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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Got Lost on the Human Highway

"When Love and Fate Collide"
Human Highway - Directors Bernard Shakey & Dean Stockwell (1982)

With the unfolding nuclear calamity in Japan continuing to meltdown, it might not seem the best time to reference an old film by Neil Young.

But here's why we're posting this now.

The 1982 film Human Highway by Neil Young portrays the Earth's last day following a nuclear holocaust. Original movie posters referred to it as a "nuclear comedy" and filming began soon after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and continued over four years with Young spending $3,000,000 of his own money on production (source).

The film is considered a cult classic somewhat similar to the legendary Journey Through the Past and has been described as "if David Lynch directed "The Wizard of Oz on acid."

"It's so bad, it's going to be huge" proudly declared the poster .

Human Highway Trailer

From Amazon review by Tom Keogh:
Neil Young's 1982 comic mess of a feature left many faithful fans baffled and was otherwise unappreciated at the time of its release. But with the benefit of hindsight and shifts in pop culture in the last couple of decades, much of Human Highway now feels warm and funny where it once looked disastrously undisciplined.

DEVO Gets Nuked

The plot revolves around a small gas station-diner in a fictional town next to a nuclear power plant. A choreographed musical dream sequence takes place as the nuclear blast occurs. At the destroyed gas station-diner post nuclear holocaust Booji Boy (DEVO's Mark Mothersbaugh) is a lone survivor.

At the nuclear power plant, trash collectors (members of DEVO) reveal that radioactive waste is routinely mishandled and dumped at the nearby town of Linear Valley. They sing a remake of "Worried Man Blues" while loading waste barrels on an old truck. There's a leak at the power plant and "Barrel go boom," as the power plant worker so succinctly puts it. A character's (Otto) recent death is by radiation poisoning.

DEVO and Neil Young

A noted sequence in the film features the band DEVO (named after "de-evolution") and a bizarre rendition of "Hey, Hey, My, My". In a particularly ironic manner, DEVO covers Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In the Wind" just before Booji Boy says:
I don't know what's going on in the world these days.

It seems that everybody's just got everything turned around.

People don't seem to care about their fellow man. They're all going for that big ice-cream cone in the sky! They haven't figured out what happens when your eyes get bigger then your belly. Like an ostrich who eats his pizza with his head stuck in the sand. If they can't see it, it isn't there.

And you know, it really *does* take a worried man!

Neil Young and Dennis Hopper
On the set of Human Highway, 1st July 1978 (c) Caterine MILLENNIUM

More on Neil Young Films.

Also, see Human Highway on Amazon.

Neil Young as "Lionel"

I come down from the misty mountain
I got lost on the human highway
Take my head refreshing fountain
Take my eyes from what they've seen.
Take my head and change my mind
How could people get so unkind?

~~Neil Young

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At 3/16/2011 10:54:00 PM, Blogger Timmo said...

this has to be one of the strangest films ever made. Neil Young and DEVO? Bernard Shakey, one the directors - this would be Mr. Young, yes?

At 3/16/2011 11:34:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

sorry to be off topic, but saw that rolling stone readers picked Neil as the 6th best Songwriter of all time. See it here:

NIce video too!

At 3/17/2011 02:56:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

My favorite is the dream sequence...

At 3/17/2011 02:59:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...


Bullshit! Where is Carol King?

At 3/17/2011 03:33:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...


I hear you, but I had no hand in the rankings. I will say that I had a similar reaction when I saw Neil at #6 I said to myself if Joni MItchell is not on the list its a bogus poll. I was relieved to find her in the top 10. That said, I think both Neil and Joni should be higher, Neil at #2 (behind Dylan) and Joni in the top 5. Maybe (1) Dylan, (2) Neil, (3) Beatles, (4) Joni ... also think the WHO should be in the top 10 ... but its a readers poll so clearly very subjective (and how many Carol King fans are still closely focused on Rolling Stone anyway?) Also, no disrespect meant but disagree on putting McCartney there himself, just think if he'd never been a Beatle don't think his solo work would rank so high ... and I'd same the same for John Lennon solo, great stuff, but not top 10 material if not for his stature as rock royalty ... I'm familiar with Tapestry and agree its one of the very best written albums ever, I'm not familiar enough with her collective writing to compare her against artists like Neil, Dylan, or Joni who I'd argue were incredibly prolific in their song writing over many, many years. But, hey, agree with your reaction wholeheartedly ...

At 3/17/2011 05:21:00 PM, Blogger Sandy Horne said...

Just curious. Was Bruce Springsteen on the list?? He is such an amazing sonwriter.

Sorry Thrash, guess we hi-jacked your thread.


At 3/17/2011 05:23:00 PM, Blogger Sandy Horne said...

Oh, oh, oh and Patti Smith!!


At 3/17/2011 06:00:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Oh hey, Dan1. Not @ you directly fellah. (I saw from where the BS was streaming.)

I know better than to shoot the messenger!

I was thinking Carol King because she was one of the early Rock'n'Roll songwriters.

Neil wrote some great songs and he's certainly deserving of top ten status. But Dylan at number one? Frankly it should be this way:

1) Lennon/McCartney (tie)
2) Joni Mitchell
3) Dylan
4) Simon/Garfunkel (tie)

5) George Harrison
6) Carol King
7) Townsend
8) Taylor
9) Young

Mick "frick'n" Jaggar and Keith Richards? Gimme a break here. For real! Aren't all their songs in D?

At 3/17/2011 06:11:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

I meant to put Young at number 8 before James Taylor.

At 3/18/2011 06:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOVE that movie, still got the VHS...wish I had it on DVD...also at the end, it says to look out for the 2nd movie to come out and it never did :(

At 3/18/2011 06:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOVE this movie, still got the VHS...wish it came out on dvd though :( it references at the end that there would be a part 2, but I never saw it come out...

At 3/18/2011 08:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Mmm… Not sure which of Art Garfunkels stuff i like the most… ;-)
And not to stand up for The Stones but if they only wrote in D, I can pick up my guitar and play almost anything Neil has written without leaving the key of G…

Furthermore it would be fair to trade in mrs. King for Chuck Berry. If you listen to him now, you'll discover he already was a singer/songwriter before Dylan and Neil. He just had a different sound later known as rock'n roll. But to me in hindsight it's really just folk music speeded up.
(Not to mention Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and of course Hank Williams himself.)

And all you Americans completely overlook Brian Wilson… shame on you!

At 3/18/2011 12:19:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Thanks T for this piece and for urging folks to contribute and help out. I'm doing the same for both Red Cross and Save the Children.

While we're in a top 10/favorites mode here, check out this link from The Quietus. J Mascis includes Neil's first solo album in his list of baker's dozen favorite albums (others include first Stooges album, Funhouse, Black Sabbath and Birthday Party). And commenting on what it's like to meet Neil: "He was cool".

I saw J perform this past Tuesday at a Boston in-store. His new album Several Shades of Why was released that day, and he did a few songs from that. Very nice performance and a great new album...I highly recommend it. J closed with the Dinosaur Jr song Get Me, which has an incredible Bridge/Chorus (one of his specialities) and is one of my favorite songs of his.

Spoke briefly with him after his set and got an autographed copy of the vinyl LP. I told him what a great job he did performing Cortez at the Carnegie Hall tribute show, and he seemed to appreciate that. He's on tour for the next few weeks, currently out at SXSW, so catch him if you can.

At 3/18/2011 02:36:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

@ Peter ... Oh I hear you. They forgot the old timers like you mentioned. Who can forget Dion? He just came out with a new album.
Gene Pitney? Carl Perkins? Del Shannon?

I think the songwriter's list was a little bias myself. Too much post 60s rock. How could they forget Townsend. The man absolutely took playing the guitar to an all time high. Genius.

Good save on Wilson. I'm sure we forgot a few others, too! Ashford and Simpson, Smokey, etc.

At 3/18/2011 04:39:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

@Peter - seriously? That stereotype of Neil's writing and the key of G is ridiculous. Yes he has written many many songs within the g/c/d framework but if that was all there was to his craft you wouldn't be on this website and neither would I. Neil Young's genius bursts forth only in part BECAUSE of the fact that he has written so many fantastic songs within such a narrow framework of chords. But as a guitar player I know that his talent goes well beyond that and you should too. Be honest and drop the stereotype.

At 3/18/2011 07:29:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

@Jonathan, I think Peter was responding to my comment about the Stones. Ya know? He was just being adding a little light here at the side bar. We can say that about most songwriters -- except for Joni & Paul Simon who were the only two on the list who really ventured away from the rock'n'roll genre.

Neil and Bobby Z. went backward looking for their roots in the rockabilly sound but Simon started getting into the South African beat and Joni started hanging out with Mingus. She's writing dance compositions now for god's sake.

Sorry Thrasher et al, don't mean to hijack a good thread about "Human Highway."

At 3/18/2011 08:29:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

On the wings of a snow-white dove
He sends his pure sweet love
A sign from above
On the wings of a dove

RIP Ferlin Husky

At 3/19/2011 04:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MNOTR is right and so are you. Nothing wrong with the key of G and Neil as done wonders with it and without it.
It's really Neil's strenght to create a lot with almost nothing. That doesn't only count for his guitarsolos but also for his songwriting. I particularly like the (partly) one-note-melodies of My Heart, Philadelphia and lately Leia.
It builds up the tension, only to be released in the chorus or at the end of the melodic line. Great composing…

In fact we could have our own little poll by asking ourselves: what's the most beautiful song written by Neil in the key of G?
Through my sails?

At 3/19/2011 06:44:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Just ordered Human Highway, will Thrasher be in NC for next show?

At 3/19/2011 09:36:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'd like to replace my , sadly damaged,VHS copy.

At 3/21/2011 01:20:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

@Peter - that would be quite a tough choice. Would dropped down modal tunings count that he's playing in the "G" position as the root chord?


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