A Candid Conversation with Cameron Crowe on Neil Young
Rolling Stone: So Hard to Make Arrangements for Yourself, Neil Young interview by Cameron Crowe, 1975
A most enlightening interview with Cameron Crowe on recent Neil Young developments.
Cameron Crowe -- whose improbable rock & roll journey is most extraordinary -- captured some of the earliest extensive print interviews with Neil Young in Rolling Stone magazine in the mid 1970's, reveals his latest encounters with Neil.
From Exclusive: Music Matters – A Candid Conversation with Cameron Crowe – The Uncool by Vinyl Films and Greg Mariotti:
Q: What about a review that you wish you could rewrite? I saw your San Diego Door review of Neil Young’s Harvest in 1972 and you (like many critics) trashed it pretty good.
Cameron Crowe: I remember being really disappointed by Harvest because I heard all those songs on the bootleg of I’m Happy That Y’all Came Down. All that stuff that showed up later on the Massey Hall album that was finally released. I just initially felt like some of Harvest was overproduced.
Q: Any songs from that album that really stand the test of time with you?
Cameron Crowe:Sure. “Out on the Weekend” was the song that played as we rolled up to the property that became where we shot We Bought A Zoo. It really completed the whole vision of it and we knew we needed to shoot there. Some of Neil Young’s best writing is on that album. Usually I’m fine to have the demo of a song I love. I don’t even need drums. Just the singer and the song…
The whole Jack Nitzsche overblown “There’s a World” stuff on Harvest disappointed me. But the songs over time, you just go ‘Oh My God.’ The strings were meant to be there. But still, nothing beats the versions you hear on Massey Hall. Much the same way, there’s bootlegs of Neil playing in ‘92/’93 which is where the version of “Cortez The Killer” that we used in Almost Famous came from. It’s just really hard to top solo, acoustic versions of those songs. That’s just where I sit as a Neil fan. It’s the same with a lot of other artists as you read the early reviews I did for the Door and L.A. Times. I’m always fighting for the most original version of the song.
If you come to me and say that you have the greatest band version of a song or a shitty demo where you can barely hear the vocals where it was first written in a back room at the guy’s house, give me that one. Give me the versions of “Watching the Wheels” and “Grow Old With Me” that John Lennon wrote with his son, Sean, crying in the background. Or even the demo of Marvin Gaye working out “Sexual Healing” in his living room in Belgium. The best! Almost every time, those are always going to be the most brilliant interpretations of the song. But that’s just me.
Q: What has happened with your long-planned Neil Young book with photographer/Young archivist Joel Bernstein? Is it a traditional bio or do you have something else planned?
Cameron Crowe:I do. I have a changing concept. We were going to do the cover of Rolling Stone around the times of Archives Vol. 1. The time to get with Neil up at his ranch kept changing due to other projects. We finally got up there after Archives Vol. 1 was released and he was working on Dreamin’ Man. Anyway, we did the most amazing interview with Neil. He said it was the last interview that he would ever do. It was a career spanning interview.
We drove around his ranch and talked about everything. Rolling Stone had a hard time scheduling it since Archives Vol. 1 had already come out. Then I heard from Neil and he said that he was coming down to L.A. and wanted us to hear his new album that he was working on which turned out to be Le Noise. So now we do more interviews based on those songs and the creation of that album. We had a big session that was not unlike the Bob Dylan Biograph session where he was talking about songs. Track by Track. What inspired them, what they remind him of today. Just amazing stuff.
Now, the entire thing is awaiting the release of Archives Vol. 2 or it got me thinking that we now have enough material to do a Conversations With Neil Young book. Which would be just as thorough as we were able to be with Billy Wilder. That feels like it would really create a difference with the Shakey book and be a wonderful thing for fans to hear Neil talk about his music through the years in Q & A form.
Q: What did you think of the first volume of the Neil Young Archives?
Cameron Crowe: Brilliant, and just perfectly complex and beautiful. You don’t think of Neil Young as being a techhead but he is as geniously precise as any R&D guy you could ever meet.
The Archives are the two sides of his brain on full throttle – the techie and the dreamer.
Complete interview with From Cameron Crowe – The Uncool by Vinyl Films and Greg Mariotti.