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Friday, March 31, 2017

FLASHBACK: In 1976 Neil Young Busks in Glasgow

Neil Young - Old Laughing Lady (1976)

Here's a video we posted 5 years ago that’s worth another look as Neil Young's self imposed 2017 sabbatical continues and we continue to plow deeply into the Thrasher's Wheat Archives Vaults.

Neil Young in the street of Glasgow outside a subway station back in April, 1976 singing the "Old Laughing Lady" on his banjo. The impromptu session took place just prior to Neil's appearance at the the Apollo Theater.

Because of the date - All Fool’s Day - it has been suggested that Mr Young was carrying out his own practical joke.

The photo above is where Neil Young was busking 35 years ago, just behind the guy with the bicycle. (Thanks clusterflock!)

From Open Culture by Mike Springer:
The day was April 2, 1976. Neil Young was flying into Glasgow, and a local camera crew was waiting at the airport to meet him. Director Murray Grigor and cinematographer David Peat had been hired by Young through his record company. As they waited there, at the airport, they had no idea what to expect.

“The irony,” Peat told Open Culture, “is that neither Murray or myself were particularly knowledgeable about the rock world, and we knew little of this guy Neil Young. So we turned up at the airport in sports jackets and ties to meet him!”

Young’s scheduled flight from London arrived, but he wasn’t on it. When a second flight came in, Peat and Grigor watched anxiously as all the passengers cleared the terminal. Still no Young. Finally, said Peat, “this tall bloke in a long coat came ambling down the corridor.” The filmmakers introduced themselves to Young and asked what he wanted.

“Just give me some funky shit footage,” said Young.

Nae bother, as we say in Scotland,” Peat said. So the filmmakers tagged along as the musician and his band, Crazy Horse, headed into the city. At this point Murray Grigor picks up the story: “Our filming got off to a tricky start. When Neil and the band finally made it to their lunch in the Albany Hotel’s penthouse, one of them set fire to the paper table decorations, which we filmed. ‘Just like Nam,’ another one said as he warmed his hands over the small inferno lapping up towards the inflammable ceiling.”

At that moment, Peat added, “this very Scottish floor manager leapt in and completely cowed them with her rage.” The woman turned to the nearest person and demanded to know what was going on. “That happened to be our sound recordist, Louis Kramer,” said Grigor. “She then shouted at them to get everything burning into the bathroom–and generally gave them all a dressing down.”

As Grigor explained, “Neil and the band were all stoned out of their skulls.”

When the smoke had cleared at the Albany Hotel, the crew followed Young out onto the streets, where he began accosting passersby. “Excuse me,” he said. “Could you tell me where the Bank of Scotland is?” He soon settled on a different destination. “It was entirely Neil’s idea,” Grigor told us, “to flop down at the entrance to Glasgow’s Central Station and then wait and see who would recognize him.”

With a scarf wrapped around his neck and a deerstalker hat pulled down over his face, Young took out his banjo and harmonica and sat on the pavement. Peat, whose forté is observational filmmaking, panned his camera back and forth between the famous street musician and the people passing by. Kramer’s sound recording provided the continuity that made it possible for Peat to move around and cover the scene from different angles. He noticed that Young was singing about an “Old Laughing Lady,” so when he saw one, he filmed her. The whole thing lasted only a few minutes.

Later that evening, Young and Crazy Horse opened their show at the Glasgow Apollo with “The Old Laughing Lady.” It was the last concert of their European tour. The film crew documented the crowd going into the Apollo and the show itself. When it was over, Young asked Grigor to synchronize the sound and film for later editing. Local editor Bert Eeles did the synch work, Grigor sent in the film, and that was about the last they ever heard of it. “I always understood Neil commissioned it for his own use as a kind of ‘home movie,'” said Peat.

The fire scene from the Albany Hotel resurfaced in Jim Jarmusch’s 1997 film, Year of the Horse: Neil Young and Crazy Horse Live. When the busking scene at Central Station recently appeared on the Internet, Peat was happy to see it, but disappointed with the state it was in (see above). “The quality is poor and the sound appears to be slightly out of sync,” he said. “It looks as though the material is in black and white, but I’m sure I shot it in color.”

Peat and Grigor collaborated on a number of other projects, including the 1976 Billy Connolly documentary Big Banana Feet, which was screened at the Glasgow Film Festival last Sunday for the first time in decades, and the 1983 film, The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Architecture has been a major focus of Grigor’s work. Last month he received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to architecture and film. Peat is the subject of an upcoming special on BBC Two, A Life in Film: David Peat.

The strange assignment to shoot “funky shit footage” for a strung-out rock star was a minor footnote in Peat’s long career, but he looks back on it with fondness. “The footage of Neil has achieved a sort of iconic status in Glasgow,” he said. “I was in a music/video store recently trying to find out if it existed on any published DVD, and the guy behind the counter nearly fell over when I revealed I had shot it. He probably just saw an old bloke with a beard instead of the lithe young man who used to dance around with a camera!”

In followup comments, James says:
For many years a young man in Dumbarton -who liked a bit of a drink, and also a friend of mine told everyone in the town that he had busked with Neil Young at the central station and no one believed him until this video came to light to me via youtube and to my amazement there he was.

His name is Vincent McFarlane who is now dead and who was a great harmonica player. In the video he is trying to say to people who the unknown busker was. No one recognised Young apart from Vincent who knew his music. If you need anymore info let me know.



At 3/31/2017 08:03:00 PM, Blogger Richard, Glasgow. UK said...

Ah, that was a day. By the time i got to the Central Station he was gone. But the show that evening at the Apollo was simply superb. I've seen many many show by many artists in many countries but there are three particular favourites which to my memory are unchallenged in their excellence. Neil Young with Crazy Horse at the Apollo in Glasgow 1976 is one. Wilco in Malaga, Spain in 2009 is second and Kathleen Edwards at King Tuts in Glasgow in 2010 is third. Every show I ever see has to measure up against those three. Prime contender to gate crash the top three at the moment is Mr Young with POTR in Amsterdam last summer and with Wilco in decline and Ms Edwards preferring to serve coffee there could be a re-consideration very soon!

Neil played Hurricane and Homegrown in Glasgow that night. They were new songs to the audience but both were searingly, thrillingly brilliant - everybody stomped along - the atmosphere and the intensity was breath-taking. We've been discussing American Stars and Bars on this site in recent days and I love that album simply because I wanted nothing more than to hear those two songs again and I feared - in the familiar way - they may never be released. Include Will to Love and the lovely first side with its feeling of haphazard immediacy - I even love Linda's giggle at the start of Saddle Up - and for me ASAB it's a great album.

Finally, looking back at the Glasgow Apollo show, there was a bunch of guys in the stalls from Dundee. They asked Neil if he'd ever been to Dundee. He didn't know what they were talking about. But not to be put off when the crowd wanted another encore these guys started a chorus of - We're only waiting till the morning comes - which added to the joy of the evening although I believe a curfew prevented our hero from responding!

Neil needs a break and I appreciate that but the longer there are no shows scheduled the more I want to see him live again.

At 4/01/2017 03:09:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Richard! Great story. wow, you were there?! very cool memories. again, thanks for sharing your Neil story from those hazy, crazy days.

At 4/01/2017 09:08:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Nice to see this again. For a while it had disappeared from You Tube, as I thought NY had bought the rights for it to appear on Archives 2. Anyone got any updates on that BTW. Just recently been digging deeply again into Archives 1 and I need more:)


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