By Christopher Scapelliti
The video below offers a rare treat: a superstar cast of guitarists—including Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Roger McGuinn—rehearsing Dylan’s “My Back Pages” in October 1992.
The run-through—which includes solos by both Clapton and Young—was in anticipation of Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert, held on October 16, 1992, in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The star-studded event also featured Johnny Cash, Lou Reed, the Band, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson and Pearl Jam.
The band shown in the video below includes guitarist G.E. Smith (who was musical director for the show), Booker T and the M.G.s—guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, and organist Booker T. Jones—and drummer Jim Keltner.
The video begins with Smith running down the order of lead singers on the song, and the full rehearsal then begins. McGuinn takes the first verse, followed by Petty, Young, Clapton (who plays the first solo), Dylan (who, ironically, seems to have lost his place in the song) and Harrison. Neil Young plays the outro solo.
The audio quality isn’t great, and the vocals are hard to hear, but fortunately the guitars come through loud and clear. It’s also fun to watch the performers milling around and chatting in the minutes after the rehearsal, so we recommend that you keep watching once the music stops.
“My Back Pages” first appeared on Dylan’s 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan. It was subsequently covered by numerous performers, including McGuinn’s group, the Byrds, which had a hit with it in 1967.
Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert was notable for who played at it as well as for who did not. Sinead O’Connor was on hand to perform Dylan’s gospel classic “I Believe in You.” Earlier that month she’d appeared on Saturday Night Live, where she infamously tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II to protest sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. When she appeared onstage for Dylan’s concert, she was roundly booed and left the stage without performing. Rehearsal footage of her singing the song was tracked down and included in the video Bob Dylan—The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, Deluxe Edition, which was released in 2014.
As for the all-star group performance of “My Back Pages,” it was presented as the concert finale but suffered from technical issues. “Let’s just say that some of the harmonies on that are overdubs,” a source told Rolling Stone in 2014. We’ve included video of that performance below the rehearsal.