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Sunday, May 27, 2012

God Save The Neil Young Fans (& Thrasher's Wheat)

"God Save The Queen"
Art by Gary Burden and Jenice Heo

As we have observed before, after running Thrasher's Wheat for over 15 years and almost a lifetime of listening to Neil Young's music, there are two things which we have found to be nearly universally constant:

1) Neil Young never ceases to surprise, amaze, and confound us, and
2) Neil Young fans never cease to surprise, amaze, and confound us.

Just weeks ago -- before anyone had heard even a single note -- folks were taking shots at "Americana" for all sorts of reasons which led us to post The Judgement Not To Pre-Judge "Americana". (And once again, pre-judging the upcoming book "Waging Heavy Peace", as well.)

And so what do Neil fans make of the most recent release of "God Save The Queen" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse? Well, judging from the comments, it's great or sucks and everything in between.

So what to make of all this? We turn to this comment by Greg M. on fans' reaction to "God Save The Queen":
"How could people get so unkind?"

Boy, am I ever glad Neil never listened to his detractors -- or his admirers -- when putting out his music over all these years. Perish the thought of his own musings.

We never would have gotten the brilliance of his artistic vision, or the glimpses of the world as seen through his eyes he has so often shared with us. Thrasher's Wheat has never, ever, been a place where people have not been allowed to voice their opinions one way or the other, but it has also always been, first and foremost, and unapologetically, a Neil Young appreciation site. And yet, the people who come here to appreciate and acknowledge Neil’s output, in all its variations, are too often put into the position of defending what doesn't need defending- Neil’s decisions to do whatever the hell he wants, in whatever the hell way he wants, for his own reasons.

We “get it”, and lament the fact that so many don’t.

And for all his efforts, Thrasher is too often put into the unfair position of refereeing bouts of snarkiness from people who seem to derive some sort of weird pleasure out of coming to a Neil Young appreciation site to trash Neil Young. People who in their wildest dreams could never approach the passion and commitment underlying A Fork In The Road, the poignancy of a Prairie Wind after a brush with death, the experimentation and righteous indignation of the Geffen years, or any other in their eyes ill-conceived effort on Neil’s part. And then those of us who do appreciate these things are denigrated as mindless worshipers, who have cravenly elevated Neil to God status, or who don’t respect the fact that this or that thing is simply not any given Neil fans cup of tea.

We sometimes go a little overboard ourselves in trying to make sense of all the negativity. We have to sit idly by while people casually beat the drum of repeating for the umpteenth time the shallowness of the idiot reviewers who seem unable to survey Neil’s career without the obligatory mention of his “career turns”, as if Neil plots these out of a sense of perversity, rather than as fidelity to muse and unvarnished honesty. We have to listen to the drone of disrespect for Are You Passionate, Trans, and now Americana, etc. ad nauseum, because they don’t “sound” the way the arbiters of how Neil should sound think they should. The golfer, Jack Nicklaus, said it all- “It’s amazing what people think you “should” do.” No, Neil must conform to his critics views, otherwise he is diminishing his talents, and depriving the world of another On The Beach or Zuma.

I tried mightily to keep my mouth shut here, and probably should have, but I guess I’m just as flawed as anyone else, and unable to rest in some of the most sublime words Neil ever uttered: “So all you critics sit alone, you’re no better than me for what you’ve shown. With your stomach pump, and your hook and ladder dreams. We could get together for some scenes.”

Oh, and “Walk On”.

A Friend Of Yours

Thanks Greg. That really helps put all of this in context. So who would've ever thought running a Neil blog would be such a challenge???

We await the release of the remaining "Americana" tracks with bated breath...

More reaction discussion on VIDEO DEBUT: "God Save The Queen" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

Labels: , ,


At 5/27/2012 07:07:00 AM, Blogger La Johnson said...

Excellent summary - Neil's records will aways draw critics & fans - he's still relevant and making some valid music. BUT don't mistake my negative comments, for me Neil has always been about the songs and the songs haven't been there for a few years. One mans Trans is another mans FITR. Sooner or later we all get old.

At 5/27/2012 07:45:00 AM, Blogger no one said...

Part of the problem is the attitude that every fart and burp of the artist is profound. If Neil decides to take fifteen minutes to crank out a set of "songs" about cars, more power to him and to the listener, if you find it enjoyable. But don't stand up and shout about how much "passion and commitment" went into it. Ditto times twelve for the memoir.
One other point- Thrasher, you have been curiously silent about the memoir. I suspect, since you can actually write, that you may find it a bit... lacking? I'm sure you can wax eloquent, as usual about Neil's right to publish whatever he deems publishable, but would you care to address the quality of the writing?

At 5/27/2012 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

How about this? How about we separate what we like and don’t like, from what Neil is trying to do with his music? Because someone doesn’t like something, does not mean it’s a “mistake”, or has missed the mark somehow. Who is anyone to say what is a “fart and bump of the artist”? If it sounds that way to you fine, you don’t have to listen, but who are you to say that your interpretations rise to received knowledge? A lot of other people agree with you? Still doesn’t make it so. Why do you have to project your perfectly acceptable sensibilities beyond what they can only mean to you? Because you see something as less than artistically pristine, Neil and those who appreciate him for all he does are supposed to jump up and start exclaiming “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa!!”? I don’t know how many other ways I can say the same thing, so I’ll just repeat here parts of what I wrote on the last post:

“Fair and objective criticism is always welcomed, by me and by this site, and opinions are just that, but it’s not unreasonable when stating either an opinion or criticism to know what you are talking about, or to demonstrate a basic knowledge of Neil’s modus operandi when it comes to the execution of his ideas.”
I wasn’t referring to people in general when I brought up passion and commitment, many of whom are in fact living their passions. I was referring to people who “derive some sort of weird pleasure out of coming to a Neil Young appreciation site to trash Neil Young.” Of course, it’s true that even these people can be living their passions, but then if that were the case they would probably be able to recognize it when it comes to Neil.

There is more to Neil’s projects than lyrics and music, or even simple musicianship. For instance, Fork is not merely an album full of “songs about cars”. It references Neil’s passion for developing an energy alternative to existing technologies which are harmful to both human health and the environment. It references the effort it takes to pursue practical steps in this direction, as is the case with the team of techs working on Linc Volt in Wichita (Johnny Magic). It references the fact that “just singing a song won’t change the world”- it takes committed action. It references the notion that it is more constructive to “light a candle in the darkness”, rather than battering away at an entrenched darkness, i.e. the prevailing paradigms that are in the process of destroying this world and its peoples. It references all these things, and more. Furthermore, to imply that Fork is a work “hastily written and recorded” is to display a basic ignorance (ignorance, not stupidity) of Neil the artist, and the immediacy that he adheres to over slick production values. Living With War came out of Neil’s heart, not some sound board. Campaigner was sung for the first time live before a concert audience mere hours after it was written. We all know the story of Ohio. Numerous songs and albums represent first takes before the band ever had a chance to really learn them well. On and on it goes all through Neil’s career. So you don’t like it this time, o.k., no one is forcing anything on anyone, but because you don’t like it and/or don’t understand it, does not give you carte blanche to tear it down and ride roughshod over a labor of love, or conclude that Neil is like a leopard who somehow lost his spots along the way. An intelligent guy like you should know these things. Likewise, I take issue with another sentiment, that we should not “defend his forks in the road that have been mistakes.” Mistakes in whose eyes? Neil’s? I don’t think so. People like me, who enjoy any number of things about what some consider to be missteps? No again. Do some choose to take a pass now and then? Absolutely, and that is their prerogative, but this does not equate to a mistake on Neil’s part.”

At 5/27/2012 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

LA, I respectfully disagree, I think the songs have been there, they just reflect different factors, too numerous to list here- as if I know what I’m talking about when it comes to song writing.

I apologize for being so heavy handed, I just get frustrated by the disposition of some to be so summarily dismissive. And I don’t have to think Neil is perfect to feel this way. I don’t even need to know what the next project is going to “sound” like- or read like. I know where it’s coming from, and that I will find more than enough in it to make it worth my while. This has been true since 1969, and I don’t anticipate that Neil will too soon disappoint.

A Friend Of Yours

At 5/27/2012 01:17:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Greg. And no one & LA and everyone else who ever is or was a Neil fan.

One hundred years ago this month, Claude Debussy wrote an article for Etude Magazine titled “Musical Taste in Modern Times”.

"The sense for the mysterious is gradually disappearing in these days in consequence of the irrepressible desire to prove everything, to explain everything; yet there is something which will always remain mysterious—and that is Taste. Be it understood that here “taste” is used only in its application to music — a subject already difficult enough, for the question of taste enters into close contact with innumerable feelings and nuances in feelings which are one with, and inseparable from, the word “Taste.”

In most cases the question is evaded with the usual assurance that “about taste and color it is impossible to argue.” This argument is just as vain as when someone pounds his fist on the table in support of his pet view.

And if a definite stand is to be taken, and an opinion voiced, so that it does not seem as if one were simply juggling with subtly-colored words, then this can be said: The beauty of a work of art cannot exist without mystery. That is, it cannot be accurately ascertained in a work of art “how it is done.”


Let us preserve this particular charm to music, at any cost.

By the very nature of its art, music is more sensitive to this than any other form of art, for everything in it is mystery. We know nothing about its beginning. Learned savants claim that man sung before he spoke—that song existed before speech. This opinion seems too poetic—altogether too contrary to the barbarism of primitive ages. Let us rather accept the theory that it was the warbling of the birds which first gave man the thought of music."

peace out

At 5/27/2012 01:18:00 PM, Blogger feelyourlove said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5/27/2012 02:06:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Thrasher for all you do!! It can't be easy hosting the best Neil Young site around! Your tireless efforts to keep this place going are greatly appreciated!! It's just too bad that "no one" is obsessed with Neil Young ;) God Save Neil Young!

Steven James

At 5/27/2012 05:14:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Thank you, Greg!!! You state it clearer than I could, and I'm quite happy to read something reasonable on the issue of peoples' negative trolling.

People come here and drop their really pompous, negative reactions, and accuse anyone who disagrees with their insulting comments of being some kind of Neil cultist, or worse, of not being educated enough to comprehend what they perceive as universal truth. It becomes, for them, a forum to not only denigrate Neil Young, but an exercise in elevating themselves by putting down anyone who dares like something that they, through whatever perfectly legitimate act of subjective interpretation, don't, by claiming superiority, or presenting opinion as fact, and putting people down.

Sometimes it's hard not to react to such overt pompousness with angry retorts. (See my angry tirade at no one in a previous thread).

Using exaggerated, dismissive rhetoric to pump up their own points-of-view, such as the obviously silly criticism of FITR as taking 15 minutes to write and record... these comments are, for their own sake, attempts to belittle other people or derail rational discourse.

A lot of people don't like FITR, or have problems with the book excerpt, or whatever, but a good deal of those people still manage to respect the artist for his efforts and present their opinions with respect for other peoples'.

Or not pretend that their own feelings were lifted from a book of universal truth about art.

The truth is, at least IMO, those people are TROLLS. They know that their comments are going to enflame people, and they post them for the specific purpose of disintegrating rational discourse and creating an angry, negative atmosphere by insulting peoples' points of view.

The rest of us... or at least myself, as I can't really speak for everyone... but anyway, being quite a reactionary, at least I, sometimes just can't help but feed them by jumping on the defensive. Which sucks, because it just plays right into their small-minded games.

At 5/27/2012 05:22:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Great response, Thrash. I was discussing this very quote about Mystery with someone just yesterday. Actually, he was discussing it with me. He couldn't remember who it was that had come up with it, but it's a very true statement, IMO, as to the varied interpretations and perceptions people have of art.

At 5/27/2012 08:16:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks to all for keeping things lively and semi-civil.

@Matthew -- here you go, buddy...

"Ain't it hard when you wake up in the morning
And you find out that those other days are gone?
All you have is memories of happiness
Lingerin' on.

You might wonder who can I turn to
On this cold and chilly night of gloom
The answer to that question
Is nowhere in this room."


At 5/28/2012 12:04:00 AM, Blogger Kimball said...

Greg, you keep hitting the bullseye. Thrasher, thanks for showing us the hundred year old writeup that is just as applicable today and was probably just as applicable 200 years ago (at least in Europe).

My first real understanding that Neil's songs truly react with people differently was right here on TW. After a few experiences of listening to new Neil records and knowing which songs resonated with me and which ones didn't, I came here to read other's takes and was amazed that some of the songs that bounced off of me were the absolute favorites of other listeners. I reallized that there are at least 2 parts to music appreciation - one is the music itself and the other, possibly equally important is the experience and taste of the listener. Almost like there has to be a recepticle for something about the song to fit into our frame of reference. We grasp onto the smallest things when listening and they pretty quickly make or break the tune for us. A line about a similar hard experience or an image of a loved on conjurred up or even the particular open sound of a room ambience in the recording location.

We are each, OURSELVES, an important part of what makes music touch us or pass through us. Our brains and our catalog of experiences and memories, that is where the music either takes root or blows on through. With this understanding, it is clear to me that I cannot declare that a piece of music or art is outright unworthy of the time and evaluation of others.

So I don't do that anymore.

At 5/28/2012 03:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'There is nothing like a friend who can tell you when you are the wind'
You guys quote Neil like born again Christians quote the scriptures so I thought I would do the same.
That brings me to my argument of blind faith.

I think you should respect that fans are allowed an opinion. You should also NEVER EVER EVER put a human being on a pedestal where they are beyond criticism. To quote Paul Weller, 'Beware false prophets'. Neil is not a false prophet he does not profess to be a prophet, he is a musician but blind following of leaders is a dark and dangerous road for groups in society to go down.

Always criticise those you admire when it is justified....give honest feedback.. Those who we respect should be given honest feedback. These are the values I think Neil Young promotes. NOT blind unquestioning religious faith. Listen to yourselves, you are dissing people who are given their opinion...

Neil Young would be puzzled by his fans blind adulation of him by some of the people on here.
This is not a good world where people can't honestly state that they find something mediocre.

I will give my opinion.
Thus far this album has not been my cup of tea. I have streamed it through my stereo and I imagine now this will collect a lot of dust in my collection. Does this bother me, no not at all. Because I will stick on some Radiohead, Jack White, Gruff Rhys..maybe some old Jimi Hendrix or David Bowie LPs. You can't just have a record collection whic consists of Neil Young and related acts, widen your listening experience.

I still though am sure that Neil has a 'Silver and Gold' left in him and the horse have a 'sleeps with angels' left in them.

Freedom of Speech

At 5/28/2012 07:20:00 AM, Blogger Kimball said...

The idea fueling this particular discussion is the idea that some or all of these particular songs are substandard, period. As opposed to substandard through the lens of someone's opinion. anonymous, you're on the same side of the argument as greg et all.
We're in a very subtle fold of the personal opinion of dislike vs wholesale substandard unworthiness discussion. To me, the most important thing is to keep Neil's creative spigot open, for the opportunity to hear that next magical tune that seems like it was tailor made for my tastes. Someone, somewhere, does or will rank GSTQ in their top 5 NY soungs ever, even if its not everyone's cup of tea. Personal opinion is one thing. Wholesale discreditation of the work is something quite different. Nearby, but different. That's all we're saying, except maybe Give Peace a Chance, maybe that too.

At 5/28/2012 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Freedom Of Speech, I think you make some really important points, and I agree with you. I admit that I am on thin ice in terms of putting Neil on a pedestal, as far as the music goes, simply because for whatever reason, I genuinely like just about everything he has done musically, and have been able to find a silver lining in even the things I don't like as much.

However, when it comes to opinions and criticism, and the problem of blind faith, I think there are a few key distinctions that get missed on a regular basis by the detractors who contribute to this site, and but for these distinctions being realized more clearly, I think things could be a lot more civil around TW.

The most annoying distinction missed is the failure to distinguish between "it sucks" v. "I don't like it". How can anyone be criticized for not personally liking something? I don't think anyone on TW has ever taken offense at that. To each there own. If it stopped there, I don't think we would be having this discussion. But the implied demand is too often there that because one person doesn't like it, no one should like it, and if they do they are mindless worshipers of Neil. I find this personally offensive, and just as offensive as the reverse, if I were to demand that everyone like something just because I do.

The second, and more subtle distinction that gets missed, is that as devoted Neil fans who have followed his career as closely as we've been able, through the media, reviews, books, etc., we are only too well aware of Neil's imperfections, and personal traits, at least to the extent that we can be not knowing him personally. We already know that because he is a human being, he is therefore not perfect, thank you very much. I think the more casual fan doesn’t take this into consideration enough, and concludes falsely that just because we are less willing to throw the baby out with the bath water, that this automatically means that Neil has somehow transcended criticism in our minds.

The final point I can think of right now, is one that will likely let me in for some real derision, and maybe fuel the blind worshiper stuff all over again. Rather than being a negative, I think a lot of Neil devotees see his imperfections as a positive. I think we admire his never say die attitude, and determination to move past things that could have just as easily stopped him dead in his tracks. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m not thinking very clearly, so I’m not going to rattle off all the ways that Neil can be seen to have fallen short and imperfect in my eyes, although some of his political naivety comes readily enough to mind. Suffice to say that just like anyone you care about, sometimes you love them not despite their faults, but because of them. We want Neil to keep producing, and we’ll brave the moments when he lets himself in for criticism, because we know that in the end, so many things will rise out of it that will make it all worthwhile.

Sorry if I seem to be couching things in an us versus them manner, like I say I’m not thinking too clearly right now. There’s room for everyone, I just wish, me included, that we would all just count to ten a little more often.

A Friend Of Yours

At 5/28/2012 12:14:00 PM, Blogger andrea1bianco said...

I have always, every year,a great sense of anticipation for all the new works of Neil Young. For me Neil Young is always relevant as in the past. I love everything, from Everybody's Rocking to Landing On Water (not a big fan of Le Noise , but the tour was very interesting). I can be (very,very ) critic about some choices of Neil as man or for some decisions of his management, but I appreciate and respect the artist and his body of work.
I feel that Neil probably can't repeat his masterpieces of the past, but I consider his continuous creativity as a great gift to everyone.
I know to be politically scorrect, I feel guilty for this, but anyway I really hate all the negativity about the Neil works here and everywhere.

So Tired.

p.s.Expecially in the recent years, the presentations of his new works have been fans friendly. Thanks.

At 5/28/2012 01:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hagiography is for douchebags. Charging money for this album is insulting and the music is boring and irrelevant.

At 5/28/2012 10:57:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Anon 01:26:00, I had to look up Hagiography, too...

A Friend Of Yours

At 5/31/2012 12:43:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Neil is just so great. I've always loved that I'll-do-whatever-I-want attitude of his. It reminds me so much of Dylan's attitude. I've been a fan of Neil's for over thirty years now, and he never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to him and thanks to Thrasher's Wheat.

At 5/31/2012 01:11:00 PM, Anonymous Treovr said...

This hurts, God it hurts. I am a 59 year old man who has been collecting Neil since 1969 and have all his stuff on vinyl, it's cost several pounds to collect but I am not going to buy the new album. I think he's lost it by covering the U.K National Anthem. To be honest I struggled with the "live" bouble CD from Cow Palace. Thought it was terrible. I don't think he's made a GREAT album for years. It makes me very very sad to type this.

At 5/31/2012 09:45:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...


Which "bouble" ["double"?] live CD from Cow Palace" are you talking about? The only one I know of one was an unofficial, unauthorized release. I think it came from the same recordings as the 'Rust Never Sleeps' movie, but Neil never officially released the complete soundtrack to that film, just the 'Live Rust' album, which omits one or two tracks and is on one CD. Obviously, we can all make our own decision whether or not to buy whatever Neil puts out. I'm just pointing out that, to my knowledge, Neil didn't authorize the release of the double CD you're referring to. If it's not on Reprise (or Geffin for some of the '80s albums), it's not an authorized Neil Young album.

At 6/01/2012 06:37:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Hey Trevor. Remember, Neil is Canadian and we always sang "God Save The Queen" in school.

At 1/12/2013 09:14:00 PM, Anonymous Neil Fan For Decades said...

In all the blogs I've seen I haven't yet encountered any echo of what I see in "God Save the Queen." It is beautiful and it increasingly moves me to tears. For me, at least, the meaning is simple: Freedom is precious. We are losing it again.


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