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Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Fan's Open Letter To Neil Young

Neil Young On The Keyboards
Neil Young on Twitter - October 24, 2012
(Click photo to enlarge)

Recently here on comments on REVIEW: Neil Young's Unearthed 1976 Recording 'Hitchhiker' Is a Lost Treasure" | Rolling Stone, the ever intrepid Neil Young fan Scotsman (aka flyingscotzman) penned the following "Open Letter To Neil Young":
Interesting that Neil is very aware of the opinionated "crap" on the blogs (guilty, your honour). Had I been aware that he reads his own reviews then I myself would have on occasion been less hasty in giving my own thoughts on Thrasher's blog (previously Neil had said that he avoids reading about himself online).

So a note for Neil, if this can be passed to him then I would appreciate it:


Neil,

People are opinionated for one reason: because they care.

You have inspired many with your own talent and have always attracted intense people throughout your life. Sometimes these people do not get on well with each other, and there are fireworks. From David Briggs to your manager to the nutters who write reviews online (again: guilty, your honour). Often this has brought about some conflict, but always some very beneficial things, too.

Look on your social media pages and you will see many thoughtless comments where people off-handedly and rudely put you down for putting your politics into your music (and whatever else). Dismiss that stuff, by all means. It has no value. But don't dismiss all passionate opinions as "crap", even if they are misguided or one-sided. It's only natural that your fans will have strong opinions, as indeed you yourself do on music technology, on GMOs, farming practises etc. This is particularly true of your younger fans, including myself. And it is this intensity that has kept your own fire burning, and sometimes unintentionally hurt a few people in the process.

Yes, it is "only music", but at the same time, you are underrating its power. Music itself is a pretty potent thing that is going to reach many people, often with their own ideas and contributions and reactions. Passionate people can be pretty vocal and often they can seem pretty crazy, as well. But surely this is a better situation than one of apathy, even if it is uncomfortable for you at times.

As for the matter of artistic inspiration, I too think you were fortunate to have had it so strongly, as you said in your interview. Hitchhiker is a magical record. But the fact remains that you have still got it, as witnessed on some of your most recent projects (Earth being a wildly-creative example that you clearly put a lot of focused effort into, with the end result of creating magic yet again).

So although my own opinions here have been generally complimentary (and hopefully, interesting or entertaining to read at times), I guess this is my way of apologising if anything I have said was ever taken to heart more than I intended it to be.


Scotsman.
Scotsman, bold words spoken here that likely resonate with other Neil Young fans. Thanks for sharing.

And we do know that Neil does occasionally drop by thrasherswheat.org from time to time to check in on "The Vista and The Muse".

For us, it's all about walk on...

peace

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6 Comments:

At 9/11/2017 11:56:00 AM, Blogger Duane Prather said...

Well said, I'm one of the "old fans" haha as long as NY puts it out I'm in for the great,the bad,or the ugly it all matters! Thx NY keep on rocking in the free world

 
At 9/11/2017 01:32:00 PM, Blogger James Peterson said...

Here-here, Duane. My sentiments exactly.

 
At 9/11/2017 02:35:00 PM, Blogger Hunter Brown said...

Never doubt the master!!!!

 
At 9/11/2017 08:50:00 PM, Blogger Norman Gaywood said...

It's a fine well written letter.
But why does Scotsman feel he has to tell Neil this?
I think I've missed something.

 
At 9/12/2017 04:54:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

Thanks for sharing this for me Thrasher.

Duane: I think the point about age is that fans who have been with Neil since the 70's or earlier have had plenty of time to adapt very well to Neil's ways of doing things (style changes, band changes etc), and are perhaps less demanding as a result, settled in for the ride wherever it may go. Younger fans are open-minded as well but also idealistic, seeing the history of it with more detachment and focusing on the great bits. It's musical excellence that has led them to Neil Young, and that's what they are still seeking out, even today. As for me, I'm somewhere between the two.

Norman: you can ask me yourself! Neil did a radio interview the other day in which he commented about having to "wade through" some of the "crap he reads about himself on the blogs". That is what inspired my letter. I'm guessing that if he was referring to any incident in particular, it was probably the reaction to the release Children Of Destiny, which caused quite a reaction here and elsewhere, a lot of it hostile.

Either way, I wanted to:

a) put across the hopefully valid point that not all opinionated blog posts are "crap". Not all criticism is put across for negative or hostile reasons (though some of it is). Part of being an expressive person or artist is having people engage with your work in a variety of ways. I suspect Neil is the last person to encourage people to censor themselves. Everyone has always had an opinion, it is just more obvious in the internet age. That doesn't mean those opinions are any more important than they ever were.

People are also more vocal now because Neil has moved onto more direct songwriting about issues affecting the world, which have to be thought about and grappled with, rather than just absorbed and felt.

And b) express an apology if any of my own comments have contributed to any upset.

Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.

Scotsman.

 
At 9/13/2017 03:43:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Scostman, your comments are worthy.

Speaking personally, I'd count myself as another of the younger fans. But certainly buckled in for the ride. I Have found some of my most rewarding Neil Experiences in wandering away from the "great bits". I think the nature of Neil Young's body of work is to reward the curious and the adventurous. The Ditch Trilogy would be the archetypal example of work that was not highly regarded at the time, but has proved to have a substantial shelf life on closer, longer inspection. I think this also can apply to some of Neil's more (relatively) recent works, some of them quite unduly discarded. In championing Earth, you yourself light on a fine example.

Some of the things Neil shares are whimsical; some are profoundly heartfelt. And who's to say you can't have both aspects within the same piece? My point is, Neil's body of work is staggering not least because of its breadth in music and in ideas. And I don't think the Neil Young Experience is ever going to rewarding, in the long term, for the listener who can't or won't treat it as an exploratory process. Curiosity and receptivity to the novel are essential qualities for appreciating, let alone trying to understand, more than "the hits". It's a journey, and if you try to ask directions, the most you're likely to get out of Neil is the equivalent of "Follow the yellow brick road!" Not least, I think, because NY himself has been exploring, experimenting, and learning, and figuring shit out--in his own ways--as much as we, the audience, have been compelled to do.

I wonder if some of Neil's best records don't transmit this restless, unresolved spirit from artist to listener? I'm sure this quality can be both arresting and disconcerting, depending on the listener's mood and countless other factors. What it leads to, however, is that in order to gain a rich appreciation of Neil Young's body of work, a certain stamina and flexibility are essential. As with many (most?) things, a more passive approach is less likely to deliver rewards. Being a classic car nut, I'm sure Neil appreciate the maxim that at least half the fun is getting there, wherever--if anywhere--"there" may turn out to be. "If you follow every dream, you might get lost"... but isn't that the point? I can't speak for everyone, but for me, yes.

 

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