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Friday, November 01, 2019

Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane" Keyboard


Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Philadelphia, 11/29/12
Photo by thrasher

"Stringman", sometimes called "The Danger Bird" -- AKA "The Dove from Above" -- the flying keyboard used during Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane" has been used for decades on monstrous jams with Crazy Horse.

The following research on the flying keyboard -- a 1974 Crumar Univox Stringman Synthesizer -- that comes down from the ceiling was provided by TW reader Doug.

I went to the Neil Young + Promise of the Real concert at Murat Theater at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, Indiana on - Sept 19, 2019..one of the best set lists of all the Neil shows I have seen (first was 1976 Stills-Young Band at Colt Park in Hartford CT).

As always, I noticed the keyboard hanging above and was happy to see it come down for Like a Hurricane (too many times I have seen it hang there all night and no Like a Hurricane). Since then, I've been wondering about the origin/history of the lowering keyboard and its design.

I discovered a 2013 (4/17/13) Rolling Stone interview with Poncho Sampedro. He was asked "Tell me about recording Like a Hurricane. Neil wrote in his book that you guys got it on the very first take". His reply:
"Well, that's true in one sense. We tried it with two guitars. I think one day we tried it once at the end of a session, another day we tried it all day with two guitars, and the third day we tried it with two guitars. It was just...He was upset with it. I sat down at the keyboard. He had an organ and I started playing it a little. He said "Well, let's try it like that." So we played it like that one time, and at the end of that tape, you can hear it, Neil goes, "Yeah, that's how it goes I think. That's it." "
And within the same interview, Poncho was asked "What was it like to play Like a Hurricane in a torrential downpour?" His reply:
"Oh, that was so crazy. It was raining off and on, kind of sprinkling all day there. Then we started playing Hurricane and a torrential downpour came. I mean, literally the organ stopped working it got so wet. I had to play guitar on that song for the first time in history. All that gear took a hit. It almost looked like hail was falling. I was drenched, and I couldn't move because I was attached to the organ. Those guys go to take a step back and everyone was quickly covering all the amps. The monitor console got totally soaked. A lot of things stopped working. It was crazy, but it's not the first time that happened during that song. It's amazing."
I wrote a note to NYA that was answered by Neil. He says:
It's a 'Stringman' analog synth, pretty rare these days. Mine are all delicate and I have spares. Love, N
Finally, I've attached a couple of Hurricane pictures from the Murat show in Indy.

Micah Nelson on Keyboard
Neil Young + Promise of the Real

Murat Theater at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, Indiana - Sept 19, 2019
Photo by Doug Farber

Thanks Doug! Great research on an interesting subject. Much appreciated.


Neil Young + Promise of the Real - Like A Hurricane / I’ve Been Waiting For You, 2019-07-12, Hyde Park, London
(thanks Robert @NYUA - UNOFFICIAL Neil Young Unreleased Archive!)

Poncho
"Like A Hurricane"

Waldbühne, Berlin, Germany, June 2, 2013
Photo by Paolo Brillo
(Click photo to enlarge)

Also, from Rusted Moon, a video on Neil Young's Stringman Synthesizer.


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