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Monday, December 16, 2013

Caught You Knockin' At My Cellar Door: Returning To The Scene 43 Years Later

The Cellar Door - 2013
34th & M St., NW, Georgetown/Washington, DC

Photos by Hounds That Howell & thrasher
(Click photo to enlarge)

It seemed like a fun little project to return to the scene once our 180 gram vinyl of Neil Young's Live At The Cellar Door arrived.

What made this all the more cool was realizing that the gatefold album cover revealed not one but 3 Cellar Doors. Upon arriving at 34th & M St., NW, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, we also quickly realized that the original Cellar Door entrance had been turned into a window and the building was up for lease. But the white painted brick and red brick sidewalks still exist. We had actually seen a concert at the Cellar Door around 1980 but our memories fail us on who we might have seen? Could it have been John Prine?

Nevertheless, our intrepid companion and Thrasher's Wheat Radio tour manager Hounds That Howell, quickly went to work dodging traffic to recreate the Live At The Cellar Door album cover on a wonderful winter day nearly 43 years later.

And so how does a pristine 180 gram vinyl of Neil Young's Live At The Cellar Door sound?

Here are a couple of recent reviews by our friendly blogging buddies. From - Need We Say More? > Reviews > CDs > Neil Young: Live At The Cellar Door by Brian Robbins:
If nothing else, Neil Young’s latest archival release, Live At The Cellar Door, serves to remind us that the Neil we know now is the Neil that existed then: capable of doling out tunes that easily settle into your DNA and become part of your being; a near mono-syllabic speaker at times – who can tell a good story when moved to; and an artist who doesn’t honor the art as much as he does/did honor the moment. (That last observation is best represented on Cellar Door by “Cinnamon Girl”, offered here as a solo piano-and-vocal piece – on one hand, a far cry from the Crazy Horsed version on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, but on the other hand, chock full of its own kind of power and emotion.)
The Cellar Door - 2012
(Note actual door before replaced with window)

From Time Tripping Back to 1970 with Neil Young: “Live at the Cellar Door” | DAYS OF THE CRAZY-WILD By Michael Goldberg:
Neil’s music was part of my soundtrack during the ‘60s and the ‘70s. He sang the sad songs and as a teenager I didn’t want to know the pain I heard in his voice. But I did know it. Every time her and I were apart, I knew it. Still I loved to hear Neil’s voice.

And later, after it was over, when we just couldn’t make it together — that girl and I — I knew for real how true Neil’s words were, and today they’re still true.

Neil’s new album, Live at the Cellar Door, was recorded in 1970, 43 years ago, at the Cellar Door, a club in Washington, DC. Listening to it I see, hear, feel, smell those days, a rush of moving images, as if my life was captured on film and these old recordings are the key to starting up the projector. All the ways I blew it, and how crazy it got. And she wouldn’t take my calls, wouldn’t see me when I came to her door, and I thought I’d explode.

Yes, love can break your heart — a cliché and so what, ‘cause it’s the truth.

Hearing Neil sing those old songs in that tenor voice, the tenor voice of a young man, it breaks my heart all over again. Neil was 25 when he played those songs at the Cellar Door.

From Album Review: Neil Young - Live at the Cellar Door / Releases / Releases // Drowned In Sound by Matthew Slaughter:
Here we find Young alone with a guitar, occasionally a piano, a world away from the storm of fame, or perhaps more in the eye of it, calm, almost definitely stoned and at times with a much older head on his shoulders than you could think plausible.

Naturally it’s heavy on After the Gold Rush material with ‘Tell Me Why’s arpeggio guitar and coyote croon kicking the night off, followed by the simple, elemental ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’. As he announces the latter as being “…from my new album” it’s hard to comprehend that something so ingrained in the songwriting psyche, something that sounds channeled rather than written, was once just a track on a guy’s new record – a jarring reminder that classics, however heavenly, were at one point, y’know, just a song.

When Young flits first to the piano for the title track of Gold Rush, it’s another case of the sublime – a symbiotic meeting of music and lyrics, that deeply personal falsetto whisper, so melancholic; that obtusely emotive line “There was a band playing in my head and I felt like getting high / I was thinking about what a friend had said, I was hoping it was a lie”; the ‘of course’ match-up of title and song.
Caught You Knockin' At My Cellar Door
(or "Keep on knockin' in the free world")

From Everybody's Dummy: Neil Young 49: Live At The Cellar Door by wardo:
Given that this period has already been well mined—“See The Sky About To Rain” having already appeared on the box—and folks have been clamoring for any news on the status of Archives Vol. 2 and beyond, this disc may seem redundant to those of us without Blu-ray players. Were these solo acoustic performances really that different from any others, in the way that shows by the likes of, for example, the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa or even Neil with Crazy Horse might have been?

Luckily, it is a little different. “Expecting To Fly” receives a nice treatment at the piano, for example. So does, amazingly, “Cinnamon Girl”, so often associated with electric fuzz, and here with an intro resembling that of “After The Gold Rush”, which is likely the reason for the spontaneous applause. He acknowledges that he never did it that way before, and it’s pretty clear why. In fact, half of the album is a showcase for his “almost a year” of piano playing.

Given the between-song “raps” that dotted similar releases, Live At The Cellar Door mostly sticks to the music, except for a three-minute detour before “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong”. The prelude is punctuated by his fingers messing with the piano strings to comic effect, while the song itself travels from sorrowful to jaunty and back. It’s one performance that makes the album worth owning.

"Live At The Cellar Door"
Neil Young Solo

(#5 #6 in Amazon Best Sellers > Music)


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At 12/16/2013 11:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow!! You guys have way to much free time on your hands. I'm just jealous cause I didn't do the Abbey Road thing when I was in London. Doh!

That first picture is actually pretty cool! Peace.

Negative Man

At 12/16/2013 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed The Post’s article on Neil Young and Nils Lofgren’s memories of the Cellar Door [“Stories from the Cellar,” Style, Dec. 10], where I was a waiter, bartender, doorman and busboy from 1966 to 1971. But I was disappointed that it did not discuss the role the venue played in the District’s cultural and political transformation from a sleepy Southern town to a truly cosmopolitan national capital.

Besides folk, folk rock and hootenannies, the Cellar Door brought to Washington the best in jazz (Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock and many others), blues (B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield), comedy (Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Robert Klein) and even big bands (somehow we managed to enlarge the stage for Buddy Rich and Count Basie). And as we celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, it should be noted that the Cellar Door showcased great South African artists such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. When Ms. Makeba sang the protest song “ A Piece of Ground,” you could feel the seething anger and passion behind the movement to end apartheid.

I would also take issue with any suggestion that the drug culture contributed to the Cellar Door’s demise. The club was doomed not by pot smokers reluctant to buy drinks but the rise of concert performances. Why would an artist do 10 to 12 shows over five days for $2,000 at the Cellar Door when he or she could make much more in one show at a concert hall?

But for those of us who got to see those live performances in that small room, they are as wonderful to remember today as they were to see live almost 50 years ago.

Peter Lagiovane, Chambersburg, Pa.

At 12/16/2013 12:06:00 PM, Blogger ShittyHorse said...

My copy is arriving today, finally! Can't wait to spin it! Neil does vinyl right!

At 12/16/2013 12:10:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

Hey SH, good deal.

If you do one of those cool video vinyl reviews, drop us a link so we can share it.

At 12/16/2013 02:35:00 PM, Blogger ShittyHorse said...

Will do, Thrasher! Thanks :)


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