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Although Dylan wrote the song in 1964, he did not perform it live until 1988. The song is famous for the lyrics, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." With lines like "My pathway led by confusion boats" and "I dreamed romantic facts of musketeers," this is a rather cryptic song, but it likely deals with Dylan's efforts to distance himself from politics.
Already skilled at turning acoustic Dylan folk tunes into melodic, electric folk-rockers, the Byrds struck gold when they decided to take this somewhat nondescript Dylan tune from 1964 and electrify it for their fourth album. Leader Roger McGuinn cut out two of the more abstract verses and fashioned a chorus where there really wasn't one, utilizing David Crosby's harmony singing. The Byrds' version, initially released on their 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday, was also issued as a single in 1967 and proved to be the band's last Top 40 hit in the U.S. As a single it stalled at #30 in 1967, but its reputation as a rock classic has grown through the years. The Byrds never knew Dylan's intentions. "I don't try to interpret what Bob meant when he wrote the song," Roger McGuinn said in a Songfacts interview. The phrase "back pages" never shows up in the lyrics, but it became a favorite saying amongst music writers, who used the term to describe an archive, either literal or figurative. A notable use is the music journalism collection Rock's Backpages.