It’s a quote almost as delicious as Nigel Tufnel’s “This one goes to 11” from This Is Spinal Tap—and maybe it’s not a coincidence that it’s about the supreme importance of rock music being LOUD AS FUCK.
Todd Van Luling at The Huffington Post ran an article yesterday in which he says he got Young to confirm the sort-of apocryphal story.
The story must have happened in late 1971 or early 1972. Neil Young had just put his fourth album Harvest to bed, and he badly wanted his bandmate Graham Nash to hear it. Here’s Van Luling’s rendition of the story, as it has been told for years:
As the myth goes, Nash was at Young’s ranch just south of San Francisco when Young asked him if he wanted to hear something. (That something would become Young’s now famous 1972 “Harvest” album, which features the track “Heart of Gold.”) Nash, of course, said yes and suggested going into Young’s studio. That wasn’t Young’s plan.
“He said, ‘Get into the rowboat,’” Nash explained on NPR’s Fresh Air in 2013. “I said, ‘Get into the rowboat?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to go out into the middle of the lake.’”
The two row out on the lake, with Nash assuming Young brought a cassette player and headphones with him.
“Oh, no,” said Nash on NPR. “He has his entire house as the left speaker and his entire barn as the right speaker. And I heard ‘Harvest’ coming out of these two incredibly large loud speakers louder than hell. It was unbelievable. Elliot Mazer, who produced Neil, produced ‘Harvest,’ came down to the shore of the lake and he shouted out to Neil, ‘How was that, Neil?’”
The best part is Young’s apparent response to the situation. As Nash explained, “I swear to God, Neil Young shouted back, ‘More barn!’”
One of the odd things about this story is that 20 years passed before Nash told anyone about it, more or less. It purportedly appeared in the liner notes of a 1991 4-CD compilation called CSN—however, my efforts to verify that on Discogs came up short. In 1996 a Neil Young fan named Brad Brandeau created a T-shirt that depicted the story with this image:
As mentioned above, Nash told the story on Fresh Air three years ago.
Here’s Young’s account of the barn story, as told to Van Luling:
“Well it’s funny, it’s just a little thing that happened one day and it keeps growing and getting crazier,” Young said over the phone. “But I had the left speaker, big speakers set up in my house with the windows open. And I had the PA system — that we used to rehearse and record with in the barn where I recorded “Alabama” and “Words” and a couple other things — over there playing the right-hand channel. So, we were sitting in between them on a little lake and that’s what we were doing.”
When asked if the kicker of the legend was true — whether he truly did yell back, “More Barn!” — the singer laughed for a bit. Then he said, “Yeah, I think it was a little house heavy.”
“A little house heavy.” Can we get a T-shirt for that one too?
Here’s Young playing on the BBC a couple of weeks after Harvest was released.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Dance troupe interprets Neil Young’s ultra-depressing 1974 album ‘On the Beach’