Friday, November 13, 2009


ken or mike might be able to think of someone else who played both sides of the pop music street as well as young but i can't. as far as i'm concerned, no one rocked w/more ferocity (thank god for all that buzz & feedback) or created such delicately simple but memorable acoustic melodies. i can still remember playing after the goldrush for rex & him reacting as if i'd thrown acid in his eyes. "that voice," was all he kept saying & it was "that voice" that a lot of other folks (less qualified to judge than the gifted mr northrup) couldn't get over either. for me, the beauty of a song like "after the goldrush" or "don't let it bring you down" was the whole point, who cared about the voice singing it. we'd all done dylan duty by that time w/cohen on the way, so i couldn't see what the problem was w/young's voice & he could rock too. how many hours of air-guitar did we accumulate while listening to "down by the river" or "southern man"? hell, i think it was young who inspired us to actually buy guitars & learn to play & stop w/all the pretending.

i gave up on him somewhere after the harvest disappointment. that was actually my loss because he had a lot of good music left in him. i picked up listening to him again sometime during the outrigger years & tried to piece together his oeuvre. that wasn't easy because many of the albums were out of print at the time(i count nearly 10 albums that weren't available at the time). i did get a hold of comes a time, a mostly great album that stayed on the acoustic side of the street. he put out freedom & ragged glory
during the outrigger years & even the shit-ass kids who worked for me were sold on young.

his last decent album, to me, was his collaboration w/pearl jam, mirror ball & his last really strong album was his homage to kurt cobain, sleeps with angels. while i'd like to think the magic could strike again at anytime w/someone as idiosyncratic as
young, i'm not holding my breath. he hasn't put out a truly coherently great album since the 1970s & then, really, only two. he's always been a kind of hit or miss artist & there have been a LOT of misses lately. those 10 unavailable albums way back when are available now & tho none of them are completely great there is great music to be found there. i can't say the same for post-mirror ball music.

for me, young(NOT the rolling stones, who now just look like a bunch of drunk old women on stage)proved that rock & roll isn't only a young man's game. watching him huddled on stage w/the other members of crazy horse during the ragged glory tour was simply thrilling. there was no way to hear "time's winged chariot" through the buzz & grind of the band & that, i realized, is what rock & roll is all about.

happy 64, mr neil fucking young.

1 comment:

Blue Train said...

Danny, I'm not holding my breath either - but I have to say we missed out on two recognized masterpieces in the 70's: "Tonight's the Night," and "On the Beach." No doubt the themes of drug-addled despair and death were a bit of a downer though on those two records.

As far as playing both sides of the fence goes, two others come to mind: Dylan in the 60's and Richard Thompson. Both have proved to outpace Young - Thompson with amazing consistency and Dylan with a down period followed by his current burst of creativity. Interesting isn't it that many of the greatest singer-songwriters are those with "non-traditional" voices (Young, Dylan, THompson, Cohen) who nevertheless remain the definitive interpreters of their compositions.

FInally the most interesting story about Young tht I've heard: his guitar tech was interviewed in a sidebar for a Young story in Guitar Player years ago and remarked on Young's extraordinary ear. He could listen to the sound of his '59 Fender Deluxe and "hear" and identify the voltage of the line (as you know, 100/120 are nominal voltages; exact voltages vary from line to line). Whenever the guy checked his call, he was dead on.