Nils Lofgren talks guitars, Springsteen, Neil Young and box set Face The Music | Hooking up with Neil Young | MusicRadar
Vote For Change tour 2004
St. Paul, Minnesota
Photo by Joseph Quever
From Nils Lofgren talks guitars, Springsteen, Neil Young and box set Face The Music | Hooking up with Neil Young | MusicRadar by Joe Bosso:
Q: You included the song Beggar’s Day, which you wrote for your onetime Crazy Horse bandmate Danny Whitten.Full interview at Nils Lofgren talks guitars, Springsteen, Neil Young and box set Face The Music | Hooking up with Neil Young | MusicRadar.
Nils Lofgren: “That’s right. Danny was great. I first met him in ’68 at the Cellar Door on the first Crazy Horse tour. I got to befriend them through Neil. I was out in LA three weeks later, and I got to know all of them. Danny would drive me around and talk. He was charming, a roughneck surfer-type guy with dirty, sandy hair and a chiseled faced – very sweet temperament. He was a genius-gifted singer and player and a pretty strong, hearty guy. “Over the years, the drugs and alcohol took a toll on him. By the time we made the Crazy Horse album – with Jack Nitzsche producing and joining the band on keys, and me as a guitarist and writing a couple of numbers – Danny was playing and singing great, but he wasn’t good for too much else. I’d tune his guitar for him and get him ready to go. We finished the record and he came back East. At one point, he was considering joining my band Grin. Tragically, he just wasn’t up for it physically. We did Tonight’s The Night as a wake album for Danny and for [Young roadie and friend] Bruce Berry, both of whom had succumbed to drugs and alcohol. It was dark and healing in a strange way.” You hooked up with Neil when you were so young. What were you, 17? “Well, I had just hit the road with Grin. We were auditioning for producers in New York City and were headed to LA. I’d go backstage and ask for advice, because I didn’t know anything about the business. Some people talked to me, some didn’t. Neil talked to me, gave me his guitar, let me sing, bought me a cheeseburger and a Coke for four shows over two nights. He’d call me from the road, told me to look him up in LA, which I did. He turned us on to his producer, David Briggs, and took us under his wing, moved us into his home in Topanga. He really helped so much. He told me ‘Your band is really good, but you need a better bass player.’ So we got one, Bob Gordon, and we were ready to record.” Neil’s guitar style is so idiosyncratic. How did you go about working out your guitar parts to compliment what he did? “Well, mostly he wanted me on piano for things like Southern Man and Cripple Creek Ferry… Only Love Can Break Your Heart and Don’t Let It Bring You Down. On Tell Me Why he moved me over to guitar. I didn’t own one, so he loaned me a great old Martin of his that he eventually gave me. On Till The Morning Comes, he was on piano and I played guitar. I sang on most of it with Ralphy [Molina]. It was just a natural thing. I was a very simple piano player, but because of my accordion background, Neil and Briggs felt that I could figure out some simple parts. You’ve got a very colorful Greg Reeves playing some solid James Jamerson bass parts, then Neil on top and me and Ralphy being very simple in the middle – it had a nice vibe to it.” You've played with Neil a couple of times after going solo. Has there always been an open-door policy with him? “No, but I wish there was – I’d be with him a lot more. I’d go see him play, and I’d stay in touch with all the guys – still do. We did the Trans album and then the tour, six weeks of stadiums in Europe. Then in the mid-‘90s we did MTV Unplugged. Last year, we did MusicCares, where as an alumni I played Born In the USA on keyboards as Crazy Horse performed. We were honoring Bruce. I think that’s out now on DVD – I’ve gotta get it. But yeah, if there were an open-door policy, I’d show up a lot more.”
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