Comment of the Moment: The One Note Solo Neil
Birmingham NEC Soundcheck, 24 September, 1982
Some interesting reaction to the "One Note Solo Neil" YouTube video we posted last week. While the video was posted pretty tongue in cheek, many folks wrote to defend and explain Neil's guitar technique.
Here's what Veg said:
I tend to agree with everyone who's saying Neil is a rhythm guitarist trapped playing lead. Neil lives for the rhythm and life of a song. This is why Billy and Ralph, the thump and bump of Crazy Horse, play on such a flexible and primitive level, rather than trying to play tight and technically. They keep the beat, and their flexibility allows them to keep up with wherever Neil, who is truly the one carrying the tune, is going.
His one-note solos are pretty infamous to anyone who only has a cursory familiarity with his electric work, and his most popular electric tunes all have this element at some point. It's an emotional thing, you can feel the intensity with which he's HITTING that note on the guitar, you know he's not just standing there like Clapton (whom I love in his own right) casually picking away, Neil is INTO it. Each note is translating the energy of the song and the real meaning it has, Neil's solos are almost lyrical in that sense.
When DOESN'T the crowd go wild when Neil starts hammering that high note on "Hey Hey My My" as fast as he can? They love it because they can feel the energy and intensity with which he does it. This is difficult to translate for some people with a visual aid, which is why those people think Neil's one-note soloing is oversimplified and an overused gimmicky technique, they don't realize what's going on with the guy who's playing.
Anyone who watches Neil live immediately sees the physical aspect of his playing, he's never still, always moving to the beat, and when he solos, his body moves with every note. It looks a little weird sometimes, but that's how he does it, and there are precious few other performers who can take that energy and translate it into electricity like Neil does. He's intertwined the emotion of his music with the style of his guitar playing.
More on Neil Young's guitar and sound.