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Friday, November 22, 2019

Neil Young Film "Berlin" This Weekend in Hearse Theater on NYA

"Neil Young in Berlin"
(VHS tape box from TW Archives)

Neil Young's film "Berlin" will be playing this weekend in Hearse Theater | NYA on Sunday, Nov. 24 Saturday, Nov. 23. (Interestingly, as soon as we posted this, the film was moved up one day. Probably just a coincidence. psst, there are NO coincidences.)

"Neil Young in Berlin"
(1983), directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, is with The Trans Band and filmed in concert on Oct 19, 1982 at Deutschlandhalle, West Berlin, West Germany.

"Sample & Hold"
Neil Young & Nils Lofgren

The film, which runs 60 minutes, with The Trans Band including Nils Lofgren, Bruce Palmer, Ben Keith, Ralph Molina and Joe Lala, is epic in many respects. In particular Neil Young's nearly savage and brutal destruction of Ol Black guitar is almost unbelievable.

Year 1982 - Neil Young Pulled from the Future into the Past
(Out of the Blue, Into the Black)

The concert includes:
Cinnamon Girl / Computer Age / Little Thing Called Love / Old Man / The Needle And The Damage Done / After The Gold Rush / Transformer Man / Sample And Hold / Like A Hurricane / Hey Hey, My My / Berlin

So get your popcorn!

The Trans Band

Before the Fall:
Neil writes "Love Is All We Need" on the Berlin Wall in 1982

"Just like a young boy running down the road
I'm singing out the same old song
Can't go back the way I started from
The road goes on and on
Won't you help me, help me, help me, help me,
Help me, help me, help me, help me,
Make my way on home
Help me make my way on home
After Berlin.

Lights are shining in the German sky
Clouds make walls between the moon and I
Don't know where I started from
So won't you take me, take me, take me, take me,
Take me, take me, take me, take me,
Just the way I am
Ah, take me, just the way I am
After Berlin.

I'll be cruising down the corridor
Seeing things I never seen before
Tomorrow morning in old Berlin
Where they lock you out or lock you in

Won't you save me, save me, save me, save me,
Save me, save me, save me, save me,
From the final day
Save me from the final day
After Berlin.

Just like a young boy running down the road
I'm singing out the same old song
I can't go back the way I used to go
The road goes on and on
Won't you help me, help me, help me, help me,
Help me, help me, help me, help me,
Find my way back home
Won't you help me make my way on home
After Berlin.

Help me, help me, help me, help me.
Help me, help me, help me, help me."

"Berlin" by Neil Young (unreleased)

More on Neil Young's TRANS album and era.

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 11/22/2019 07:04:00 PM, Blogger rolandthompsongunner said...

It's a good one for sure. It's your one chance to see Neil fight a necktie, which keeps blowing into the neck of his guitar during Hurricane.

It's almost a great time capsule of Nils Lofgren. He talks about acting out as real life music videos during the vocoder songs. Rarely has Neil had such an animated foil on stage. You can see why Bruce would want soon after for the E Street Band.

Berlin is really an evocative song. The riff is dreamlike and vastly underrated. To be honest, it doesn't put me in a happy place per se, but it certainly "makes me feel." I don't mean that as a criticism. It certainly transports me to a different place. Hard to put into words. It's appropriate and only adds to its legend, that it was only played once.

...won't you help me find my way back home... after Berlin.

At 11/23/2019 12:46:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Just noticed on the Archives that Berlin is Saturday and Austin City Limits is Sunday. Card really is subject to change at any moment.

At 11/23/2019 06:20:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

The thing everyone remembers about this one is Neil's tie, and the performance too feels somewhat conservative: polished and professional from Neil, but lacking that edge-of-cliff sense of danger of the best tours. It just doesn't quite click.

Neil's Producer David Briggs was humorously disparaging about the Transband ("...Imagine! Ralph and a bongo player. How would you like to play with a f*!#ing bongo player? Neil knows nothing about chemistry or producing"), hitting the nail on the head in the process. The version of Like A Hurricane from Berlin is popular on Youtube (the "BEST EVER VERSION!!!", apparently), and is one of the better electric performances with this band, but what it really is is the "smooth jazz" version; the version that sounds pretty but sands off the cutting edge. Now, I enjoy smooth jazz as much as anybody, but when I listen to electric Neil Young I want something that also has a bit of grit to it, the sense of something excitedly brewing and breaking out from its container. The guitar tone is beautiful, the band play well, the performance is enjoyable and upbeat, but it never really takes off in the same powerful way as the great versions with Crazy Horse (see the Rust Never Sleeps film version for a particularly rewarding way to spend 10 minutes). The REALLY great ones, where you somehow feel both utterly invigorated and mentally drained as the guitar solo reaches its transcendent peak and ultimately crashes off the rails into a storm of octave-divided chaos. The ones that somehow sound both serenely beautiful and viciously, captivatingly dangerous at the same time. I don't think Neil's lead guitar playing gets anywhere near as much credit as it deserves.

Ralph Molina. Nils Lofgren. Bruce Palmer. Joe Lala. These are great musicians, but ones who just didn't quite gel as a combined unit. And in some cases, musicians who weren't necessarily at the height of their powers due to substance abuse. Bruce's bass is noticeably odd and inebriated, the very definition of professional smoothness one second and then veering off into the ditch the next.

The most interesting part of Berlin for me are the vocoder songs with Nils, which see Neil doing something completely new and original, the result of intense experimentation with a new expressive form. Trans might not make for a great live performance, but it's still an inspiring and moving work of art that is also great fun to watch.


At 11/23/2019 10:33:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ rtg - yep, Neil playing with a skinny tie is quite a sight indeed.

everyone recalls how the acoustic hippies amongst us were so mortified by the synth/trans/computer age sounds. yes, we were among those head scratchers asking where did neil go?

but, as always, too far ahead of his time as a cosmic cowboy.

and here we are. Living in the age of TRANS, just as neil w warned in the early 80's before we all had computers or a connection this internety thing.

thanks on the lyrics. just updated to add.

...won't you help me find my way back home... after Berlin.

@ Blogger Unknown - thanks. updated.

interesting that as soon as we posted this last night, the film was moved up one day?! Probably just a coincidence. psst, there are NO coincidences.

@ Scotsman - ahh, our dearest freind we've never met...

once again, you thrill us with your knowledge and insights.

lot of good points. let's see what folks have to say after a fresh view.

Our last full viewing was probably back on on the VHS tape pictured at top. so we're due.

we've watched the various clips over the years on YT, but never the whole thing from end to end in a very long time. so quite looking fwd to a Saturday night screening w/ t-ette.

(Although she tells me "didn't we just stream it last week? we reminded her that was TRANS Solo. This is TRANS Band. c'mon t-ette. Do your homework & know your TRANS!)

At 11/23/2019 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Thrasher: Yes, it's a relatively obscure one. I don't think in hindsight it's one of the best shows ever, but I think many people will not have seen Berlin before and will still find a lot to enjoy.

It's one of those performances where, despite the challenges of a sometimes-dysfunctional band and the other pressures of a massive stadium tour, Neil gives it everything he's got. An artist fighting to make it work can sometimes be just as compelling as when it all falls together naturally.

I remember watching Neil and Crazy Horse play Ramada Inn in London in 2013. It was one of those performances that wasn't quite "in the zone", on the verge of collapse. But you could feel Neil and band get closer together, their focus intensifying, Billy turning and facing Ralph. It turned into the most thrilling performance of the night, and watching them battle to make it work was half the fun.


At 11/23/2019 11:30:00 AM, Blogger Sedan Delivery said...

I bought the Live in Berlin dvd back in college when my Neil fandom was in it's early stages. I don't think I even knew about the Trans album yet and was perplexed by the whole thing. However, the song "Berlin" is another minor key masterpiece from Neil and is worth the watch alone.

At 11/23/2019 01:45:00 PM, Blogger rolandthompsongunner said...

Time is a circle, Scotz. I think of the bongo player comment everytime Neil plays with Promise of the Real, and the extra percussion. Not to sound cruel, but much like you mention here... it's just unnecessary.

And even though this unit might not have gelled... I agree, it is interesting watch and I'm glad Neil gave them a shot. The peaks are quite so high, if we don't have the valleys and plains to enjoy as well.

(Always glad to see and read your insight!)

At 11/23/2019 04:32:00 PM, Blogger Roberto said...

In 1982 I saw Neil my first ime and it was the first time EVER in Italy where I live. I was waiting for this to happen since many years and I even missed having a small dose of computer age during his show in Roma.
Afet quite a few years I've just watched Berlin, start to finish, though some pieces where already well known, such as the fight against the neck tie during Hurricane. Crazy Horse are a different thing, but don't miss it. It's a great crowd and a great Neil and I must admit I'd love to have the plain old VHS tape ... or the vynil of the show.
Thanks for this!

At 11/23/2019 04:51:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Scots, Scots, Scots--there you go again. Interesting thoughts, but count me as one of those who thinks this Berlin version of Like a Hurricane is INDEED the best ever. Towards the end of the song when Neil rips off those beautiful crispy clean high chords as he stomps forward, "dancing" to the music he's playing, while the crowd erupts....

Pure magic--nothing more, nothing less. No wasted notes trying to get it together...
Personally, I don't need to see or hear the struggle midway through a song. When Neil is locked in vocally and musically, it doesn't get any better than that. Neil is absolutely at the top of his game on this version. I don't hear any smooth jazz, just brilliant singing and playing with controlled abandon.

I prefer 70s/80s era Neil and CH, you are more into the Weld era. Just a testament to Neil's sustained evolving brilliance.

We enjoy it all, but we all have our own favorites--it doesn't get any better than that...

"Take my advice
Don't listen to me"

At 11/24/2019 05:26:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...


...I still think you should give the Weld version another go: it has the exact same lead guitar motif you love in the Berlin version. It's true that it is not as slick a sound as Berlin (where the guitar mix is enjoyably bathed in spacious reverb), but makes up for it with lead guitar playing that builds up to an intensity so pure it could strip paint.

The Rust Never Sleeps version (from the film, not the weirdly-truncated one on Live Rust) is another officially-released version that really knocks it out the park.

I think Neil's Berlin version is perfectly enjoyable, great fun, but as an electric guitarist, I know he can take it further. The guitar solos aren't as urgent and as expansive, the chemistry with the band not as explosive as the versions that really take off. And that's the thing: I don't think he's fully "in the zone" for that version - mainly because the bloody tie keeps getting in his way! And he's playing with a band who are (musically and literally) 30 feet away from him. But that's my point: Neil throws himself into the performance and makes it happen. That's a pro at work. My point isn't that I like to see an artist struggling on stage, but that I do like it when the intensity and focus increases a notch, when the artist needs to "get serious" and fully commit himself, 'cause otherwise the song's going nowhere. It's perhaps a different thing to the "floating high in the clouds" effect of the extraordinary Hammersmith 1976 clip from Year Of The Horse, but still just as thrilling to experience.

I think the most beautiful versions of Hurricane are the dreamy, innocent-sounding ones from 1976, but the most *thrilling* ones are those that are still beautiful but also have some blood on their hands.


At 11/24/2019 05:27:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...


Welcome back!

At 11/24/2019 05:31:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Thanks rtg! Some great moments in Berlin for sure.

You too - keep on rockin'.


At 11/24/2019 08:37:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

One thing we can all agree on is that Neil always gives it all on stage . Passion and respect for the audience.

At 11/25/2019 12:09:00 PM, Blogger acidfrank said...

someplace in the archives there could be more footage of some of the missing 10 songs. still hoping to see them someday.

At 11/28/2019 03:12:00 AM, Blogger Soids said...

Put me down as a +1 on the side of it's an awesome Neil shows, and one of the best. Of course I saw it when I was 15 and just starting to do deep dives on all things Neil. Coloring my judgement? Nah.

Both Computer Age and Sample and Hold find their thunder and gale force power in this live version, showcasing a small change in vocals can't gloss over a riff-based Neil full-blown rocker! Compare to the Horse? Can't hold a candle to the International Harvesters? Please people, none of those bands could have handled this Neil material with the depth and deftness that this crew manages. Now years on and lots of Neil through and in my soul, I'm so glad this was part of my introduction to what Neil does, and how he does it.

When I see the light, I feel like more than just a number. Much love people.

At 2/05/2021 05:44:00 PM, Blogger rkennke said...

This reminds me of the odd fact that the version of Sample and Hold that is on the in original LP is quite different than the one that is on the CD (and with Crazy Horse iirc). Would love to know the story behind that...


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