Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps: Burning Out, Not Fading Away | Music Videos Deconstructed
Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps captures a moment in history where rock’s old guard was bumping up against the aftermath of punk.
Greil Marcus' wrote in his 1993 book "Ranters & Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music" on selecting "Rust Never Sleeps" as the most important album of 1979:
"Divided equally between graceful acoustic reveries and viciously hard rock, this was a sneak attack on entropy, its explicit subject. Up against the most reliable and unpredictable rock 'n' roller of the decade, entropy never had a chance --- at least while this album was playing."From Music Videos Deconstructed :
And so it is that in 1978 we get a short-haired Neil Young singing about how “it’s better to burn out than to fade away/rust”, a line which alongside Pete Townsend’s “Hope I die before I get old” captures the rock n’ roll ethos (not to mention punks ‘anarchic’ nihilism) pretty perfectly. In two versions, one acoustic, the other bludgeoningly electric, of one song ‘Hey Hey, My My’ (Out Of The Blue/In To The Black) Young filters the current zeitgeist, preceding the line above with “The King is gone but he’s not forgotten, this is the story of a Johnny Rotten” referencing the death of Elvis, the arrival of the Sex Pistols and all that seemed to represent in one killer line.More on Music Videos Deconstructed .
And whilst the ambient resonance of punk is most obviously referenced in ‘Hey Hey, My My’ it is every bit as evident in the trashy blast of ‘Welfare Mothers’ and the pummeling drive of ‘Sedan Delivery’, the latter’s verses delivered at positively breackneck speed by Crazy Horse standards. The entire electric part of this performance is loose limbed and slightly ragged. The music ebbs and flows, with Young acting as the conductor taking his band up and down at will. Together they make what might be labelled in England as a glorious racket.