Although the story about Stephen Stills auditioning for the Monkees is apparently at least somewhat apocryphal—Stills says that he only wanted to sell the group’s management some of his songs—he did play guitar on one Monkee’s song, the Head soundtrack’s “Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?”
Stills longtime musical partner Neil Young, however, was a Monkee himself—well, so to speak—for four numbers.
Young plays guitar on Head‘s gorgeous “As We Go Along” and he also played on a few tracks recorded by Davy Jones in a session produced just days after he left The Buffalo Springfield: The lovely, but slight “Smile”; a backing track for the never completed “That’s What It’s Like Loving You” and the simply incredible “You And I,” which appeared on the underrated Instant Replay album in 1969.
This features some of the best, most blistering Neil Young guitar work like… ever. Such a great pop song. Why was this not a massive, massive hit?
The album collects recordings made during Young’s intimate six-show solo stand at The Cellar Door in Washington D.C. between November 30th and December 2nd, 1970, a few months after the release of his classic third solo album, After the Gold Rush.
The album, which features Young performing on acoustic guitar and piano, includes a mix of solo and Buffalo Springfield tracks. It also includes early, raw performances of songs that wouldn’t appear until subsequent Young albums, including the rarity “Bad Fog Of Loneliness” (which appears on Live at Massey Hall ‘71 – released in 2007- but was previously unreleased until the studio band version was included on Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972), “Old Man” (released two years later on 1972’s Harvest album), and “Down By The River” from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
The announced release date is December 10th. The track listing is as follows:
1. Tell Me Why
2. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
3. After the Gold Rush
4. Expecting To Fly
5. Bad Fog of Loneliness
6. Old Man
8. Don’t Let It Bring You Down
9. See the Sky About To Rain
10. Cinnamon Girl
11. I Am a Child
12. Down By the River
13. Flying On the Ground Is Wrong
Young has released a video trailer for the album, which you can repeatedly enjoy here to your heart’s content while you wait a month for the album to drop.
As someone who has collected many a Neil Young bootleg over the years—especially on video—I’m of the opinion that this B&W pro-shot performance from 1976 is one of the very best. Watch it now, it probably won’t be there for long.
Taped during four shows at London’s Hammersmith Odeon that were part of Young’s Europe and Japan tour with Crazy Horse (the music video for “Like a Hurricane” with the famous fan blowing Neil’s hair furiously, as seen in Year of the Horse was shot at one of these shows). A fellow named Tony Fahy was in attendance at all four shows and had this to say in a few consecutive Facebook posts back in 2011 on the Thrasher’s Wheat (a great Neil Young blog) page back in 2011:
Tony Fahy: I was at this gig in Hammersmith. All four in fact! 3 on the last three days of March and the fourth on the 1st April 1976. Best set of gigs I was ever at.
[T]here was a huge fan to the side of the stage, that Neil would just lean into when he played lead. He actually balanced against this ‘hurricane.’ If the fan had been turned off, he would have fallen on his face! The fan was about 5 feet in circumference…if my memory isn’t fooling me. I took a pic, which is still the best I’ve ever seen of Neil leaning in…
There was another guy who was there the first three nights he shouted out for Neil to sing: “I am a child’. Finally on the last night a very loud ‘I AM A CHILD’ was heard all over the theatre….Neil said dryly into the microphone: “Me too, man!”
In those days, there were no bouncers and immediately after the last gig, I waited till the crowd had gone, climbed up on the stage only to run straight into Neil! Had a long chat with him and somehow had the nerve to ask him why he had never played Ireland. He said to me that they had considered it back in Hamburg, but because of what they were reading in the paper about what was going on in Ireland, that they wouldn’t play there!
I said to him: (wherever I got the nerve from): ‘Neil, you should listen to your own songs more!’ ‘I guess you’re right at that’ he said. The next European tour, he did play Ireland. I often wondered if I’d played a part!
Here’s a pic Tony took of Neil leaning into the fan.
The songs included here are “Tell Me Why,” “Stringman,” “Human Highway,” a strong “Down By The River” and then an outstanding rip through “Cortez The Killer.” At the end, the famous clip of Neil Young busking in Glasgow is tacked on.
Neil Young’s “people” are usually super aggressive with YouTube takedowns, so watch this while you can.
And just because I’m feeling nice today, here’s another amazing document of Neil Young from 1976: “The Complete Joel Bernstein Tapes.” Joel Bernstein, as every Neil Young fan knows is Young’s biggest fan and longtime archivist. During the acoustic tour in fall of that year supporting Zuma, Bernstein collected the tour’s very best performances from the set list. Eventually, probably on purpose, the compilation he made “escaped” and became one of the most famous Neil Young bootlegs. The full set list is here.
Yesterday I blogged about an amazing music mix from ‘70s Sexploitation films. This cinematic compilation is a lovingly curated mixtape of soundtrack and spoken word work which includes Tom Waits, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, John Cale, Neil Young, Sonic Youth and many others. From Fluid Radio on SoundCloud.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) by Andrew Dominik
Gilles Deleuze on cinema
Bernard Hermann - Taxi Driver (1976) by Martin Scorcese
Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle - One From The Heart (1982) by Francis Ford Coppola
Antoine Duhamel - Méditerranée (1963) by Jean-Daniel Pollet
Jonny Greenwood - Bodysong (2003) by Simon Pummell
Maya Deren on the creative process
John Zorn - In the Mirror of Maya Deren (2002) by Martina Kudlacek
Mihály Vig - Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) by Béla Tarr
Carmine Coppola - Apocalypse Now (1979) by Francis Ford Coppola
Mogwai - Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2004) by Douglas Gordon & Philippe Parreno
Tindersticks - Trouble Every Day (2000) by Claire Denis
Angelo Badalamenti - Twin Peaks (1990) by David Lynch
Arvo Pärt - Je Vous Salue Sarajevo (1995) by Jean-Luc Godard
Elysian Fields - Sombre (1998) by Philippe Grandrieux
Hilmar Hom Hilmarsson - In the Cut (2003) by Jane Campion
John Cale - Le Vent de la Nuit (1998) by Philippe Garrel
Neil Young - Dead Man (1995) by Jim Jarmusch
Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason - Solaris (1972-2012) by Andreï Tarkovski
Lech Jankowski - Institute Benjamenta (1995) by The Brothers Quay
Popol Vuh - Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) by Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog on the jungle
Sonic Youth - Pola X (1999) by Leos Carax
Danny Elfman & Elliot Smith - Good Will Hunting (1997) by Gus Van Sant
According to South Lake Tahoe Police Watch, Neil Young’s very expensive, one-of-kind electric LincVolt broke down in the middle of the Sierra Desert on August 23.
Officers with the Truckee branch of the California Highway Patrol came upon the stranded Young and helped him get off the highway.
After posing for a few photos and signing autographs, Young repaired his custom-built car and was back on the road, said CHP Public Information Officer Pete Mann.
The Canadian-born rock star told CHP he drives the car across North America promoting green, sustainable living and encouraging less dependency on oil. He was on his way to a green festival in Canada, he told officers.
Neil Young’s 2012 autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream, contains fascinating memories and anecdotes about songwriting, guitars, folk and rock music, musicians, classic cars, Young’s impressive ongoing inventions (including an electric car and a music file format, PureTone, to rival and replace mp3’s), and, unexpectedly, model trains.
Young, like fellow rockers Rod Stewart and Bruce Springsteen, began as a model train hobbyist and collector – for the love of God, do not call them “toy trains” to a model train collector – and eventually dedicated space in his 2800-square foot barn to a massive 750-feet track layout with landscape, tunnels, and buildings. Young brought this track along on his HORDE tour and allowed fans to play with the display, carefully supervised by the six crew members hired simply to travel with, set up. and tear down the track.
Young first created a research and development company, Liontech, to help the storied Lionel, LLC train manufacturing company, founded in 1900, create model trains with sound systems and control units. Young then became part owner of Lionel, along with an investment company. It was Young’s designs and inventions for Lionel that helped to bring the company out of bankruptcy in 2008. Young’s first train-related invention was a control unit, the Big Red Button, that enabled his son, who has cerebral palsy, to control the trains. Other inventions of his include the first-ever wireless remote control device for model trains, the TrainMaster Command Control (for which he paid for the development out of his own pocket), Lionel LEGACY Command Control System, LEGACY RailSounds System, and LionVision, which provides each model locomotive with a digital camera and microphone, allowing a train-view to be shown on a video screen or online.
Young helped Lionel design their Postwar Celebration Series, re-imagining classic designs with new technological features, such as the 5344 NYC Hudson train, first manufactured in the 1930’s. In 2004 Lionel released a limited edition train set based on the Neil Young and Crazy Horse album Greendale, set in a fictional California town.
“I remember one day David Crosby and Graham Nash were visiting me at the train barn during the recording of American Dream, a lot of which we did on my ranch at Plywood Digital, a barn that we converted to a recording studio…Anyway, I saw David looking at one of my train rooms full of rolling stock and stealing a glance at Graham that said, This guy is cuckoo. He’s gone nuts. Look at this obsession. I shrugged it off. I need it. For me it is a road back.” – Neil Young, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream
“Clyde Coil” = Neil Young’s pseudonym for train-related websites and articles. Is this video (I can’t embed it here) a “Bernard Shakey” (another of Young’s nom de plumes) production?
Now I want all future Thomas the Tank Engine movies to feature Neil Young as the voice of the conductor instead of Alec Baldwin.
Below, Young talks model trains with fellow Lionel enthusiast, David Letterman:
Neil Young takes a break while shooting Journey Through The Past and visits a music store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. He gets righteously upset when he discovers poorly recorded bootlegs of his live performances. This was back in 1971. Neil is still pissed off. This time around it’s MP3s. You can’t accuse of him not being consistent.
Solo Trans is an uneasy blend of unfunny skits with a 1984 solo concert by Neil Young in Dayton, Ohio. Neil is in Kraftwerk meets Gene Vincent and Bo Diddley mode with some of the bits feeling downright Daft Punkian.
Solo Trans was directed by Hal Ashby and released on long-out-of-print laserdisc. While it’s not Young at his most sublime, it is an entertaining document of Young at his most whacked-out, unpredictable, contrarian and prophetic. Here’s a rare chance to see it. Thanks YouTube.
“Heart of Gold”
“Don’t Be Denied”
“I Got a Problem”
“Hello Mr. Soul”
“Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me”
“Do You Wanna Dance?
In 1965, a year before hooking up with the musicians who would form The Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young had a brief stint in a Canadian rock group called The Mynah Birds fronted by Rick James (yes, THAT Rick James). At this point in James’ career he was known as Ricky James Matthew and did a stellar imitation of Mick Jagger. The group had a raw exciting sound that hinted at The Stones, Them, and various American garage bands. The Mynah Birds nailed a deal with Motown Records (the first white band to do so) and recorded sixteen tracks in Detroit. But things turned bad.
In his authorized Neil Young biography, Shakey, Jimmy McDonough describes the scene:
The Mynah Birds—in black leather jackets, yellow turtlenecks and boots—had quite a surreal scene going. The band was financed by John Craig Eaton of the Eaton’s department-store dynasty. Legend has it he poured money into the band, establishing a bottomless account for the band’s equipment needs.
Those lucky enough to see any of the band’s few gigs say they were electrifying. ‘Neil would stop playing lead, do a harp solo, throw the harmonica way up in the air and Ricky would catch it and continue the solo.’
Unfortunately, everything screeched to a halt when James was busted in the studio for being AWOL from the navy. “We thought he was Canadian,” said Palmer. “Even though there are no Negroes in Canada.” A single, “It’s My Time,” was allegedly pulled the day of release, and the album recordings were shelved and remain unreleased to this day.”
Here’s a couple of hard-rocking tracks from the legendary Motown Mynah Birds’ sessions. The musicians are Young and future Buffalo Springfield member Bruce Palmer and Goldy McJohn and Nick St. Nicholas who would later establish Steppenwolf with John Kay.
Neil had this amazing intense attraction to this particular woman named Gail – it didn’t happen, he didn’t go home with her. We go back to the ranch and Neil started playing. Young was completely possessed, pacing around the room, hunched over a Stringman keyboard pounding out the song.
In 1975, when Neil Young wrote “Like a Hurricane” he was unable to sing, or even speak, due to a recent operation on his throat. His friend, artist James Mazzeo, recalls Young handing him an envelope with just two lines: “You are like a hurricane. There’s a calm in your eyes.” Crazy Horse messed around on the song for ten days before hitting on the inspired take on 1977’s American Stars N Bars album.
Note that Young—one of the greatest guitar players ever born, as this song ably demonstrates—is seen playing his highly customized 1953 Les Paul Goldtop, “Old Black.” I guess the wind machine was meant to stand-in for an actual hurricane or something…
If you would have told me back when I was a defiant teenage post-punk fanboy—clad in Doc Martens and a black trench coat festooned with badges of PiL, The Residents, Kraftwerk, Nina Hagen and Throbbing Gristle—that one day I’d go through quite a long “phase” (as my wife calls my penchant for perhaps slightly over-exuberant musical enthusiasms) for the type of music that I HATED MOST when I was a kid, the laid-back, singer-songwriter sounds of the Southern California folk-rock, I would not have believed you.
I’d have (truly) been horrified. To me, there was nothing worse than The Eagles (maybe just “Southern rockers” like Lynyrd Skynyrd or Molly Hatchet) and anything that even vaguely smacked of the So Cal sound was shit to my ears.
Part of it was really getting into Neil Young (which for me happened in 2002, only after I first read Jimmy McDonough’s masterpiece of biography, Shakey, a book I’ve re-read twice in the past year alone), The Flying Burrito Brothers and Joni Mitchell, and then it sort of spread out slowly from there. A lot of it also had to do with our own Paul Gallagher sending me a copy of Barney Hoskyns’ excellent 2006 overview of the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter/folkrock sound, Hotel California.
Hotel California‘s subtitle is “The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends” and aside from some of the aforementioned artists, the book also turned me on to the music of both Judee Sill and the Byrd who could not fly, the great Gene Clark. It’s a great place to dive in, a perfect roadmap through the Canyon sound.
I even found, to my surprise, that there were some Eagles songs I really liked. A lot.
It just goes to show. In any case, Hoskyn’s excellent book was made into an equally essential BBC produced documentary, Hotel California: L.A. from the Byrds to the Eagles, a highly entertaining account of the rise and fall of Laurel Canyon rock. It’s a must see and worthy of multiple viewings.
Of the dozen or so shows I saw this past weekend at Austin City Limits, the highlights, for me, were Die Antwoord and Neil Young. Two very different musical entities that both delivered outstanding performances within their particular styles. Die Antwoord was dynamic, funny and hugely charismatic. The 10,000 plus people in the audience went apeshit for Ninja and Yolandi and it’s easy to see why: the duo brought some much needed energy and hard beats to the fest.
Young was the storm after the storm. Hitting the stage after a series of monsoon-like downpours, Neil and Crazy Horse were epic. Young may have played these songs hundreds of times but he continues to make them sound heartfelt and fresh. Of all the shows I saw at ACL, this was the purest, heaviest and most bliss-inducing rock ‘n’roll, out-punking Iggy and wiping the floor with Jack White.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse at ACL - Saturday, October 13:
The windows in the buildings surrounding Central Park must have been rattling last night. Neil Young, Crazy Horse, Dave Grohl and Dan Auerbach perform an epic version of “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World” at the Global Citizen Festival.
The guitar apocalypse was for a good cause:
This September, as the world’s leaders gather in New York for the UN General Assembly, the Global Citizen Festival will bring top artists and 60,000 change makers together on the Great Lawn of Central Park on September 29 to urge our leaders and fellow citizens to do more to help end extreme poverty.
This advocacy concert will celebrate the progress already made in fighting extreme poverty, secure financial commitments for tackling extreme poverty and disease, and mobilise thousands of ambassadors for change. We’ll unite around a simple yet powerful idea: that by giving every child a chance to thrive, our generation can end extreme poverty.
I’ll be seeing Neil at ACL in a couple of weeks. The dude seems ageless.
Here’s the new video for “Walk Like A Giant” from Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s upcoming album Psychedelic Pill, which will be released on November 30. The tune is a sixteen minute epic on the album so this video is a pretty radical edit.
I am reading Young’s memoirs Waging Heavy Peace. The book is very much like Young’s longer songs. It loops and arcs and sails around a lot, like an eagle soaring through time. It speaks as intimately as a diary or journal, a confessional or one-on-one conversation. For folks who just want the inside skinny on Young’s life as a rock ‘n’ roller, the book may be a bit frustrating . This isn’t full of juicy bits like Keith Richards’ memoir. Young seems less engaged with the life he lived as he is with the life he’s living and the evolution of his consciousness. While the book covers Young’s roots with Buffalo Springfield and Crazy Horse and he shares the anecdotal stuff we want rockers to share, Young is mostly in a philosophic frame of mind and fixes his eye on the bigger picture of how to live a decent life as a human being, a citizen of the world, an artist, father and husband. If that sounds like it might be dull, it’s not. Whenever the book gets a bit sluggish, Young “reboots” the mother fucker, jumps the track and finds a new obsession with which to engage us - stuff like digital recording, vinyl, the future of music and his Herculean struggle to get sober after years of drinking and pot smoking.
Young calls Waging Heavy Peace a “a hippie dream.” The book does have a loosey goosey hippie vibe while hewing to the way life works: a series of awakenings and dreams.
I’ve been listening to the new Patti Smith album for the past two days and my initial enthusiasm for Banga has only grown stronger. At first I thought my lust for a Smith album that knocked me sideways like Horses was coloring my take on this new one, but I think I can fairly objectively say it is the second or third best album of Patti Smith’s career.
Smith’s voice has never been finer and, unlike many of her albums after Easter, Banga is full of lovely melodies and hooks. Lyrically, the album follows in the spirit of Smith’s memoir Just Kids: ruminative, prayerful, melancholic and hopeful - a delicate, tough and occasionally fierce expression from a spiritual warrior moving forward with grace and determined soulfulness.
Banga was produced by Smith at Electric Lady Studios (where Horses was recorded in 1975) and features her group (Lenny Kaye, Jay Daugherty and Tony Shanahan) in stellar form. Tom Verlaine provides some shards of psychedelia to two tracks and there’s some drumming and guitar work from Johnny Depp on the title track.
For fans of rock legends who still deliver the goods, Neil Young has added Smith to his tour schedule. The Patti Smith Group will open for Young in these cities:
Nov. 23 – Montreal, Quebec, Bell Centre
Nov. 24 – Ottawa, Ontario, Scotiabank Place
Nov. 26 – Boston, Mass., TD Garden
Nov. 27 – New York City, N.Y., Madison Square Garden
Nov. 29 – Philadelphia, Pa., Wells Fargo Center
Nov. 30 – Fairfax, Va., Patriot Center
Dec. 4 – Bridgeport, Conn., Webster Bank Arena
The following video was shot at Detroit Institute of Arts where an exhibition of Smith’s photographs is taking place concurrent with the addition of her late husband’s, Fred “Sonic” Smith, guitar to the museum’s collection.
The song “April Fool” is the opening track of Banga. Accompanying Patti are her son and daughter, Jackson and Jesse.