Comment of the Moment: TRANS: A Little Bit of Essential Neil Young
Neil Young w/ TRANS Band - In Berlin, 1982
Recently here on Thrasher's Wheat, we have been re-visiting and reassessing some of Neil Young's 1980's releases on Geffen Records, such as, TRANS: A Little Bit of Essential Neil Young.
The Comment of the Moment is from TRANS: A Little Bit of Essential Neil Young | Rocket 88 by Scotsman:
Neil on Trans: [via Shakey book]Thanks Scotsman for all of the research as always. You are a true Neil scholar!
"I thought it was really good shit. The only thing wrong with it is that I tried to hide it a bit by putting the things from Hawaii in there...I coulda put out the Trans EP with only the vocoder shit, and that would have been a cooler thing. But I wasn't really thinking clearly. Geffen wouldn't give the money to put out a video for Trans because videos were just starting....Would (that) have made a difference? Oh, yeah, definitely. I wanted to do a video album to go with Trans".
"To me, Trans is one of my highest moments. Forget the acoustic things on it, get rid of those, get those OUT. Disregard EVERYTHING except that computer thing".
I generally agree with Neil's comments on this record. It's obviously something he has put a lot of consideration into, what "might have been". At the time, no one knew about his young son Ben's disability, or the challenges this presented in communication. And so the audience really had nothing to relate to, nothing to connect with. With some complex albums like this one, some context is necessary.
And I too think it would have worked better as an edgier EP. The end result is something that is trying to go in too many directions and not really getting anywhere. Jack of all trades, master of none. An EP would have made more of a statement and got noticed more.
I think some of you need to remind yourselves what a GREAT Neil Young record actually is. To be clear, a great IDEA that ends up getting scrambled by inconsistent songwriting, flat production, unremarkable performances, and record company interference is NOT a great album (though of course it may still be something worthy of admiration). That's an insult to an artist who created something like On The Beach, for instance, which did not allow itself to submerged by any of these problems and achieves greatness on pretty much every level (even down to the cover artwork).
There's a lot to admire on Trans, but I think the finished product (as a complete album) is very flawed. Perhaps with the changes Neil proposed it would have been a piece with a lot more impact.
Producer David Briggs on the Transband:
"It was a loadful working with those guys. They had to be so f**king drunk and stoned just to walk out onstage....I thought their performances sucked. It was always awful. Only Nils played great every night".
"Can you imagine: Ralph and a bongo player? How would you like to play with a f**king bongo player? Neil knows nothing about chemistry or producing - he knows how to play and sing and write. Anytime he tries to do anything else, that band is how it turns out".
Jimmy McDonough adds an anecdote to this: in the nineties, Joel Bernstein listened to the soundboard tapes of the tour and didn't find a single performance fit for inclusion on the Archives.
I think in some ways the disaster of the tour rubbed off onto associated memories of the studio album, which despite it's defiencies, was more successful. The McDonough book is a good read on the Trans period (in the studio). He presents quite a sympathetic and balanced view of what could have easily been quickly and unfairly written off. Rogan's book is also good.
More on TRANS: A Little Bit of Essential Neil Young | Rocket 88 .
Year 1982 - Neil Young Pulled from the Future into the Past
(Out of the Blue, Into the Black)