October 1992: They Were So Much Older Then

Dylan 30th

Our video for the day is the performance of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” at The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration.  The concert — held at on October 16, 1992 at Madison Square Garden — celebrated Dylan’s 30 years of recording.  And this performance featured Dylan, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

It is an amazing collection of legends onstage doing on of Dylan’s great early songs.  “My Back Pages” originally appeared on his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

What is amazing about this performance is how at the time of the concert, the singers were already legends and they seemed old at the time.  But looking at it now, they all seem so young.  Or maybe part of that is because I am so much older now.

Check out the video, which begins with Roger McGuinn singing the song, which he had previous recorded with The Byrds and released in 1967.  Then, the others follow until Dylan takes the lead himself.  In the meantime, one may watch Dylan’s face to make any guesses about what he is thinking as the others sing his song.

There are various interpretations of “My Back Pages,” although most read it as Dylan’s rejection of his younger idealism.  But like many of his songs, listeners may find their own meaning and a little of their own life in the song.  And, more than two decades ago, we found a little more connection to the song through many of the rock legends of our youth.

What is your favorite version of “My Back Pages”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    World Series Songs: San Francisco Bay Blues

    San Francisco Giants hat In honor of a big win by the San Francisco Giants, in this year’s edition of World Series Songs featuring songs related to the championship team’s name or locale, we get the opportunity to look at the timeless song “San Francisco Bay Blues.” Also, check out our past Super Bowl Songs.

    “San Francisco Bay Blues” was written by Jesse Fuller in 1954. Fuller was a type of musician we do not see much of anymore, the one-person band. While it is true today one might find a one-person band using computers and electronics, there was a time before that when a musician would play multiple instruments all at once. I have been lucky a few times to find a one-person band playing at a street fair and found the performances very entertaining. It has been a long while since I have encountered such a performer, making me wonder if these musicians are a thing of the past. But I guess they are still around, and they also have taken on different forms with the advent of technology.

    Jesse Fuller was born in Georgia in 1896 and passed away in 1976 in Oakland, California. After working for a railroad and in a shipyard, he turned to music, playing around the San Francisco bay area where he lived. His most-famous song, “San Francisco Bay Blues” immortalizes his stomping ground as the singer tells about his “best girl” who no longer loves him. In the video below, watch Fuller and his one-man band perform “San Francisco Bay Blues” in 1968.

    “San Francisco Bay Blues” has been covered by a number of artists, ensuring its lasting fame. Eric Clapton performed the song on MTV Unplugged in 1992 during the taping in England. The live album earned six Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.

    Another performer who helped make the song familiar to us is Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Below is one of his performances of the song.

    Finally, one knows one wrote a great song when one of the greatest songwriters of the century decides to cover your song. Here is Paul McCartney singing “San Francisco Bay Blues.”

    In the song, the singer wonders about the woman returning and creating a “brand new day.” For those whose teams did not make the playoffs, we will have to wait until spring for our brand new day. And that’s the story behind the song.

    What is your favorite song about San Francisco? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Hubert Sumlin RIP

    Hubert Sumlin Living the Blues Earlier this week, one of the creators of the Chicago blues sound, guitarist Hubert Sumlin passed away at the age of 80. Sumlin played as rhythm and then lead guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf from 1963 until Wolf died in 1976. So even if you have never heard Sumlin’s name, you have heard his guitar work on such blues classics as “Spoonful,” “Smokestack Lightning,” “Wang Dang Doodle,” and “Back Door Man.” Beyond that, you have heard his influence in many of the rock classics you know. Among many others, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix all credited Sumlin with influencing their guitar work. Sumlin also played guitar for Muddy Waters for a short period.

    Here is an undated video that appears to be fairly recent of Sumlin showing he still has the chops, playing “Killing Floor” with Eric Clapton, Jimmie Vaughan, and Robert Cray.

    By most accounts, Hubert Sumlin was a quiet and unassuming man. Because he was not one to hog the spotlight, if you were not a devoted blues fan you might have missed his name. But one may see a part of the history of rock and roll in the admiring and joyful facial expressions of Clapton, Vaughan, and Cray as they play with the legend. RIP.

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