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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nils Lofgren and Neil Young

Nils Lofgren and Neil Young
Vote For Change tour 2004
St. Paul, Minnesota
Photo by Joseph Quever

Nils Lofgren and Neil Young have a very long history and go all the way back to the "After the Gold Rush" days when Lofgren was only 17 years old.

Lofgren had a double hip replacement awhile back and had this to say in the interview Nils Lofgren Talks Life Without Clarence Clemons and the Future of E Street - Spinner by Dave Steinfeld:
Nils Lofgren: "I was in the hospital after double hip surgery, doped up because I was in a lot of pain. My wife got a call, said it was Neil Young, put the phone in my head and my old buddy Neil was there to see how I was doing.

It meant a lot to me, but it was very intense.

I remember near the end of the call, he said, "Yeah man, you gotta get well. There ain't too many of us left." Even in my haze, I kind of filed it away as a great theme for a song. And in keeping with the 'Old School' title, that was a requirement, to get it written and recorded.


I met Neil when I was 17. I'd just hit the road with my band Grin, and we were on our way to L.A. Long story short, he was very kind and helpful while he played four shows at the Cellar Door in Washington, DC., and said, "Look me up in L.A.," which I did. A year later, [he] asked me to do 'After the Gold Rush' as a guitarist, singer and piano player. I didn't even play piano, and I told him as much, but as [producer] David [Briggs] pointed out, I'd been a classical accordionist since the age of 5. And they said, "Well, we just need some simple parts, you'll figure it out." It's fascinating to me in hindsight that they had more faith in me [than I did]. I certainly would not have called myself a professional piano player, and that was the first professional session work I ever did.

At the time, you know, I was so wrapped up in trying to carry my weight that I just thought, "Wow, this is a fresh sound, very sparse." You've got this busy kind of James Jamerson, deep-pocket bass lines by Greg Reeves. Neil's beautiful stuff up top. And then in the middle, you've got very simple drums and piano by me and Ralphy [Molina]. And it just had a great vibe to it. I certainly didn't project what it would be 40 years later, but at the time, I thought we were doing something really fresh and emotional.

(thanks Roel @!)

in 2008, Nils Lofgren released an album called The Loner: Nils Sings Neil where he covers all Neil Young songs.

From a post on by Mike "Expecting To Fly":
I just got the Nils Sings Neil disc. It's just Nils solo on piano and acoustic guitar and his beautiful voice. It's incredibly good. I am not always a big fan of others covering Neil's songs but Nils has credibility and love to burn in huge quantities. He plays each song with affection and feeling and his connection to this music comes through with an astounding force. It's a very moving experience for me to hear this interpretation of these songs.

From the liner notes:

"1970 was a very magical year in my life. During the making of the 'After The Gold Rush' album in Topanga Canyon, California with Neil Young and our producer and brother in arms David Briggs, I did my first real acoustic guitar and piano session work. Neil lent me his cool Martin D-18 (which appears on the inside photo of the 'Gold Rush' album leaning against the wall next to him) to play on the record. Near the end of the sessions, Neil gave me this now historic guitar as a gift for my contribution and commitment to this landmark recording. It remains a treasured guitar, which I continue to play and cherish to this day. I knew that the soul and history of the D-18 would give me my best chance of doing Neil's songs justice. Also, David Briggs, my dear friend, producer and mentor, although no longer with us, perched his spirit on my shoulder and kept the music real..."

Also notable: on the liner note to this tribute album, Nils put "Produced by David Briggs and Nils Lofgren" as the production credit. It's like it's as much a tribute to Briggs as it is to Neil. It's very touching that he did that.

It's a wonderful and beautiful recording. I highly recommend it to all of you. Buy it here: or

Expecting To Fly

Thanks e2f! Sounds good.

Nils Lofgren
Photo by Joseph Quever
From Shine Silently , Marshall Terrill's interview with Nils Lofgren on Neil Young:
    "NL: Just before we left for Los Angeles, I snuck in on Neil Young and Crazy Horse at the Cellar Door in Washington D.C. I got to be friends with them, spent two days hanging out with them, and Neil stayed in touch from the road. It was unbelievable that Neil Young would stay in touch, but we were going to LA anyway. When we got to LA, David Briggs, Neil's producer, took us under his wing and we became the house band at the Topanga Corral, but we also played anywhere and everywhere. Q: You made "After The Gold Rush" with Neil Young, which was made in 1969 and released in 1970. How was that experience? NL: It was through David Briggs, who was still helping Grin trying to make it big, and our album came out around the same time as "After The Gold Rush" came out. We made that record at his house in 1969 with a mobile truck, which was an amazing experience. Neil pushed me on the piano, not because I could play but because of my accordion experience. I was able to do very simple, basic rhythmic things. It was just a classic record. Q: In a paragraph or less, what is Neil Young’s particular brilliance? NL: In a paragraph or less, it would have to be that he is as great a songwriter as there will ever be. Everything else is a distant second. Neil’s a great musician, he’s very eccentric, eclectic and has a beautiful, haunting voice. But you know what? All of those things are a distant second to being an amazing, amazing songwriter. The same thing could be said about Bruce Springsteen. When you combine the words with the melody and the music, it’s a power that everything emanates from. They happen to be amazing singers and musicians, but if they weren’t, they couldn’t ruin those songs. They would be still be part of our emotional landscape and be just as powerful. You can’t hurt songs that good."

Nils has also covered Young's songs including "Long May You Run" at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA on January 30, 2004 .

Labels: ,


At 12/14/2011 05:17:00 AM, Blogger Thos said...

My favourite Neil Young song - 'Speakin Out', with sublime solos from Nils (and from Neil on piano!)


At 12/14/2011 07:57:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

Speaking Out in New York

I'm w/ya Thos

At 12/16/2011 10:06:00 AM, Blogger JimDC821 said...

Nils' version of Don't Be Denied is simply astounding in its sparseness, it's depth. He captures Neil's spirit in ways few others can.

Have tix to see him at the Birchmere in January - suppose there will be a few other rusties in the crowd hoping that he'll tackle a few of Neil's gems.

Jim in DC (Nils' hometown)


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