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Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Details on Neil Young's Upcoming Autobiography "Waging Heavy Peace"

Neil Young @
2008 Berlin Film Festival
Photo by Markus Schreiber

The news that Neil Young is writing an autobiography seems to be taking the publishing world by storm (to a degree).

Likewise, Neil fans seem somewhat divided on the effort tentatively titled "Waging Heavy Peace". Fan comments range from the book is a distraction from the music, to we'll never live to see it a la Archives delays, to this being another brick in the artistic creativity wall.

From National Post by Ben Kaplan:
News that Neil Young would be penning his autobiography took the Canadian book world by storm Tuesday. Hot on the heels of the bestselling Life by Keith Richards, Young’s autobiography might be the only Canadian rock memoir to present any kind of sales rival to the skull ring-wearing Rolling Stone.


“A memoir coming from Neil Young — if, in fact, he’s written it, he’s honest, he can write, he has a good editor and lots of photos — will sell tons,” says Jack David, publisher of ECW Press, a 37-year-old Canadian publishing house that specializes in pop-culture books, including a memoir from Rush drummer Neil Peart. “We turn down two celebrity memoirs for each one that we publish because either they can’t write, their story isn’t interesting or else they aren’t willing to be honest. Keith’s book did all those things, and we have to expect the same from Neil.”


Grant Lawrence, music aficionado, memoir writer and CBC Radio 3 host, says that a book by Young is a can’t-miss publishing event. “If you’re a fan of a band, what does a fan want? Access. A fan wants to go backstage,” says Lawrence, author of Adventures in Solitude, recently shortlisted for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction. “What does an autobiography promise? The ultimate backstage access — it’s really a simple formula.”

Rock memoirs, whether they’re by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Anne Murray, Bob Dylan or Steven “Popcorn” Adler, have provided a boon to the ailing book biz. An article in the April issue of Billboard magazine entitled, “How Rock Music is Saving Book Publishing” mentioned that a musician’s automatic fan base make a US$75,000 writer’s advance seem like money well spent.

“The amount of rock books on the market is crazy — even Sammy Hagar’s book did well,” says Lawrence, adding that Stompin’ Tom Connor’s 900-page autobiography sits like a prized possession on his bookshelf. “From Neil, I want to hear about Winnipeg in the ’60s. What was it like for him growing up as a teenager in an isolated city in the middle of Canada? Don’t get me wrong, I want backstage access, but I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get some Canadiana from Neil.”

Of course, a U.S. publisher might not push Young to delve too deeply into his Canadian roots, and the singer’s certainly forged a uniquely roundabout path. From his brain aneurysm to Woodstock; Crosby, Stills & Nash to his son Ben’s battle with cerebral palsy and his own epilepsy, the 65-year-old has lived more than enough to fill the pages of several memoirs.


Still, ECW publisher David has his money on Neil.

“Does anyone want to read about Stephen Harper or Dalton McGuinty? I don’t think so,” David says. “Fans are fanatics, they want to read about their heroes and I think, at this point, there’s few people who have the allure and stature of Neil.”

Our thoughts?

First, the title “Waging Heavy Peace”. We love it and dearly hope it sticks. In a way, it's a play off the Living With War title. Sort of the flip side of the same coin. He once called Phil Ochs' music "Heavy Metal Folk", in a similar vein to LWW.

Neil's still clearly living with waging heavy metal peace... as many of us are.

Also, not insignificantly, it seems that the pivotal song in the new film Life is "Ohio". The song has Kent State footage and other signs of the times. The Vietnam war protests deeply impacted Neil.

Any insight into his mindset during this time would be a fantastic revelation & riveting reading

We don't think this will be like Dylan's Chronicles. Neil has always been much more literal than Dylan. Dylan is downright inscrutably cryptic and often says/writes exactly the opposite of what he means.

While we think many would prefer NY stick with music and leave books to others, this could be quite significant. A future biographer would never have access to the inside story. We've long maintained that we barely know NY. Less than 10% perhaps.

This is an opportunity to set the record straight in his own way, while he still can. Neil's father suffered from Alzheimers so we think with NYA#1 finally coming out, the aneurysm, Ben & L.A. passing, he feels the time has come to pass on some lessons. Maybe some band will read it and take something away? Pearl Jam just said that they owe NY for sticking it out for 20 years and couldn't have done it without Uncle Neil's advice.

As for the timing of the announcement, it makes sense that this news comes out now after all the blowback on the Buffalo Springfield tour delays.

In particular, its insightful that the book is written "in the moment" with flashbacks. If that's its final form, folks will probably have issues that the book isn't linear or something. However, after listening "Hitchhiker", this totally makes sense to use flashbacks as a narrative device. If it works like the song "Hitchhiker", it'll be devastatingly effective.

Also, it would be fascinating if Neil actually addressed the whole muse thing. While anything could happen, it seems that a considerable contract has been signed and the PR machine has already cranked up. Sometimes it can be hard to backtrack on these commitments. The release date is Fall 2012. So we'll predict Summer 2013 at the earliest.

Anyways, the title is really sinking in and hope it sticks. Hopefully, the publishers don't decide to consider some of the ridiculous tweets we're seeing like "An Old Man Looks At His Life", etc.

More on living with waging heavy metal peace and Neil Young's Autobiography "Waging Heavy Peace".

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At 9/22/2011 02:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher...hate to be a stickler here but this sentence:

...The news that Neil Young is writing a biography seems to be taking the publishing world by storm (to a degree)....

is incorrect. Neil young would not be writing a "biography" of himself...he would be writing an "autobiography".


Thanks... Jeffry...used to be with IBM...

At 9/22/2011 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...

doh?! Thanks Jeffry. Not being a stickler.

You know how we are @ TW - quality whether you want it or not.

Or something like that...

At 9/22/2011 03:03:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

...'having to have the very best' !!!

At 9/22/2011 03:05:00 PM, Blogger wardo said...

I'd be happier with the news that the book was already done, rather than the prospect of him just sitting down to start it. It would be nice to have an Archives Vol. 2 in our hands before he began another project with such a fuzzy finish line.

But the hell with it. The fact that he's doing something, anything at this point in his life and his career is a blessing. Long may he run.

At 9/22/2011 08:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it was mentioned, but at the Q & A for the Journey film premier, someone asked if Neil had been thinking about the old day in T.O. etc.
Neil said that he had been very much. That he had just finished writing a book, and that we was thinking of writing another.


At 9/23/2011 11:09:00 AM, Blogger andrea1bianco said...

Neil doesn't like touring without new songs or a new recording project. We dont't have enough information about his recording contract. Maybe for the studio albums it's expired , maybe not.Writing a book is a good way for remaining creative. And also profitable...

So Tired.

At 9/25/2011 02:35:00 AM, Blogger andrea1bianco said...

Here's an extract from the Songfacts interview with Pegi:
"Songwriting is so personal and sometimes he's writing something else. He writes so much – his father was a writer and he's just got that writer gene. So he writes a lot for his website or his Lincvolt Gazette. He had the N Y Times when he was doing Greendale and I'm not entirely sure what all is still up."

Pegi was probably interviewed on December 2010, so these are the first hints in family of the new Neil passion.

So Tired


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