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Saturday, July 20, 2019

On The Beach: 45 Years Later, Still Neil Young’s "Most Beautiful (and Most Depressing) Album"

"On The Beach" Ad with Neil Young Facing Camera

45 years ago -- on July 16, 1974 -- Neil Young released his fifth studio album, the essential 'On The Beach'.

From An Ode to ‘On the Beach,’ Neil Young’s Most Beautiful (and Most Depressing) Album | VICE by Hilary Pollack:
Forty-five years after its release, Neil Young's melancholic search for meaning in a chaotic world feels more relatable than ever.

"On the Beach", which turns 45 this week, managed to transcend that pessimism, and lives on as a not-so-cult favorite among critics and fans alike.
As just observed above, many Neil Young fans discover that "On the Beach is the greatest album I've ever heard".

Neil Young: On The Beach, Malibu
Photo: Henry Diltz, 1975

But -- as Neil - himself puts it on notes for Album of the Week | NYA there are reservations and consequences about darkness:

Over the years here on TW, we've explored The Surrealism of Neil Young's "On The Beach" Album, with its cover considered to be one of his most creative and intriguing designs (by the late Gary Burden) of his vast catalog.

Gary Burden

In an exclusive interview on Human with Gary Burden of R.Twerk & Co., the artist, art director, and designer talks about his journey along the Human Highway. Here's an interesting snippet:
Q: Besides the archives, a favorite Neil album design of yours?

Gary Burden: My favorite album cover that I have made, ever, is Neil Young’s “On the Beach.” This cover is loaded with information! From the styles of clothing and objects to the Coors can to the headline of the newspaper of the day of the photo shoot.

My final “gift” to the viewer/consumer was printing the tacky floral designs inside the sleeve.

That one blew the mind of the record company. Not in a good way!
(Complete interview on Human with Gary Burden.)

"The Drought" & "On The Beach"
The Surrealism of Neil Young's "On The Beach" Album

"On The Beach" -- the final link of Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy -- is considered by many fans to be one of his best and their most favorite of all Neil Young album covers and artwork. Designed by Gary Burden, photographed by Bob Seideman, and graphic lettering by Rick Griffin, the cover is quite enigmatic with a Cadillac car fin jutting from the sand like a crashed rocket being buried by time. A shoeless Neil stares out into the ocean near a forlorn potted palm. A jaunty yellow beach umbrella matches Neil's jacket. The yellow theme is even continued with a Coors beer can on the table. Inside the album, things become even more crpytic with the album's liner notes. Fans have poured over Rusty Kershaw's strange handwritten note for clues and meaning often to no avail. Apparently, the recording sessions' heavy use of Honey Slides took a toll ... possibly to the creative sides' benefit?

Rusty Kershaw

From Rusty & Doug Kershaw: The Cajun Way | Cocaine and Rhinestones by Tyler Mahan Coe:
So, the inside scoop with On the Beach is, even if you don’t see his name listed as playing something on a particular song, even if he’s not listed as a producer of anything, Rusty Kershaw is all over everything except those first two songs because he has everyone bombed on honey slides the entire time they’re making this album. Julie Kershaw’s cooking this stuff up by the pound. Ben Keith says, 20 minutes after eating a honey slide, you start forgetting where you are, which, remember, is the very thing Neil Young wants to do at this exact point in his life. Elliott Roberts, Neil’s manager, says, “People passed out. The stuff was like much worse than heroin. Much heavier. Rusty would pour it down your throat and within 10 minutes you were catatonic.” If you haven’t figured out where this is headed, these sessions go way off the rails. Musicians are switched over to instruments they barely know how to play. The shortest song to come out of this is four minutes and four seconds long. The longest and, arguably, best song is nearly nine minutes. Keep in mind, everyone may be losing their shit on honey slides but, for Rusty Kershaw, this is just Monday. Or, who ever even cares what day it is, man? He’s used to this and, as a result, in much better condition than anyone else to take creative control. And that is exactly what he does. If you think I’m playing this up to tell a good story, Neil Young’s own roadie, Willie Hinds, once said On the Beach is Rusty Kershaw’s album, not Neil Young’s.

"Time Fades Away", "Tonight’s the Night" & "On the Beach"
The Beautiful, Enduring Gloom of Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy

Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy -- consisting of "Time Fades Away", "Tonight’s the Night" & "On the Beach" -- is well documented as containing the "missing link" to the Rosetta Stone of understanding his entire body of work over the decades.

Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy -- consisting of "Time Fades Away", "Tonight’s the Night" &

Anyone recall the 1959 film "On The Beach"?

Poster for film "On The Beach"

With Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Tony Perkins in starring roles and direction by Stanley Kramer, the film "On The Beach" is based on Nevil Shute's 1957 novel on the aftermath of nuclear war.

Fascinating how the film and album have similar trajectories. On the album, Neil Young sings as if he's devising his exit plan the entire time because he knows the destructive nature of the muse which is anlagous to the theme of the novel and film. And this post apocalyptic world view was presaged by "After The Goldrush" -- but that's another story.

The vibe of the album is bleakly dark ("Burn outs stub their toes on garbage pails/ Waitresses are cryin' in the rain"), resigned ("Though my problems are meaningless/ That don't make 'em go away"), sometimes apocalyptic ("The world is turning/ I hope it don't turn away", and the Manson line: "But I hate them worse than lepers/ And I'll kill them in their cars".) Neil's psyche in music and lyrics reveals a man going through transformation via his art.

"Out here on the beach, but those seagulls are still out of reach"

In 2003, it seemed that an official release was near when four of the "Missing 6" Neil Young albums surfaced. (On The Beach, one of the four albums released after a long hiatus, was also the subject of a fan's petition drive which would eventually gather over 5,000 signatures from the Neil Young Internet fan community Rust and Human Highway.)

Image from Under the Rusted Moon

Shirt of the Moment: On The Beach
Niecette Kristen On The Beach
Virginia Beach, VA - August 2016

On The Beach? Or On The Couch?
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie On The Beach

(On The Beach by Neil Young Album Cover)

On The Beach
10 Albums 'On The Beach' | Under The Rusted Moon
(Click photo to enlarge)

On The Beach with Thrasher's Wheat Radio
Author Dave Zimmer


Rick Carlisle at Orpheus Records w/ On The Beach vinyl
Ain't Got No Blu-Ray DVD: Spin The Black Circle
More on Neil Young On The Beach reviews.

Also, see more on the origin of the expression "Ditch Trilogy" as applied to Neil Young's 3 albums "Time Fades Away", "Tonight’s the Night" & "On the Beach".

"On the Beach": Neil Young and Promise of the Real - Antwerpen, Belgium, July 10, 2019

Neil Young - Live at The Bottom Line - 1974/05/16, NYC, NY

Pushed It Over The End (AKA Citizen Kane Jr. Blues): 0:42 - 6:26
Long May You Run: 7:38 - 11:47
Greensleeves: 12:03 - 13:55
Ambulance Blues: 15:00 - 23:08
Helpless: 24:17 - 29:20
Revolution Blues: 30:50 - 34:28
On The Beach: 35:05 - 40:26
Roll Another Number: 41:30 - 44:11
Motion Pictures: 49:15 - 53:10
Pardon My Heart: 54:38 - 58:39
Dance Dance Dance: 59:18 - 1:01:58

“Motion Pictures (For Carrie),” is a song about actress Carrie Snodgress.

“I think I was starting to realize what a fucked-up life I had chosen for myself with Carrie,” Young told Jimmy McDonough in the 2002 biography Shakey. “So I was outta there.”

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At 7/20/2019 08:15:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

I was still a teenager in the late 80s when I discovered On The Beach, a confused, sometimes very depressed teenager. The 2nd side of that album? I would listen to that over and over and over again in the darkness of my room. Neil seemed just as bummed as I was, but he was still standing on the beach, staring out into the ocean. I knew I could do it too.

However, thrasher, a trip down On The Beach memory lane won't be complete without a mention of the Bottom Line show, which seemed like an extension of the album. The ONLY time that the entire 2nd side of the album was ever played live. Neil fans should all be aware of, and never forget, that important show.

At 7/21/2019 02:19:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

DVD version has some great photos but no extra tracks.

At 7/21/2019 10:37:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This album had a big impact on and in my life.Wrote about it more than once.Its music's burned in my brains.The story never got printed or won a reward or prize.That wasn't the purpose I wrote it down.It was a way of seeing the whole picture,that told more than a thousand words.'Cause every picture tells a story,still.Cees Mostert.Carry on,keep on breathing,living,playing and loving.Take my advice,don't listen to me...

At 7/21/2019 10:56:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Richie - yeah, Bottom Line is essential.

The concert at the Bottom Line Club in New York City, NY, May 16, 1974 while introducing the song "Motion Pictures", has Neil's recipe for the notorious "Honey Slides".

as we've noted before, an astonishing five of the eleven songs played that night were début performances and even more astonishingly 10 out of the 11 were unreleased at the time. Yes, you read that correctly, it’s not a typo. Of the eleven songs performed only “Helpless” had been officially released. The show itself had a wonderfully feel-good, happy vibe. Both Neil and the audience were very loose and Neil was in a humorous, storytelling mood. If you’ve never heard the Bottom Line tape you need to go listen right now!

@ Cees - if you ever care to submit for publication here on TW, we'd be more than happy to publish. we're sure readers would be interested in your sharing.

ps - we're taking your advice... every day ...

At 7/21/2019 11:05:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

ok, just posted update above with full concerrt.

Neil Young - Live at The Bottom Line - 1974/05/16, NYC, NY

Pushed It Over The End (AKA Citizen Kane Jr. Blues): 0:42 - 6:26
Long May You Run: 7:38 - 11:47
Greensleeves: 12:03 - 13:55
Ambulance Blues: 15:00 - 23:08
Helpless: 24:17 - 29:20
Revolution Blues: 30:50 - 34:28
On The Beach: 35:05 - 40:26
Roll Another Number: 41:30 - 44:11
Motion Pictures: 49:15 - 53:10
Pardon My Heart: 54:38 - 58:39
Dance Dance Dance: 59:18 - 1:01:58

At 7/21/2019 11:38:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks IS his greatest album!Nobody can write lyrics like Neil Young anymore. Poetic,emotional,profound,meditative are afew words to describe it!l love N.Y. from the first time I saw him at Mariposa Folk Festival,Centre Island, Toronto 1970!!!!!

At 7/21/2019 07:04:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

In the “On the Beach” album art, Neil is laughing while holding a copy of the late, lamented Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Newspaper. On the table is another Herald-Examiner newspaper with the headline “Sen. Buckley Calls On Nixon To Resign.” Captures a moment in time.

At 7/22/2019 12:33:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I discovered On the Beach in 2003 when it was finally released on CD. At that time, I was in the depths of a serious opiate addiction that nearly killed me. I'd skip 'Walk On' and just replay the rest of the album over and over and over.

not a happy time for me either...

thankfully all of that's in the past...but hearing any of those songs puts me back in that headspace...

At 7/22/2019 03:01:00 PM, Blogger wsanjose01 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/23/2019 04:47:00 PM, Blogger willforestwater said...

If you've never heard Rusty Kershaw's 'Now and Then' check it out. Neil Young and Ben Keith play on it. Search youtube and it's there.


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