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Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Imagine", Nine - One - One, Fifteen Years On: Lennon, Young and Heros Are So Hard To Find

It was -- without a shred of doubt whatsoever -- Neil Young's finest hour...ever.

On September 21, 2001, just days after the 9-11 terror attack on the United States, Neil Young performed John Lennon's "Imagine" on the worldwide broadcast musical benefit telethon "America: A Tribute to Heroes". Simulcast live from London, New York and Los Angeles on the four major TV networks, international networks and globally streaming via the Internet, the program was seen by an estimated 89 million viewers and netted roughly $230 million in donations.

For many, Young's performance was emotionally wrenching and heart felt. Surrounded by burning candles, performing on a grand piano and accompanied by a small orchestra of violins, Young's rendition of Lennon's "Imagine" spoke to many of us who were suffering from the terrible tragedies in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Notably, Young changed the lyrics from "imagine no possessions, to "I wonder if *I* can". (thanks Marilyn) Those in the studio that night, reported that Young appeared to be on the verge of tears upon completing the song. Pulse Magazine wrote that Young's performance of "Imagine" on the Benefit telecast was "one of those moments you never forget."

From an interview (Pulse Magazine, April 2002) with Neil Young in which he was asked about "Imagine" and the night of "A Tribute to Heroes":
Neil Young: Well, first of all, I guess it was the night before that we first practiced it. So we ran through it about 10 times, until finally it started to gel and we knew what we were doing. We used the original charts from the original record, and did everything we could to do justice to the original version--we weren't trying to do anything other than that.
Just trying to make it like John Lennon, basically. It was just such a great song for the moment. Pegi, my wife, got an email from a friend of hers after the 11th with the words to "Imagine" on it. And it was at the same time as I was trying to figure out what to play, because we only had two-and-a-half, three days' notice to do the show. And that seemed to be a good sign to me. So we went ahead and got the lyrics, the ones I couldn't remember, and I just learned it, practiced it, and when we did it that night everything just came together. And obviously, those are the nuts and bolts, but the real emotional part ... Well, it's just so obvious why it was the way it was.
That's one of the things about being a musician or a singer or a songwriter--when these things come up, it's a chance to do your job, to do what you do and have it really be what it's supposed to be.
Sadly -- and ironically -- the song "Imagine was banned from most American radio stations by Clear Channel Communications following the attacks on 9/11.


(More on John Lennon and the song "Imagine" and lyrics.)

Young's next response to 9-11 came as he was writing "Let's Roll" for the Are You Passionate? (title references Jimi Hendrix's 1967 album "Are You Experienced?") album. The song tells the story of a passenger's (Todd Beamer) heroics on a hijacked Flight 93 (which crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers stormed the cockpit. Young reportedly made a donation to the Todd M. Beamer Foundation. From an interview (Pulse Magazine, April 2002) with Neil Young in which he was asked about the song "Let's Roll":
Neil Young: Obviously, watching the whole thing unfold on television, I'm doing what everybody else is doing. Then I heard the wife of one of the passengers --Lisa Beamer--talking about the phone call that her husband made to the operator, and the operator relaying that he said "Let's roll." And she was talking about how he always used to say that with the kids when they'd go out and do something, that it's what he said a lot when he had a job to do.
And it's just so poignant, and there's no more of a legendary, heroic act than what those people did.
With no promise of martyrdom, no promise of any reward anywhere for this, other than just knowing that you did the right thing. And not even having a chance to think about it or plan it or do anything--just a gut reaction that was heroic and ultimately cost them all their lives. What more can you say? It was just so obvious that somebody had to write something or do something. I think it's a legendary story that's gonna go down through the ages--it'll never be forgotten. So I was very surprised that I didn't hear any songs. And I'm thinking, "I can hear this song in my head, nobody else has written it when I thought everybody was gonna write it." So I just wrote it. I couldn't stop it anymore.
Greendale Album Cover living-with-war-cover.jpg fork-in-road-cover2.jpg

The events of 9-11 continued to haunt Young through the following decade. With 2003's Greendale , Neil sounds the alarm that something had gone terribly wrong on a number of fronts. 2006's Living With War was a direct confrontation of the need for a call to action. And, 2009's Fork in the Road -- the 3rd installment of the post 9/11 trilogy -- reveals Neil coming to grips with the fact that first you recognize a problem, then you call out the need to address it, and finally you do something about it. You can make a difference if you try really hard, if you will... Back tracking into the 20th century, Neil Young's 1987 "Mideast Vacation" was adapted to the post 9/11 world -- "I went lookin' for Bin Laden aboard Air Force One".    
"I went lookin' for Bin Laden aboard Air Force One" Neil Young with Crazy Horse performed "Mideast Vacation" from 1987's Life at the Bridge School Benefit concert on Oct. 10, 2001. This marked Neil Young's first post 9-11 performance (note NYFD hat) at the zeitgeist of 2000's paranoia. The original key lyric "I went lookin' for Khaddafi [Libya's Muammar Gaddafi] Aboard Air Force One" was changed for the concert to "I went lookin' for Bin Laden aboard Air Force One". So where does today's news leave Freedom v. 2011? Are we celebrating the end of the Global War on Terror? Or just getting ready for a repackaging of terror and the politics of fear into a kinder and gentler machine gun hand? Well, just another song in a long line of Neil Young prophecies, 1986's "Mideast Vacation" captured at the zeigeist of 1980's paranoia.

"I went lookin' for Bin Laden aboard Air Force One" But I never did find him And the C.I.A. said Son, You'll never be a hero ......Your flyin' days are done It's time for you to go home now Stop sniffin' that smokin' gun." ~~Neil Young, "Mideast Vacation, 1987 
It's a very, very angry world indeed. 1989's "Rockin' in the Free World" -- the rock and roll coda for the Cold War song -- has also been invoked in association with the War on Terror. From Neil Young … Don’t Feel Like Satan… | by Jeff Cochran:
As Neil Young alluded in “Rockin’ In The Free World,” to some, America is Satan. That notion rankles. All the same, resolving to no longer participate in “wars of choice” and to not be so ravenous with the world’s resources can only improve America’s image. Therefore, it’s a good time to realize that our feelings of pride, joy and love of country are not best displayed in gatherings that seem like boisterous frat parties. Along with our joy, there should be moments of reverence as we again honor the courageous actions of those who died saving others on 9-11: the first responders in New York City and the brave passengers of Flight 93. Their faith, courage and selfless bearing reflected the qualities free people hold dear. In the long run, America’s new-found exhilaration can make the greatest impact as we celebrate the stirrings of democracy in the Mideast, the region where the now-vanquished terrorist first conjured his deadly games. He [OBL] can no longer exploit those he claimed to be his people. Let us look forward to the day that they too are rockin’ in the free world.
From "Imagine": 2001 to Today by Greg "A Friend Of Yours":
Call me a "dreamer", but I have faith that the truth of the song "Imagine" will come to pass, not through the efforts of any wolf in sheep's clothing secular or non-secular world organization, but by the earth itself, by Life protecting Itself, and by Creation being true to It's eternal promise. Another conversation, I know, but that's my faith. In the meantime, songs and performances like this, and the fact that "I'm not the only one", help to sustain me.
From John Lennon's "Imagine", 9/11 and Neil by Angela:
It's a perfect message for all the world and all peoples. It is pro-spiritualism...beyond religious confinements. Freedom = love, truth and beauty. A vision of an ultimate utopian idea of where we should be striving for.
Or just maybe the conspiracy theory is really a confirmed fact? Anyone still remember The Day The Music Died: 50 Years Ago Today and Why It Matters??? There are no secrets... only hidden lies.

Neil Young News: "Imagine": 2001 to Today by SH:
I remember watching this live then and it blew me away-the fact that Neil wanted to contribute by performing and instead of using the platform to play one of his own compositions he played Imagine- perhaps the MOST appropriate of songs for the occasion, at a time when we were being inundated with little American flag stickers and cries of bloodshed in the name of patriotism. Not to open a can of worms but in the weeks and months following 9-11 it seemed even the most staunch of Doves became blood thirsty Hawks (myself included). We were pissed man- and with good reason. This was a terrible tragedy for the people, but I believe our sorrow, anger and confusion was taken advantage of (my opinion). Imagine receiving radio air-play did not go along with the required post-911 mindset, but I think this performance was a simple gesture reminding us to not lose sight of that idyllic promised land that is always within reach- if we want it.

Revolution in Tahrir Square Cairo, Egypt - February 12, 2011
War is not the answer. All we are saying is give peace a chance.

namaste ps - What's so funny about peace, love, & understanding anyways?

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At 9/11/2016 11:24:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

From a comment on this topic 5 years ago on 9/11/2011 @ 12:35:00 AM, by a fellow blogger Donald Gibson, who said...

What also made Neil's performance of "Imagine" so powerful was, in the days preceding, it was widely reported that US radio stations were not to play "Imagine" on the air lest its lyrics (particularly "Imagine no religion") offend anyone. Clear Channel specifically was reportedly ordering its stations not to play certain potentially incendiary songs and this one was at the top of the list.

When I heard Neil play those opening notes to the song on live TV, I got tears in my eyes and I threw my fist in the air, because it was not only so poignant, but in that moment it was defiant. He would not be denied to react -- and grieve -- the way he felt most appropriate. He was sending a message, and not just in the words he was singing.

At 9/11/2016 11:25:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@Donald - Thanks, it was powerful indeed. And Clear Channel's behavior was truly reprehensible & divisive when we needed the healing power of music. Which is what made the broadcast so important even to this day.

At 9/11/2016 10:28:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

A bit of a sideways comment, but here is what I posted elsewhere earlier today. I'm not sure what the first step is to speeding up the process of bringing to fruition the aspirations contained within the song Imagine, but I'd say that waking up to the reality of how badly we've been lied to on the subject of 9/11 is as good a first step as any.

Here is what I wrote earlier today, followed by a very good description of at least one line of inquiry that needs to be followed up on. Time to wake up everyone, if you haven't already (and for sure a lot have), and give Life a helping hand in ridding the earth of the "wreckers"/black magicians. Love and peace to all of us:

Today is a day to honor and mourn the lives lost 15 years ago, and to blindly accept the sham government 9/11 Report is to desecrate the memory of these lost lives. I have no way of knowing exactly what happened, or exactly why (although I know my share of the what and the why)- I wasn't in on it with the still at large perpetrators, but Judy Wood has assembled some amazing evidence. Were the asleep-at-the-switch mass media in this country to comprehensively report this evidence (don't hold your breath), possibly Americans would finally wake up to what our "leaders" have inflicted upon the people's of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as demand that the monstrous Patriot Act be revoked. As it is, this awakening will have to happen one person at a time, and by word of mouth. But for God's sake, let's each of us wake up to the need to truly vindicate all that has been lost these 15 years.

At 9/11/2016 10:29:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

"Let us never forget what is required to (legally) convict someone of a crime. Someone cannot be convicted of a crime based on belief. Someone cannot be convicted of a crime if the crime itself is not exhaustively investigated, and the weapon(s) used are not positively identified. And yet, before noon on 9/11/01, the world was almost instantly told WHO did it, HOW they did it, and WHY they did it (they hate us for our freedoms); before any investigation had even been conducted to determine exactly WHAT had been done!

All mass media sources generally take the view that those premature, simplistic, and official conclusions were accurate – and that no one should have cause to seriously question them, and further, to do so is somehow disloyal and disrespectful. However, the hundreds of high quality pictures in the book, "Where Did The Towers Go?" show that WTC 1 & 2, and WTC 7 did not "burn up", "collapse", nor did they "slam down" as reported – they were turned into dust in mid air – leaving almost nothing of the building itself.

Many people have speculated as to WHO committed the crimes of 9/11 and/or HOW they did so. But, without addressing WHAT happened, speculation of this kind is nothing more than conspiracy theory – a phrase that equally describes the "19 Saudis with box cutters who planned the operation between flying lessons, directed by a crazed man on dialysis in a cave halfway around the world" story we were given before noon on 9/11/01, as it does the ensuing theories that “9/11 was an inside job”, and/or "Israel did 9/11." Scientifically speaking, none of these theories is the result of a scientific investigation supported by evidence that would be admissible in court.

What is presented in this book is not a theory and it is not speculation. It is evidence. It is a forensics investigation of what happened to the WTC complex on 9/11/01. It is that body of empirical evidence that must be explained in order to determine what happened.

Buy the book, "Where Did the Towers Go?" here:…/…/0615412564…

Dr. Judy Wood speaks here:


Dr. Judy D. Wood is a former professor of mechanical engineering with research interests in experimental stress analysis, structural mechanics, optical methods, deformation analysis, and the materials characterization of biomaterials and composite materials. She is a member of the Society for Experimental Mechanics (SEM), co-founded SEM's Biological Systems and Materials Division, and has served on the SEM Composite Materials Technical Division. Dr. Wood received her B.S. (Civil Engineering, 1981) (Structural Engineering), M.S. Engineering Mechanics (Applied Physics, 1983), and Ph.D. (Materials Engineering Science, 1992)."

A Friend Of Yours

At 9/12/2016 03:05:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Excellent, moving. Neil was defiant and performed Imagine… I love it. F Clear Channel. F Election rigging and environmental destruction also. Save Earth. And No Religion Too.

At 9/12/2016 12:44:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thank you Greg.

It's always gratifying to see and hear from folks in our community who are awake and get it.

Sometimes we're asked why we spend so much time in the Neil community? Well, it's nice to be with folks who are not asleep and that have a clue.

And this goes way behind 911, as well. 911 was just the capstone of centuries of maneuvering. Here we are 15 years on and it is amazing how far so many have come in seeing and understanding The Matrix.

The Big Shift rolls on...

At 9/12/2016 06:36:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

While I admire NY's proved commitment to peace, this song is a turkey. It wasn't near anything Lennon had did w/ the Beatles or even some of his better solo material. I wish NY sang a song of peace that resonated more from himself rather that doing this tired, note-for-note of Lennon;s original. To tell you all the truth; The Beatles are my favorite band of all time, but NY was so much better than Lennon in 1971/1972 there was no contest.

I love you NY and all you you folds who contribute to Thrasher's Wheat. You all deserve a round of applause :)

At 9/12/2016 07:36:00 PM, Blogger mrtew said...

This broadcast was the first time I'd ever really heard Neil Young and he's been my favorite ever since. So beautiful. And I'm glad that some people are using this forum to insist that the official 9-11 conspiracy theory we've been fed is not believable or true. thanks

At 9/14/2016 02:04:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

One of the things I remember seeing thru tears was the " Celebrity" who came on seconds after Neil and his soft band played. I believe it was a women, not sure anyway, she seemed overwhelmed by what she had just witnessed a few feet away. I think she spoke for all of us

At 9/17/2016 12:14:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Thrasher, I was deeply moved by this post of yours and I apologize for being a few days late in responding to it. I won't get into conspiracies theories and who/what/where/when/why/how of the September 11 Attacks. As I believe Greg is implying, we all tend to think we know more than we do. That truth has been brought home to me more than almost anything else as the years roll by. But a few things strike when I think about John Lennon's "Imagine", and since no one else here has held back on what they're feeling, neither will I.

The ideals Lennon reaches for in that iconic song sometimes seem farther away than ever, now that the United States may be on the brink of electing a certain grossly unqualified (and just generally gross) presidential candidate who shall remain nameless, but whose political bread and butter has been the stirring up of fear, anger, and conflict, and the sowing of divisiveness along racial, religious, but also political and social lines. I'm referring here to one who speaks of building walls instead of "imagining no countries" and whose conception of the ideal leader seems to be a vision of a dictatorial strongman, rather than a calm, sensible, compassionate, and even-handed problem solver working within a democratic system that guarantees liberty and justice for all. A a strongman preoccupied mostly with orchestrating mass deportations and making a futile, misguided effort to put "America First" by neglecting and antagonizing the rest of the world, while contributing exactly zero new ideas of any value to solve any of our economic, geopolitical, or social problems. What's even more disheartening is that even if we don't elect this gruesome contender, we still probably won't feel like we're that much closer to what John Lennon was singing about. With as much war and strife as there is in the world today, and a parade of imperfect candidates for our country to choose from, peace and brotherhood/sisterhood of man can seem millions of miles away. It's incredibly, trecherously easy to become deeply depressed and frustrated in times like these. Now that you've got me thinking about Lennon's "Imagine" album, I'll let John do the talking for a few minutes. This album track, titled "So Hard", was almost the first thing I thought of when I saw Thrasher's title for this thread:

I'll even throw in another one, which seems quite apropos: Crippled Inside.

"You can shine your shoes and wear a suit.

"You can comb your hair and look quite cute...

... One thing you can't hide, is when you're crippled inside".

Does that remind anyone of anybody who's been dominating our news cycles lately? "Mama, take a look outside!" (incidentally, if I recall correctly, that's George Harrison playing the spicy slide guitar on Crippled Inside.) So yes, it's way too easy to be feel completely dejected, to despair at the state of things. Yet we've been at such points of despair before. We wake up the next morning and the world is still there. As Neil says, "You gotta have something to hold onto in this life", whether it's the embrace of your lover, the therapeutic balm of potent, aching music made by prescient singers and songwriters, or the making, appreciation, and cultivating of beautiful things, no matter how small, within your own life every day. Maybe it's the rising sun. Maybe it's the flower you've got to let grow (Mind Games). Maybe it's the tone of Old Black snarling, screaming, scratching its feedback into the atmosphere. Maybe it's Bible or Gita or Koran, or Family Guy, The Three Stooges, and Sunday comics. Perhaps it's the trees, where Neil and I sometimes do our praying.

At 9/17/2016 12:15:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

(cont'd from previous post)


If, like me, you strongly believe that humanity ultimately exists as a incredible, gigantic universal brotherhood and sisterhood, that we're all in this together--that all the nations of the world must participate in a sprawling global community, no matter how difficult--perhaps you would consider taking September 11th as an annual day to reflect upon the vital importance of peace, love, harmony, and fellowship throughout the world, even as we simultaneously mourn and honor all of those who have lost their lives not just on this day, but in all wars, conflicts, and needless violent attacks. What can be important or more fitting, on a day when we remember an unfathomably grave and heinous violation of our common humanity, our global unity and our most indelible values and truths of peace, compassion and fellowship of man, than to remember, with all of the might we can muster, how important it is that we work to prevent unconscionable crimes from continuing apace? There's no time when it makes more sense, or is more essential, to remember peace than when we are confronted with unimaginable violence and carnage. This is something I've been thinking about for a few years, and I'm incredibly grateful--and relieved--for the opportunity to finally put out into the open somewhere. My logic may be seem unfathomable to some. How can you think about peace on a day when your nation was attacked? Myself, I think it's unfortunate that G.W. Bush made it "Patriot Day" instead of "Peace Day". When did waving flag ever end a conflict or heal a wound? When we feel compelled to go to war to defend ourselves or root out destructive forces--no matter how just our causes may be--that is tragic, not glorious. The death of Osama Bin Laden is a tragedy, simply for the fact that humanity ever came to this point. Fireworks should never have to accompany the news of a death. I found it gut-wrenching then as I find it gut-wrenching now, even if I understand the inevitably and perhaps even the necessity.

Remember peace. Keep creating beautiful things. Om Shanti.

To finish off (with apologies for length), I'd like to share one more song from another guy who gets it--Ivan Drever, a Scottish folk singer and songwriter from the island of Orkney. In "The Wordsmith", Drever calls out "warmongering mongrels barking out war, packaged and posted straight to your door"; political leaders who "can't change any more"; and captures the essence of disenchantment among hardworking common people, shown in their "half-hearted reasons for not showing up [to vote]". Drever has lived and worked in Scotland all his life to my knowledge, but the things he's saying could just as well apply to the United States of America:

"Clutching at moonbeams and what they may bring."

Best to everyone with peace and love,


At 9/19/2016 07:14:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Ian, as always.

Once again, another demonstration that Neil fans are some of the most knowledgeable and sincere music fans out there.

Once full disclosure and transparency takes place, the REAL truth will be exposed. There will be no going back. The illusion will be shattered and the matrix dismantled.

Winterlong knows the answer.

The Big Shift rolls on...


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