I often apologize.
I’ve learned to use the word “apology” instead.I owe you one. I don’t give much of myself here. I blog some unpublished work, make a few goofy comments. Kill some time with you. I keep it low and careful, protecting my privacy.
Fuck that today. I have something to say.
Neil Young is everything. A consumate rocker. A great lyricist. I doubt he’s ever had a Top 10 hit, but his superb guitar work is original, far-reaching, and versatile. He’s at home with his Strat, acoustic, banjo or keys. He’ll take you lower by simultaneously puffing and blowing his harmonica.
There’s a kid down the block who stops by when I am home. He really can play, but when he came by today we began talking and when I put on some Young he went into one of those spastic attacks, never having heard Young. I realized there must be tons of peeps who aren’t down with it. Before you read on, open my homepage and begin to play these songs and let me know what you think. For what it’s worth, here:
“Cowgirl in the Sand” is a classic to Neil Young fans. If you listen to it on the Live at Filmore East album (recorded decades ago), you might agree with my above thoughts. The Deep, intimate lyrics center around a man trying to define what love feels like to a woman – and more. “Old enough now to change your name . . . it’s the woman in you that makes you want to play this game,” Young writes about his future wife.
Another song with Young’s signature is Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown, a fun call to action to just go dancing. It’s a strong rock production and I suggest anybody who considers themselves a rock star, listen to this song, understand the layering and with rosaries in hand, pray to become this good.
Cinnamon Girl is another. Prior to this early Neil era, he was in one of America’s top bands, Buffalo Springfield and CSNY. He quit because he really didn’t need all those egos and he is a much different type of person from Steve Stills, for example. This is a ballad, but the guitar work is worth a closer listen. It’s layered and written to be a big arena sound.
Let’s Impeach the President is just three or four years old. It’s important because it shows Young’s thoughts and songwriting abilities here show he’s still viable.
Tell Me Why is a song you’ll just have to hear and define. But I need to say that this particular version from the Massy Hall 1971 album is Neil finding his way out of Heroin addiction (“you can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain”) to displaying his full rock ability. Almost everyone I know thinks that Stills was the guitarist of the duet. Not true. Not even a tad. Stills would love to think so, but he’s an asshole. In this song, at this venue, Neil shows you how clean he is. His guitar work is epic. His voice crisp, clean, clear.
Helpless is about Young’s youth in Ontario. I happened to catch his Toronto show with my friend Anne (pic on pic page) on Labor Day 2000. It was at Ontario Place. When the tickets ran out, the ticket-takers just frisked everyone and let everyone in without a ticket. The show lasted four hours and Neil gave his hometown fans the concert of concerts, like seeing Springsteen at the Meadowlands. He did Helpless for 25 minutes. By song’s end life seemed blurred, like reality was this song and what I thought was reality was just a mindlessness not worth discussion.
Tonight’s The Night is an album title (I think) and one of my favorite songs. Like many of his tunes, he takes to writing about people (or imaginary people) he knows or knew.
Out of My Mind is an introverted confession about what it’s like to be 18-years-old, owned by a record label, and worth a million dollars. That’s a million in 1968 dollars!
Birds makes me cry. just today, the same as the first time I heard it. I used to listen to it in my tiny “Music Room” at my mom’s with my first girl, Lynne. Fortunately, even after Lynne and I split, we remained friends for a decade. But I’ve lost track of her. I’m sorry I decided to fly some days.
Midnight on the Bay was on a semi-collaborative album with Stills, maybe the Stills-Young Band. But each did their own songs. This one was written after a rare Florida era, when he was in rehab with Eric Clapton. The song is about the moon over Sanibelle Island (West Coast of Florida), on the beach just down the road from the Tween Water’s Inn. It’s a perfect lullaby. Fire one up, put this on loop, and you’ll likely become part of the sofa.
I didn’t put the usuals on my box. You already know Heart of Gold, Old Man, The Needle and the Damage Done, Ohio, Comes a Time, and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. They are dynamic and six of the very best ditties ever etched in North America, maybe better than the ones I did put up for you.
Much of Neil’s music is solemn. Born out of his sadness, which might go back to his Epilepsy or his early addiction to hard drugs, rises all the good stuff – hope, love, charity and forgiveness. When Neil knew he wasn’t coherent enough to play lead guitar the way he can play lead, he hired someone nearly as good, a friend of mine from Northern Virginia, Nils Lofgren. Lofgren happens to be a great songwriter in his own right. But after a few solo albums with some super tunes like White Lies, Nils went to work for Young. Then, Springsteen hired him and he’s been with the E Street Band ever since. Lofgren rarely tours solo. However, if you ever see a Lofgren tour, I warn you, he is beyond spectacular.
Both of Neil’s boys have Cerebral Palsy and his daughter also has numerous health issues. Much of Young’s time is spent on charity events and he’s been a huge supporter of farmers and Farm Aid.
Neil doesn’t fly regularly, and sometimes he takes his family on tour in a step van. His wife, Pegi, is also a singer-songwriter and from time-to-time hits the stage with Crazy Horse.
Young has sold nearly 85 million albums, which probably makes him the No. 1 cult performer in history. He could set up a tent in Idaho and 15,000 would show up with only word-of-mouth promotion.
Hey, hey, my, my, rock and roll will never die. Anyway, I love you guys.
And, Neil, if you by slim chance or coincidence see this: I still have that hand-stitched shirt you turned me on to outside Barney’s Beanery in 1968. I just wish it still fit.