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Friday, March 16, 2012

Music Video: "Downtown" - Neil Young with Pearl Jam

Neil Young with Pearl Jam on "Downtown" in the music video on YouTube.

Pearl Jam and Neil Young have quite a long history dating back into the early 1990's. But the only recording Neil and Pearl Jam did together was the Mirror Ball and Merkin Ball albums.

From a Neil Young interview in MOJO Magazine with Nick Kent:

    Q. This brings us neatly to the subject of Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder.

    I can't help wondering whether you truly sympathise with Vedder when he moans on and on about the price of fame. Doesn't it all come with the job?

    Neil Young - The way most people seem to regard Eddie - it's a little out of perspective.

    No matter what he says, it all gets taken down and quoted back at him.

    Who else do you know who's his age and going through the things he's going through because he just wants to make music for a living and travel around a bit? Hopefully though, he'll get used to it. People will get used to him being around and they'll leave him alone a little more.

    Recording Mirror Ball was like audio verite, just a snapshot of what's happening. Sometimes I didn't know who was playing. I was just conscious of this big smouldering mass of sound.

    The whole record was recorded in four days and all the songs, barring Song X and Act Of Love, were written in that four day stretch. I played Act Of Love with Crazy Horse in January at The Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame.

    Then, the following night, I played it with Pearl Jam at a Pro-Choice benefit concert and the version was so powerful I decided there and then to record it with them as soon as possible. On a purely musical level, this is the first time I've been in a band with three potential lead guitarists since The Buffalo Springfield. Plus there's Jack Irons, their drummer, who was just unbelievable. He just played his ass off on every take at every session.

    I can't say enough good things about him.

    I didn't even think about recording a whole album when we went in to cut Act of Love. I had two days with Pearl Jam initially. Two days and just two songs - that wasn't enough for me so I had five written by the time I went in. Recorded five of them, left one out. Then I came back for another two-day session with two more new songs. Plus I re-recorded the fifth one from the first session again. Then the day after that, I wrote another two new songs. Throw Your Weapons Down - maybe. Maybe not, tho' there's a large part of making this new album that's pretty foggy... (laughs)

Another musical connection on "Mirror Ball" involves Led Zeppelin which got us thinking recently with the photo of Jimmy Page and Neil Young in 1974. When Young was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on January 13, 1995 he joined Led Zeppelin onstage for an all out guitar duel with Jimmy Page. Performing a 10 minute "When The Levee's Gonna Break", Page and Young traded licks in what turned out to be a remarkable moment in TV rock. Later that year, Neil wrote the song "Downtown" about that historic night in New York City. From the lyrics "Downtown":

    Jimi's playin' in the back room
    Led Zeppelin on stage
    There's a mirror ball twirlin'
    And a note from Page

    Like a water-washed diamond
    In a river of sin
    Goin' down like a whirlpool
    When you get sucked in
    Let's go downtown

Which brings us to the downtown connection and Danny Whitten (1943 - 1972), who wrote the Crazy Horse song "C'mon Baby Let's Go Downtown".

But that's another story for another day...

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At 3/16/2012 07:44:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I love Matt Cameron - but for me, Jack Irons was the best drummer Pearl Jam ever had....there's just something about his style that is beyond description...

At 3/16/2012 07:47:00 AM, Blogger AWM said...

Is Merkin Ball worth buying for two songs and Vedder singing? Saw it at the used book store and I love that sound but I'm skeptical of a non-Neil singer.

At 3/16/2012 08:21:00 AM, Anonymous Tim said...

AWM — Totally. Pick up Merkin Ball. Those are two of Eddie's best tracks, and Neil's guitar work is all over "I Got Shit." Check it out ...

At 3/16/2012 08:28:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Definitely buy Merkin Ball if you don't already have it. Neil's guitar solo on I Got Id is worth the price alone. It's exactly one minute long and is a minimalist masterpiece of pure music expression...enjoy!

At 3/16/2012 08:47:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Once again Neil was focused on the music and art being made while others fretted over the gossip and fodder for People magazine. And of course he was right: Eddie totally "got used to it" and has become a source of inspiration for the next generations. That's how culture develops and enhances our worlds.

I remember how amped up Eddie used to be. Weren't we all at some point? As Neil points out, the stuff he was dealing with in the mid 90's could have smothered him or made him just walk away. But instead he embraced life and music, and he seems quite happy and content with his life. Every so often he connects again with Uncle Neil and that's got to be an important part in this whole timeline.

Did you see the Portlandia episode where Carrie's new boyfriend had the Eddie Vedder tatoo? The tatoo sang and talked to her, which kind of creeped her out. But then when she met Eddie, he was great and nothing like the tatoo.

Neil realized this difference a long time ago. As we remember many of his friends who are no longer with us, it's wonderful that we can also discuss newer friends who help him keep on rockin'.

At 3/16/2012 02:39:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

Thanks Tim for posting 'I Got Shit'. I've tried to find that unsuccessfully on You-Tube but that's no longer an issue. I remember thinking at the time of Neil's collaboration with P.J. on Mirror Ball that Crazy Horse could have been up to the task, however, the whole point was the inspiration and Neil's new "commitment" to continue moving forward as an artist. Working with those young guy's certainly awakened the muse in Neil's writing and playing at that time. The only downside during this period was Neil's unsuccessful attempt to reach out to Kurt Cobain and 'mentor' him on the level that he was able to with Vedder and the boys.


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