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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

TRANSCRIPT: Neil Young's Track by Track Commentary on New Album 'Hitchhiker'

On August 31, Neil Young streamed a Live Facebook session from a radio station in Telluride, CO.

Thanks to Nicolas in France, we have a transcript of the session and Neil Young's fascinating track by track commentary.

Neil Young's new album 'Hitchhiker' was released last week and is currently #4 #3 #2 on Amazon Top Sellers. Even more surprising is that the Vinyl Edition of Neil Young's "Hitchhiker" is #17 #16 #14 on Amazon Top Sellers in all formats -- MP3, CD, etc.

The album is successful amongst music critics with an 88 rating per Meta Critic. Meta Critic score distribution:

Positive: 15 out of 15
Mixed: 0 out of 15
Negative: 0 out of 15

'Hitchhiker' earned 4.5 Stars out of 5 Stars from Rolling Stone, calling the album: “a buried-treasure mother lode”, Paste wrote that: “the songs seem to hang as delicately as drawings in the sand, waiting to be wiped away by the rising tide” and Uncut said: “‘Hawaii’ is the real curveball…that makes one marvel at what else lingers incognito in those storied vaults”.

Here is a transcript of Neil Young's track by track commentary on the new album Hitchhiker. (Thanks Nicolas!)

Hello, this is Neil Young…

Around the time of the full moon on August 11th 1976, my producer David Briggs and I recorded an album in one night, at Indigo Studio in the hills above Malibu, California.

My friend Dean Stockwell was in the studio with me as I sang these songs. No one had ever heard them before. The album was called Hitchhicker. I had no accompaniment but my guitar, harmonica and a studio piano as I sang those songs in the order you still hear them today on the album Hitchhicker.

The idea I had at the time was to present these new songs in their purest and most simple form, just as they had been written. I loved the old records by Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Ledbetter and many other old folk recordings. I had a deep connection with the 1960's folk movement and loved the music played in the coffee houses I visited so often. That's when I first heard Sonny Terry, my favorite harmonica player, as he played with Brownie McGee at the 4th Dimension coffee house in Winnipeg. I was still in high school. These influences remain with me today.

As Briggs, Stockwell and I drove the winding dirt road to Indigo, the sun setting in the Pacific, we passed Garth Hudson's old house, the last house on the road before Indigo. There're only three or four houses on this 3-mile dirt road winding on the mountainside. Dust rose behind our aging 1959 Cadillac convertible which Briggs had named 'Nanu the Lovesick Moose'. We pulled up at Indigo and I got an old Gibson J-45 guitar and some capos out of Nanu's spacious trunk. Briggs was already in the building as Dean and I followed him and went in. He was inside the studio with the owner, Richard Kaplan, and they were setting up microphones. I was exited to put these tunes down, really feeling good about the session. I smoked a little weed with Dean and we settled in to this small room where I would play acoustic and sing. Dean drank a little Tequila and sat in a chair that was established previously as being the quietest one in the studio, so Briggs would no be recording any squeaks or rattles during the taping. We were all feeling just fine. I strapped a capo on the old Gibson ; "ready Briggs?" I asked, and he nodded "yes" through the control room glass.

I started with Pocahontas, a song I had recently written. I previously tried it, recording with Crazy Horse for an album called Zuma, but that version did not make the cut. Then came another capo change for Powderfinger, which I had also tried for Zuma with The Horse and not captured well enough to use. Then, came Captain Kennedy, a complete (???) I had never played before, followed by Hawaii and Give Me Strength, two songs written around my recent breakup with Carrie Snodgress, mother of my first son Zeke.
At this time, Briggs joined us in the playing room and we stopped the proceeding to do some more libations. That accomplished, Briggs returned to the control room; "Rolling!" he announced. We continued with Ride My Lama, another outtake from Zuma, followed by Hitchhicker. You may be able to hear the drugs kicking in here… Then came Campaigner, a song I had written about politics and Nixon. Human Highway was next.

At that point we moved my vocal microphone to the piano outside in the main studio for the last song, The Old Country Waltz. Briggs did not want to change the mic, so we had to carry it out there. It was the same mic I had sung into; he wanted the songs to all be consistent without any unnecessary distractions or changes. He was mixing live as the songs went down, and my vocal mic was part of the sound.

By the time we were done, it was about 2 a.m. and we celebrated; we knew we had done something. After the celebration, Dean, Briggs and I got in Nanu and headed down the mountains to the ocean under the light of the full moon: it was really beautiful. The Pacific Ocean, the full moon, reflecting…we had a great vibe that I can still feel, and as I hear it today I am happy to share it with you now, in the record Hitchhicker.

Back then when we played this record for business folks, the reaction was that it was not a real record, but a collection of demos. I was advised to record the songs with a band, but the Hitchhicker versions are the true originals, recorded earlier than any versions you may have ever heard, and I always knew the original album would find its place and surface. That time is now. The album will be finally released. A long time, a long wait, but worth it. This music is the essence of those times, pure and undisturbed, just as it was 40 years back.

Some have noted, after hearing this, that this recording may be a high water mark for me, hard to match, yet here we are 40 years later and The Visitor will arrive soon, with his own ideas.
More on Neil Young's New Album "Hitchhiker":

"Hitchhiker" is now available on vinyl and CD to pre-order on

Neil Young | Hitchhiker
(Click to enlarge & preview tracks)

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At 9/13/2017 03:16:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I am absolutely enjoying this new/old record! Please read any of the words I choose here in that context and spirit. There's lots to enjoy here. The reappearance of Campaigner could not be more timely and I've long had a soft spot for Ride My Llama (am I the only one?)

Hawaii is captivating, right from the opening tag with Neil's goofy chuckle and "Come on in here!" This seems like a cheeky invitation to all of us listeners, coming, as it does, upon the juncture at which we receive the two (officially) unreleased songs. Neil seems to be inviting us into the depths of the Archives: "Here's something you might be looking for..." Of the two "new" numbers, my favorite is Hawaii; an elusive lyric captured in this unvarnished setting. I deeply appreciate how it eschews the verse/chorus structure, while the melody creeps up beautifully. I am certain this one will become one of my "go-to" Neil songs, one of the pieces that pops up in my mind when I need a quick, unfiltered Neil fix. That should not be read as a slight on Give Me Strength, which fits perfectly where it is. More an observation of personal taste.

More broadly, the experience of listening to Hitchhiker, the album, keeps reminding me of looking through that Distant Camera, "reconnecting thoughts and actions, fragments of our missing dream. Pieces from here and there fall in place along the line..."

Those lyrics drifted into my mind last night, and they are almost uncannily appropriate to describe the experience, from a fan perspective, of the Neil Young Archives. Certainly "pieces from here and there" are gradually filling in the timeline. And compared to all the things we haven't heard or seen yet, Hitchhiker can be viewed/listened to as a fragment of the expansive body of work these Archives will, hopefully, come to present. It should be understood that I am not using the word "fragment" in a belittling or dismissive context. Far from it. A fanciful comparison would be to unearthing ancient codicies through an archeological dig. Each piece found is of great significance, and the process of discovery is exciting, not least because you know there's much more to find. With each new element discovered, we are able to further reconstruct the history of the writings and the world surrounding them. Simultaneously, old questions are answered and new ones spring up. The mystery thickens and we are inexorably drawn to continue the search.

Here we have a slab of NY Vintage '76 in an intimate, unpolished setting I don't think we have ever quite been privy to in the past. This sound setting, to me, expresses equally cold isolation and heat, from a fireside and from the relentless energetic buzz in the center of the creative brain.

The question remains: "Are you ready, Briggs?"

At 9/13/2017 06:38:00 AM, Blogger joe lookout said...

Great comment Ian! love it!

not that easy to go back 40 years and perceive kinda feelings as we were in 1976, but with Neil.....yes we can!!!


At 9/13/2017 06:47:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Ian that was a great review....Lester Bangs would be proud......

At 9/13/2017 11:23:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

I was taken aback by how moved I was by Hitchhiker ... after Archives I my expectations were somewhat low and my attitude was, can something so old make a difference? From the first note it was clear that this was something really special ... a window into one of Neil's most prolific periods, on a prolific night, as Neil layed down so of his timeless masterpieces for the first time ... perhaps its the vibe or the versions, but maybe its the feeling of one witnessing the birth of these incredible songs, played in their most basic, stripped down fashion in succession and experiencing them in their truest essence ... its hard to argue that Hitchhiker if released wouldn't have become one of Neil's classic records. Given all of his 70s output its mind boggling that he had even MORE great work locked in that vault ... this release has given me a sense of renewed hope and anticipation for what other gems are lurking in Neil's vault and looking forward to seeing them released before too long.

At 9/13/2017 12:18:00 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Nicolas in France, could you share your experience doing the transcription from start to finish of Neil's Facebook reading? Am sure that process would be of interest to most of the readers as a sort of behind the scenes look at how we do it in the modern world in the same manor that "Hitchhiker" is sort of behind the scenes look at the recording process. At this moment I'm looking at ninety tapes that are rather poorly labeled that were just "working tapes" I did when I interviewed musicians in the Detroit area and during eight Cayamo cruises.

Have a couple thousand images of Cayamo cruise to the islands that were so devastated with the 185 mph winds during Irma. PM if you'd like to see them that are sort of like an Americana vesion of the back cover of Buffalo Springfield "Again."

At 9/13/2017 04:07:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Thanks all for the praise!

After the archeology metaphor, I tried to move in a less florid direction... but I guess that's not in my DNA.

At 9/13/2017 05:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9/13/2017 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Peacelover Doc said...

I like the new record & couldn't care less about what any critic or Rolling Stone thinks. They aren't fans & they don't matter.

At 9/13/2017 06:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is preposterous --- people yapping about a record recorded last century --- maybe we can critique grand funk railroads studio out-takes ?

At 9/13/2017 06:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

neil young is passe in todays polite society

At 9/13/2017 07:57:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

@KONWAKITON: Isn't that Cattle Farm Aid at Burgertown?

At 9/14/2017 05:27:00 AM, Blogger Nicolas Spilmont said...

Thank you Thrasher for sharing "my"transcript and thank you all for your comments.
I actually initially decided to write this transcript to help some of my fellow French Rusties who have difficulties to understand spoken English. I do understand spoken English relatively well, but it is not my native language and I am not bilingual; it was not very difficult since Neil was reading slowly (I however missed a word when he described Captain Kennedy. Some think this word might be "cheery"; I actually hear something like "cherria"...).
When I was finished, I thought that it was an interesting and nicely written story and decided to share it; happy most of you seem to like it!

At 9/14/2017 07:30:00 AM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

KONWAKITON, any chance you had a different name a few weeks ago?

At 9/14/2017 09:25:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Ian - So many are absolutely enjoying this new/old record, no doubt, at least judging by the charts. Probably Neil's best charting album in sometime.

But numbers add up to nothing. And Red *Men* run, right?!

For Hawaii's goofy chuckle intro, we imagine that Neil is fiddling with his capo on his guitar trying to get it right.

The point on reflections of that Distant Camera, "reconnecting thoughts and actions, fragments of our missing dream. Pieces from here and there fall in place along the line..." is quite appropo.

The question is answered: "Briggs was ready."

@Dan1 - everyone remarks on the intimacy of the album which may explain your being taken aback by how moved you are by Hitchhiker.

And it's almost like no one saw this really coming, 40+ years on.

Absolutely a window into one of Neil's most prolific periods. We are witnesses to the birth of these incredible songs in their essence. ... its hard to argue that Hitchhiker if released wouldn't have become one of Neil's classic records. Given all of his 70s output its mind boggling that he had even MORE great work locked in that vault ... this release has given me a sense of renewed hope and anticipation for what other gems are lurking in Neil's vault and looking forward to seeing them released before too long.

@ Jim - good luck on those transcripts. They can always find a home here on TW!

@ KONWAKITON -ok, whatev.

@ Peacelover Doc - of course. But since we spend a lot of time here talking about how the critics are always wrong, we have to be fair and note when they are correct.

As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

@ Nicolas - yes, thanks gain for your service here. Excellent english and we're sure many have benefited from this very key track by track rundown.

And only imagine if Neil had done something similar for all of his albums? Would there be more or less speculation today?

@ Syscrusher - well at least KONWAKITON got his CAPS LOCK fixed...

At 9/14/2017 01:28:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

It's weird, I've been listening to Neil for over 30 years, studying how he plays guitar to help me in my own playing, and I've never been aware of him using a capo. I've never seen one picture of him playing acoustic with a capo on his guitar. I've seen him play "Pocahontas" live, watched many videos, and not once have I noticed a capo. But apparently on this album he's using one on many of the songs.


At 9/14/2017 01:54:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Richard - now that is weird, isn't it?

Well, we don't play guitar so what do we know? But we do seem to recall somewhere in the making of this that the capo buisness came up. Maybe the Indigo session interviews w/ Kaplan?

Anyways. We think Neil graduated from capos. As in he eventually got to the point where he would surround himself with like 12 guitars w/ different tunings and just pick one up and go to next song in whatever tuning he pleased.

Speaking of tunings, ever listen to his early live concerts when he seems to spend what seems like eternity tuning?

As neil said once, "We tune because we care."

At 9/14/2017 02:22:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...


I just went to Sugar Mountain and checked out the section where they show pictures of Neil with all of the guitars that he played over the years. There are many pictures of Neil playing acoustic, and I did see one where he's playing a 12-string, and has a capo on the third fret. The picture looked like it came from either The Boarding House or the Rust shows, so it could very well be him playing "Pocahontas".

I'm sure that back in the "ol folkie days" when he was lugging around one guitar, he probably used a capo quite a bit. These days, though, armed with multiple guitars set at different tunings, Neil probably has no need for a capo. Like I said earlier, I look for these things, and I've never seen any video of him using one.

It seems to me that Neil messed with lots of alternate tunings in the Springfield/early solo days, but not as much as the years went on, other than dropping down the low E-string down to D.

At 9/14/2017 02:44:00 PM, Blogger A Olsve said...

At 9/14/2017 02:51:00 PM, Blogger A Olsve said...

I saw him play this in Gothenburg ( Sweden) the same year but I couldn´t find a good video of it,so i posted another on. It´s the only time i´ve seen him use a capo live!

At 9/14/2017 02:54:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Anton, I couldn't click on your video. Please tell me what song it is that he's using the capo on.

At 9/14/2017 02:58:00 PM, Blogger A Olsve said...

Oh lonsome me...Calgary october 9 -08!

At 9/14/2017 03:26:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Really? Cool, I gotta check that out!

That's one I've always liked playing, I do it normal tuning, simple E to A kinda thing, with a cool bridge. I'll be interested to try playing it with a capo. Thanks for the info!

At 9/15/2017 06:43:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Richard....I play Pocahontas with a capo on the 3rd fret....the song starts in the A major finger position....

At 9/15/2017 08:29:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Jonathan, that makes sense because playing the regular A major shape while a capo is on the third fret is basically playing a C chord, which is the correct key for the song. Whenever I play "Pocahontas", I play it using the normal C chord.

When you hear the released Rust/Hitchhiker version, the guitar does have a higher "jangly" type sound that you would get using a capo. I have seen videos of Neil playing it, as well as live versions I've seen myself, and he's never used the capo, he played the C chord in its normal position.

I watched the video that Anton mentioned, of Neil playing "Oh Lonesome Me", and it was weird to see Neil using a capo, the only time that I've seen that.

At 9/16/2017 06:09:00 PM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

The word is 'cherry'. As in the fruit you eat. He just means it was a. completely new song never recorded before.


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