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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Your Interesting Neil Young Fact of the Day

Scott Young
(Neil Young's Dad)

From the Everything Shakey blog, here's your interesting Neil Young Fact of the Day...

Neil’s dad was the Canadian sports-writer and novelist, Scott Young, who wrote 45 books over his life including one about his relationship with his son called Neil And Me. But did you know that his first novel, The Flood, published in 1956, has a character, a young boy named Mac, who was inspired by the then 10-year-old Neil?

Why no, we did not know that. Did you? (Thanks Everything Shakey blog!)

More on Neil Young's Father Remembered - Scott Young, 1918 - 2005.

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At 7/17/2012 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Fort Mac said...

Ah ! A classic read , still have a copy .
Plenty of young Canadian lads knew of Scott Young , well before Neil .
" Scrubs on Skates " was a standard read for most grade schools .
" Heaven and Hell in the NHL " , another great read .

At 7/17/2012 12:46:00 PM, Anonymous npchilds said...

A lot of us growing up in the Toronto area also remember Scott Young as a sports columnist for the Globe and Mail, back before the Leafs became Ballard's revenge. I think he retired from the G+M around the time I started listening to Neil, when I was about 11 or 12. It was kind of a neat transition from the father to the son. Scott Young also worked with my godfather in radio. His passing was sad, but he left a great legacy of his own words (did anyone ever collect and publish his columns?) and music from Neil.

At 7/17/2012 12:51:00 PM, Blogger Sharry said...

Yes, I knew this.:) Scott wrote most of "The Flood" during a very unhappy period of his life. The family was living in Toronto on the lower floor of a duplex and Scott rented a 3rd floor room in a house downtown where he could go to write every day. Scott had earlier reported on the Great Winnipeg Flood during the spring of 1950, so much of his material comes from his experiences there. (The Flood of 1950 provides the background for the story.) The period 1954-55, when he wrote much of the book, was during the time he was having some extra-marital affairs. The characters of Mac and Don in "The Flood" are based on Neil and his older brother Bob. Scott has admitted that Mac was inspired by Neil and Don was inspired by Bob.

At 7/17/2012 12:57:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Great stuff T...thanks! And I love the suit that Scott is wearing in the picture--classic cut that would look good today and twenty years from now.

At 7/17/2012 12:59:00 PM, Blogger Sharry said...

Scott Young used to write about his family a lot in his daily columns in the Globe and Mail. He was also well known for his books (both fiction and non-fiction), short stories in magazines, young adult novels, his sports columns as well as his regular gig as an interviewer on "Hockey Night in Canada." Scott Young is also in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and Scott Young Public School in Omemee was named in his honour.

At 7/17/2012 02:45:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks John & Sharry for the Canadian memories from the Great North Country!

At 7/18/2012 04:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good pic -- this is in Astrid's book. Give him some patchwork jeans, a plaid shirt, a prospector's hat, a G harp and . . .

I previously included a good video of Scott in a post I made this last Father's Day about how 'Old Man', for a variety of reasons, really is about Scott. Just read every line in the song and ask yourself whether it could really apply to Louis Avila, whom Neil had met only a few months before writing it, or whether it doesn't sound like a son writing about his sometimes difficult relationship with his Dad. Ya really think 'the same old town' is the ranch? Or that Neil would say 'Doesn't mean that much to me, to mean that much to you' or 'Like a coin that won't get tossed rollin' home to you' to Louis the ranch foreman?

Scott had a great sense of humour. As I put it in the Father's Day post:

'Scott was a very kindly man, with one of the most dry, wry, ironic senses of humour you'd ever encounter. Women loved him. And he talked v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y a-n-d p-l-o-d-d-i-n-g-l-y. He would tell a joke and come to the punchline and deliver it so slowly that everyone would be suppressing the urge to howl laughter half way through because they knew what he was going to say, and they had to wait for him t-o f-i-n-i-s-h d-e-l-i-v-e-r-i-n-g i-t. And all this would be just as funny as the joke itself.'

Anyway, if you want get a sense of Scott's humor and manner of speaking, check this clip out from 1959:

If you can't access the clip, go to CBC and do a search for ‘Errol Flynn, witness to revolution in Cuba’

At 7/19/2012 03:14:00 AM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

Anon, Now why would Neil attribute 'Old Man' to Louis Avila for all of these years in countless interviews and song intros if it were intended for his 'Old Man'?

At 7/19/2012 08:48:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

I think Anon brings up a good point. Writers tend to blend a lot of their own personal experiences, familiar imagery, and emotional well-being into their work whatever it is. The really good writers can write from different perspectives and view point keeping you focused on the story.

Neil is a storyteller. Like most writers, he is protecting his privacy. Safekeeping his soul. So you're never going to get the truth out of Shakey, Joe Canuck, or Neil. Only on a few songs that were his way of expressing his love for his wife, daughter, sons.

Sometimes I think yo gusy hardly know Neil at all. Can't you see what's in his heart and soul by what he writes in his songs? His songs play like a book about the human psyche that leads you to acommon place where we all come together. Remember what Dean wrote about the emotions that get stirred when he listens to something Neil wrote?

Human instinct can tell you what that song, "Old Man," is about. It's a song of reconciliation for Neil. He's reconciling with his "Old Man" and the rancher is the bridge that allowed that healing to happen. It's what inspired him to begin the process.

"Old Man" is a song to his father, but Neil wanted to keep it private, mano to mano, and he succeeded almost.

At 7/19/2012 09:28:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

THANK YOU ANON, FOR THAT VIDEO! Errol Flynn was a very willing propagandist for the Cuban cause. My grandfather was on the side of Castro at the time because he saw how American businesses exploited Cubans. They got rich while the majority of Cubans were starving.

I wonder if Mr. Young asking Flynn about the similarity in revolutions was a subtle nod of support for Cubans?

All politics aside, because it always gets me into trouble here, but doesn't Neil sound EXACTLY like his Dad?

At 7/20/2012 04:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi BIGCHIEF (Part 1),

Admittedly, I don’t really know why Neil would say what he has all these years, but I do have some connection to the situation and can just tell you what I’ve always thought.

It starts with the lyrics themselves. To me, every line of ‘Old Man’ sounds like Neil wrote it for his Dad, and not for Louis Avila; although as ‘Mother Nature on the Run’ notes, maybe Louis was similar to both Scott and Neil in some ways that triggered a rush of associations, all within the context of Neil writing about that truly glorious ranch he’d just managed, at 24, to buy. Man, what a trip it must’ve been to wake up there every morning, take it all in, and at the same time have face the pain and emptiness associated with his recently failed marriage to Susan – talk about ‘live alone in a paradise that makes me think of two’.

In any event, the following lyrics in particular – ‘Like a coin that won’t get tossed rollin’ home to you’, ‘Run around the same old town’, and ‘Doesn’t mean that much to me to mean that much to you’ – are really pretty cutting, when you think about it.

I don’t know why Neil would say these things to Louis Avila, who’s portrayed as a friendly old hardworking guy who Neil had met only a few months before when he bought the ranch.

On the other hand, there WERE reasons why Neil might say them to Scott. There were definitely difficulties between Neil (and also his brother Bob) and their Dad during the 60's in particular - which I'm sure most people who read this will know anyway. Rassy supported Neil’s music and ways, while Scott and also his second wife, Astrid, didn’t generally. I think it’s documented that there was a ‘financial element’ to these difficulties, hence the ‘Like a coin that won’t get tossed . . .’ lyric. Also, my guess is that ‘the same old town’, while it could refer to Omemee/Cavan, more likely refers to ‘Toronto the good’, as it used to be called. It had the relatively tiny Yorkville scene in the 60’s and it got more culturally hip in the 70’s and 80’s, but it was generally viewed as a pretty boring city – it didn’t have anywhere near the character or passion or style or nightlife of Montreal. In any case, it doesn’t make much sense that Neil would say ‘Run around the same old town’ to Louis with reference to the ranch, or Woodside or Redwood CA, etc.

All that said, because those lyrics in particular were somewhat cutting, I can't imagine Neil returning to TO and Massey Hall and prefacing 'Old Man' by saying, with Scott in the audience (who was far better known in Toronto at the time than Neil) ‘I wrote this song about my Dad’ – or even just saying nothing at all for that matter, and letting everyone think what they'd think. Neil’s return to TO was a very emotional homecoming, and it would’ve been a very personal soul issue for him, so it’s understandable why he’d deliberately veil it – particularly with all the media there, including the Globe & Mail where Scott worked at the time.

And as time went on, and their relationship got better and better, one can understand why Neil would continue with the story and perhaps even go out of his way to consolidate it.

There's no doubt, however, that Scott thought it was about him and was haunted by it. I can’t recall whether it’s in ‘Neil And Me’ or whether Scott just said it one time that he used to see himself in ‘every one of the miserable bastards’ in Neil’s songs at that time. Scott’s love for Neil and Bob, and the remorse he felt for putting them through what he did, were both very clear.

At 7/20/2012 04:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi BIGCHIEF (Part 2),

Now, just to underscore a little more how Neil was ‘a lot like’ Scott, I’ll quote a passage from my Father’s Day post:

‘ . . . Scott was even more driven than Neil to be a writer, as Neil himself has said. Scott grew up in the Depression, on the Prairies during the Dust Bowl, and (like Neil) his parents split up, but at a time when very few parents split up. He got about as far in high school as Neil did and, for him, becoming a writer was, among other things, one of the only ways he could escape grinding poverty and see the greater world. He published his last book – about his 45th, on top of all his years of high-profile journalistic work – when he was about 80, before he began slip into, as Neil put it, “living in the moment”.’

With that, consider the following parallels between Scott and Neil when Neil wrote ‘Old Man’:

-Both their parents had broken up
-Neither made it beyond about Grade 9 or 10
-Both had found in writing a refuge and a focus for their enormous drive and ambition, but it also – certainly in Scott’s case, I don’t know about Neil – got in the way of relationships
-Both owned ranches, in Scott’s case called ‘the farm’ – the need for space, beauty and something real away from ‘that city light’ was always in their bones
-Neil had just been divorced from Susan, and seems to have felt remorse for the effect it also had on Susan’s daughter, Tia; just as Scott had been divorced and felt remorse in relation to Bob and Neil

So, Neil really was ‘a lot like’ Scott when he wrote ‘Old Man’. Personally, I think the tune is about Neil having to somewhat painfully confront the fact, through experience, that he was really a lot more like his Dad than he ever thought, could've known, or admitted while he was growing up. Perhaps Neil – to reference ‘Sugar Mountain’ – was truly 'finding out it's real' in a way he hadn't altogether anticipated.

Anyway, sorry for the long post. If you got this far, thanks for reading. I hope it was ‘innaresting’.

P.S. to ‘Mother Nature on the Run’: Maybe you know this, but although the Mafia and certain other financial and political interests didn’t like Castro’s revolution for obvious reasons, many people in the US, some powerful, thought Castro’s actions – given that he had not yet publicly aligned himself with the USSR and communism – were quite heroic and akin to those of your Founding Fathers. I could look it up, but it’s late – I think that no less than VP Richard Nixon went to Cuba to see Castro and came back quite impressed and enthusiastic.

Also, with regard to Neil sounding like Scott, I think – if we actually get to see this new Demme film (unlike the Trunk Show which never made it to DVD) – that you’ll find that Neil’s brother Bob sounds even more like Scott . . .

At 7/20/2012 12:07:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Anon, The similarities between father and son are remarkable. Yes, both found in writing a refuge and a focus for their enormous drive and ambition. It appears that for both the father and son, when relationships got in the way they bolted from responsibility. Only until Neil had Ben did he begin owning a responsibility to care for him.

As Neil has said in many interviews with people like Charlie Rose, Pegi learned very early on how NOT to let their relationship interfere with Neil and his "muse." (Although she is the source of inspiration and muse for many of his songs.)

At 7/20/2012 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I've got the love/ art blues . . ."


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