October 1992: They Were So Much Older Then

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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    “Stay With Me” Because “I Won’t Back Down”

    Recently it was revealed that Sam Smith had agreed to pay royalties from his mega-hit “Stay With Me” to Tom Petty because of the similarity between Smith’s song and Petty’s 1989 hit “I Won’t Back Down.” The deal also involved giving credit to Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame), who contributed to Petty’s song.

    Prior to the announcement, a number of folks had noticed the similarity between the two songs. Below is on the the mash-ups from YouTube.

    Meanwhile, Slate argues that the reason Petty’s representatives have heard similarities between Petty’s songs and other hits at least three times is because Petty’s music uses basic rock and roll progressions. And, they explain, it is hard to avoid the basics. As for Petty, he released a statement saying he has no hard feelings against Sam Smith and understands how these things happen.

    What do you think? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Eddie Vedder Joins Tom Petty for “The Waiting”

    We looked back at another Tom Petty song recently, so let us revisit another old Petty classic with a new lead singer. In Amsterdam recently, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder joined Petty and the Heartbreakers on stage to sing “The Waiting.” Petty focuses on his guitar playing to let Vedder sing the 1981 song. Check it out.

    The performance is from 24 June 2012 at Music Hall.

    Who would you like to hear sing with Tom Petty? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Where is Tom Petty’s Kings Highway?

    For some reason, I do not remember Tom Petty’s song “Kings Highway” from when he and the Heartbreakers released it in 1991 on Into the Great Wide Open. I did not buy the album at the time, but I do remember hearing other songs from the album, like “Learning to Fly.” Maybe I was out of the loop that year, or maybe it was not played that much on the radio. I only fell in love with “Kings Highway” when a live version was included as a free download when I bought tickets to the Petty Mojo tour. Allmusic.com calls the song a “minor gem,” but for me it was like finding a piece of hidden gold in Petty’s back catalog.

    Like John Mellencamp, Tom Petty is one of those artists who has been making music that I like for decades, but he sort of comes and goes in and out of my life. There are some artists where I buy every CD they make, but for most artists, it depends on the time and what I think of the latest music. I have never heard a Tom Petty album that I do not like, and I own several of his albums. But I have never felt compelled to own everything he has done, and because of that, I suppose, I have missed some great songs like “Kings Highway.”

    I have tried to figure out geographically which Kings Highway appears in the song. There appears to be highways with that name all around the world, and there is even a Facebook page devoted to all of them. Is he referring to the ancient King’s Highway from Egypt to Syria? There is a King’s Highway in Jordan, which reminded one blogger of the Petty song. Maybe he is referring to the 1927 British film, King’s Highway.

    Or, more likely is it one of the King’s Highways in the U.S., like the one from Charleston to Boston, or the one in New York state, or the one following the Mississippi River in the South, or one in Pennsylvania or Texas, or one of two in Virginia. Or, most likely, considering he lived in California at the time, it may be the 600-mile El Camino Real in California, which is also called the “King’s Highway.” Perhaps the California connection is why on a recent tour he and the Heartbreakers opened their 2010 Oakland performance with “Kings Highway” (but he’s also used it as an opener elsewhere, like Colorado).

    Maybe the apostrophe is a clue. His song is “Kings Highway,” without an apostrophe, while some of the highway names are “King’s Highway.” Several do not have the apostrophe, but the California road does. So, I am back to being puzzled about finding the real Kings Highway. Maybe there is an interview somewhere where he reveals the location.

    The song, however, may be less about an actual highway than about a state of mind. In the song, the singer dreams of heading out on the highway with his lover “when the time gets right.” In that sense, it is a classic open road song, like Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” where the highway provides a hope of escape, freedom, and a new life. While Springsteen’s songs in this vein often have a dark undertone, Petty’s “Kings Highway” has a happier tone that focuses on the new life more than the escape part of the open road.

    Still, “Kings Highway” is not an entirely uplifting song. The singer fears being alone, and doesn’t “wanna end up someone that I don’t even know.” And, unlike other songs of escape, there is no actual escape to the open road of the song, as it ends with the singer still waiting for the day “Good fortune comes our way / And we ride down the Kings Highway.” I suspect the characters in the song are still waiting. Perhaps, like me, they are still looking for the location of Kings Highway.

    May good fortune come your way and you find your own Kings Highway.

    Where do you find Kings Highway? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Got My Mind Set on George Harrison

    I recently watched the new two-part Martin Scorsese documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World. Overall, the documentary is interesting and informative, but often it seemed like the film was giving us hints about the man more than a story. But we can never fully understand a person, so really all we have are hints.

    The film used a lot of George Harrison’s music. Scorsese seems to have a real fondness for “All Things Must Pass,” which is an excellent title song from what is generally considered Harrison’s best post-Beatles work. But for the last part of Harrison’s career, the film gave us a short glimpse of his Traveling Wilbury’s work while completely overlooking his last solo hit, “Got My Mind Set on You.”

    “Got My Mind Set on You,” which appeared on Harrison’s album Cloud Nine (1988) after its release as a single, was Harrison’s last number one single in the U.S. The song, however, was not a Harrison original. It was written by Rudy Clark and was recorded by James Ray twenty-five years earlier in 1962. I love Ray’s version too.

    Maybe Living in the Material World did not use “Got My Mind Set on You” because there was a rights issue. Or maybe Scorsese saw the song as one of Harrison’s lesser works and sees it the same way “Weird Al” Yankovic does.

    Still, I recall in 1987-1988 that the song was a huge hit constantly playing on the radio. Along with the CD and the Beatle-esque “When We Was Fab,” the radio-friendly song was a nice return from Harrison, who had not released an album for more than a decade. The album also led to Harrison recruiting a few friends to record a B-side to one of the songs on Cloud Nine, “This is Love.” And those friends — Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison — ended up forming The Traveling Wilburys. While Harrison’s recording of “Got My Mind Set On You” may not be Harrison’s best recording, that is no insult considering the quality of his catalog. And it is an excellent catchy pop song.

    {Note: Harrison made another video for “Got My Mind Set on You” too, intercutting his performance with scenes from a fair arcade.}

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