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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rare Photo: Neil Young - Hammersmith Odeon, March 1976

Neil Young - Hammersmith Odeon, March 1976
Photo by Tony Fahy

Well, here's an interesting little story behind the photo of the nearly revolutionary "Like a Hurricane" video.

"Like a Hurricane" was written by Neil Young in July 1975 with friend and La Honda neighbor Taylor Phelps in the back of his car, when he was unable to sing due to an operation on his vocal cords. The song was first released on the album American Stars 'N Bars in 1977. Driven by Young's trademark fierce guitars, the song has been a concert staple over the years.

There are a number of factors which make the film extraordinary. Besides the near 10 minute length, the film/video is a single take performance filmed during a 4 night run at London's Hammersmith Odeon March 1976. This is not a lip synch performance as is now standard. Also, this was in the pre-MTV age when performance videos were virtually unheard of marketing tools. Then, of course, there was "The Fan" -- which brings us to the story behind the photo.

We recently posted the "Like a Hurricane" video on our Facebook wall where -- somewhat unexpectedly -- it had one of the largest reactions of any of our FB posts in terms of impressions and feedback. Unexpected in that this video has been floating around for over 30 years and it would seem that any interested Neil fan would've seen a few dozen times or so by now.

What follows are memories from Tony Fahy who was at all 4 of the Hammersmith gigs. Here are Tony's memories as FB blogged:
Tony Fahy: I was at this gig in Hammersmith. All four in fact! 3 on the last three days of March and the fourth on the 1st April 1976. Best set of gigs I was ever at.

It's amazing to find this, just posted!

Sebastien R.: Where the fuck is that wind coming from?

Tony Fahy: Sebastian, there was a huge fan to the side of the stage, that Neil would just lean into when he played lead. He actually balanced against this 'hurricane\'. If the fan had been turned off, he would have fallen on his face! The fan was about 5 feet in circumference...if my memory isn't fooling me. I took a pic, which is still the best I've ever seen of Neil leaning in...

Thrasher's Wheat ‎@Tony - you gotta find that photo! Very cool that you were at all 4 gigs. You must tell us more.

Tony Fahy:I have the photo, but I've always resisted putting it out there. Let me think about it...I wasn't the only one there the four nights. There was another guy who was there the first three nights he shouted out for Neil to sing: "I am a child'. Finally on the last night a very loud 'I AM A CHILD' was heard all over the theatre....Neil said dryily into the michrophone: "Me too man!".

In those days, there were no bouncers and immediately after the last gig, I waited till the crowd had gone...climbed up on the stage only to run straight into Neil! Had a long chat with him and somehow had the nerve to ask him why he had never played Ireland. He said to me that they had considered it back in Hamburg, but because of what they were reading in the paper about what was going on in Ireland, that they wouldn't play there!

I said to him: (wherever I got the nerve from): 'Neil, you should listen to your own songs more!'...' I guess you're right at that' he said. The next European tour, he did play Ireland. I often wondered if I'd played a part!

Thanks Tony for sharing the great memories! Very cool that you saw 4 consecutive shows in 1976.

Neil Young - "Like a Hurricane": Hammersmith Odeon March 1976


At 1/16/2011 05:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW!!! This is BEYOND awesome....thanks for sharing!!

janee ☀

At 1/16/2011 05:46:00 PM, Blogger Greg McGarvey said...

"I was in England and I was watching The Who play and I thought I'd pick up a few tips. I noticed that Townshend had a huge fan behind his amp, so... ya know, groupie that I am, I went out and got my own fan. It's outta sight! It feels like, ya know, I'm standing on top of a building or something. ....Just thought I'd tell ya about that." - NY 11/20/73

At 1/16/2011 05:55:00 PM, Blogger Sandy Horne said...

That has always been my all-time favorite live video.

What a gem of a photo, Tony! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

That is in fact, about the coolest picture I have ever seen of Neil.


At 1/16/2011 09:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember this video from the Midnight Special. I was a fan of NY before this video but after seeing this I went and bought AS&B's which was my first NY album.I've been a NY nut ever since.

At 1/17/2011 08:57:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

One of my favorite videos for sure ... what a classic timeless tune ... watching this also brings me joy because it reminds me of the amazing stage presence that Neil has nowadays ... instead of being an old fart whose past his prime and singing the same tunes of yesteryear these days Neil's stage presence is literally better than its ever been ... and for me that stage presence adds a tremendous amount to the whole live experience of a Neil concert. And that's not to say he didn't have presence then because he surely did and its never so apparent as in this video but its also clear that his role as an elder statesman, of having weathered so much for so long, it just expresses itself in how he carries himself live today and I deeply appreciate that fact. Its gets said often but its true -- so few performers from the 60s and 70s are literally a better live act now then they were then and I think, beyond being a Neil fanatic that's clearly biased, you can truly make a case for Neil being at a pinnacle of sorts in his live concerts over the past years ... this video in its own right is a pure joy and a work of art and placed into the context of Neil's prolific career it also serves, at least for me, as a milepost along a clear upward journey of his developing and improving his art ... on that note ... here's hoping he doesn't stay off the road too much longer ...

At 1/17/2011 03:59:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I only managed to be there for one night not 4! One of the best gigs ever. Even after the house lights came up and they announced that Neil had left the building no one left. And he came back and played another song. I seem to recall this was the first tour with Frank and he played keyboards on this song. I remember the fan in particular when he played Stringman.Scarily this is all nearly 35 years ago so the memories a bit hazy.
Nigel Blackwood
Birmingham, UK

At 1/18/2011 06:42:00 AM, Blogger Jonh Ingham said...

I was at this gig too - maybe the same one as Nigel. Easily in my top 3. At the time people like Zep and The Who were doing big shows with lasers and huge TV screens so Neil's version was to have a fan. The back curtains were raised so you could see the back wall of the stage and the band were smack in the middle, so they looked really small. The only prop was the fan, which got turned on for 'Hurricane'. Neil leaned into it for the solo. It wasn't about 5 feet wide though - it was a big commercial fan on a stand, like you'd find in an office.

Also, this was the first time Neil turned up the volume and distortion. I remember wondering if it was just me who found the sheets of noise incredible, but then the whole place would explode at the end of each song.

The night I saw him, the fans didn't leave for 45 minutes. Complete noise and chaos. We never let up on the cheering, clapping, foot were physically trying to throw people out but just got into fights. When Neil came back on they sort of creeped in from the side, staring out at the crowd like they didn't believe it. I found out later from someone backstage that they couldn't hear the noise and only came back out because Neil had had so much fun he wanted to play more, even to an empty house. They were amazed that there was still a full house. I think he played 'Cinammon Girl' for the encore.

At 1/18/2011 10:56:00 AM, Blogger Melanie Young said...

Wow! Talk about electrified!

@Dan1: Your comment means a great deal to me. As a younger fan who's only come to appreciate Neil in the last couple of years - and who saw him live for the first time only a few months ago - I'm gratified at the thought that I may have seen him at one of his peaks.

At 1/18/2011 05:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Glasgow gig was brilliant! One of the highlights of the day was Neil busking outside Glasgow Central station.If memory serves me right he sang "Old Laughing Lady"It's out there on tape,somewhere!
J. McAllister

At 1/18/2011 08:07:00 PM, Blogger Sandy Horne said...

@ Dan1. Read a quote by Patti Smith that reminds me of your comment on stage presence:

"The performer wears his confidence as a sacred garment. In the wearing he enters the realm between ritual and result. His coat of art."


At 1/19/2011 12:28:00 PM, Blogger RICK RANGEL said...

I ,too, saw this clip on THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL when it first aired.I think Little Feat & Bonnie Raitt were also on the program. I
just want to let everyone know that the producer of that show,
Don Kirshner,passed away yesterday.He was also responsible
for the IN CONCERT series that had a lot of great rock groups performing on television during the 1970's . A pioneer in a leisure suit that understood skinny
long haired guys in patched jeans.

At 1/19/2011 01:33:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Rick for the reminder.
Don K certainly managed to capture a lot great music performance for history.

Now did Wolfman Jack introduce the Hurricane clip? Or is that my memory playing tricks??

At 1/19/2011 02:17:00 PM, Blogger Andy said...

There were quite a few of us who went to all 4 Hammersmith gigs (top price £2.50) and then onto Glasgow. The first gig on Sunday 28th was announced very late. Great gigs with Neil in good form all nights. Highlight for me was On The Way Home on the Tuesday. Best gigs after the TTN tour of 73.

At 1/19/2011 05:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What amazed me about the Tonight's the Night tour was how many people walked out after about half an hour,all because he wasn't playing stuff they could sing along to. We were treated to a brilliant encore,"Down by the river"......forgotten the others,...well it was 1973!
Jimmy Mac Scotland

At 1/20/2011 03:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've related the fact that I was at all four of Neil's Hmmersmith gigs. These are just a few other incidents that I was involved in then! On the first night, after the gig, I went to the back of Hammersmith Odeon. I was one of only a small few fans that did the same. I didn't keep a diary, but I was overwhelmed to write this ino one of my song books that night: "Amazing night. I met Neil Young tonight after an incredible concert. He let down the window of his limousine, shook hand with me and said a few words. ~He had a harp in his hand and was playing a note here and there.. He said Goodbye and sped off into the night. It actually went through my hjead at the time—"they stood at the stage door and begged for a scream". That was the first night. I'll tell you about the second night next time! Tony Fahy

At 1/20/2011 04:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Second night , Neil did this incredible version of 'Cinnamon Girl' I don't know how deliberate it all was, whether Neil knew or not—I was talking pictures in the middle of the centre aisle (believe it or not, on all four nights, I was never approached to move on, though I was sitting on my haunches, smack dab at the front of the centre aisle!), Suddenly in the middle of Cinnamon Girl. This beautiful blonde, in a vivid yellow mini-dress, came down the centre aisle dancing, very raunchily. Neil was weaving away at the front of the stage when he caught site of her. He went absolutely on fire. Talk about ants in his pants. He went absolutely wild, responding to her movements with movements of his own on both guitar and body! Absolutely exhillerating and incrdible guitar playing!. It only happened on the one night and I don't believe that Neil was expecting it, not according to his reaction! Tony Fahy (I put this in the wrong place originally)

At 1/20/2011 05:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The third night of the Hammersmith gigs, I sat as sual, in the centre aisle, where Neil had previously played a new song called " day and night we walk the aisles', which I thoght I was in agreement with him!. A couple of years prevously, I had heard Neil do a song at the CSNY gig in Wembley Stadium in Londoon. So I shouted out to Neil, who had sat down to do a acoustic set, dead centre of the stage, directly opposite me (can't have been more than 10 yards away) and I shouted out loudy: "Hey Neil, Do Hawaiin Sunrise". Neil thought for a minute, because he'd never recorded the song and said: "Well that's mighty impressive"...but he didn't do the song! Tony Fahy

At 1/20/2011 02:04:00 PM, Blogger Andy said...

I went to 5 of the TTN shows, missed only Glasgow and Newcastle. The stories of fans walking out in those shows I think are greatly exagerrated. I seem to recall more people not coming back for the second half of the Greendale shows in 2003.

At 1/20/2011 04:14:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@Tony - great memories! Thanks for sharing.

@Andy - same. love to hear more about those TTN shows. Interesting that Greendale had a harsher reaction.

At 1/20/2011 04:16:00 PM, Blogger RICK RANGEL said...

Thrash- Wolfman Jack used to host
THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL so you're probably correct on the introduction. Neil was not actually on the show..they just played that clip as part of the night's performances.Can you imagine the disco freaks expecting
The Spinners or Donna Summer or the pop freaks expecting Leo Sayer or Donnie Osmond and here comes Neil playing "Hurricane"
like a mad man possessed...

At 3/18/2011 02:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at one of the Hammersmith gigs in 1976 and I seem to remember that Neil stopped the intro to one of the songs with Crazyhorse because they weren't up to scratch so they started it over.
My wife was pregnant at the time and gave birth 3 weeks later. I tell my son that he went to a Neil Young concert when he was 0. I'm sure he must have heard it.


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