Are We A Nation Of Whiners?
So after 20+ years of Neil Young fans waiting, wondering and watching, we move at last another step closer with this weekend's announcement of The Archives track listing. We'll be having more to say on the specifics in just a bit.
But -- once again -- we are left bewildered by our fellow Neil fans. In some respects it's just plain embarrassing. We have even tried to reason with folks about how their behavior reflects poorly on the entire Neil community. And we've attempted to quantify the angst which led us to conclude that much of the despair and negativity is confined to the 4% Club.
We bring this all up because it's not just us here on this blog that wonders what the heck is going on with Neil fans. It's been picked up by newspapers like the Guardian UK's article about how fans would rather have the Archives than Fork in the Road. Even Neil's management is appalled to a degree by what gets posted here (we understand from reliable sources).
Another example to wit is in today's LA Music Shopping Examiner by Alex Pudlin article "Neil Young Archives Vol 1 finally has a release date... and folks are still furious":
Over at the largest Neil Young fan site, Thrasher's Wheat, the comments re: the Archives tracklist and price include more than a few disappointed whiners who will only be satisfied if the Archives featured a sponge capsule that transforms into 1960's-era Neil Young when dropped in water. The distraught fans who think that the Archives cost too much or feel cheated that its contains a heavy dose of previously released music, need to consider Mr. Young's goal with this project.
In many interviews, Young has described this project as akin to an autobiography (corns, calluses and all). It comes with a 256 page book. The Blu-Ray edition includes a timeline that through BD Live can be updated with new content whenever Neil feels like it. If you ever wanted to learn about Neil Young from 1963-1972, this 10 Blu-Ray (or DVD) set will do the trick. But ask those skeptical fans and many will say that they don't need such a complete picture. They just want the songs they've never heard. Despite hundreds of unreleased photos, hours of video, hi-rez 24/192 sound, and a potential constant stream of future updates through BD Live, some feel like Neil is just selling back music we already have. In this economy, I can understand that impulse.
So here's the question. Should a musical retrospective stick to music and music alone? Luckily, there's an option to just get the CD's for 1/3 of the Blu-Ray price ($99 vs $299) so anyone who wants to do the bare minimum has options. But my "Music Shopper" opinion is this: in 2009, a musician is far more than his/her songs. It's always been that way really (do you think the legends of Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison carry on merely because they had some good tunes?) but now technology has caught up. As media merges into some grand music-interactive-visual hybrid, the inner workings of an artist can be captured like never before. Neil knows this and has embraced it. If the musician as cultural figure wants to survive in the age of instant consumption, he/she must think in multiple layers.
Neil Young got the memo back in '63 and never let up (take one look at the "road-eyes" in the Rust Never Sleeps concert film or his recent viral videos and tell me otherwise). Sure, I'd like to see some more unreleased tracks. But a document that gives you only unreleased songs but shortchanges the artist's true spirit is a waste of your time and money.
At the end of the day, what's a fitting legacy for an important artist? Must it be complete and exhaustive? Or just essential? Must it contain only unreleased songs? Or must it give you an overall picture of the person it's meant to honor? I don't have the Archives. It may never come out. But one look at the scope of what's planned, and you must appreciate the length Mr. Young has gone to tell the story of his musical rise from 1963-1972. We can only hope that his peers and future artists take the whole process as seriously. Then, maybe this industry can be saved after all.
Lots of good questions. We're certainly interested in your perspective on these issues, and would love to hear some sincere comments on them below.
We should also note that -- as Brand New Guy summarizes -- it was in fact fan input on the Archives that played a major part in a number of significant changes:
1. Neil said the Archives would come out on Blu Ray and DVD only...
2. Bunch of folks bitched on Thrasher's Wheat...
3. Neil responded and said that the audio Archives would also come out on CD...
4. Bunch of folks bitched on Thrasher's Wheat about listening to the Archives in
5. Neil responded and said that buyers of the Blu Ray or DVD editions would get
free mp3 downloads of the audio.
6. Bunch of folks bitched that Neil's compromising on quality...
So time after time over the past year, Neil and team have gone back to the well and adjusted the NYA.
In the meantime, here's a comment on Neil Young Archives Track Listing by Anonymous:
Those complaining about partial albums consider this -- one of the great aspects of the BD format is that anything and everything can be filled in later ... the initial investment in the hardware and the archives is a ticket to future DOWNLOADS ... the Archives team has shown amazing responsiveness by listening to fans, despite some nasty posters, and creating a plethora of great choices and options, including mp3 downloads for free for those who buy the better packages. But, forearmed is forewarned - buy the BD if you can, it seems like the key portal for the future ... from here forward it would seem that we might not have to wait 20 years for Archives 2, perhaps it will/can be released in sections on BD ... finally, the diversity of options truly should stop virtually every complainer in their tracks ... allowing everyone to buy/not buy what they choose ... w/ this release Neil's putting out the vast majority of his life's work, giving people the option to enjoy much of it in the highest quality, most technically rich format ever put out ... Neil as only Neil can do has taken the project to the edge of what's possible. Hopefully, with the format and technology in place he and his team will be able to push out the rest of the 70s material in short order... naysayers be damned... its a great time to be a Neil Young fan!
Thanks Archive Guy, Thrasher and all those who have contributed!
So if it's only 4% of all hard-core Neil fans that are having problems with NYA, then Neil and his team have done a fine job getting it to the finish line.
As for us? We'll reserve our opinions until it's in our hands and swirling down our ear canals.
Lastly, we do not mean to insinuate that those with questions about their upcoming purchase are "whiners". We're referring to the clowns who want "Toast" and their ilk.
So, is The Neil Young Nation, a nation of whiners?