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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

North Ontario News & "Helpless" Music Video from American Masters

In 2009, the PBS program American Masters broadcast the documentary Neil Young: Don't Be Denied.

Here's a music video from the documentary of "Helpless" live, solo, acoustic at Massey Hall in Toronto on January 19, 1971 along with scenes from a town in North Ontario.

Also, see reviews of "Don't Be Denied" Preview screening.

In other North Ontario news, an update from Youngtown Museum, a fine rock and roll destination featuring Neil Young, The Beatles, and other music icons. Youngtown Season Five will officially begin on Saturday April 21st.

For more news, go to Youngtown Museum. Thanks Trevor!


At 1/10/2012 11:40:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

"Big Birds flying across the skies
throwing shadows in OUR eyes...
Leave us... helpless,helpless.heeeelpless

so,how do the Neil analysts interpret this? Cryptically or literally? just wonderin'


At 1/11/2012 09:05:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

I'm not a Neil analyst, but I believe that song is an eloquent longing for a more simpler time in life escaping from the predatory nature of humans in general or from those people to whom we are helpless.

I realize the reference of "big birds flying..." is possibley a literal translation for a time in his life when it was a thrill watching mass bird migration in Canada.

The very first time I heard that song, I was thinking the "big birds" were the mass of star-making machines (entertainment industry) with their greedy hands out all the time "throwing shadows in our eyes."

There are certain things that are sacred that people cannot rob from you. They cannot take your memory of childhood. Or your dreams. It's possible that at one time in Neil's life, he felt that people crossed over that line. "Helpless" was his way of preserving what others were trying to take from him.

My favorite song where I can get lost is "I Believe In You."

That's my "Helpless."

At 1/11/2012 05:57:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

I like your interpretation Mother, but I'm sure,like powderfinger there will be several interpretations to some of the lyrics to this song...Neil ALWAYS keeps you guessing lol


dream comfort memories despair

At 1/11/2012 10:44:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

I didn't know there was any despair in that song. I hear a general longing to be in a place of dream comfort memory to spare, Doc.

At 1/11/2012 11:11:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

your right Mother!..and to think all these years I've heard it as 'despair' and not 'to spare'
I must listen more carefully to takes on a new meaning to me now!


At 1/12/2012 12:04:00 AM, Anonymous Jason Cunning said...

i'm from northern ontario. The footage in this video doens't look familiar - too many rolling hills.


At 1/12/2012 12:13:00 AM, Anonymous relaxing music said...

I love your article.very interesting.thank you so much.

At 1/12/2012 04:53:00 AM, Blogger asg said...

why can't "big birds flying across the sky" mean big birds flying across the sky ?

At 1/12/2012 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

ASG, okay, so my anthropormorphic analysis of the music entertainment business doesn't sit right with you.

I think a lot of lyrics stream from the human primordial subconscious longing for guidance & survival on the planet. It sort of explains why most people don't know where it comes from when they are asked about it.

In that song, there is an obvious longing to go back to a time when big birds were flying across the sky, throwing shadows over our eyes. It's a recollection of this simple connection he made as child to nature (or observation of it) that satisfied his helpless soul.

Sometimes when I put his lyrics into the context of a dream state or subconscious, other images and symbols emerge.

Remember when Neil wrote about stars sitting at bars who dropped by to die because it's faster than sinking? Pretty obvious, right?

It's possible "the blue, blue windows, behind the stars" are more than sky light reflecting on glass. Maybe it's a collective subconscious -- a soul -- singing about people who are trapped by a loneliness because of their detachment from nature.

Maybe the "yellow moon on the right" represents cosmic illumination for anyone looking for it.

There's a wickedly funny line at the end of "Dead Man" after Nobody is preparing the canoe for Blake's journey:

"I prepared your canoe with cedarboughs. It's time for you to leave now, William Blake. Time for you to go back where you came from."

William Blake answers, "You mean Cleveland?"

Nobody responds, "Back to the place where all the spirits came from, and where all the spirits return. This world will no longer concern you."

Helpless, helpless, helpless.

At 1/12/2012 12:06:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@asg - good question.

OTOH, "big birds flying across the sky" literally means big birds flying across the sky.

OTOH, its certainly metaphorocal. Look at all the songs Neil's written with bird lyrics.

"Danger Bird"
"Birds" (obviously)
"Little Wing"
"Hawks And Doves"

See Neil Young Songs with Bird Lyrics

It's one his most frequent images and loaded with symbolism.

@MNOTR - great Dead Man/ William Blake quote!

We'll see you back at the place where all the spirits came from, and where all the spirits return.


At 1/12/2012 03:29:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

hmmm. I alway took 'big birds..throwing shadows..' as an airplane dropping a shadow on the ground, 'on our eyes', etc... it happens. not too many other birds can do that.

It'll be the first question I ask him!

At 1/12/2012 04:18:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

ASG...I ask the same question..Why can't we take it in its most literal simplistic form?
I love the fact that everyone interprets Neil's lines/lyrics in different certainly allows for interesting debate...and there acertainly many Neil songs with cryptic meaning....
Broken Arrow,last trip to tulsa, After the goldrush, just to name a few,
keep your opinions and interpretations coming... love it


At 1/12/2012 10:09:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Sony, I never thought of "big birds flying across the sky" being an aeroplane but it totally fits, too.

At 1/13/2012 01:14:00 AM, Blogger asg said...

don't get me wrong, Neil has written lyrics as poetry--wide open to interpretation (BROKEN ARROW perhaps) AND as journalism (OHIO)Dylan did/does too...I just think that sometimes a phrase means exactly what it sounds like it means..."Drive back to your old town, I wanna wake up with no-one around" (to me) means exactly that...Neil (in Shakey) talks a lot about "feelings" as opposed to "facts" and that's when interpretation seems inevitable...

At 1/13/2012 02:20:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

totally agree asg...but that is the beauty of Neils words in song..
sometimes simplistic,sometimes meloncholy,sometimes cryptic...interpretation is in the mind of the beholder..


At 1/13/2012 06:33:00 AM, Blogger asg said...

been thinkin' about the lyrics to F**kin' Up...I don't what the hell the song means, but tonight I am asking myself "Why do I keep F**king up?"

At 1/13/2012 07:16:00 AM, Blogger Jill said...

I agree with most of the comments here, and think the fact that many of Neil`s songs can have both a literal or a metaphorical interpretation gives them a timeless quality. You can listen to them over and over and still find different meanings to his lyrics.

Neil does mention the `big birds` again in `No Wonder`, probably my fave track off PW.

“Back when I was young
The birds blocked out the sun
Before the great migration south..”

Haha, my word verification is `wingsopi`, lol.

At 1/13/2012 07:30:00 AM, Blogger Jill said...

And actually, on the subject of boyhood memories, and with Neil deep into Waging Heavy Peace, I wonder whether the muse will soon be leading him in the direction of another batch of songs looking back over his life?

Or on the other hand...?

At 1/13/2012 08:53:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

@ASG, I think most of us can read him like a book just from the music he's made throughout his life. He leaves no rock unturned. Deep down, you must know what that song means if it plays like a soundtrack in your mind. You only need one rabbit in your hat to prove whether you're good or not at selling magic. For me THAT song is anthemic for self loathing & self disgust which can be almost too painful to hear!

@Jill, I think the muse is leading him down from the mountain top. I hope she doesn't play any tricks on him. Judging by the collaboration & material he came up with for LaNoise, I'd say his experience navigating up the trail has made him a very good teacher.

Does anyone remember the Roy Orbison's "black and white" concert? Its a gift to his fans because the load in life for some is just too fuckin' hard & heavy to carry.

Neil knows this, too.

At 1/16/2013 07:25:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

There is a town in North Ontario
Streams comfort memory's despair...


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