistically similar to his earlier folk protest songs and features Dylan’s voice with an acoustic guitaraccompaniment. However, its lyrics—in particular the refrain “Ah, but I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now”—have been interpreted as a rejection of Dylan’s earlier personal and political idealism, illustrating his growing disillusionment with the 1960’s folk protest movement with which he was associated, and his desire to move in a new direction. Although Dylan wrote the song in 1964, he did not perform it live until 1978.
Bob Dylan wrote “My Back Pages” in 1964 as one of the last songs—perhaps the last song—composed for his Another Side of Bob Dylan album. He recorded it on June 9, 1964 under the working title of “Ancient Memories”, the last song committed to tape for the album. The song was partly based on the traditional folk song “Young But Growing“ and has a mournful melody similar to that of “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” from Dylan’s previous album, The Times They Are a-Changin’. As with the other songs on Another Side, Dylan is the sole musician on “My Back Pages” and plays in a style similar to his previous protest songs, with a sneering, rough-edged voice and a hard-strumming acoustic guitar accompaniment.
In the song’s lyrics, Dylan criticizes himself for having been certain that he knew everything and apologizes for his previous political preaching, noting that he has become his own enemy “in the instant that I preach.” Dylan questions whether one can really distinguish between right and wrong, and even questions the desirability of the principle of equality. The lyrics also signal Dylan’s disillusionment with the 1960s protest movement and his intention to abandon protest songwriting. The song effectively analogizes the protest movement to the establishment it is trying to overturn, concluding with the refrain:
- Ah, but I was so much older then
- I’m younger than that now