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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Don't Be Denied" Preview Review

Earlier this month, we were able to make available passes to an advance screening of the BBC documentary "Don't Be Denied".

Here are some reviews from the pass winners. From S:
Thanks, Thrasher and the BBC for the ticket! It was a pretty cool little documentary feature. The biggest selling point for me was the amazing never seen before archive footage (the Squires stuff was hilarious), though this was interspersed with a lot of familiar archive footage. The intreview with Young was pretty neat too as he wasn't so cagey and was actually pretty forthcoming. There wasn't a lot of information here for the more hardcore Neil Young fan, but it was a nice overview of an amazing career. I guess the focus of the documentary was the pursuit of his own muse and the collateral damage that it creates. It was a nice portrait of the artist, but I felt a tad let down as it felt extremely rushed when it went into the latter part of Young's career (most of these docs usually focus on the 70s heydey and this was no exception). The soundbites from Crosby, Stills and Nash were very good though. All in all a very entertaining documentary. Shame that Young didn't quite get the Scorcese treatment given to Dylan, but how do you manage to fit an entire career and a body of work as immense as Neil Young's into a mere 60 minute slot? P.S- the night that this is airing on BBC 4 is Neil Young Night. They will be showing CSNY Deja Vue and the BBC in Concert show from 1971. Woohoo! :) Cheers again, Thrasher!

Thanks S!

From Matthew Quin:
First and foremost I’d like to thank Thrasherswheat and the BBC for a wonderful evening. My friend Holli and I had a great time. The screening took place at the Soho Hotel, a very posh and swanky place, and slightly intimidating when we turned up in casual clothes! Once we’d actually found the screening area, however, we were actually the ones overdressed! There was a definite air of anticipation in the room, and I think it’s safe to say that everyone who worked on the film is (or has become) a genuine fan and enthusiast, which gives it a real quality.

After drinks the film was shown in a nice theatre. It was introduced by executive producer Mark Cooper, and director and producer Ben Whalley. Cooper first commented what an intimidating and daunting process it was conducting interviews with Neil. The full and candid talks with Young are from the period around the promotion of Chrome Dreams II, and Young had agreed to talk about his whole career, although he didn’t really want to! Whalley took over to comment that whilst Neil was a daunting guy, you were also overwhelmed by how ‘noble’ he was. He talked about the unique opportunity and access to Neil and his work he had been given in making the film.

During the first five seconds of the film you understood, quite frankly, what they were talking about. Neil stares piercingly into the camera and states something along the lines of: ‘It’s all about the music... nothing else’, continuing to glare out from the screen intensely. The film uses the song from its title to weave across Neil’s early career and gives tender attention to the early parts of his life.

There’s an interview with some of Neil’s band mates from the Squire’s endearingly
and humorously stating just how good they were. The pace doesn’t really let up from here. The film winds its way through the highlights of Young’s career. Obviously in an hour there are things skipped over and missed, but what the film is remarkable for is radiating the character of Young and his music. So much so, that even though there are holes in its overall chronology, it seems comprehensive. My friend, who is not an obsessive fan like me, was ready for the back catalogue by the time it was finished. The songs used are perfect for the moment, and give a good introduction to the enormity of his catalogue to newcomers, and are just a general joy to hear for the faithful. There are some odd choices in direction, such as when Neil describes finding his voice for the first time, and unique early footage is played along to Ragged Glory’s ‘Farmer John’, but then I suppose it gives a nice sense of continuity.

There are some real choice moments which will delight fans. (Look away if you don’t want it spoiled!) One, that I couldn’t quite believe was uttered, was about Charles Manson to the backdrop of ‘Revolution Blues’. Neil talks about encouraging labels to sign the singer, and how he wasn’t so much a ‘songwriter’ as a ‘song... spewer’. Talking about how no one would give the guy a break he looks into the camera completely deadpan and suggests: ‘he did not take rejection well’. You’re not kidding! Another is Nils Lofrgen talking about the Tonight’s the Night tour, where audiences were angered by hearing completely unknown material. At the end of the show Neil would say ‘here’s one you’ve heard before’ to the crowd’s delight, and then play ‘Tonight’s the Night’ again. Finally, Neil’s comments about Geffen are brilliant: something about being told to make a rock n roll record and then sarcastically commenting: ‘if you’re going to tell me what you want me to do, you better be damn sure you’ve told me right, or you might get what you get what you didn’t realise you’d ask for’. The film is pleasingly honest around the accompanying 80’s footage, not skipping over (what I believe to be) some of the more cringe worthy stuff.

This film is a real treat, and as well as Neil’s uniquely candid and honest interview, it’s accompanied by some great insights from the like of Crosby, Stills, Nash, James Taylor, and Nils Lofgren. Whilst some of the material ‘exclusively’ mined from Young’s archives is actually available on You Tube, it hasn’t been collected like this before, giving a real thematic overview and insight to Young’s career. It will be shown on the 31’s October on the BBC, which will be a Neil Young night, also showing the new CSNY film, Young’s BBC session (I presumed this means the solo one from the 70s), and accompanying web tie-in material. A real delight for fans, don’t be denied! Thanks again to Thrasher for a great night!

Thanks Matthew!

From Chris Greenwood:
Went to the preview of the BBC documentary on Neil to be broadcast as part of BBC4's Neil Young night on October 31st. They will show Neil at the BBC from 1971(2?), CSNY DejaVu and the hour long documentary we saw last night.

The doc is very interesting, there is a long interview (mainly just Neil talking, probably 15 minutes in total)) interspersed with old footage from CSNY, Crazy Horse, Devo (jamming with Neil doing Hey Hey before he did it with the Horse) and some great film of "Harvest" era of the band (James Taylor, Ben Keith etc) playing in Neil's barn.

Talking with Scott Sandie and Paul Docker (NYAS ) they had seem much of the vintage footage before, not the barn film though. The interview with Neil was filmed on two separate occasions, 6 months apart. The first part from when he was doing press for Chrome Dreams 2, this is shot in a New York hotel room. The second part of the interview takes place on Neil's ranch on a lovely sunny day, dogs running around etc.
There are also comments from James Taylor, Nils Lofgren, Crosby (being Crosby, Nash (being Nash) and Stills (being rather grumpy!). No interview with Crazy Horse.

Hope you guys around the world get to see this at some point, it's really well filmed and the sound quality was excellent.

From James W:
Highlights for me were the 'barn' footage of Neil and the Stray Gators recording "Words". Almost like seeing and hearing a picture come to life - it truly had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. As did the opening, rolling montage of the Winnipeg landscape shot from a passing car. This was soundtracked by the first two or three verses of 'Don't Be Denied', with Neil's vocal cutting through superbly to the back of the screening room. Possibly one of his best vocal performances and really should be out on CD by now.

Neil came across well in the interviews, with integrity virtually pouring out of him. There was plenty of characteristically deadpan humour, alongside a determination to quite rightly bring everything back to the music. Interesting to hear him describe his first experience of singing onstage and also to hear him namecheck not just the Shadows and Link Wray as influences on the Squires, but also New Mexico's the Fireballs. Also new to me was the B&W archive footage of Neil describing the songwriting process...something to do with waiting for the pictures to appear in his mind - either that or getting high!

Overall, I thought that the director did a great job within the one hour time constraint. It was the best kind of music documentary - really enjoyable for longtime followers but equally entertaining for the even the most casual fan.

Thanks again to Thrasher and the BBC.

ps Check out during mid-October for interviews with Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and Thom Yorke on what Neil Young means to them.

Also, from review:
"I only care about the music,” he says early on with uncompromising conviction. “It’s sad. I’m brutal,” he adds later with a worryingly steely resolve. “I only do it for the music. People are secondary."


At 9/30/2008 11:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crazy Horse is such an important part of Neil's career and he really seems to be shorting them.

At 9/30/2008 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Burnzy said...

sounds really good. i kinda wish i'd sent off a request!

At 9/30/2008 04:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More details here....

At 9/30/2008 09:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The initial was this documentary would premier in advance of the release of the archives. Does anyone know if that's still the case?

for the attendees, does anyone know if that was mentioned at the screening?

At 9/30/2008 09:19:00 PM, Blogger ShittyHorse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9/30/2008 09:20:00 PM, Blogger ShittyHorse said...

I keep messing up my posts..
Cool beans...cant wait! so it will be on Halloween night? Even in the States? thanks

At 9/30/2008 11:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this gets released on DVD, along with the 1971 BBC footage - just to stretch it out a bit. Then the whole world could see it and not just those living in England. It might get leaked on the internet, but that's still limiting the exposure of what seems like a really cool documentary.

At 10/01/2008 01:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what footage is there exactly? Does anyone mind describing what happens in some of it? Is there early footage of the Squires, or did I read the review wrong?


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