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Monday, June 17, 2019

Neil Young's New Album 'Tuscaloosa': "Duality of the Southern Thing" or Does A Southern Alabama Man Need Neil Young Around, Anyhow?

"Make friends down in Alabama.
I'm from a new land
I come to you and see all this ruin
What are you doing Alabama?"

The timing of Neil Young's release of the album Tuscaloosa recorded on Feb. 5, 1973 with the band Stray Gators at Memorial Coliseum, University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa appears to be somewhat auspicious.

The state of Alabama has been in the news of late -- but not necessarily for advancement of progressive causes -- bringing yet another round of ridicule and scorn.

From 1973 to 2019, such is the duality of the Southern thing -- as we often note here on this blog. So, is "Sweet Home Alabama" really so sweet? Depending on your perspective of the "duality of the Southern thing", aside from "The Three Great Alabama Icons", well, yes, maybe A Southern Man Does Need Neil Young Around, Anyhow.

Which brings it all back to Neil Young's release of the album Tuscaloosa and the iconic song "Alabama" and its damning lyrics.

Neil Young's new album "Tuscaloosa" - Released Date June 7, 2019

From Neil Young to release live album from 1973 Tuscaloosa concert by Mark Hughes Cobb:
One of those who saw the ’73 Neil Young show was Steve Wombacher, then writing for a Tuscaloosa publication called The Boll Weevil, later The Current, now defunct. In following years, Wombacher would become a concert organizer himself, heading the University of Alabama’s University Program Council, booking Little Feat, Clapton, Waters, Ronstadt, Presley, the Commodores and others, along with non-musical acts who could fill Memorial, such as Steve Martin.
When Young and band launched into “Southern Man,” fans braced for reactionary boos and taunts. Instead, the 10,000-ish crowd cheered Young’s anti-racist, anti-violence sentiments.

“In the ’70s, Tuscaloosa was actually a pretty hip little town,” Wombacher said, “for Alabama.”

From the perspective of a fan, Wombacher’s surprised Young decided to release this particular set.

“He showed up lethargic,” Wombacher said. “Best as I remember, he had injured his back, or somehow hurt his back, he was on major painkillers, and could barely move his left hand. Even when he sat at the piano, it was clearly tough on him.

“I’m shocked they’re actually releasing it. Maybe it sounds a lot better on the recording.”

Writing his review, Wombacher remembers noting the opening act scored far better, playing tighter, more energetic: Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. Though they’d had an early hit with Michael Nesmith’s “Different Drum,” Ronstadt was just emerging as the hit-making solo artist she’d be four years later, when Wombacher booked her as a Memorial headliner. Among her touring band members were Glenn Frey and Don Henley, who decided, while backing her, to form the band that would become the Eagles.

“They were just smoking; they were on fire,” Wombacher said. “I thought, ‘You’re in trouble, Neil.’ ”

Tuscaloosan Bruce Hopper’s main impression of the night was that it was a welcoming crowd.

“By that time (Young) had pretty much established where he was politically,” said Hopper, a musician and former owner of the late and lamented bar the Chukker. No seats behind the stage were opened, so capacity would have been in the vicinity of 10,000. Hopper couldn’t remember if it was full, but it was close, he said, including probably every left-leaning person in the region.

“Everybody knew that he was the political one, but I don’t remember any hecklers or anything like that. Everybody there seemed to feel the words in ‘Southern Man’ were true and appropriate; they were cheering real loud.” Hopper was disappointed to discover that night’s “Southern Man” performance wouldn’t be included on “Tuscaloosa.”

On the Chukker’s Facebook group, fans recalled Young’s messed-up back, and the pro-“Southern Man” feel. David A. Smith, from Dothan, was working with the University Program Council that night, but with his tasks completed pre-show, he was free to roam.

“I recall a very good concert, with great musical choices,” he said. “When Young launched into his little digs before ‘Southern Man,’ we just cheered him on. We were all in fine spirits, although he possibly thought we were all crazy.”

Young kept on rocking in the free world, albeit from a chair, said Bit Barrett.

“I remember him playing a lot of electric while sitting in a rocking chair and wondering if he could stand up. He did, but he was skyrocket high. Still it was a great show,” Barrett wrote.

Though he’d rather have seen Young teamed with Crosby, Stills and Nash, or earlier band Buffalo Springfield, still it was a “phenomenal” show for fan Daryl Brown.

“I seem to only remember his sitting on stage singing and playing his old Martin guitar,” Brown wrote. “Wow, 40-odd years later and Neil and I are still here. Who’d have ever figured?”
More memories of Neil Young's concert recording album Tuscaloosa on Feb. 5, 1973 with the band Stray Gators at Memorial Coliseum, University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Neil Young to release live album from 1973 Tuscaloosa concert by Mark Hughes Cobb.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zant wearing a Neil Young "Tonight's The Night" T-shirt
Oakland Coliseum Stadium, July 2, 1977

Photographer: Michael Zagaris on Wolfgang's Vault

Also, see Southern Man and Northern Man: Ronnie and Neil, The Un-Civil Wars & Rebels with Causes.

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At 6/17/2019 01:46:00 PM, Blogger willforestwater said...

I was at the concert too. And in my memory it was a lot more shaky than the released recording makes it sound. I thought he was pretty bad in those unreleased first numbers, and the in last songs, which to me set the tone for the concert. I've heard that the beginning and end of the concert wasn't recorded because the tape wasn't on/ran out. Can anyone confirm or deny this? Also, the songs that Neil didn't release that were recorded because they were out of tune, or because they are numerous other version out, also would give a different impression of the night.
Don't get me wrong - I'm glad and amazed this was released - but it doesn't give the listener the feel of the night as it happened. It's more sanitized that the reality. I'd like to hear the entire concert, warts and all. Seems like that could be released online at least, if not in physical form, for the songs that were recorded.

At 6/17/2019 03:35:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Official word on NYA was that show opener On The Way Home was left off because it was already on too many other live albums (an odd excuse, given how many other songs are frequently repeated) and The Loner because it was out of tune (making for a rough transition between HOG and TFA). The tape ran out during Don't Be Denied, so that fades out and Southern Man, Are You Ready For the Country and possibly others (setlist records are incomplete for that show) are missing from the end.

At 6/17/2019 07:30:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Both band Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd for publicity for the radio

At 6/18/2019 10:42:00 AM, Blogger wardo said...

Not that anyone asked, but here's my take on the album:

At 6/18/2019 04:58:00 PM, Blogger CC Rider said...

Wardo, your blog review summarizes my thoughts and feelings exactly. Well done!

At 6/29/2020 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I remember Neil wearing a jacket that said "Buick" across the back. I wanted one.


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