36 Years Since Our Last "Thrasher": Neil Young, Philadelphia - October 8, 2014
Neil Young, Philadelphia - October 8, 2014
(Video by Sister Terri)
It's been a long time coming.
But it was oh-so worth the wait.
It's been 36 years ago since we first heard Neil Young perform the song "Thrasher" on the 1978 Rust Never Sleeps tour on October 7 in William & Mary Hall at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. In retrospect, it was an unforgettable moment. A moment that we eventually came to believe that we would never, ever experience again in our lifetime.
And Neil performed the song "Thrasher" with all the intensity and passion that we could ever hope. And it was flawless. All the lyrics were nailed. The right harmonica was loaded. And the audience was rapturously hanging on every note, pondering those oh-so cryptically metaphorical verses.
After 1978, Neil would never play the song "Thrasher" again... that is until 2014 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA on 3/29/2014.
Until this year, the song "Thrasher" had been played in concert only 32 times, the last time being Oct 24, 1978, which was captured in the “Rust Never Sleeps” concert film*. (*Cow Palace, San Francisco, 22 October 1978. Thanks So Tired & Sugar Mountain!)
So why now? Was there any particular motivation of Neil to perform this rarity in 2014 in Los Angeles?
Well, as with all things, Neil, who knows?
Just before performing the “Thrasher” encore on the 3rd night in Los Angeles (April 1), Neil Young said:
"This song, uh, you know, I did it, I haven't done it that much in my life, because, at a very vulnerable moment I read something about it. Just like the worst fucking review I've ever read. So, for all you reviewers, if you feel like your words don't mean anything, you're probably right. In that case.. in that case, they were damaging. So, anyway, we uh .. I think I got this uh.. I think this is the one here, I hope so.."As we rambled about the other night on Thrasher's Wheat Radio, there's a great deal of significance to the song's unexpected resurfacing after its 36 years absence as Neil's most requested obscurity track.
Obviously, the song “Thrasher” is quite special to us and we've long considered the song to be Neil Young’s lyrical magnum opus - rich with poetry, metaphors, themes, allusions, and symbols. In one of our very first posts to the Rust list back in 1993 we attempted An Analysis of the Meaning of the song Thrasher Lyrics.
Looking back today at the analysis, there were some things that we think we got right and a few things that were clearly wrong. Our central thesis at the time was that "Thrasher" was about the whole mega group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young trip in the mid-'70s. Neil seemed to be referring to his former bandmates as the "they" in “Thrasher”. The dinosaurs are CSNY - extinct, a fossil. "So I got bored and left them there, they were just dead weight to me" refers to Neil's departure from CSNY. "It's better on the road without that load" signifies Neil's successful solo path.
“Thrasher” - Rust Never Sleeps film
So that was then. This is now.
It's now been 40 years since the 1974 reunion tour and there's been much speculation about a multi-disc box set being released for the anniversary, as well as, a possible tour. While still no definite confirmation of CSNY plans here in 2014, the clock ticks on and the possibility remains.
But it would seem that the performance of “Thrasher” last week would be a good omen in terms of Neil reconciling differences with CS&N. Or not?
Could this be Neil's response to CS&N regarding the 1974 reunion tour box set, as in it's not going to happen? Well, based on Neil's response to a crowd shout out in Philadelphia to CSNY, Neil replied "Never again."
"But me I'm not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrashers 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. "
First-ever performance of “Thrasher” recorded on May 24, 1978 at the legendary Boarding House in San Francisco.
Or maybe the performance of “Thrasher” has nothing to do with CSNY? Maybe another 4 letter acronym... PONO? A comment below by The Flying Scotsman just might be on to something...
"The aimless blade of science" - surely a reference to the criticism of Pono, intended or not! :-)Well, we now know the time has come to give what's ours.
Also, along the same lines was Neil's story about one of his guitars: he believed the story for years. Then someone introduced doubt into his mind - it turns out the story about it wasn't true. But he kept on believing the story anyway: "So to me, it's still true".
As blatant a metaphor for his belief in hi-res audio as there could possibly be, and quite apt for the rest of us, too.
It's all about what we believe.
The Flying Scotsman.
We still see the vista. We still hear the muse. We continue.
Godspeed. Thank you Neil. Mahalo.