Wednesday, October 16, 2019

NOW PLAYING: "Greendale" on Neil Young Archives

Sun Green (Sara White) and Grandpa (Ben Keith)

The film "Greendale" is now playing on Neil Young Archives in the Hearse Theater.

Neil Young calls "Greendale" on Times-Contrarian | NYA "one of the biggest highlights of my filming life".

Making Greendale
Neil Young Filming Greendale Actors Grandpa & Jed

But back in 2003, "Greendale" was one of the most controversial and divisive albums and concert tours of Neil Young's career. The importance of "Greendale" can not be understated - either in terms of Neil Young's body of work, nor its impact on his fan base. This is how we memorialized "Greendale" on Thrasher's Wheat Home Page in June 2003:
With the arrival of Greendale in 2003 -- for us -- Greendale was like a sledgehammer to the anvil of truth and awakened this blog from it's post-9/11 dormancy. Because when Neil Young Sings Truth To Power, The World Listens.
So let that soak in for a moment.

This website was launched in 1996 -- about 23 years ago. It sort of languished with periodic updates until 2003. Then, with the theme of the "Greendale" songs coming into focus, we here were inspired to begin daily blog updates. At the time we said we would update the blog daily until the concert tours "Greendale" ended. But the tour kept going and going and going around the world, well into 2004, along with all the ancillary books, videos, films, etc.

So we can safely say that Thrasher's Wheat would not exist today if it had not been for "Greendale". Period. Full stop.

'She was welded to the eagle's beak
sun green leaned into that megaphone
and said, "truth is all i seek" '
"Sun Green"
by Neil Young

As many of our long time readers here at Thrasher's Wheat know, we have long since declared: "The Inconvenient Truth of Greendale".

Mainly this observation centered on the album's environmental call to action and it's plea to respect Mother Nature and all of her creations. But environmentalism is but just one of the many themes of Neil Young's 2003 album Greendale, which we once boldly declared "the most important album of 2003, the musical equivalent of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring".

Greendale Graphic Novel
By Joshua Dysart/Cliff Chiang

The inconvenient truth of Neil Young's Greendale is that he was right -- and his message is even more relevant today than upon Greendale's original release.

greendale flag

For some, 2003's Greendale was an incomprehensible disaster. From The Washington Post's critic David Segal on Year 2003 CDs, who labeled Greendale as the year's "most baffling critical swoon", Segal writes: "Neil Young's 'Greendale' is "a droning mess of a concept album inexplicably hailed as ingenious" and "a vanity project gone stupefyingly wrong".

For others though, Greendale was hailed as a groundbreaking concept album similar to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Who's Tommy or Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'.

Some critics went as far as saying that Young had broken new ground by creating an entirely unique art form -- the "audio novel". From New York Times article 'Have You Heard the New Neil Young Novel?' by Madison Smartt Bell:
"Mr. Young has always been remarkable for his creative resilience, and this time he really has done something new, rendering into this combination of print and audio a novel that is surprisingly sophisticated and satisfyingly complete."


The inconvenient truth of Greendale is its uncomfortable confrontation with themes such as the power of mass media and global corporations, loss of personal freedoms and privacy, destruction of the environment, rampant fraud and corruption, an out of balance government and breakdown of the family. All of which we've detailed before here, here, and here.

"Everything You're Looking For" - Bandit


  1. If I were picking my 5 albums for my trip to the WiFi-less desert island (and you can stop celebrating - I'm not actually going), there are several of Neil's seventies albums that wouldn't be able to make the cut. But Greendale would be in there. There's just so much packed into those 10 songs that it would be impossible to leave them behind.

    Hopefully you can all sense my enthusiasm every time I start rambling about this album. And it doesn't need to be seen as an "environmental" record: I know that label turns some people off before they even give it a chance. Part of the album's success is that it approaches the (I think, compelling) environmental subject from an angle.

    It's really just an album about life, about people, and Neil has stuck with the writing long enough to come up with a progression of songs that are dripping with life themselves. It's a real gem in his collection. It's emotional. It's very relatable. It's a lot of fun. Its packed full of feeling and observations and off-hand insights.

    The somewhat scrappy, idiosyncratic performances turn some people off, too; I think the songs and performances have a lot of charm, a lot of attitude, and are robust enough to tolerate the more-than-occasional bum note.

    When Neil is inspired, sits down with pen and paper and writes until something great flows out of him (and when he resists the temptation to skip that last bit, the bit that takes some maintained focus), everything instantly gets easier; because he's building on a solid foundation.

    I use the "mining" analogy a lot. You need to mine for gold, and Neil needs to mine for great songs, too. The best ones arent sitting there on the surface, and take a little presistance and patience to gain access to. Greendale goes beneath the surface.

    This is an album you need to sit with for a while; there are layers to it that are not going to become apparent to you on first listen. I think most people who dislike Greendale have given up on it too early. It's too weird, too different. And it needs to be listened to as a complete piece. But greatness always comes in a form that mentally moves us, and it's not always an instant process.

    To get the best out of Greendale you need to relate it not to Neil's life but to your own. It's a story about you. You can find yourself in there if you want to. And I think this album is made for the Sun Greens of this world, but there's so much of life captured here that I think we can all find plenty to relate to. We can see something of ourselves and our fellow humans in these songs.

    So as fun and as personal as Neil's Greendale film is, I'd be tempted to bypass it in favour of the wonderful 'Inside Greendale' sessions film. Or just listen to the album. Why skip the film? Neil has used his imagination a lot in making this album: now it's time for us to follow his lead and go to town with ours.


    1. Well said, I listened to it for weeks when I first bought it.

  2. Still my #1 concert ever, Queen Elizabeth theater Vancouver,
    Is there an video footage of the actual concert kicking around, not the solo one he did, but the whole theatrical performance. Incredible


  3. I have never seen Neil,but I feel like I know him. I might argue politics if I met him, but the whole world is ridiculously polarized by the design of forces bigger than us,which is so sad.
    So it doesn't matter except to say that all of the illusions make us not each other's enemies.
    Neil is honest, and a great writer. Always from the heart.
    Greendale is a wonderful album
    .Mike in the Ozarks.

  4. Time for Part 2 !...Image if he was to write it now. It really was a future predictor but also reflection of the pass.

  5. @ Scotsman - as always, thanks for your insightful contributions.

    Once again demonstrating that Neil fans/rusties are some of the most knowledgeable and articulate music fans out there.

    Yeah, Greendale. We've literally written a book here on the subject. Greendale has been compared to the literary classics of John Steinbeck's work, Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio" for its complexity and emotional depth in exploring tragedy in a small town in America.

    Simply put, Greendale is "Neil Young's Avatar".

    @ Leni - yes, supposedly there is footage of the actual concert in the NYA vaults. We believe that Neil said recently he was working on a release...

    @ Mike in the Ozarks - Greendale is really a masterpiece and you must venture out to see Neil. He doesn't seem to make out to the Ozarks as the Arkansas Girls have pointed out. someday.
    @ Steve Rust Downunder - Greendale 2?! Now there's a concept.

  6. Leni, Thrasher: a live Electric Greendale show is definitely something I'd love to see on the the NYA theater. A live album would be appreciated too, though that may be less likely. Perhaps as an NYA exclusive.

    Here's a video of Be The Rain from one of the 2003 concerts with Crazy Horse:

    There are audience films out there of several of the concerts, too, with the 2004 shows being my preference due to the noticeably more intense performances of the encore songs compared to the Greendale-ised versions from 2003. The folk-bluesy Greendale guitar tone suits Double E and Sun Green, but it's not such a good match for F*!#in' Up or Hurricane.

    (Thanks for the COTM, Thrasher).


  7. Well deserved Scotsman on COTM!

    We'll have some more Greendale time travel updates as we can get to.

  8. Such an incredible concert, My wifes first ever neil show. She was blown away. She told me recently she didn't want to go, thought his music was depressing. Hahaha. She says its a coin flip between the stones in vegas and GD at the Queen Elizabeth as her favorite show of all time.

    Second half of the show was amazing, massive Zuma backdrop and CH rocked the room with don't cry no tears. Just stunning.

    Neil, Please release this in audio and/or video

    2004-02-19, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    w/ Crazy Horse
    Falling From Above / Falling From Above / Double E / Devil's Sidewalk / Leave The Driving / Carmichael / Bandit / Grandpa's Interview / Bringin' Down Dinner / Sun Green / Be The Rain // All Along The Watchtower / Don't Cry No Tears / The Losing End / The Old Country Waltz / Love And Only Love / Prisoners Of Rock 'n' Roll // Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) // Roll Another Number (For The Road) / Rockin' In The Free World

  9. Is Greta Thunberg Sun Green? ....hey Neil give her some seeds (sponsorship..payroll, comcert in her name ) and she her fly.... Greendale part 2!


Please observe Comments Policy for Neil Young News. All commenting requires a registered ID using an OpenID or a Google Account to provide a validated signature.

Inappropriate comments can be flagged for review by e-mailing date/time stamp and post title to:

We will work to deal with such comments in a timely fashion. Failure to do so immediately, however, does not constitute endorsement.

Thank you for your participation, cooperation, and keep on rockin'!