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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Comment of the Moment: Thoughts on “Thrasher”

Neil Young
Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, 04/02/2014
Photo by Jeff Allen
(Click photo to enlarge)

The Comment of the Moment is from Thoughts on “Thrasher”: Neil Young Last Performed 36 Years Ago by setlistthief:
The reemergence of Thrasher reminds us that the best songs are alive and changing. So it is with the 2014 performance.

When Neil first wrote and performed this song he was in his early thirties-a time when most of us finally feel like we're grownups. Indeed, Neil had already seen so much life and death, joy and tragedy up close. Thrasher seems to be a reaction to all that; the CSNY breakup. Danny and Bruce's deaths, the birth of his kids, Carrie, the longing to get away from it all. The song is full of metaphor and imagery like no other NY composition, describing childhood memories, dreams, life and death. Indeed, every line is precious, not a word wasted, following a chronological narrative from young to old. How Neil at a tender young age could write those words and set them to a simple, gorgeously rendered melody true to a traditional folk song structure is beyond astonishing. It is truly unique.

But now the song looks back over a life. In that context, it becomes something else, a chronicle, a memoir. That's what makes it alive.

"But me I'm not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrasher comes I'll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I'll know the time has come
To give what's mine"

My God. Those words in 2014 mean something completely different than they did in 1978. But the meaning hasn't changed at all, either.

ps - And another thing...we think of Neil Young's songs as intensely personal, but ultimately what he writes is incredibly universal. Who hasn't watched westerns on their mama's TV? Who hasn't watched eagles and vultures soaring in the western sky? Who hasn't wondered how they lost their friends? And how many of us aren't becoming aware of our own mortality?

For me the most poignant line is "I was feelin' like my day had just begun." Sung by a man pushing 70, it serves to remind me how much more I want to accomplish in my life. With all his acccomplishments of the last decade (going back to Greendale) imagine how Neil Young feels.
Thanks setlistthief! Yes, quite eerie and prescient the lyrics of “Thrasher” relative to today's times. Certainly the hallmark of great art -- timeless.

More Thoughts on “Thrasher”: Neil Young Last Performed 36 Years Ago.

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At 4/10/2014 10:33:00 AM, Blogger setlistthief said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4/10/2014 10:35:00 AM, Blogger setlistthief said...

Thanks, Thrasher! Clearly, that song means a lot to me. I honestly thought Neil would never perform it again. I just wish I had been at the Dolby. Maybe it'll stay on the setlist through this fall-time to start checking flights to NOCA in October!

At 4/10/2014 11:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At one of the Massey Hall shows in 2007 someone yelled out "Play Thrasher!" - Neil meandered around near the front of the stage strumming his guitar and saying something like .. well I have tried and it just doesn't work"

I sometimes wonder about the behind the scenes effort Neil puts in. To continue to play and sing at this level he is obviously spending an enormous amount of time honing his craft.

At 4/10/2014 12:24:00 PM, Anonymous Setz said...

Obviously Neils songs are extensions of his heart & soul, so it makes sense that he only sings what feels right or about whats going on at the time. Its not what we would want him to do to make his performance so real for us. Must be something in Thrasher that we will never know that triggered it back. Its fun to speculate, more fun to hear it again.


At 4/10/2014 02:07:00 PM, Anonymous Setz said...

Its not about what we want him to play, more so what he feels that makes the performance so real for us. that's better

At 4/10/2014 03:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These solo shows sound great - I'd love to see one over here in Europe sometime but they do seem to be Neil's spur-of-the-moment American thing! A sort of between tour chance to get back to basics

At 4/10/2014 06:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised with all of these recent posts on Thrasher, no mention of Neil's comments as to why it hasn't been played all these years.

He mentioned a really bad review and then said "for all you reviewers, if you think your words don't mean anything, you're probably right, but in this case they were damaging."

Yet again, thanks for nothing, music "critics". I wonder which review he's referring to.

- vertigone

At 4/11/2014 02:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard to imagine Neil giving a shit about what a reviewer thought, but maybe things were different back in 1978.

At 4/11/2014 10:55:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@vertigone - good point. Actually, we updated the original post with a transcript of the reviewer comment and the YT clip.

Yes, it seems hard to believe that NY would ever be influenced by a review since he's commented many times that he could care less.

At 4/11/2014 12:55:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

why is it ok for neil to do ANYthing he wants
ANYtime he wants
ANYwhere he wants

ANYbody who disagrees or criticizes him,even lovingly,is a judas?

just sayin....

At 4/11/2014 01:22:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Damn, I really want to read this "damaging review" that Neil is talking about. I wonder if it's available somewhere in the vast, dark recesses of the internet??

At 4/11/2014 04:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are you referring to, Tom?

At 4/11/2014 06:38:00 PM, Blogger Aer Stephen said...

i really don't see any difference in the song. it was always a masterpiece, and the words mean the same whether you hear neil deliver them, or someone cover this incredible composition. it is ageless. it takes the listener on a journey, the same journey, now matter what age they are. at least that is my take. i remember learning it from a tape of the boulder, colorado solo/crazy horse show in 1976, and perform it for folks for a couple of years before it was released. i really don't think anything regarding time has or will change this timeless song.

At 4/11/2014 07:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher wasn't written/performed until 1978, and was never played in Boulder, FWIW

At 4/12/2014 10:42:00 AM, Anonymous Pieceofcdap said...

@Matthew: he might be refering to the infamous Time Magazine review of 1978, which compared Young's and Bob Dylan's shows that year. Reviewer praised Young but thrashed Dylan, then on his Elvis-inspired Budokan-tour, which seems to have upset Young very much. According to Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone ("The Last American Hero", feb. 8, 1979) he thought it was "irresponsible journalism" and "Disco attitude". Might make sense, since he obviously never played Thrasher again, until now.
Maybe someone can dredge up that review?

At 4/12/2014 12:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is off topic, kinda, but I have come to re-think my position on the fan calling out for cinnamon girl during the Dolby shows. I still don't agree with his obnoxious exuberance, BUT I HAVE COME TO UNDERSTAND IT.
Let me explain.
I just got my copy of cellar door.
Neil is basically doing a promo tour for this album, intentionally or not.
He's chosen relatively intimate locations, playing mostly older tunes acoustically and on the keys.
Cinnamon Girl on the piano, ALA Cellar Door, would'a fit right in, me thinks.
maybe for the folks in Dallas or Chicago?
But only if they don't ask for it or expect it.

At 4/12/2014 02:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, even if his, uh..."exuberance" was caused by the recently released Cellar Door, don't forget that Neil explained that he prefers to play CG with Crazy Horse. That should've been the end of it but the guy kept shouting anyway.

At 4/13/2014 03:47:00 AM, Blogger Kees said...

The magnum opus of Neil wasn't Thrasher. It was the Restless Consumer of the underestimated two versions of one of the best things he made: Living with War.

At 4/13/2014 01:17:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Good point, but if you want Neil to do something the surest way to ensure it doesn't happen is to persistently yell out a request ... and so the guy screaming not only ensured the was no CG (which was a long shot anyhow) but probably caused the audience to miss out on Thrasher which is pretty tragic and to boot he probably also spoiled the overall mood for the rest of the Dolby run given how good the reviews were from all the previous acoustic shows ... not to over analyze it but one would think a fan who is enough of a connoisseur to appreciate the acoustic CG would know enough to respect the decorum of a Neil acoustic show and just leave the driving to Neil ...

At 4/13/2014 09:27:00 PM, Blogger Wildgift said...

As one lucky enough to be at the first of the Dolby shows, let me say that hearing Thrasher as the 1st encore gave me chills. It was one of the greatest moments in life of seeing live music. It's a genuine classic and I will never forget it.

At 4/13/2014 10:39:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Kees - Yes, Restless Consumer is one of the greats from LWW but certainly doesn't have the poetic majesty that Thrasher has -- at least for us.

Restless Consumer has a great message but for many it strikes too literal. It seems many prefer the gentler touch. ;)


At 4/14/2014 02:53:00 PM, Blogger Dmitri Karamazov said...

Honestly, I think The Thrasher is the most beautiful and emotional song I’ve ever heard, in my 50 years of listening to music.

Still can’t hear it without weeping openly.

At 4/14/2014 09:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote my goodbye in my HS yearbook in 82 I got my own row left to hoe, just another line in the field of time. Nobody knew where it was from, metal was in, southern rock still hanging around and I quoted the best written song of all time. Proud of myself as a 17yr old....rare

At 10/07/2014 04:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to the Neil Young concert last evening at the Wang Theater in Boston, MA. I have always liked his music. However, I have also always hated his concerts. I've been to 6-7 concerts of his and honestly I just don't like his choice of songs. We the people pay top dollar to go to a Neil Young concert and then he decides that he is going to play songs that Rod Stewart and Gordon Lightfoot made famous?? I don't think so! I came to see Neil Young play Neil Young songs. But he has always had this attitude that he plays what he wants to play, regardless of what his audience wants to hear. Sorry, but that's not what I paid over $200 per ticket to hear. I think this will be the last Neil Young concert I attend. He must have some 20-30 songs that would be considered his "greatest hits", yet last night he played only one of those. I'm not into listening to "B side" music. Wake up Neil - how about you play the songs that your fans came to hear? I realize you must be sick of playing them, but we're not sick of hearing them. And please be an artist, not a political commentator.


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