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Friday, May 22, 2015

Yet More Passion From A Neil Young Fan

Neil Young
(Click photo to enlarge)

So no sooner than we lament the decline of quality comments here at TW, than folks step up to the plate and deliver. So we say thanks to all of our dear readers and listeners and say again that we love you all -- both the passionate and dis-passionate Neil fans.

This week, we've heard from The Passion of A Neil Young Fan and The (Dis)-Passion of A Neil Young Fan where we highlighted some particularly passionate and dis-passionate opinions of long time Neil fans.

From The (Dis)-Passion of A Neil Young Fan by Greg " A Friend Of Yours" who said...
I think there are some interesting comments here, and in the end can’t argue with the fact that your “passion has waned greatly”, TopangaDaze. [see comment]

I think you have a valid perspective based on your views, I guess my perspective is just different based on my views. In line with a lot of the criticism aimed at Neil tho, the gratuitous outpouring of which has reduced me to a dispassionate observer of TW these days, I would have to disagree with the notion that Neil fears his output “will be criticized, or worse yet, ignored”, or that he “can't face his increasing irrelevance”. I think this would be totally out of character for a guy who has never cared about these things. Besides, I think an argument can be made that Neil has never been more relevant, or less ignored, and that “too much output” has more to do with the numerous things he is focused on now, as compared to a more narrow focus in earlier years.

I think it still comes down to the fact that a lot of people just don’t get Neil- and I don’t say that I do, not truly. But at the very least, I understand this: “this” (whatever music it is that people are alternately praising or disparaging) is not a function of calculation on Neil’s part (yes, Neil has done not a few calculated things), so much as it is about what is happening right now in his life, mixed together with the reality that he can’t not do it. Neil fits the mold of a troubadour, someone who “sets verse to music”, and who must perform it for others because that’s who he is. Maybe his minimalist sensibilities rule him too much for some people’s taste, and don’t mix too well with a prolific output, but “throw away albums”? That’s what critics have said about any number of segments of the discography, and I agree with Dan1 that they will stand the test of time.

I was looking for a quote from Bill Shapiro about the troubadour angle, and came across one of my own comments from a while back here on TW, and after re-reading it don’t think I can improve upon it. A little long, and you have to fill in the blanks a little differently, but I think it’s still relevant. FWIW.

“Every now and then something prompts me to go back and reread the great Cameron Crowe Rolling Stone interviews. They always seem to provide a perfect perspective for the newest flavor of the moment controversy, as in the case of this blog. People very rarely change, or change their stripes. Maybe they have their lapses, and Neil is human for sure, but I’d be shocked to find out it was ever about the money. It’s about what’s happening right now- in his head, in his life, in the world around him. Is that really so hard to understand? People don’t understand something, they don’t like something, they don’t know- they freak out and start flailing about trying to make sense of something they’re not privy to. I’m not privy to anything either, but I rest my mind in the experience of what 40 years of Neil Young have given me, and it’s all about the music and the integrity. Money motive just doesn’t wash with me.

I don’t have anything more to say about the recent music- too much has been said already- other than to say that Thrasher is probably on to something by likening GD/LWW/CDII/FITR to the “ditch trilogy”, and in that event hold onto your hat for what might be coming next. Revisionism notwithstanding, I was there when it was happening, and clearly remember the gnashing of teeth in the music world over the impending demise of Neil Young, and the dismissiveness of the people who didn’t understand, who felt the need to save Neil from himself. Beyond this, Bill Shapiro of “Cypress Avenue” said it all when he likened Neil to a troubadour, someone who is compelled to perform for people. You might find someone like this playing to a local bar like as not playing to an “ocean of shaking hands”. It’s not about the money. As one blogger pointed out somewhere, heart rending and angst ridden youth produced heart rending and angst ridden music, but now having moved beyond these things, different things are producing different music- things like the deterioration of society, the degradation of the environment, war in the middle east, and the need for energy alternatives. Laced through all of it is the need for the artist, the individual, to make sense of it all and have something to say. There’s a need, and it ain’t pretty.

I’ll let the following Crowe excerpts say the rest:

“Every one of my records, to me, is like an ongoing autobiography. I can't write the same book very time. There are artists that can. They put out three or four albums every year and everything fucking sounds the same. That's great. Somebody's trying to communicate to a lot of people and give them the kind of music that they know they want to hear. That isn't my trip. My trip is to express what's on my mind.“

“I don't want to feel like people expect me to be a certain way. Nobody expected Time Fades Away and I'm not sorry I put it out. I didn't need the money, I didn't need the fame. You gotta keep changing. Shirts, old ladies, whatever. I'd rather keep changing and lose a lot of people along the way. If that's the price, I'll pay it. I don't give a shit if my audience is a hundred or a hundred million. It doesn't make any difference to me. I'm convinced that what sells and what I do are two completely different things. If they meet, it's coincidence. I just appreciate the freedom to put out an album like Tonight's the Night if I want to.”

“One afternoon during a tour several years ago, Young sat in his manager's hotel room. The phone kept ringing, tour crew members bustled in an out... and through it all, Young sat on the bed with his son Zeke, peacefully watching the news.

The broadcast was interrupted by an emergency bulletin. Pat Nixon had suffered a stroke, an announcer said over a filmed report of the sad and beaten Richard Nixon tearily moving through the hospital's revolving doors. After a time, Young got up and disappeared into his bus in the parking lot. Onstage several hours later, Young played the song he had written…“ (Campaigner)

"People don't understand sometimes," he says, looking down at a pencil he's toying with, "how I can come in and go out so fast, how I can be there and want to do something and then when it's over, for me it's over. To other people it's just a beginning. Sometimes that's hard for people to take. I can see how that would be. I just don't like to stay in one place very long. I move around, I keep doing different things . . ." He looks up. "Just different things."

It must be difficult, I wonder, to decide which impulses to follow.

"I only follow the ones I get," says Young. "And if it makes me laugh... I know it's a good one. Basically I've had a really good time, even though my songs have mostly expressed the down side. I like that there's a lot of humor in rock & roll now. A lot of people take me so seriously. They don't know what to do with me not taking myself so seriously anymore.”

"I've got a job to do, I've got to just tear down whatever has happened to me and build something new. You can only have it for so long before you don't have it anymore. You become an old-timer... which... I could be... I don't know.

"After all, it's just me and Frank Sinatra left on Reprise Records."

Does anybody doubt that Neil is laughing and having fun right now, or that something’s getting torn down in the process? Is it just too much to handle that the same man employing the same method that in the past produced something “musically pleasing”, is now producing music that is not “melodic” enough or “lyrically complex” enough? I think it’s time for everyone to take a chill pill, and give the guy a break. After all, it has to be pretty lonely sometimes now that Frank is gone.”

A Friend Of Yours
We feel your passion A Friend Of Yours! Thanks for all of the words and we'll see what folks have to say when The Monsanto Years hits the streets. We have a hunch that the fun has only just begun and the best is still yet to come as we get behind the wheel, make that big shift and take a long, slow ride into that setting sun while the full moon rises with big birds flying across the sky.

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At 5/22/2015 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

your site sucks now so no one cares to write anything.I know you will delete this so this is for you.Sadly like neil,you and your site has grown old and that's just a sad fact.this album will be forgotten in weeks and no one will talk about it ever again. I hope neil still enjoys the chrome buffalo i called Pontiac buffalo

At 5/23/2015 09:16:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Your sight is still great. Its one of the few non-work, non-family posts I read everyday. Thanks for keeping it strong!

At 5/23/2015 10:01:00 AM, Blogger Ozzy Chris said...

I've been reading the interesting comments written by folk who have expressed a passion in one way or another for dear Neil. I feel like I've been with Neil for so many years and with recent releases feel that the campaign must end. Having said that I have tried to remain objective and asked myself the question "is it me that's changed"? In a parallel universe I have also asked myself "is Bobby Dylan still relevant to me"?
I too had a brain aneurysm a few years ago. It required invasive surgery that I discovered does impact on the emotional senses and could possibly be one explanation into Neil's current artistic output and his absorption into particular themes increasingly anchored in mainstream politics. It could also be that Neil has become fundamentally aware of his own mortality and needs to exercise some old ghosts while there is still time. I hear that David Crosby has apologized to Neil and Daryl Hannah for his disparaging remarks regarding Neil and Pegi's breakup. We don't know what goes on in Neil's head and I guess we shouldn't be too hard on one that has geven us so much. Best, Chris

At 5/23/2015 03:50:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Let’s be clear here. Questioning the basis or effect of Neil’s output is questioning his nature, his character. People can shout all they want about how much “better” Tonight’s The Night is than Fork In The Road, but the simple truth is that the same guy created both- the guy who never cared whether or not anyone liked any of it. For those who just have to ask about motive, listen to the man himself: “My trip is to express what’s on my mind”. If you want to know what’s on his mind, listen to the albums. If you don’t like the albums, don’t listen to them. If you want him to conform to, or be consistent with the idealized image of him you have in your head, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I think the big difference between the detractors and the defenders is that the detractors can’t see beyond the music, and the defenders, who also love the music, are able to go beyond it and recognize the character behind it. Nobody has to agree with anything, but they do have to understand where it’s all coming from. If they don’t, then it’s just a gap that can’t be bridged, and all that’s left is shouting.

What is the end game of all the criticism? Does anyone think that Neil is going to change and give us what WE want? Who’s kidding who? If you don’t like his music anymore, why are you on a Neil Young appreciation site bitching about it, instead of just listening to the things that you do like? If you don’t like his political stances, or that he has chosen to use his music as a bully pulpit, that’s O.K., just ignore it. I think it’s fair to argue the relative merits of any particular view, but not fair to argue against the will of the artist to express it the way they choose to do so. Again, why are you here? Neil has said that he intends to focus more on the political things, and his activism. What do the critics not understand about this? If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. Are you saying that Neil shouldn’t indulge his passion to speak up for the things he believes, in the way he chooses to do so? Barking up the wrong tree again.

Meanwhile, those of us who do like the stances (even those of us who are not in lock step with them), and do like where it’s coming from- you know, his heart- are reveling in it all. Why can’t the critics understand this? Go, leave Neil behind, have your opinions, God Bless you, we’re still friends, but why beat a dead horse (no pun intended)? Again, what did you ever think you were going to accomplish? If you just wanted to deliver the message that you no longer like the music and the man, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. The message has been delivered and heard, and no one even wants to shoot the messengers, or withhold their right to leave Neil behind, but for the love of God, get on with it, and get out of the way of the poor, pathetic, deluded stragglers who don’t agree with you! Trying to save Neil from himself is not enough, are you demanding that we be saved, too?! Now, if it’s a matter of former fans lamenting the passage of something they held dear for so long, something that hearkens back to sentimentality and nostalgia, etc., that I have some sympathy for. No one likes to see something they hold dear go flying out the window, but still the time must come to wake up and smell the coffee, get a grip, and “walk on.” Sad yes, but not as much shouting and disrespect.

Having said all this, I don’t want anyone to go away, I’d rather they stick around and try to understand what’s going on, try to appreciate it. I want them to make a good faith effort to give the music a chance, to appreciate the gems that are there, even if you can’t appreciate it all. Most of all, I want you to at least be respectful of someone who gave you so much over the years, who put you in the position you’re in now- caring.

At 5/23/2015 03:50:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Anyhow, I can’t believe I just blathered all this, when what I meant to do was pass on something I read this morning from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”. I couldn’t help but think of Neil and all the grief he elicits by simply being himself- a non-conformist, true to the integrity of living in the moment, and to the intrinsic nature of the spirit which informs that moment for him. This is true for all of us, if we can wake up to It, and remove all the barriers and filters to our unique expression of It. In the final analysis, it’s Neil’s uniqueness I appreciate, and his just as unique disposition to share it with the world. In my mind, this is what we should be celebrating here on TW, not this preference or that. But, of course, that’s just me. Anyways, here’s Ralph:

“To be great is to be misunderstood. I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being, as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere. Nor does it matter how you gauge and try him. A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; - read it forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing. In this pleasing contrite woodlife which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt it, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not and see it not. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects… We pass for what we are. Character teaches above our will. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment.

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances and you always may. The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. What makes the majesty of the heroes… The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. They shed an united light on the actor. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels… Honor is venerable to us because it is no ephemera. It is always ancient virtue. We worship it to-day because it is not of to-day. We love it and pay it homage because it is not a trap for our love and homage, but is self dependent, self derived; and therefore of an old immaculate pedigree…

I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward.

A Friend Of Yours

At 5/24/2015 11:53:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@A Friend Of Yours - thanks as always for the heartfelt comments.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote from “Self-Reliance” is really perfect:

“To be great is to be misunderstood."

It really sums up Neil's career at various points like the 1970's Ditch Years or the 1980's Geffen Years period. Or now.

So true to the integrity of living in the moment, and to the intrinsic nature of the spirit which informs that moment for him.

And we celebrate.

At 5/25/2015 01:43:00 AM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

"There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances and you always may. The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. What makes the majesty of the heroes… The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. They shed an united light on the actor. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels… "

At 5/25/2015 01:47:00 AM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

"... however unlike they seem."

At 5/25/2015 11:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its a good site thrash, I don't like the fact annon's can not post. Dissagree with anything Neil and you get crucified.

At 5/26/2015 04:54:00 AM, Blogger Glenn said...

I disagree emphatically with the notion that Neil has "more going on now" and had a "narrower focus" in times gone by.

It's the exact opposite. He used to write about many, many subjects and themes, but over the last 15 or even 20 years his points of reference have narrowed to

The redemptive power of love

and that's about it ...

More recently he has found causes to work with - anti-war, pollution, environment. I don't doubt that Neil believes in these causes, but I think they have come at a time when he needed them to come, because without them he has been doing what John Cage wrote many years ago: "I have nothing to say / and I am saying it."

That's Neil. He's had nothing to say for two decades, but by God he just keeps on saying it.

At 5/26/2015 05:36:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Glenn, I appreciate your opinion, and though I disagree with the idea that Neil has had nothing to say other than cars, trains, and the redemptive power of love, (Prairie Wind, Greendale, LWW, Americana, etc. alone make this view invalid), I don't feel the need to convince you otherwise, which I'm sure you welcome. I'm curious though, if you really do believe he has nothing to say, and hasn't for a long time now, why are you still paying attention? Why do you bother to come to a Neil Young appreciation site, if you don't appreciate Neil Young? What's the point? Just to throw sand in everyone's face?

A Friend Of Yours


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