Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Paul McCartney: Year 3116 and Neil Young: Year 1947 - A Tale of Two Artists

Paul McCartney's latest music video 'Appreciate' is quite revealing for us -- while creepily instructive.

The video is "Presented by Microsoft", takes place in the Year 3116 and introduces Newman the Robot (as in "New Man"). Newman the Robot is touring a human museum in a future where presumably humans no longer exist. Newman is drawn to the McCartney exhibit and ultimately they join together in dance.

Paul McCartney and Newman the Robot
(Click photo to enlarge)
We bring this up because of the recent reaction to Neil Young's new album A Letter Home which uses 1940's era recording technology. It seems that some Neil Young fans are finding A Letter Home a bit too retro for their tastes.

So we pose the following question: Which artist is using technology most creatively?

While this might seem a like a cute little game to play, consider how much of peers Paul McCartney and Neil Young are in their long history together. And consider how much the artists are taking two very different paths today in 2014.

Paul McCartney and Neil Young - 2004
Photo by Barry Brecheisen

Paul McCartney and Neil Young
Capitol Records - Los Angeles, California - 09.02.12
(Click photo to enlarge)

Clearly, Young is on another of his journeys through the past and excursions into alien -- yet familiar -- territory. Using a 1947 Voice O'Graph recording booth for his latest album A Letter Home, some have observed that it's "so archaic, it’s cutting edge".

On the other hand, McCartney's video featuring happily interacting humans and robots seems to further a dystopian future vision known as "Transhumanism":
"The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature. Because the capabilities of such an intelligence may be difficult for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence beyond which the future course of human history is unpredictable or even unfathomable."

Neil Young performs "Needle of Death" in vintage recording booth

So to recap, McCartney and Microsoft are working together on robot technology. Neil Young and Jack White are working together on vinyl recording technology.

Speaking about Newman, McCartney said: "I woke up one morning with an image in my head of me standing with a large robot. I thought it might be something that could be used for the cover of my album NEW but instead the idea turned out to be for my music video for 'Appreciate'. Together with the people who had done the puppetry for the worldwide hit War Horse we developed the robot who became Newman."

Year 2014 - Paul McCartney Pulled from the Past into the Future

Year 1982 - Neil Young Pulled from the Future into the Past
(Out of the Blue, Into the Black)

Newman was also planned to join Paul McCartney on this Japan leg of his tour, which has just been postponed. (Get well soon Paul!)

And Crazy Horse will be joining Neil Young on his Europe tour leg this summer after postponing last year (Glad you're well Poncho!)

Paul McCartney and Neil Young (w/ Ben Keith & Rick Rosas)
Hyde Park, London, UK - June 27, 2009
Photo by Lzbth Corinthians (via Bernie B. Shakey)
(Click photo to enlarge)

More on Paul McCartney and Neil Young.


  1. Latest on CSNY box:

  2. I don't think "Which artist is using technology most creatively?" makes any difference. I think "Which artist is making music you like?" is a better question and neither is one of your choices.

  3. On one hand the technologies are polar opposites yet creatively they're on the same plane ... both in the autumn of their lives with nothing left to prove yet both innovating and creating and following their muses where ever they may take them irrespective of the armchair critics ... both are making statements within their song and then within the medium of the song ... so its deep and multi-layered ... I laugh when people accuse Neil of doing this to "sell records" or as a "gimmick" ... Neil's whole trip is so authentic, how else would he stumble upon this current project ... and IMHO he's basically made his most outlandish statement yet about how its really all about the song and its delivery the first time, all about the feeling of the song, rather than the perfection of song which via tinkering in the studio makes it externally perfect and internally soulless and bankrupt ... Neil, in performing these songs have so moved him is saying the songs speak for themselves and he's made them his own ... they don't need any polish, any adjustment ... in fact to the contrary that would take away, hence the beauty of the booth where the record is literally made in real time ... its hilarious too because its Neil tacking so far to the other direction of where the music industry is and is going ... he's totally contrarian here and as it often is with Neil its a deep lesson, be authentic, don't dress it up, keep it simple, its OK to not be perfect ... don't get distracted by all the external perfection, focus on the essence which is the internal beauty ... shut off your mind and open your heart ... and so, for those who call this a gimmick, are you serious? He' an artist doing his thing, an artist doing gimmicks won't last ... Paul likewise is blazing new paths expressing his own creativity ... hat's off to him too, he's earned the right to retire and play golf or whatever rich people do when they retire ... in that way its cool to see Neil and Paul expressing visions that are so diametrically opposed yet s similar at the same time ...

  4. How about "Which artist is selling his product to make a microsoft ad and which isn't?"

    This note's for YOU.


  6. @07:50:00 AM - yes, wee need to post on this as soon as we have more artwork avail.

    @doc - ok, fair question. Want to take a crack at answering?

    @Dan1 - as part of the "armchair critics" crowd, actually challenging folks like McCartney & Young to stay relevant is part of our raison d'ĂȘtre. And its all so fascinating comparing Paul & Neil's latest efforts -- they couldn't be more polar opposite it seems.

    Paul's effort projecting out centuries into the future while Neil looks back a few decades.

    And exactly on Neil seeming to say all the matters is the song & the feeling. Out of the whole album, for us, some of the most compelling material is Neil's "letter home" to his Mom. It seems so genuine and heartfelt. Apparently, completely spontaneous right off the top of his head.

    @Aaron - Sponsored by Someone and Sponsored by No one.

  7. >> McCartney and Microsoft are working together on robot technology. Neil Young and Jack White are working together on vinyl recording technology.

    ....... Neil's already done 'robot technology'
    .... if TRANS in the 80's wasn't 'future tech', nothing is

  8. @mark - exactly. And for good measure, updated w/ a TRANS pic. thnx

  9. and here I thought McCartney was sounding quite 80's on this one. Two Titans of the industry, songwriters, musicians and vocalists extraordinaire, each placed in the Halls of greatness of music creation and delivery, between them a century of hip still going strong. Great to have continued creativity and production outta these two. We're lucky to be traveling through history at the same time with them.

  10. 1974 box seems official now

    Preorder here

  11. @Dan1 - I like what you said about Neil "stumbling" on this way to deliver what seems a truly another heart felt recording, but as for the topic of "selling", I'm not sure what explains a box set of this essentially simple release that's listed at $99.99 or more; that seems fully gouged to me, but gouged is in the eye of the beholder....paul dionne

  12. Sorry Thrasher, I just saw this > @doc - ok, fair question. Want to take a crack at answering?
    I just don't like the non-Crazy Horse sounds Neil's been putting out. That being said if I only owned 1 NY album it would be 1 more than how many PM albums I'll ever own.


Please observe Comments Policy for Neil Young News. All commenting requires a registered ID using an OpenID or a Google Account to provide a validated signature.

Inappropriate comments can be flagged for review by e-mailing date/time stamp and post title to:

We will work to deal with such comments in a timely fashion. Failure to do so immediately, however, does not constitute endorsement.

Thank you for your participation, cooperation, and keep on rockin'!