"Cortez The Killer" Concert Video - Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Casa de Campo, Madrid, 25/4/87
Since folks seem to be enjoying the Crazy Horse video cuts lately, here's another one.
"Cortez The Killer" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse at Casa de Campo, Madrid on April 25, 1987. Not as long as the 22 minute 2001 version posted the other day, but a respectably "short" 13 minute searing version. Compare and contrast the evolution over the years.
A pretty happening video, audience shot in front, with some interesting, intense guitar work by Neil on Ol Black.
Neil Trivia du jour... “Cortez The Killer”, was banned in Spain because it offended General Franco’s regime. In Spain, Hernando Cortez (or Hernán Cortés) is considered a national hero as the conquistador who conquered Mexico's Aztec Empire for Spain.
So what's up with the song "Cortez The Killer"? Well, the time shifting from past, present and future is pretty mind-bending, despite what some historical purists might think about the song's accuracy. From the article American Educator - Cultural Literacy Rocks by Matthew Davis, who has some quibbles with Young's lyrical/historical record:
"The romanticizing of the Aztecs begins in the opening lines, when Young claims that all of these native peoples were beautiful and healthy, a condition which has probably never prevailed in any civilization at any time.
Young also glides over the subject of human sacrifice. It is true that the Aztecs "offered life in sacrifice / So that others could go on." They believed that such sacrifices would appease the gods. But the lives they sacrificed were human lives: sacrificial victims were tied to an altar, whereupon their chests were sliced open and their still-beating hearts offered to "the angry gods." By avoiding the fact that the Aztecs killed human beings and emphasizing the unselfish motives behind these sacrifices, Young puts a cheerful face on a terrible practice and presents a one-sided view of the Aztecs.
"Hate was just a legend, / And war was never known," is more of the same kind of romanticizing, all too common today. The residents of pre-Columbian Mexico were well acquainted with hate and war. In fact, the Aztecs stand out in the annals of history as an exceptionally belligerent civilization: In order to keep their altars supplied with a steady diet of sacrificial victims, the Aztec emperors kept up a perpetual war with neighboring peoples.
It would be more accurate to say that "peace was never known."
In an interview in Mojo Magazine in 1995, Neil Young is asked about Cortez The Killer and where he gets his information:
YOUNG:" It was a combination of imagination and knowledge. What Cortez represented to me is the explorer with two sides, one benevolent, the other utterly ruthless I mean, look at Columbus! Everyone now knows he was less than great and he wasn't even there first (laughs). It always makes me question all these other so-called 'icons' (smiles). "
During a show in Manassas, VA on August 13, 1996, Neil said that he'd written Cortez in high school while suffering "Montezuma's Revenge". Incidentally, we attended the Manassas '96 concert & it was awesome. Now that said, he may have just been joking around when he made the comment.
Hence the album title 'Zuma, we suppose.
And Crazy Horse's Frank "Poncho" Sampedro discussed the situation surrounding the "missing verse" of Cortez in an interview with Rolling Stone by Andy Greene:
RS: The story goes that when you guys cut "Cortez the Killer," the board went down and you lost the entire last verse. Is that true?
Frank "Poncho" Sampedro: Yeah. True. Check it out.
What David Briggs did …We didn't know the power went out. In the room we were playing we had power, but where he was recording, in the control room, they lost power. When they got power back up and running, David ran the tape back and listened to right where he lost us and kept listening to us playing, and then he punched and started the tape back in right in time with where we where. [Laughs]
So that verse is gone.
So will the missing verse of "Cortez the Killer" ever be re-stored? Or has it been lost forever to the ages? [Cries]
And Young's reaction to hearing the loss of the recorded verse? "I never liked that verse anyway", and it has never been performed live (source).