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Monday, March 13, 2006

"Gang of 400" - Thrasher's Wheat's Cabal?

Some recent letters and comments here intimate that Thrasher's Wheat is the epicenter of the infamous "Gang of 400" that Neil Young discussed on The Daily Show last week.

"This film has totally turned about 400 folks in the United States against me."
Neil Young and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show - March 9, 2006

Thrasher presumes much of this stems from suggesting a career peak and Jimmy McDonough's letter stating: "Thanks for being one of the few people to tell the truth!". Clearly, Jimmy McDonough is part of the "Gang of 400", but is that really such a terrible thing?

Afterall, McDonough is after "the truth" -- whatever that might be.

Listen, Jimmy, "Heart of Gold" is virtually unparalled in its beauty of capturing an artist's soul. What more could any fan ask of an artist?

The era of David Briggs and Crazy Horse is over and is not coming back.

Critical? Guilty. Sycophant, as townsend22 comments and harshes my mellow? Not guilty.

Lord knows, say what you will about Heart of Gold's core Prairie Wind material, the film is a vast improvement over some of Bernard Shakey's previous efforts, which, when asked what would he want people to know before seeing his film, said in such a oh so Neil sorta way:
"Jeez, I dunno. Just how to get to the theater, I guess."

History would say we're about ready to swerve towards the ditch.
    " ["Heart of Gold"] put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I met more interesting people there." -- Neil on Decade notes

Much as fans revolted over 1973's troubled Time Fades Away into the ditch tour and lashed out angrily during 2003's Greendale tour, this too shall pass.

Is the dreamy, emotionally hypnotic and nearly hallucinatory "Heart of Gold" film as cataclysmic as Time Fades Away or Greendale? No. And -- surprisingly -- yes.

Prairie Wind most likely will long be remembered by one song -- "When God Made Me" and lyrics like "Did he give me the gift of voice, so some could silence me?".

The rhetorical answer? We think God did not intend silence. But, I've been wrong before and I'll be there again.

While marveling in astonishment at the audaciousness of the Greendale tour, I was struck by the similarities to what Bob Dylan endured in '66 after going electric and hearing cries of "Judas!" as captured on the legendary Royal Albert Hall performance.

This is an artist who names names and sings it likes he sees it -- whether in the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, and the 2000's.

Be wary of the rust and corrosion of conformity, the tyranny of groupthink, and revel in excursions into alien territories.

Regardless, think for yourself and question authority.

I'll never forget catching up with a Jimi Hendrix fan after a concert. Here I was bemoaning the fact that some Neil concert wasn't taped. He lashed back in despair that his entire Hendrix bootleg collection would fit in a shoebox while Neil Young fans are literally drowning in 1,000's of bootlegs. This is a good problem to have, my friends.

So, Jimmy & townsend22 -- you may cry "Judas!" today, but history shows that those who have cried out in the past were not true believers and on the wrong side of history.

So let's just celebrate an artist's right to have freedom of creativity.

Please take my advice -- don't listen to me and open up the tired eyes,
Proud FM'er
A Reluctant, Recalcitrant, & Accused Member of the Mythical "Gang of 400" Interestin' People in a Ditch


At 3/13/2006 12:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue isn't thrasher Neil versus mellow Neil. The issue is good Neil versus lousy Neil. The guy's gonna have a tough time turning it around. All the fawning makes you soft and lazy. He's got some kooky idea now that whatever he writes is special. No editing. He'll readily say how fast he wrote the songs on the last two albums. Wow, no kidding. It shows, Neil, it shows. What a mess. I don't see things improving. You've got Demme crying masterpiece at every turn. The critics all genuflect. I'd love to know the average number of times per purchase that either Greendale or Prairie Wind is gonna get played. Solidly single digits, I'm guessing. Probably solidly single hand digits. Mellow is great. Razor Love/Silver and Gold was great. As for the last two albums, well, what do you call a turkey with lipstick? A turkey.

At 3/13/2006 09:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo, gang of 400 members - out thyselves! Crazy Horse ROCKS!!! Long live Briggs!
a gangster

At 3/13/2006 09:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People don`t understand Neil changes. He covers so many genres, its not everyones taste, but you gotta admire the talent he has at changing - rock god to country yokle from album to ablum. From the 60`s to the present day, he has repeated nothing. If only other artists today had such talent....god bless Neil for always changing!

At 3/13/2006 10:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just plain disagree with the idea that those two albums are 'lousy'. I put Prairie Wind on again the other day, I listened to the whole thing straight without realising it. It really grows on you.

I didn't like Greendale that much when I first heard it, but that's partly because of the long songs, I'd missed out so much. The end of 'Double E' is just so cool, and it's definitely not a mellow album.

At 3/13/2006 03:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proud FM'er??? huh?

At 3/13/2006 03:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think FM refers to "fuckin' maniacs".

that's how Jimmy McD refers to rusties. Just a bunch of fuckin' maniacs. pretty accurate, me thinks.

another proud fm'r

At 3/13/2006 10:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so quick to pat myself on the back just yet,there must be dozens, if not hundreds of Neil oriented sites...This IS a good one for news, etc.
Haven't seen the movie yet;I DO prefer electric Neil to acoustic
Neil...And I REFUSE to speculate as to Neil's next move--after the
CSNY tour, of course...Bring on TFA, and the damn Archives already

At 3/14/2006 05:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarcastic and bitter comments don't pass muster as anything close to objective criticism. JMcD posting?

My take is that you may have to be in a certain frame of mind to fully appreciate what NY has done with PW and Greendale. Your one "normal" child leaving home, death and mortality at a very real level has great personal resonance and rings only too true.

On a visceral level that first G on "Falling From Above" heard on the LP Goldtop at the first Greendale performance I saw did it for me. Chills and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. What a majestic sound!

At 3/15/2006 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sick of J McD. He is a tiresome jerk holding on to a fantasy that he was part of Neil's inside elite.

Time and again, I find the people that have a viserol reaction to Greendale was about 2 things: politics and song length. And, granted, the songs are unconventionally long. Ever seen a Broadway musical?

Geez-us! If Neil yapped how he belabored months over tunes, would they be any more or less spectacular?

PW is the sublime work of a 60 yr old not a 20-something kid. Those days are gone. Priorities change. Cop a clue.

Neil choose his road; ride along if you dare.

At 3/15/2006 05:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, so Thrasher is not a sycophant but a "true believer." Thanks for clearing THAT up.

To compare "Prairie Wind" to Dylan 66 is ludicrous. Face it, Young's lyrics have turned into mud along with the music. He is now imitating himself imitating himself.

The banal musings of "Prairie Wind" could only appeal to those gummy unfortunates now sitting in Depends and wondering what to do with their retirement besides call in pledge money to NPR. Which is perhaps why any criticisms of ol' Neiler hit you "true believers" so...(to use the FM spelling) "viserolly"?

At 3/15/2006 08:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't make that last post criticizing Neil, but I did make the turkey post and I'm not Jimmy McDonough.And I don't know him. Guys, get a little imagination. Neil has more opinionated critics than one. Neither is every male reference in one of his songs about either C, S, or N. Do you really think that Young needs or even wants a bunch of lap dog fans? He's probably just as repulsed by you as he is by me. I'm tired of the apologists. I have much understanding of a disabled family member,serious health struggles, precious child leaving home. It's not that I can't get into the proper frame of mind. I appreciate Young's changes. I don't prefer any particular musical style. Sometimes, guys, Neil just makes lousy/inferior/inconsequential music.
I don't think my post was bitter. Honest? Yes. Cynical? Perhaps. But hey, Neil can take it.He's been known to make a comment or two himself in the same vein.
Every artist, especially every famous one, needs honest feedback.
Otherwise, they experience what Young seems to be experiencing now: a kind of artistic rot. If you honestly believe these last two albums are great, that's fine. Say it. But I suspect that many of his fans have adopted some version of the old saying: if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. It's the people who are doing that who bother me. That's death to an artist.
Sure, both Greendale and Prairie Wind have some good qualities. Sure the issues they deal with are meaningful. That doesn't make them good albums. In my opinion, the lyrics on the last two albums are generally poor. They lack focus, incisiveness and clarity. They're clumsy and ametuerish. And the music is generally dull and forgettable. You don't need to make excuses for why I don't like it. Sometimes its just that it isn't good.

At 3/15/2006 08:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Real thoughtful analysis above from Jimmy McTroll. "You can stick it where the sun don't shine!"

At 3/15/2006 08:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that one, the other one.

At 3/15/2006 08:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the lyrics on the last two albums are generally poor. They lack focus, incisiveness and clarity. They're clumsy and ametuerish."

I think you would have to throw out a chunk of his catalog if that is a problem for the listener. There is a strong component of bad high school poetry in most rock/folk/country lyrics, with occasional unintended flashes of true poetic brilliance, IMO. Maybe some of his best stuff comes from that stoned dream cross cut kind of imagery and structure. Greendale has an unusual structure in that it is a multi voiced "narrative" which is all Sun Green's dream- the dream structure is the whole piece, not the individual songs.

At 3/15/2006 08:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sometimes, guys, Neil just makes lousy/inferior/inconsequential music.'

OK, I'll put AYP (with the exception of "Goin' Home") in that category. And most of "Landing on Water".

At 3/15/2006 09:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

apparently, if you criticise Neil Young, you must be bitter. And sarcastic. And Jimmy McDonough.

At 3/15/2006 09:36:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Ok, ok.

Not sure what's going on here anymore?
And I really don't think Jimmy McD is reading or posting here.

But if you are Jimmy, hopefully no offense. I do respect your opinion whether positive or neg.

But folks, please don't defame Jimmy McD. esp for an honest opinion.

Thrasher's Wheat Troll Patrol

ps - hopefully I won't have to go to moderated or registered postings. But it might be helpful if folks provided some intitials or something. Kinda hard to figure out who's saying what. Not that Thrasher has had ever had identity issues or anything...

At 3/16/2006 08:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My problem is that some posters seem to take Neil Young's creative decisions as a personal affront, that he didn't consider what they think he should be doing into account. The language used can be very harsh and caustic. I don't mind reasonable criticism. That's healthy for a good discussion. It's the sarcastic and nasty comments directed at the artist and those who may like what he happens to be doing at the moment that is annoying and kind of disturbing. "Fan" is derived from "fanatic". I just get concerned when some sound slightly unhinged.
I will initial from now on,

At 3/16/2006 08:51:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me add that I find it just plain interesting to wonder why he does what he does. There is a lot to dissect and criticise,and that's what makes him so fascinating as an artist. You have no idea where he'll end up next. HOG led to ditch 30 years ago, let's see where the next swerve is.

At 3/16/2006 10:36:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

TM: Absolutely! Couldn't agree more. One of my favorite answers to the question "Do you like Neil Young?" is "Which one?".
he's a multi-facted & complex artist. We'll be busy on this for a long time.
Thanks for comemnting & initialing!
Keep on Rockin!

At 3/17/2006 12:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, first of all I worship the musical ground Neil walks on and no matter what his musical direction, I'm with him all the way. However, In Neil's own words,"I've left a big wake in my past and I'm only a team player when I can play my game". In defence of Jimmy McDonough who has taken a few shots of late with his comments on HOG; from what I've read Neil didn't exactly "play the game" as far as the writing of "Shakey". For years Jimmy M chased this guy around the country trying to write a book that Neil had signed a contract to paricipate in.I know it's hard to believe, but I've read 'SHAKEY" seven times and like most Neil obsessed fans, didn't like the way Neil was portrayed. However, with each successive reading it became clear that McDonough had captured the essence of a wonderful and not so wonderful Neil. So if Mr. McDonough has a few resentments from his dealings with Neil, lets cut him some slack and appreciate the effort he put forth in writing "SHAKEY". I, for one, think he captured a "real" Neil Young and not some fantasy....

At 3/17/2006 09:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

some of his "fans" (fan is short for fanatic0 should remember that poop comes outta Neil's butt the same way it comes outta mine and yours...

At 3/19/2006 10:18:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Bill - thanks for comment. Not sure exactly how we went from providing some constructive criticism to being part of the "Gang of 400"???

Fine line between fan and fanatic, s'pose...

At 3/19/2006 08:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Folks who look at Neil's latest work as some decline are forgetting that his entire body of work is uneven. He has generally let it all hang out, and is never afraid of toss-offs and experiments. Greendale, which I only saw live, was not my favorite, but any time I can hear that "CLUNK" when he plugs in, well, I'll take it. How many more times am I gonna get it. As for Prairie Wind, I like it more as I listen to it, but I think one really needs to see the film to really understand this album. It ain't about the fans. He was facing possible death, and he was saying goodbye, maybe. Go see the film, because it becomes quite clear that the music on Prairie Wind comes from the same muse as Neil's fans favorite songs.


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