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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Comment of the Moment: The Unbearable Lightness of Being A Neil Young Fan

Neil Young Concert
Coburg, Germany - 08/23/08
Photo by Henning Rosenbusch

An amusingly perplexing reaction to the post The Unbearable Lightness of Being A Neil Young Fan.

Judging from the comments, clearly, it is almost completely unbearable to be a "Lightness" Neil Young fan.

From a comment by Greg "A Friend Of Yours":
Interesting analysis, that mixes in some very strong points and potentially sound ideas, but I’m way out of my depth in trying to encapsulate the psyche of the garden variety Neil detractor, and don’t think it’s fair to try.

Everybody has their own story and, you know, “walk a mile in my shoes”, and all that. Yeah, “I’ve been chopping down” that “palm tree for”, well, not 87 years, but at least as early as I started hearing the standard carping about Neil’s voice, and certainly from the time I first commented on this site at the amusing to me incredulity of fan reaction to Greendale. I keep waiting for someone to come along in a Cadillac to serve up the perfect rationale for the savaging that Neil takes on a consistent basis, something other than the increasingly mundane “his music just isn’t the same as it used to be, somehow. Somehow, it just don’t seem right…”, but I haven’t come across that either- not by a country mile. Anyways, I don’t think I’ll hold my breath too long waiting in vain for that broken back moment, so although it’s an interesting notion, and probably has an element of truth to it, I find it hard to reduce things down to “They probably are disappointed in the life they have led after that time, and long back to that time when they were young, untroubled and happy.”

But I think Peter comes very close to the truth of it, by relating to each album he cites a specific to that time current experience Neil was going through in his life, and that as time went by a gulf continued to form between the common experiences of awakening youth and young adulthood, and the divergent experiences of many Neil fans from Neil himself.
While we were chattering about what Neil’s music means to him, as opposed to what some fans think it should mean to him, I took up the suggestion to ”peruse” the lyrics to Johnny Magic, just to see if somehow I had mistaken the thrust of their meaning relative to the coherent whole of Fork In The Road’s message, vis a vis the passion that it takes to do as Ghandi suggested, namely “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I wanted to be doubly sure that somehow the lyrics do not betray Neil indulging in “his worst and laziest instincts.” And you know what I saw? I saw lyrics depicting the spirit of Johnathan Goodwin/Johnny Magic bringing to reality the caring and integrity filled (I’d hate to use the word passion again) vision of an artist who in some quarters is deemed to be “unfettered by reality”. Now, I know I’m a little dense at times, and given to mindless worship, but I could swear that I discerned the presence right there in the lyrics of a strong thread tying together the theme of the album, back to the real life experience of its author, and an album and an author representing the passion (damn, just couldn’t find a better way to say it) of “lighting a candle in the darkness”, because “just singing a song won’t change the world.” But you know, I could be wrong, I guess it could be just some insipid “song about a car.”

Another thing I thought about while I was chattering away to myself, was how easy it seems to be to miss the simplicity behind all the complexity running through Neil’s career, a hyper sensitive individual of unique artistic bent, who has the just as unique personality trait to continually reinvent himself along the lines of what is happening for him in his present, as distinct from what is happening to anyone or anything else around him. I think this is referred to as single mindedness, another dart indiscriminately hurled at ‘ole Neil. In other words, “whim” falls far short of explaining Neil’s career decisions. Single mindedness that as far as I can tell usually made Neil impervious to anyone telling him he was “full of crap”. In fact, Neil himself addressed this in Shakey, when told of Briggs’ disdain for songs like “Ordinary People”, because “Neil doesn’t know anything about ordinary people.” Neil flatly turned the notion away, by saying that Briggs wasn’t always a part of his music, and something to the effect that Briggs wasn’t always right. No doubt that if anyone was ever in a position to speak to Neil frankly, it was Briggs, but is anyone really pretending that Neil was talked down from his decisions on a regular basis? No? Correct answer.

So a young, inspired and impressionistic poetic mind, newly off his first taste of the spotlight, and on the rise in the minds of other artists around him, is asked to write the lyrics and music to a movie that never gets produced, but puts it out anyways because it “captures the spirit of Topanga Canyon”, where he is living at the time. The rock world is being turned upside down by the iconoclast Punk Rock, and a little older man embraces it and puts his own spin on it. The much older man has a brush with death, and searches his soul and his past to find an understanding of the life he has led, of life and human experience itself. Then the wizened character looks around at a world suffering under the onus of runaway threats to the environment, and has the temerity to contribute a possible solution. Present experience, current music… current music, present experience… God, you could say the same thing about just about any album this pain in the ass has put out!

The common theme here, that the detractors seem to be missing is that nothing has ever changed in Neil’s musical approach, except for the circumstances of his present experience. Does the detractor expect that today’s Neil is going to sound and act like yesteryear's Neil? Can the prolific melodic value of the old stuff be churned out to infinity without repeating itself, which I think even the detractor can acknowledge that Neil will never allow himself to do, “It’s all one song”, or no?

Why am I trying to explain this? Again?

A Friend Of Yours

Thanks Greg. A friend of ours indeed.

Neil Young Concert
Coburg, Germany - 08/23/08
Photo by Henning Rosenbusch

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At 6/17/2012 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Dominic Holdem said...

jeez, got a cliff's notes version?

At 6/17/2012 11:21:00 AM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

Yes Dominic. See bolded sections above.

At 6/17/2012 11:33:00 AM, Blogger no one said...

Sorry. You lose any credibility you might have ever had when you try to pretzel your logic into a defense of Johnny Magic, the worst and laziest song ever produced by a major artist (surpassing the former leader, Springsteen's 57 Channels) on Fork in the Road, the worst and laziest album ever produced by a major artist. The funny thing is that all this comes during the dIscussion of the best album he's done in years. It would be nice to be able to discuss these things in a manner that gives credit where credit is due, but acknowledges that the artist's excrement does, indeed, smell like poop. Instead we get endless paragraphs of poop defending poop.

At 6/17/2012 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

@no one - see how your response fits perfectly with the point we've been making all along?

How someone like a Peter or a Greg can spend a considerable effort to make their point in a sincere manner? How their comments advance the understanding & appreciation of Neil's music legacy?

While your comment? The adolescent, condescending, intellectually vapid prose is really insulting to all of us. These ad-hominem attacks are the weakest form of argument and employed because you cannot refute the stated facts and opinions. Really, so trite and automatic are these attacks that one almost yawns while reading them. They're boring and clichéd as they are predictable.

And just in case you're not following us here, when someone makes a significant effort to contribute, a snarky reply only undermines your position by using false equivalency, impoverished of any objective meaning, and thus susceptible to limitless manipulation.

happy father's day.

At 6/17/2012 12:29:00 PM, Blogger Matthew L. said...

You can tell a troll by the tone of their discussion.

They never have respectful thoughts about other peoples' opinions.

They use strings of logical fallacies and back up their mean, angry comments.

They wield barbed false assumptions and hold them up like self-evident, universal truths.

When you attempt to present the opposite argument from your own perspective, they berate you with ad-hominem attacks.

They claim to be experts and wield their opinions authoritatively (I think that's called the Magisterial Fallacy, if I'm not mistaken).

If they are really narcissistic and into themselves, they will build a giant, complex system of personal attacks, authoritative claims, appeals to populism and sweeping generalizations to back up their hot air (and perhaps attempt to disguise their trolling).

At 6/17/2012 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Would that you were able to confine your comments to "the best album he's done in years", no one. It is you who keep bringing up what is for you indisputable, no matter that it is disputable. I wrote something up but thought twice, I was starting to spew venom myself. I'll leave it at we're just never going to see eye to eye on certain things, and try to put into action something I learned a long time ago, but too often have fallen short in achieving: "In my defenselessness my safety lies" (ACIM). Neil doesn't need to defend anything he does, nor do any of us who are trying to see the best in things. Clay feet aside, I think I know where Neil is coming from, and that he gives his best. Funny, I just thought of something, and remembered its Fathers Day. A good tribute to my Dad. He taught all of us that “as long as you give your best effort, it doesn’t matter if you’re a ditch digger or a doctor. No one will ever be able to take anything away from you.” This is as good a measure for Neil as I can think of, and it’s good enough for most of us, even when something falls short of our favorite moments. We don't try to turn it into "It doesn't meet my standard, therefore its crap", as if our standard is THE standard. Please, you don’t have to tell me “But it isn’t his best effort!” You are not the judge of that, and I hope in the end you will at least consider it. See you in another discussion, hopefully sans the venom.

A Friend Of Yours

At 6/17/2012 09:36:00 PM, Anonymous The Zuma Band said...

How long did it take Axl Rose to make "Chinese Democracy?" And to what end? What did all the fiddling and creative angst and endless editing produce? A POS.

NY learned after his first album that over production and over tinkering did not guarantee a good result. So he decided to try to not proceed that way, though the tales of him violating his own rule are out there. His output is prodigious. It is full of hits and misses. He edits, but we don't always know what or why. We know he holds things back as well. He can certainly be self indulgent; but then isn't that a fundamental aspect of an artist? "T-Bone"? That's indulgent. So is "Piece of Crap." I love it. Some people love "After The Gold Rush." I can't stand it; it seems like indulgent stoned hippie fantasizing. I don't listen more than a few times to the stuff I don't respond to. I sometimes respond to things later. Some things I love. I can easily criticize his work in plenty of ways; it's not that hard. He puts it out there to be heard, completely free, and the individual can decide to pass, to buy, or to just steal. He felt like making FITR. It obviously didn't cost too much to make; they certainly had a budget of a about $0 for graphics and the cover photograph. So what? So f*ckin' what? Pass on it. Ignore it. Nobody is putting a gun to your head. Nobody is forcing you to listen to it. WTF, I just don't get how irate some of these knuckleheads are. Complain about Justin Bieber fer Chrissakes.

The astounding stuff is astounding, and a lot of the rest is pretty darn cool. That's the way it is.

The trolls? They're just pissin' in the wind, with the same result, but they seem to always want to blame someone else because they wet themselves. Like the Grinch, try as they might, their pissin' efforts are useless.

At 6/18/2012 01:06:00 PM, Blogger Arthur said...

Alles gute en Deutchland, ja?

Alles gute en Potland, JA!


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