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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Neil Young 's Ditch Trilogy/Quadrilogy/Quintology/Sextology In Light of "Homegrown" Release: What Might Have Been?

Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy
"Time Fades Away", "Tonight’s the Night" & "On the Beach"

Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy -- consisting of the mid 1970's albums "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.

"Homegrown: Never Known to Fail" by Neil Young
(See reviews @ 1st THOUGHTS: Neil Young's New Album 'Homegrown')

And now -- at long last -- Neil Young's unreleased album "Homegrown" -- which was recorded in 1974 and 1975 -- is the "one that got away", Neil writes on NYA. At the time, Neil considered "Homegrown" to be "too personal and frank" to be released and chose to release the album "Tonight's The Night", instead. The Homegrown album has been described by Neil as “the missing link between Harvest, Comes A Time, Old Ways and Harvest Moon”.

Neil Young's comments on 'Homegrown'
(See PREVIEW TRACK: "Try" from Homegrown Album by Neil Young )

Neil Young wrote in 2019:
“I apologize.

This album Homegrown should have been there for you a couple of years after Harvest. It’s the sad side of a love affair. The damage done. The heartache. I just couldn’t listen to it. I wanted to move on.

“So I kept it to myself, hidden away in the vault, on the shelf, in the back of my mind.

But I should have shared it. It’s actually beautiful. That’s why I made it in the first place.

“Sometimes life hurts. You know what I mean. This is the one that got away."

In the often quoted hand written liner notes of Decade, Neil writes: " 'Heart of Gold' put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch." Hence, the origin of the "Ditch" term -- which is sometimes also referred to as the "Doom" period or "The Wilderness Years".

The mid-1970's period was a very tumultuous time in Neil Young's life, as has been well documented. The success of the album Harvest collided with the implosion of Young's relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress and their son Zeke's physical disabilities. Along with the challenges of being in the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the death of his Crazy Horse guitar player and friend Danny Whitten, Young suffered from near debilitating back pain, so it's a wonder he recorded any albums at all during the period.

So Neil Young's mid 1970's albums period? The Ditch Trilogy/Quadrilogy/Quintology/Sextology in light of "Homegrown" release in 2020?

Neil Young's "Ditch Quadrilogy":
"Time Fades Away", "Tonight’s the Night", "On the Beach" & "ZUMA"

Some argue that there's actually no trilogy whatsoever and that the “ditch era was only made up of two albums; one jumping in, the other climbing out with "On the Beach".

Others argue for the "Ditch Quadrilogy" to include "ZUMA". Yet others argue for the "Ditch Quintology" with "Harvest - Time Fades Away - Tonight's the Night - On the Beach - Zuma.....Harvest being the prologue that leads to the Ditch. And Zuma serves as the light at the end of the tunnel."

As mentioned above, we have made our case before on Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy being the key to the Rosetta Stone of understanding his musical career. But we also expanded the argument in 2017 Neil Young's "Ditch Quadrilogy" Re-Re-Release is Finally Coming! Official Release Series Discs 5-8 (4CD): May 12 Release.

Lastly (but not really), an intriguing comment by kahunasunset who suggests that once Homegrown is released, maybe it'll really be a "Ditch Sextology"?!

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". Also, see Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy -- Or is it a Quadrilogy? Or Quintology?.

Also, see The Beautiful, Enduring Gloom of Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy | PandoraMusic.

So how about this for a thought exercise rusties?

Suppose Neil DID release Homegrown back in 1975 and NOT Tonight's The Night. Fast fwd to today and imagine Neil releasing the "unreleased" Tonight's The Night in 2020 instead.

What would folks think today of TTN? How would Neil's career arc have changed if he gave the public what they expected w/ Homegrown in 1975.

Here's a comment by Dan on the question:
I don’t actually think Neil’s career arc would have been any different had he released Homegrown instead of Tonight’s the Night back in the day.

Perhaps the fans arc would have been different, but I think Neil would have been right where he is now regardless. How his work is consumed by his fans has never been a concern for him, so we would have still gotten the same records we got.

Our perceptions might be different but not his.
Thanks Dan! Others? discuss.

"Though my problems are meaningless, that don't make them go away."

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At 6/28/2020 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

So I've listened to Homegrown now about 4-5 times, and while I really enjoy it, I personally wouldn't put it up there with what I consider the Holy Trinity of mid-70s Neil albums: Tonight's The Night, On The Beach, and Zuma.

For me, there's a big difference between Crazy Horse and the Stray Gators, and there's even a bigger difference between David Briggs producing and Elliot Mazer producing.

Homegrown is fine, but a little too polished for my taste. Yeah, there are times where Neil sounds "in the ditch", but there are times during the album where I feel Neil and Mazer were maybe going for that 70's California sound as well. "Florida" is neat and all, but not something I would want to hear repeatedly. And I feel "Homegrown" and "White Line" work far better as Horse songs.

Don't get me wrong, there are moments on Homegrown where Neil hits the heights of those other classics. "Little Wing", "Star of Bethlehem", "Kansas", and ESPECIALLY "Separate Ways" are monster Neil.

Overall, I'd put Homegrown in the same category of a Stars/Bars or a Comes A Time, but not in the category of the other classics I've mentioned. Just my opinion.....

At 6/28/2020 06:26:00 PM, Blogger Ken N. said...

To me, Homegrown is On The Beach, Part 2, with a few less Honey Slides.

At 6/28/2020 07:01:00 PM, Blogger Stub Mandrel said...

That's a fascinating thought. If Tonight's the Night had been released in 2020. I think the reaction would have been incredible.

At 6/28/2020 08:32:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Time Fades, Tonight's the Night and On the Beach are class and give a great insight into Neil 's life changing in my opinion. If Homegrown and Tonight's released dates were switched I think it might have changed Neil's live sets.I for one am glad it happened the way it has.

At 6/28/2020 09:12:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I have been a N.Y. fan since 1971 bought every release when they were available. I stopped at Trans as life and family took over. Homegrown was a welcome relief to the old times. I could do without Florida. Talking on a musical album becomes “yawn” boring.

At 6/28/2020 11:07:00 PM, Blogger JormaFan said...

Isnt there a series of songs from an album called 'homefires'? I would like to go further into the ditch.

At 6/29/2020 01:19:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Read Stephen kings 11/22/1963.... The timing of this release is as it should be ....ideal

At 6/29/2020 04:00:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Ha! Honey slides must've heard same bootleg I did.. those are my favorite albums.. raw and ready! The real stuff!!

At 6/29/2020 08:43:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I dont think the release dates would have changed Neils or my life. The only thing is that songs mean different things at different ages. And so it goes.

At 6/29/2020 10:30:00 AM, Blogger Art Carey said...

This "ditch" stuff -- for me it's not a thing.

At 6/29/2020 10:39:00 AM, Blogger das814 said...

Homegrown with previously released songs and a few clunkers thrown in doesn't do much for me.
Just because I've been a fan since the Buffalo Springfield days does not mean I am hopelessly nostalgic. Homegrown won't be receive many replays from me. Sorry, nothing magic about it to me.

At 6/29/2020 11:56:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Richie - good points on difference between Crazy Horse and Stray Gators and their producers.

so a little too polished? the opposite of TTN?

well, some like it raw and some like it polished. well, that's part of the charm of Neil -- you get both. sometimes on the same album, same song, same concert.

that's alright with us!

all opinions welcome! No right answers... only the right questions matter.

@ Ken N. - maybe a few less Honey Slides, but more homegrown?!

@ Stub - we agree that TTN coming out today in 2020 would really blow minds of rusties. But maybe similar to 1975, critics and traditionalists would be appalled by that raw loose raggedness.

@ Unknown - yes, certainly would've changed Neil's live sets. The Roxy sets wouldn't have happened or hooking up w/ Nils either possibly?

@ Unknown - for us, Florida is a big reveal and hardly “yawn” boring.

Actually, we'll probably try and blog more on Florida if we get a chance. But here we are.

Florida is like a stream of consciousness fever dream. After reading the TTN liner notes for 45 years now, we had no idea what was going on other than "Neil is really stoned."

But it all now makes sense in between songs Homegrown and Kansas.

The couple with the baby are Carrie & Neil w/ Zeke.

And Carrie wants custody of Zeke so shes taking the baby and saying "he's mine".

And Neil sings "Daddy's a travelin man" as a response to Zeke being off better with his mother rather than a musician on the road.

@ JormaFan - right Homefires makes the "sextology" described above and forecast by KahuanaSunset years ago here on TW. So sure, bring on Homefires and keep them burning!

@ Unknown - ok, we're highly intrigued. Short of reading Stephen Kings' 11/22/1963, what's the connection? Obviously that's JFK in Dallas day and relates to Bob's album more than Neil's. Or dioes it?

Enlighten us pls

@ Art - this "ditch" stuff is a thing for us here @ TW, as folks know. We've watched the our Ditch Trilogy post from the 90's blossom into a quadrilogy, then a quintology and now a sextology.

Obviously, at some point, it becomes ridiculous. Especially since it clearly is all one song anyways ...

@ das814 - sorry, you can't feel the magic in our hearts ...

At 6/29/2020 08:50:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

It's too late for general Custer,,too late , for Robert E Lee

At 6/30/2020 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Can't imagine tonight's the night not being released when it was. I was 18 back then, and it helped me through an enormous amount of the late teenage and early 20s era, depression melancholy anxiety, and other negative emotions that haunted me for years. What I know of homegrown, could not have possibly helped me COPE, in the way that tonight's the night did. I thank God quite regularly all of my life, for Neil and his music. But if we had to wait for one of these, I'm much happier that homegrown was released today, rather than the other way around.

At 6/30/2020 07:53:00 AM, Blogger Conor said...

So if it's consider a sextology what would be the listening order?

At 6/30/2020 02:37:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Trans is a fantastic album. The sound the words the coumpeter sounds. A glimpse into the mind of a geinus

At 6/30/2020 05:32:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

As for me, I do consider "Homegrown" a "ditch" album, clearly post "Harvest", one phase could be "Time fades away" and "Tonight's the night" the raw, live 73 albums another will regroup "On the beach" and "Homegrown", more polished and thoughtafter! Other unreleased albums may rejoin the "ditch", such as "Homefires", "Bottom line" or the songs first played with CSNY on the 74 "doom tour", IMO!This era ended with "Zuma" when Neil takes the new Crazy Horse to escape from this dark period although some songs on it are related to Carrie!

At 7/01/2020 11:25:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

a reminder of sorts that it is probably incoherent or just confused to think that an actual change in the past would not have altered the future- whatever future we are discussing. We have no idea how the future would change because we cannot see how one change necessarily connects to multiple events. These points are simple to physics but also human psychology. Releasing Homegrown before Tonights the Night or instead of Tonights the Night could have created a causal pathway for Neil to have a deep friendship with Dan Fogelberg, thus corrupting his song-writing skills forever.

At 7/02/2020 01:11:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

For me, Homegrown clearly sounds--and feels--like a meeting point between Harvest on On the Beach. In fact, I think Homegrown sounds more like OtB than OtB sounds like either TtN or TFA. Although TFA and TtN have a certain anguish and ragged edge in common musically speaking, the "ditch" classification is very loose and tenuous--if not artificial-- for me, at least in the straightforward sense that the classic trilogy of albums don't sound or feel too much alike for my ears (and Zuma is its own beast entirely, imho).

Each of these records just has its own musical identity and sensibility, such that it's never made that much sense in my mind to put certain albums into unified groupings, rank or otherwise quantify and compare them. In other words, "It's all one song".

Fwiw, however, it's possible we now have an alternative or parallel Ditch trilogy to consider: Tuscaloosa, Roxy, and Homegrown. That Tuscaloosa and Roxy offer counterparts to TFA and TtN respectively seems self-evident to me, and I'd argue that Homegrown offers essentially the mood of OtB with a seasoning of Harvest sound thanks to the Gators.

So perhaps an even more intriguing question would be, how do the last trio of NYA releases illuminate, echo, or counterpoint their "twins" classic catalogue? Also, how might Songs for Judy and Hitchhiker play into--or deconstruct--the ditch narrative? And of course, don't forget to enjoy and connect with the music, regardless of the mythos, as we chase our tails through the maze of Neil.

"Only real in the way I feel from day to day."


At 7/11/2020 03:33:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

A correction from Christian Rutherford @Impitoyable
"It’s trilogy; tetralogy; hexalogy. That’s your actual Greek."

Thanks Christian ! we'll update.


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