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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Understanding Neil Young's Music

Matthew and Melinda

Often, we've found ourselves trying to explain Neil Young's music to others with varying degrees of success. In the end, we find that his music isn't really something that can be explained.

While we've expended quite a few words on this blog making an attempt, it really is the stories of others which transcend the gap much better.

So here's a link to a story that really seems to capture the essence of Neil Young's music. Matthew and Melinda: put on love...: falling in love and neil young....


At 2/05/2010 12:18:00 AM, Anonymous ShittyHorse said...

A very nice story! One we all could (or if not, should) be able to relate to on some level. Love makes the world go really does. Everyone has these stories- very personal, meaningful, little anecdotes about their lives and its nice to write them and read them. I have a few where Neil figures in big time and I've never met the man. Magic happens all the time- sometimes its the most obvious thing in the world and hits you like a ton of bricks and sometimes it needs to be pointed out to us.
I'm extremely proud to be such a big Neil fan as there is no better soundtrack to my life that I can think of. Magic tends to happen when Neil's Music is involved.
My wife gave birth to our first child last Wednesday (talk about a magical life changing event!) and I love that fact that my daughter will grow up listening to Neil Young (mostly), Bob Dylan, the Beatles, CSN, etc. She may grow up to hate my music (as children tend and maybe should do) but I think she'll always have a soft spot for Neil because of my passion for the music. We'll see. Anyway-I'm rambling- I learned a lot about love this week and I enjoyed this story. Neil is music for the heart and soul... really! If you're a fan you know. Sometimes its hard for your brain to understand why you like or love something or someone but in your heart and soul, you just know. That's like Neil's music- ya just feel it,ya just know. I'll never understand why everyone doesn't love the guy.

At 2/05/2010 01:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it IS a lovely story...but I don't think anybody should be obligated to explain WHY they like anything, especially ART...if you can explain why ya like something , fine...if ya can't that's ok with that so wrong?


At 2/05/2010 04:52:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Why am I not surprised. i can so relate to your story also!

That's exactly what Neil's music can do...inspire,indulge, relate, reminiss and unite 2 people together in harmonic bliss and unison.

I can always remember when I was first going with my (now) wife, when I was 20( I am now 55)..

..already 5 or so years into Neil, I could not wait to introduce and impress my new date to my first love....Neil, (musically speaking of course!)

I can always remember her reaction on her first hearing that beautiful haunting sound of Neil's voice as it shrilled out of my car cassette player out front of her folks house..She looked across into my eyes and with a look of puzzlement she exclaimed,....

"WHAT'S THIS SH*#T?..sounds like an alley cat on heat!"... Well,you could of cut the atmosphere with a Knife!

Nevertheless, I married her and we've been a couple for 35yrs now..
Co existing in a love /hate relationship! lol

Funny how some people just don't get it!(although she loves the Dreamin' Man album)

Nostalgic doc

At 2/05/2010 08:20:00 AM, Anonymous SONY said...

Neil seems to permeate many relationships. THE first request my wife made of me on our second date while playing cards after I made us a nice steak dinner as we were listening to a little fab four....'Got any Southern man?"!! I about flipped and landed on the biggest smile of my life. Could she REALLY be into it too? WOW I thought, 20 years and 2 kids later, still happening. She also likes to break my stones with the story about how Harvest Moon was cranked in the hospital room as she 'labored' out our first child. What was I thinking?! I was thinking that lamaz music puts me to sleep. It's all a love story anyhow.

At 2/05/2010 09:17:00 AM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

That is such a sweet story. It must be February Neil Young Month!

There are too many people in the world unable to find words expressing how deep their feelings go for their loved ones. How sad it must be for anyone to never find that one tangent to connect to another individual.

All too often they are preyed upon by selfish people looking to fill their own selfish & immediate desires.

Sh*ttyHorse, your children will embrace your music because they see how it makes you happy and they want to connect to that happiness.

Music is forever one of those things that influence our children in a good way just like Neil says in one of his songs, "Pick that baby up right off the ground...."

What he means is "seize the moment" which is exactly what Matthew did for Melinda Sue.

At 2/05/2010 09:37:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

This is wonderful. I really love when these stories come out. It's true, the whys and wherefores of digging Neil, or being obsessed with Neil, or just casually thinking Neil is totally amazing... on one hand I agree with anon 2:43... are sometimes totally inexplicable and can't be defined... but at the same time it's always a lot of fun to try to explain these things and share them with each other.

A friend recently remarked to me that everyone's reason for liking something as profound and artistic as Neil (or any number of other great artists) are all different on these subtle levels.

Love does make the world go 'round, and Neil's music is about love in an overarching sense. The story he's been telling all these years probably boils down to love when it's all said and done.

But again, we might all read different things into it and come out with different ideas, feelings, conclusions.

Nice post Thrasher, I very much enjoy these warm-hearted stories.

At 2/05/2010 12:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife hates Neil Young. I hate her!

Only joking, but its true she can't understand my commitment to Neil Young's music. She says he is a capitalist hippy who financially exploits his fans. I don't mind giving my hard earned money, although I have to admit I have not exactly worn out the grooves of fork in the road.
But Neils fantastic..... A song for every mood and every experience. A moral compass and spiritual guidance

Show Me The Way I May Follow You Someday..................

At 2/05/2010 01:38:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

That durn capitalist argument...

If Neil was a capitalist hippie who exploits his fans (and I've heard this argument before), then he would be making more commercial albums and be more prominent on the charts, wouldn't ya think?

Rather than writing weird art rock albums about electric cars, and 9 minute long psychedelic grunge songs and whatnot?

We'd be up to Harvest 5 by now, I'd think.

At 2/05/2010 02:27:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Oh, I forgot to say...

Congratulations Shitty! ,on the birth of your first child!

..."No one can conceive of the pleasure in your smile!"

Incidentally, their is an infant milk formula that has Neil injected straight in...its under the brand..."Stay Young"

The only side effect my kids (3) had from drinking it, was the development of rather high pitched voices and the urge to continually
wanting to wear flannelette and torn jeans!

luv doc

At 2/05/2010 03:03:00 PM, Anonymous SONY said...

that 'Stay Young' is good medicine doc, prescribe for all your pateints.

My honey, while huge on Neil, will not, can not, and whatnot, listen to any Bob Dylan. Of course, an intrumental of his (which are few if any) she could like. It's all the voice of (un)reason. So there you have it. It's a crazy mixed up world.

These stories are a riot. There is obviously something in Neil that people react to.

At 2/05/2010 03:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great story, so honest and real. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how and when you were going to blurt it out, Matthew! Nice to see two people “Take a chance on love”, and have it happen with Neil’s music as a backdrop. Very beautiful. When I first read this thread, I thought you were putting it out there for people to tell their own stories, and immediately wrote my own version of a crucial period of my life, and how it all became tied up with Neil’s music. After rereading what you wrote, I’m not sure that’s what you meant, but here goes anyhow.

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" was the one that got me. My parents were in the midst of a divorce, and the house I loved was being put on the market. I was just coming of age, and about to start high school. My father was mostly out of town, and my mother for understandable reasons was out of reach. Within a year my Dad was dead. A turbulent time, my world really was “falling apart”.

I didn't know who Neil Young was until the day I was walking down the hallway outside my sister's bedroom, and first heard that unmistakable voice. She had "After The Gold Rush" on the record player, and I just sat down and listened without saying a word. It was all over but the shouting, I was hooked. The LP was everything- acoustic, electric, melodic, evocative, shot through with imagery, poignant, strident- you name it. It was raw, immediate, real. Maybe more than anything, it was honest and forthright, uncompromising- this is who I am and what I do, and I want the whole world to know it. It became a part of me, I became a part of it, and there was no getting away from it. Some alchemy had taken place. The voice, the feeling, the directness, I could imagine that he was singing directly to me, even though I knew he wasn’t. To this day through all the music that has followed, I can still imagine that.

AM radio was still at the forefront in Detroit, only the lucky few were there when underground FM was happening. But still and all, there was the voice that I had found singing "Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (“over and over”!). It stood out from all the rest, like a “ruby in a black man’s ear”. It was the first song I’d ever heard that found me just where I was: "Someone should call him, and see if he can come out. Try to lose the down that he's found". I didn't fully realize it then, but that was my truth. I was alone in the world, and someone knew it. Someone was singing about me, someone who understood.

Next thing I know, "Heart Of Gold" hits the charts, and I’m dragging my friends off to Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit to see Neil and the Stray Gators, and it’s off to the races, lo these forty years, and thirty some concerts later. "After The Gold Rush" and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” was just the start. Since then, Neil Young has been the guy to speak the things I didn’t know were there to be spoken, or give voice to the things I did know, but couldn’t speak about coherently. Neil Young was the first guy I ever heard be vulnerable, and self deprecating, the first guy to speak about things that in my macho world guys just didn’t speak about. And the music just kept coming. In the end, Neil has been an example: say what you mean, mean what you say, and do it with your own voice, in your own unique way. Even right now, at this latter stage of my life, in the midst of reinventing myself, I am being inspired yet again by the words of Neil Young, speaking directly to me: “Just do what you want to do. Don’t listen to anyone else.” Sorry to blather, just my attempt at trying to define the essence of Neil’s music for me.

Greg M (A Friend Of Yours)

At 2/05/2010 04:23:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Greg, there is something special about being a Neil Young fan..

I love that all the others.

There is always that ONE song of Neil's that just grabs your heartstrings and takes you to that place in time, that memory, that frozen moment that you want to linger forever..

For Liza (and many others) it was Harvest Moon....for me, well, it was playin "Old Man" at my father's funeral.."Only love can break your heart" is yours..

I call them "healing" songs.

As we grow old with Neil and experience life's hurdles, it's great to know that so many people are touched by "The hand of Neil"

Keep on bloggin in the T world

Luv doc (a friend of yours)

At 2/05/2010 04:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil is the sound track to many peoples lives. He cuts clean through on an emotional level

At 2/05/2010 05:06:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

I think it was that high tenor falsetto like he got kicked in his b&lls too many times as a young kid and needed some loving ...

(I'm snowed in giddy from cabin fever.)

At 2/05/2010 05:38:00 PM, Anonymous BigChief said...

Greg M (A Friend of Yours), How ironic that I,myself, hail from the Detroit area and attended that Stray Gator concert at Cobo in '73 and haven't missed one of his shows since then. From Cobo Hall to The Fox, PineKnob, MeadowBrook ( International Harvestors) not to mention a few treks out of state as well.Another ironic coincidence is that I was turned onto Neil by my sister as well. In my case it was Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere in '69. Of course, in those days we had WABX,WKNRFM,CJOM from Windsor,and WXYZFM all of whom played Neil in heavy rotation. Ah, the 'Days That Used To Be'!

At 2/05/2010 05:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big Chief, that is ironic. I wish I had been a few years older and been listening to what you were listening to. I was still tethered to my transistor radio and CKLW! That '73 concert was the first concert I ever saw, and like you I never missed another one until I moved out of town in '08.

Yeah, the days that used to be.

Greg M (A Friend Of Yours)

At 2/05/2010 08:11:00 PM, Anonymous ShittyHorse said...

Thanks Doc....yeah I'm loving being a Dad.... it's awesome.
I think Neil has played a role in just about every (important) relationship in my life. With that amount of music to love how could it not?
My Wife appreciates Neil but shakes her head at my fascination and devotion although SHE actually picked "Silver and Gold" as our first dance at our wedding, and I've dragged her to many a Neil concert- four times to Greendale alone! She's a wife.
I grew up on Neil and I don't foresee a day when I wont be such a Neil-Head, and I'm thankful for that.
Like I said I don't understand how everyone doesn't love the man (but more tickets for us I guess) because being a Neil fan is a great thing- like what was said in Shakey when trying to describe working for Neil- its not always easy- easy isn't part of job but its very rewarding. I think as fans we can relate to that because Neil still confounds us or else we wouldn't religiously read and write and debate about the man on Thrasher's Wheat. Sometimes we have a hard time understanding what he's doing- songs, albums, political stances, ticket prices, etc. etc. but at times and generally over all we get it and we love it and we feel rewarded. I'm not sure even dead-heads feel as rewarded for their devotion as we Neil fans do. We are definitely a strange breed, cut from a different cloth- and its our loved ones who put up with us and still love us back. It's a beautiful thing.

At 2/05/2010 11:33:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Whoa, although I've never met any of you guys..we definitely share a common bond..Neil.

Although we come from all sides of the planet and our personalities and lives are possibly so diverse, we obviously share this wonderful love of Neil, yeah.. it might not always be acrimonious..but hey, what relationship is!

Although Thrash and I are probably chalk and cheese. I do sincerely thank him for giving me the oppportunity to liaise, (sometimes), with so many beautiful people out there.

Like all relationships, they require work..but it's always fun to agree to disagree
..coz making up is half the fun!

I luv you other "family"

Sorry I've got to go..I think I'm going to cry! and I've got another patient to see!

Luv doc

At 2/06/2010 03:04:00 PM, Blogger The Loner said...

ShittyHorse, just a comment on "My Wife appreciates Neil but shakes her head at my fascination and devotion although SHE actually picked "Silver and Gold" as our first dance at our wedding, and I've dragged her to many a Neil concert- four times to Greendale alone"

The record Silver and Gold came out right after meeting my wife, and we played it over and over -though I still not rank it as one of his 'objective' best. I do not remember if the song "Silver and Gold" was our first dance at our weeding (How could I forget?), but I am sure that we played it. So Silver and Gold (both the song and the record) has a very special place in my mind.

-The Loner

At 2/06/2010 04:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doc, it always amuses me to imagine you blogging away on TW in between patients!

Reading all these beautiful, honest stories is so touching. There`s something very special about Neil`s music and I think that`s because HE is so honest with us. It feels personal - he`s singing exactly what he feels and believes in at that moment and if you really listen it goes straight to your heart and stays there. Listening to Neil always feels to me like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle clicking into place in my heart and soul.

I loved Neil from the early days but my husband didn`t get him at all. After my husband sadly passed away 3 yrs ago, listening to Neil was the only thing that got me through some of those difficult days. Neil is a healer to me.

luv Jill

At 2/07/2010 02:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like to put my opinion regarding neil.I grew up in liverpool england the soundtrack to the world was the beatles,then one sad day in 1980 the world was robbed of the great john lennon,i never realized there would be another artist who could move my soul on all levels a man who it seems was planted on this planet to give so much,then i discovered mr neil young.I too have a girl who thinks being so much of a neil fan is unhealthy,but i think most females are cranky anyway!except my little ole mother who thinks neil is fantastic!

At 2/07/2010 06:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on becoming a dad!! Cool that you plan to pass on Neil to the next generation ... I get a huge kick out of hearing my six year old daughter running through the house singing, "don't be denied, don't be denied, don't be denied, don't be denied" ...

Greg M,
Thanks for sharing your story, its deeply moving, and made me think of Neil's own story when he sings:

When I was a young boy,
My mama said to me
Your daddy's leavin' home today,
I think he's gone to stay.
We packed up all our bags
And drove out to Winnipeg.

I also feel like Neil wrote the song track to my childhood (and the rest of my life since) ... some of the deepest connections came from all his melancholy songs (is it the new Sugar Mountain leg where at one point he says something like, "all my songs are so down"...) which seem to be great medicine during tough emotional times ... I also remember being a kid in summer camp in the late
70s singing "Comes a Time" around a campfire right after it came out ... and Sugar Mountain and I am a Child and Goldrush, ect ... amazing memories and what can I say ... I'm just grateful to have been on this journey and tuned in to Neil's station all these years ...


At 2/08/2010 05:03:00 PM, Anonymous Rick A. said...

Either you like him or you don't. I have given up explaining and defending my attraction to, and obsession with, Neil.

His music has gotten me through my adult life and for that I am grateful. He has inspired my guitar-playing and singing like no other artist.

I still remember 3 friends in 1969 playing EKTIN and saying "Rick, you are going to love this guy." And so it was. And so it still is to this day...

Rick A.

At 2/08/2010 08:12:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

All these are the sort of posts/topics that you love to read...everyone has a story to tell
and what an appropriate forum and subject to do it on.... NEIL and his magic touch...He brings out everyone's honesty and emotion like no other..I love these stories from the heart... keep 'm coming!

luv doc

At 2/09/2010 05:13:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Rick A, I can so relate to your comments also,although I am envious that you can play guitar!..the weapon of choice if your an aspiring Neiler!

One thing this topic has begged to ask the question..Just how many Neil fans/fanatics and lovers possibly don't know this wonderful site even exists?!!

I always try to preach the 'wheat' whenever the subject of Neil ever arises and have converted many...

I'm even thinking of putting it on my prescriptions...

Take one "Thrasher's Wheat" twice daily with meals.

Best before 2050!!or when NYA 2 comes out!! lol

At 2/09/2010 06:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I so agree Doc - "Thrasher`s Wheat" on prescription! Neil Young on prescription! The best tonic you can get!

Following on from what Dan said about connecting with Neil`s melancholic songs I agree they are often the ones that really mean something personal to you.

If you`ve ever heard a recording of the solo acoustic concert he did in 1974 at The Bottom Line, NY, there`s a lovely bit when Neil is musing over the fact that so many of his songs are so long and so down. As he introduces the next song (Ambulance Blues) he ends by saying "Here`s another bummer for you. My trip man, you know!"

You really need to hear Neil saying it so here`s a link. It`s at the end of Greensleeves -

I would just LOVE a good quality recording of this concert!

luv, Jill

At 2/09/2010 07:37:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Part One
I've been a great fan of Neil for over 40 years, starting with Buffalo Springfield when I was 12 years old. His music provided the soundtrack for many of my early adventures, love and learning. During those younger years, I almost saw him perform a number of times (CSNY, solo, w/ Stephen Stills, w/ the Horse) but seemed to keep missing him.

In late summer 1983, I saw Neil for the first time. He was playing at Tanglewood and my date was a woman I had just started seeing. This was only her second large concert; the first was a Marvin Gaye performance a couple weeks before, which I also took her to. That was one of Marvin's final concerts.

We got to Tanglewood w/out tickets and went to get lawn seats which were $10 each (oh the good old days!). While in line, a guy asked if I needed a couple tickets, saying "You definitely want to buy these". I took his advice and was glad I did: the seats were 4th row center on the left aisle.

Neil played three sets that night, each about 45 minutes long and with a short intermission between. There was a large TV on stage and there were "news reports" between the sets. One of these was a short interview with Neil earlier in the day while he walked the grounds of Tanglewood.

Each set was incredible. The first one was acoustic solo; second one was electronic solo (w/ songs from Trans included); third set was with The Shocking Pinks and everyone was in full costume. What a great show! We stayed in the area and went back the next day to wander the grounds. While walking around, I found a stash bag that some unfortunate fan must have lost the night more sign of good fortune (at least for me).

After this show, I made every effort to see Neil each time he toured. My girlfriend and I married the next year in December, and we continued to see Neil's concerts. These included the great tours w/ the Horse in '85 and '86 when I was telling anyone who'd listen "Neil Young is the King of Rock and Roll". We saw him with The Blue Notes in '88 (and got to experience Ordinary People for the first time live). Right after that show, we went to San Francisco and stayed with my best friend while wandering the coast up and down for almost three weeks...the best vacation of my younger years.

Our first child was conceived right after this and our daughter was born in the summer of '89. When I picked her up with her mom and drove them home from the hospital, the cassette player was all set. The first song this beautiful two day old heard (at least from me) was Cowgirl in the Sand, followed by the rest of EKTIN.

At 2/09/2010 07:42:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Part Two
A year later I lost my mom, and Ragged Glory provided me with much comfort and escape when I really needed it. When I heard about the upcoming tour, I was really excited. Neil was playing the old places again and he was bringing some younger bands with him, including Sonic Youth, a band that I really wanted to see live.

We got a babysitter and my wife and I went to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse at Boston Garden. This was late January '91 and it was to be the last concert I saw at the old garden, where I had seen many great things happen (including the epic 7th game in 1984 with Celts vs Lakers)while attending almost all of the Celtics games during their 80's golden era. To me, Neil was the Larry Bird of music, so this seemed total serendipity!

The band Social Distortion opened the show and they were really good. Then they placed some objects on stage, including a peace sign and yellow ribbon. This was only a few days after the Gulf War started. On that day, I was also at the Garden seeing the Celts play when they announced that the bombers were headed to Baghdad and the war had started.

Neil came on and played Blowing in the Wind. The effect was almost overwhelming. Neil had a really severe haircut and his music w/ the Horse was like being plugged into a live socket. This was no Hippie Dream...he was almost beside himself w/ emotion and wanted us to share in this.

Ten days later, I went to see Neil again in Providence. If I remember it correctly, that show was on Feb 8, so it was 19 years ago last night. Social Distortion played another great set and then Sonic Youth came on. They hadn't been at the Garden show and I was really psyched to see them. This was something familiar but also totally different from anything before. Although 90% of the crowd ignored them (or worse), they played an amazing set. Thanks to Neil, I now had another great band to listen to.

In September '91, I went to see Sonny Sharrock for the first time. He was performing in a small club and was absolutely amazing...again hearing music that was both familiar but totally new and unique. I had been listening to him on records but this was even much, much better. His album Faith Moves was a favorite and one that I played often for my daughter who was now two years old.

After the show, Sonny was sitting at the bar just chatting with some fans. I wound up talking with him and telling him that I played his music for my baby girl. We also talked about Miles Davis, who was very ill and would pass away a couple days later. It was a wonderful experience and Sonny said some things to me that I will always remember. I saw Sonny perform again a few months later at the same club. We didn't get to speak but he did give me a smile and a nod while he was playing.

At 2/09/2010 07:45:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Part Three
In late winter '92, I waited in line for tickets to a solo show at The Orpheum. I was lucky to get four tickets, since the show was in great demand. I invited my sister and her husband, and the four of us went to the show in early April. Actually there were five of us: my wife was almost nine months pregnant at the time w/ our second child.

Neil came out to great applause and opened with The Old Laughing Lady. By the time he got to the chorus, I knew this was the greatest song I'd ever heard him do live. He followed with songs that he was working on and that would become Harvest Moon. If you've seen the Unplugged show and/or heard the album, the Orpheum show was an earlier, more urgent version of the same material. The crowd was very restless at times but Neil seemed to handle it all in stride. His one comment to the crowd, which kept calling out requests, was something like "You may still wish it was the 70's but when you go back outside it's going to be 1992". It was an amazing, wonderful show and I was hoping that the baby was getting the full benefit as well.

Our son was born a couple weeks later, and I also played him Neil's music right from the start. I continued to catch live music whenever I could, and this included an incredible ten day period when I saw Sonic Youth do a midnight show on my birthday, then I saw Belly play their first US headline show at a very small club, and finished this with a show by the late, great Toy Caldwell at an even smaller club which was only a few miles from my house. Around the same time, I saw the Pixies for the first time and was (almost literally) blown away by them as well. This was their last Boston show (until the recent reunion).

During the next few years, I was really working a lot and had two young kids, so I didn't get to as many concerts for awhile. I listened to Neil's music and seemed to favor NY and Crazy Horse more and more.

My wife and I did see Neil in '93 when he was touring with Booker T and the MG's. That was an incredible show (but aren't they all) and had Blind Melon and Soundgarden opening for them.

Later that year, I saw Nirvana for the first and only time when they played on Nov 10. They opened with Breed and played almost nonstop. The show ended with 15 minutes of psychedelic punk that was again familiar but also totally new and unique. To borrow Greil Marcus' great comment about listening to Dock Boggs, Kurt sounded that night was like his bones were coming through his skin.

In April of the next year (1994), my wife and I were taking a much needed overnight getaway. After checking into the Inn where we were staying, we turned on the TV to learn that Kurt Cobain had been found dead. We spent the next few hours watching MTV and I was thinking about the time I saw him play and what it might have been like if Nirvana had been part of the Ragged Glory/Smell the Horse tour (which they almost were). Hearing that he'd included "rust never sleeps" in his note made it even more poignant.

At 2/09/2010 07:48:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Part Four
A few weeks later, Sonny Sharrock died unexpectedly. He was on the verge of another tour and was starting to get some much overdue recognition. In a very short period, two great musicians were suddenly gone and it seemed like maybe the best times might be over in some kind of way.

When Neil and the Horse came out with Sleeps with Angels, it helped to reaffirm my faith and showed how great art often comes from the worst times. It's still my favorite album of his.

I attended my first Lollapalooza festival in the summer of 1995. There were a number of great sets and I got to see Pavement and Beck. Courtney Love played with her band Hole and then Sonic Youth came on. They played songs from their upcoming album Washing Machine and finished their set with one of those songs. Starting slow and soft, The Diamond Sea extended for at least twenty minutes and seemed to sum up everything I had listened to up to that point: folk, rock, free form and everything in between. It was obviously about Kurt but also other lost friends...emotional, intellectual, sensual and completely mind bending.

In the summer of 1996, I finally got to see Neil again when he toured with the Horse. He opened with an electric Out of the Blue and never looked back. This was to be the best show I've ever seen him do. Unfortunately something happened and my wife couldn't make it; a good friend went instead and was completely blown away by his first Neil Young show.

The next summer (1997) Neil and the Horse were on tour again...just like the back-to-back touring years in '85 and '86 when I first saw them live. Not only that, but they were playing two shows as part of The Horde Festival (which could have been renamed The Horse Festival for this year's version).

My wife and I went to the Friday show which took place at the end of an all day festival. We got there to see Beck, and then Neil and the Horse came on and played a real balls-to-the-wall set of music. The show ended with RITF and Neil went 15 minutes past curfew, at the end just his vocals and effects pedal continuing to play. The Bridge School had autographed pictures of him and the Horse coming off stage right afterwards, and I wish that I had bought one!

The next day they were playing again. I went again, this time with two friends. To make things even better, I had won two tickets in a radio contest! We got there really early because Neil was sometimes opening the day with a small stage acoustic show. Didn't happen that day, but still glad we tried.

We saw everyone play that day and the weather was really varied. First it was really hot, then cloudy, then torrential rain and finally clearing toward the end of the show. It was raining cats and dogs during Beck's set and we hung out under a tent by the beer stand. Then we headed to see Kula Shaker (with Haley Mills' son) play the second stage. The rain had stopped, there were about 5,000 people there, the police had pretty much stopped caring and everything started to get very...hazy. You could finally use your lighters again, and everyone was taking full advantage of this.

The set had just ended and you could immediately hear music starting from the main stage. Everyone headed over there to catch Neil and the Horse coming on with no real announcement. Their mood seemed completely different from the night before, like the rain had made everyone really thoughtful. They opened with Slipped Away which had become my favorite new song after the previous year's tour. This segued effortlessly into Down By the River and by the time they paused to catch their breath, they'd been playing for over 40 minutes! Another amazing set from Neil and the Boys.

At 2/09/2010 07:53:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Part Five
Next time I saw Neil was summer of '99 when my wife and I attended our first Farm Aid. Neil played an acoustic set and performed many of the songs that would be on Silver and Gold. Especially moving for me was the song Daddy Went Walking, which Neil introduced by first talking about his dad and the farm in Omemee. My dad was the same age and we had lived on a farm for ten years while I was growing up.

Since then, I've seen Neil a few more times, sometimes with my wife and sometimes not. I saw Greendale at the very beginning (the long version with a really talkative Neil) and at the end (short version with long encore)when Neil opened by saying simply "these used to be new songs and now they're not". I saw all three CSNY tours, first and third ones with my wife and the second one with a friend. We caught another Farm Aid two years ago and were blown away by A Day in the Life...I love when I hear things like this before I know about them ahead of time!

I've also seen the current tour group twice with my son, who first experienced Neil while in utero back in '92. Both shows were in 2008 and the first one was at The Orpheum, where we sat very near the same seats from the 1992 show. That was an incredible show as well, with an epic version of No Hidden Path (can't wait to see this in the Trunk Movie that's coming out!). Second show was just before Christmas, with Wilco opening and again heard Day in the Life (which I'd heard with his mom three months earlier).

I was going to see my first Bridge School concerts in October 2007. I had tickets for both shows along with cheap plane fare and hotel reservations. The plan was to surprise my best friend (who still lives in the Bay Area) and go to both shows.

A few days before, my dad took a turn for the worse. He had been very ill for awhile and, after putting up a gallant fight, he passed away. This was a couple days before and I had already cancelled my plans. His service was Monday morning and his memorial DVD included two songs: Daddy Went Walking and Jesu Joy of Man's Desire.

At 2/09/2010 07:57:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Part Six
I'm hoping to get to both Farm Aid and Bridge School this year, but I'm okay if I can't. As John Lennon said so perfectly "Life is what happens while you're busy making plans". I did see Neil on Conan and the Haiti telethon and loved both performances. Knowing what Neil was going through, I was inspired by his grit and resolve. I posted my first comments on Thrasher's Wheat while waiting on hold to make a donation early Saturday a.m.

The song with Dave Mathews was especially meaningful to me. Ten years earlier, I was recovering from major surgery. During the first weeks, I listened to three albums almost exclusively: The Stanley Brothers Sixteen Greatest Gospel Hits; The Carter Family Reunion Album; and Hank Williams Alone and Forsaken.

The one I listened to the most was Alone and Forsaken. I actually found it really uplifting and it reminded me of my mom, who was from Alabama and actually knew Hank when they were very young. Hopefully a lot more people listen to this song and many of Hank's other masterpieces; if so, then Neil has done his job perfectly while helping others who are in such great need.

This past Friday, I got to hear a great new band for the first time. Alberta Cross was playing and you should really check them out. I think they might be the next Kings of Leon (who I've seen once in their early days). Anyway, after the show I spoke with the band's leader, Petter Stakke, who was very friendly. We were talking about other musicians and the subject turned to Neil and Dave's song (they record for Dave's label). He said he was really impressed and loved the song. It was great meeting him and seeing his band perform. Another really good band also played that night and I recommend that you check out The Constellations as well.

Thanks very much to anyone who has read this and I hope that I haven't rambled on too much. Keep on fighting the good fight and enjoying your life. As Jefferson Airplane sang at the end of Wooden Ships "Go Ride the Music".

At 2/09/2010 02:40:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Whoa Mr Henry, I'm exhausted!!

That was a great I

thought Shakey was a good insight!

Where's Mr McDonough when you want him!

Just a little advice..try not to be so vague when ya tell the world your story lol!

I loved it!

Doc part 1

At 2/09/2010 03:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

understanding neil's music? it's not just his music, it's ALL music. you either get it or you don't. if you have to explain to someone in order for them to like it, then they shouldn't be listening to it in the first place. neil's music is simple to understand. nothing complex about it.

At 2/09/2010 03:25:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Yes anonymous it IS all music..but some music has the ability to transcend, to take you to that place in time ya wanna be..

As you grow old, reminissing is a pleasureable thing. Sure ,some memories might not be pleasant..but it is the good memories that you reflect on and if Neil is the vehicle to ride down memory lane in,be it.

Yeah every group has their classic signature hit and probably more..Zepps "stairway", Claptons "layla".....but try and pinpoint Neil's classics to just one song?

That is the beauty of the man and his fans..each has a different piece of the Neil pie and it might taste that little different on your buds..but at the end of the day, its the same pie..

Keep on baking them Neil!!!


At 2/09/2010 07:32:00 PM, Anonymous BigChief said...

Yo Mr. Henry. Your insightful mention of the '83 concert in which he ended the show with the 'Shocking Pinks' brought back painful memories to me as I was saw that tour along with about a dozen of my closest friends and a couple family members, whom I assurred they would witness the concert of their life (at my expence).It was at the Pine Knob Music Theater outside of Detroit.For whatever reason,after his solo set there was supposed to be a brief intermission, then according to reviews from previous shows he would return to the stage with the 'Shocking Pinks'. Well, it didn't happen. Without even an encore he left the stage never to return. While the audience was faithfully screaming & stomping with customary lighters in the air, I noticed his funky bus with the Studebaker skylights pull out of the venue as the pavilion lights came on. It had to rate as the greatest disappointment I had ever experienced in anything Neil related.I guess he must not have known that I, his greatest fan, was in the audience. But seriously, as I read in 'Neil & Me' by his Dad,( or maybe 'Shakey',whatever)he had several of his own relatives in the audience as well. Gary Graff,a music reporter for the Detroit Free Press at that time. made mention in his column the following day that Neil was miffed that there was empty seats in the front rows. Another reporter said that the audience wasn't responding with enough "enthusiasm for his liking".He also exclaimed that "Detroit didn't deserve the Shocking Pinks". Needless to say, I was heart broken for a long time after that one. Never the less, during the long ride home I spent the entire time defending our 'Hero' with all of his mood swings and such.Needless to say, they didn't get it.Anyway, you were very fortunate to have been able to witness that event, just as those who saw the 'Tonights The Night' shows, 'Rust Never Sleeps'tour, and now on that list as well, 'Greendale'. Like I often say,"you can't go back to the day's that used to be" !

At 2/09/2010 08:45:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Thrash,I just thought of an idea.

You can either embrace it or trash it I don't care (much).

Your topic threads are always interesting and it is a credit to you that you keep the different topics and discussions varied.

But what about the idea of inviting one of the wheaties such as Greg M ,Big chief, Matt, Dan, shitty, Mother,Jill etc do instigate a topic of their choosing and throw it out to the wheat for comment....soughta like,
"what's on ya mind"..just a suggestion.. could be good dialogue
I really enjoyed this thread on "understanding Neil's music and I'm sure my sentiments would be echoed by other wheaties.

As I said... just a suggestion, if it makes it any better, pretend the suggestion came from someone else..maybe DK or Pinto or someone.

not doc

At 2/10/2010 05:29:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Thanks very much doc for your kind words...really appreciated. Wait until you see the director's cut version! As Brando used to say "Was ya there, Charley?".

Up early and watching ABC news, they're showing the events from The White House last night. Wish I could have been there! Seeing Smokey, Dylan and Joan Baez still working their magic is both inspiring and humbling.

Fist time I saw Bob was early in the Rolling Thunder tour. During the opening set (w/ McQuinn, Rambling Jack, Neuwirth and many others), I wandered around the back of the arena to get some room. Looking down, there's Bob and Joan Baez waiting to come on...holy shit! Bob is tuning his guitar and looking serious, while Joan is drinking a 16 oz Bud and teasing him about something.

So they take the stage and the two of them start playing. I had my dad's old 8mm camera and had been filming them backstage...don't think they saw me then. I'm filming while they are playing and I zoom in on Bob. Just as I get the closeup, he turns slowly and gives me a direct dead-eye stare that goes on for at least ten seconds. He's turned away from the audience while singing, and I'm thinking that Security is going to grab me any second and smash my camera.

Well, nothing happpens, Bob turns back to the crowd and keeps on singing. Their first song ends and I fade out the camera. I still have the film and I really should send him a copy sometime soon!

That was a great, great show and lasted for about four hours! I think that in some ways it was a turning point in the way concerts were became okay to extend your shows, take chances and not always be the one in the spotlight. Bob had the late, great Mick Ronson playing in his band. Bob and Joan's version of The Water is Wide still gives me chills.

I saw the show again about a week later and it was just as good and just as long. I kept my camera home for this one.

When Neil was doing the '91 tour w/ Crazy Horse, I think that his model might have been the Rolling Thunder Revue. Bob's shows in the 90's also reminded me of this period, especially the ones where he had Patti Smith on the bill with him (I was lucky enough to catch a couple of those).

So thanks very much guys...and keep on the sunny side!

At 2/10/2010 10:32:00 PM, Anonymous BigChief said...

Sounds like a winner to me, doc's bout it, Thrash? fighting drugs with pain

At 2/10/2010 11:43:00 PM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Me...I'm not stopping there
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line
In the field of time

At 2/10/2010 11:59:00 PM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Hey Small Chief,

Thanks for reminding me why it's better to just keep your mouth shut in this Brave New Sarah Palin World. Keep on Crockin dude.......

At 2/11/2010 08:29:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Hey Jill,
I'll tellya something funny.
re. typing on T.W. between patients.

When I arrive at my rooms first thing in the morning,my secretary informs me of what patients I have for the day and when,... but not before she informs me if they're are any new comments on Thrasher's Wheat!...Well trained! he he


At 2/11/2010 10:41:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

One more and then I'm taking a break for awhile:

"He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful"

Don DeLillo
First sentence from
Pafko at the Wall

At 2/12/2010 12:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Henry, what a ride, thanks. It makes me think of all the concerts I’ve seen, and all the circumstances that surrounded them- nothing as cool as a wife to be, or the birth of children, but still, so many good memories, and so many stand out moments. Like Big Chief, I saw every concert that came through the Detroit area from the Stray Gators in ’73 to CSNY in ‘07(?), with a bonus Freedom show outside Boston (where I spotted Kevin McHale on the way to the men’s room), and then what unfortunately remains the last show I saw, due to finances and lack of proximity, Greendale at the Rosemont in Chicago. Highlights I can think of right now? Hmmm… Well, there was RNS where I smoked my first joint, and my friend was pissed at the Woodstock piped in soundtrack (said it was old news), Ten Men Working at The Palace with a stirring Ordinary People, the time he stopped playing his guitar during Heart Of Gold, and nodded in approval as the crowd continued singing the lyric without missing a beat, or stopping mid song during the Rosemont show, and yelling at an idiot screaming for Southern Man: “Fuck you, shut up!” Geez, I could go on, but it’s just my version of what everyone’s memories are going to be, and Mr. Henry already captured the moment. But, in line with Mr. Henry’s recitation of non Neil concert moments, I have to mention the greatest single concert moment I ever experienced, which was the first and only time I saw Dylan in concert. I showed up at Pine Knob outside Detroit with no ticket, and purchased one from a guy in the parking lot. I remember him being pissed because he wanted a ridiculous amount of money, and I told him I wasn’t going to pay more than the face value, which he had to take just before the concert started. What a turn of luck for me, the ticket turned out to be the best seat I ever had for a concert anywhere- eight rows from the stage, dead center. I remember focusing on each musician specifically to try to appreciate their talents on an individual basis for several songs (G.E. Smith in particular), and then the unbelievable moment when each instrument melded into one overarching sound coming out of the center. I hate to use the word, sorry, but it was a sustained period of sound that simply transcended the musicians, and I’ll never forget it.

I will say this Big Chief, I was at that Shocking Pinks concert at Pine Knob, and remember it specifically as one of the great guitar performances I ever saw out of anyone. I mean, Neil’s guitar picking was so fluid and straight ahead, no fuzz or distortion, just screaming R&B, it was amazing- complete with fedora and sun glasses (alas, no pink suit or greasy pompadour). I also remember it fondly because I ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, and the first thing out of his mouth was “I knew you would be here!” Even the friend I was with caught the significance of that. But, I have to say that what I don’t remember is the concert being particularly short, or being disappointed in any way- not that I wasn’t and just don’t remember it. It must have taken a lot for Neil to be pissed off at a Detroit crowd, though, as he’s always been partial to Detroit. Ironically enough, it does bring up what for me is the one disappointing thing in general about Neil’s concerts- they were always too short for me. Not that they were any shorter than a normal concert, or that I felt I was deliberately being short changed, I just always wanted them to be just a little bit longer. So much material that never got played, that might have had a chance had the concerts been a little longer. I know what they say about “always leave them wanting more”, and of course I would always want more no matter what, but… Not really a quibble, just remembering how special each and every concert I saw was, how great the anticipation was, and what a big pay off it was when Neil finally strolled out on stage, usually with the characteristic single greeting arm over head, and not infrequently a drawled “Hello, Detroit”.

At 2/12/2010 03:28:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Geez!, I am so enjoying this post!

Probably my favourite post for a long time!(well, they're all good)

All of you "closet Neilers" 'comin' out'..its like confession time!

"forgive me Neil for I have sinned"

"Tell me your tale son'

I love these reminissing stories!
its great therapy!

The "wheat" are in full harvest!
right down to the Kernel!

Unfortunately, we haven't had the opportunity to see Neil as much as you guys have over the years..but I tried to make every concert..even when my wife was close to labour with our first...

Geez,I thought I'd have to make a "sedan delivery" lol

Keep harvesting the stories guys!!

luv doc

At 2/12/2010 09:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Doc, just read your earlier comment - you`ve got your secretary well trained in prioritising then!

Somehow I doubt if my doctor visits TW in between patients, but my dentist on the other hand is a keen Neil fan. So unlike a lot of people, I actually look forward to a trip to my dentist for the interesting conversations we have. (After the treatment, of course - not while he`s got his hand in my mouth!)

It`s always great to find another Neil-loving soul, wherever or whenever you come across them. Share the love!

luv, Jill

At 2/14/2013 04:06:00 PM, Blogger Hawk said...

This reminds me vaguely of my proposal story from a few weeks ago. I had put together a playlist of some our favorite songs as well as a few that meant a lot to me and that were symbolic of our relationship. I didn't expect it to be about 20 degrees, so I had to convince my girlfriend to stay by the firepit a bit longer so we could get through the playlist and I could then propose. It got to be too cold, so I gave a brief "speech" and dropped to my knee as Neil played in the background.
Here's the playlist if anyone is interested:

1. Bell Boy - The Who
2. You Got Me Floatin' - Jimi
3. Across the Universe - Beatles
4. Sail Away - Neil
5. Center of Gravity - Yo La Tengo
6. I Want You - Bob Dylan
7. Harvest Moon - Neil
8. I've Never Found a Girl - Al Green
9. When I'm 64 - Beatles
10. I've Been Waiting for You - Neil
11. My Little Corner of the World - Yo La Tengo
12. You Make Loving Fun - Fleetwood Mac
13. La Vie En Rose - Edith Piaf
14. Songbird - Fleetwood Mac


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