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Monday, September 12, 2022

Comment of the Moment: "God Save The Queen" + Revisiting "Americana" by Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse

God Save the Queen, 2012
Mixed media (stencil, silkscreen, and collage) on canvas
43 1/2 x 30 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Perry Rubenstein Gallery, Los Angeles.
© Shepard Fairey/OBEY GIANT ART
(See Shepard Fairey and Neil Young: The 'Americana' Collaboration
(Click photo to enlarge)

Much chatter here at TW on "God Save The Queen" and the 2012 album "Americana" by Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse.


Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
"AMERICANA is collection of classic, American folk songs. 
In their day, some of these may have been referred to as "protest songs", "murder ballads", or campfire-type songs passed down with universal, relatable tales for everyman.


Our Comment of the Moment on post "God Save The Queen" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Americana is from Hambone in the UK:

re Americana - what I love about Americana is that's it's another example of Neil sitting on a project for ages abd then deciding to complete it. 

Neil first flirted with revising folk tunes way back in the Squires era when he was influenced by Tim Rose and the Thorns. Here's a quote From Shakey: "That was a certain Squires stage that never got recorded. Wish there were tapes of those shows. We used to do all this stuff, a whole kinda music—folk-rock. We took famous old folk songs like “Clementine,” “She’ll Be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain,” “Tom Dooley"" and one element was retrieving the darker verses and overtones of the songs and getting the Horse to bring this to fruition was uncannily right.

So GSTQ has the second verse about scattering enemies and confounding their politics (Hint: we do not learn this verse at school in Britain). So Abner I would consider including this verse suitably "mercilessly attacking" the anthem.

And I've decided that the reason this song ends the album is that it is a symbol of transition - the splicing of the two songs as a metaphor not just for national independence, but also for Neil's own journey from post-imperial Canada to the US, whilst acknowledging the influence of both. In this respect it follows the tradition of songs like Don't be Denied, Big Time and more recently Heading West and Canerican.

Finally thanks Thrasher for sorting out the post in moderation limbo earlier this week.

Think I need a rest after all that.

Hambone in the UK

Thanks much Hambone for our TW Comment of the Moment. Certainly the subject of The Queen and monarchy has been a touchy subject for Her Stalwart Enthusiasts and Her Loyal Subjects.

But the most fascinating aspect of all of this over GSTQ, is how interesting that the melody of "God Save The Queen" and “My Country ’Tis Of Thee” are the same?!  How could that possibly be!? (See comments on original 2012 post)

But back to the music and "Americana" by Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse. As noted above in the album description: "AMERICANA is collection of classic, American folk songs. In their day, some of these may have been referred to as "protest songs", "murder ballads", or campfire-type songs passed down with universal, relatable tales for everyman."  

We too find the  album Americana to be absolute fit with nearly every musical digression Neil has made over the decades.  Specifically, as a "protest song album".

And what strikes us most as we return to the 2012 album was the near virulent hatred by many rusties -- and non-rust types -- for this 1st Crazy Horse studio album since 1996's "Broken Arrow". 

Regardless of whatever one's opinion may be --  if nothing else -- "Americana" opened the barn door for Neil  with The Horse to the subsequent album "Psychedelic Pill".

But possibly even more significant was how the massive blowback reaction to  "Americana" merely foreshadowed the full blown culture wars of today's cancel culture /woke mob mentality which is hellbent on on eradication of any and everything that they find to be of the slightest offense.


"Oh Susannah" by Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse

For example, the legacy and history of "Oh Susannah" from a comment on The Judgement Not To Pre-Judge "Americana" by Matt & Jes Wedding:

Song meanings change over time.

The original intent and malice that the song ["Oh Susannah"] was written with and for is no longer present in the current incarnation of the song in our collective "Americana." Is it interesting to see where the song originally came from and how it has changed over time? Yes.

But if this song has become "illegal" to reproduce in your mind because an old version of the song (which is not what Neil is playing) was racist, then there are a whole lot of other things that should be "illegal" as well.

"Oh Susannah" was written by Stephen Foster in 1847 and was a product of its times.  As a folk song, "Oh Susannah" transcended its minstrel history with Neil Young's version excising the original racist lyrics with demeaning caricatures of black people. So Neil has reinvented "Oh Susannah", removing the egregious racist lyrics and setting forth a version to help move forward beyond a painful era. 

Oh Susannah, by Shepard Fairey - 2012
Mixed media (stencil, silkscreen, and collage) on canvas
(Click photo to enlarge)


In reaction at the time of release, Neil Young  issued the following statement:

"What ties these songs together is the fact that while they may represent an America that may no longer exist.

The emotions and scenarios behind these songs still resonate with what’s going on in the country today with equal, if not greater impact nearly 200 years later. The lyrics reflect the same concerns and are still remarkably meaningful to a society going through economic and cultural upheaval, especially during an election year.

They are just as poignant and powerful today as the day they were written."

Poster by Shepard Fairey

After what seems to have been a long couple of days here at TW, it would seem that we more fully appreciate the "Americana-ness" of Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Americana album.

So what the heck does that mean you might ask?

Well, if you've been following our comment threads lately, you might understand. If not, well, you may have saved yourself some time -- or depending on your point of view -- missed quite a bit of entertainment. Maybe it's just the summer heat that's getting to folks?

Music Video for "Oh Susannah" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
(See Some Thoughts on New Video "Oh Susannah" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

To summarize -- if just tuning in -- we decontructed a rather harsh review of Americana on The Herald-Review by Tim Cain. The reviewer found Americana to be a "self parody because it is too rich, too perfect, too comical to be anything but a parody."

Some agreed with our take on the review and others did not. Fine. This was followed by our posting of an equal opportunity dissenting opinion (which we do indeed welcome), of a thoughtful, well considered rebuttal by Babbo.

Given all the hullaboo on whether Americana was the worst Neil & Crazy Horse album ever, we conducted a poll in 2012 asking if folks really thought that Americana "Drifts into Self Parody"?

And what did our super scientific poll find?

Interestingly, it seems that the majority think that no, Americana is not a "Self Parody" because it captures Neil Young & Crazy Horse in all of their raw, ragged glory. Between those who say Americana is not a "Self Parody" and those indifferent, it seems about 95% of folks are OK or neutral with Americana. Only 5% of voters thought Americana is a "Self Parody" because it is "too rich, too perfect, too comical to be anything but a parody." (Could this contingent be the dreaded "4% Club" that emerged after Fork in the Road?)
Songs like 'High Flying Bird' are about a man that works so hard in a mine that when he comes out into the light of day he can't enjoy the world because he's blinded by the light—in essence, the fruits of his labor.

Many parallels between the aspirations and failings of the American Dream, whether it was 1880 or today.

Art by Gary Burden and Jenice Heo

In other words, the poll results and positive comments seem to be fairly representative of the mythical "Americana" itself, i.e., passions on the extreme fringes of the Neil-love and Neil-hate camps are unrepresentative while it is the great middle ground of Neil-moderates who are the true silent majority. In other words, the Neil Young fan base is reflective of "Americana" itself where the discourse is dominated by the hype/wind/noise machines on the fringes which is unrepresentative of the true mainstream "Americana". And those mainstream or "ordinary Neil fans" have stood and been counted and they think Neil & The Horse's Americana is perfectly OK.

So where did we go from there way back in 2012? 
Between a very analytical comment by Greg "A Friend Of Yours" and several other supportive comments like Sandy H's giving us a sanity check along with the poll results, we think we're good for another 25+ years of "Separating the wheat from the chaff".

Shepard Fairey and Neil Young
(See Shepard Fairey and Neil Young: The 'Americana' Collaboration )
Neil Young: "All I can say is, everyone has a different idea, but this truly represents a lot of those things and touches on a lot of the core beliefs in the American Dream and questions them and makes you think about them.

And questions whether it's that different from what everybody else's dreams are everywhere else.

It turns out we may not be so perfect."
Shepard Fairey: "Latitude for interpretation is something that Neil utilizes and seems to value as an important way for the listener/viewer to personalize their interaction with art and music. "

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - "Americana"
(Zoom Album Cover)

From Americana review in TONEAudio MAGAZINE by Bob Gendron:

Never shy about making bold political or civil statements, Young brilliantly borrows songs from the U.S.’ historical fabric and tosses them as live grenades that explode on impact, broaching the staple concepts—freedom, liberty, justice, equality, rights, conflicts, privacy, the common good—on which America prides itself. He and Crazy Horse invoke these broad subjects without advocating one party or another; Americana owes some of its political and cultural potency to its impartiality.


A Comment of the Moment back in 2012 concerns preconceptions on Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse by Matt L.:

"Is it really Neil's, or any artist's "responsibility" to either the song, history or the music fan, to adhere to or at least reference or explain the original purpose of a piece of music, and the political, social or spiritual climate of its time, in some way, so that the authenticity and history of something isn't lost or disrespected?

Does he owe it to the song, the song's author or the music fan to prostrate himself before the energy that created that piece of music and deliver it into the 21st century in a way that retains, and even helps to convey or preserve a clear idea of the song and its history? Or, more importantly, to not undermine reality or contribute to confusing, or even rewriting, history?

This is definitely a very important topic, and I feel strongly about retaining the purity of historical accounting, but I would argue "no" to the question of Neil's responsibility as an artist toward either some kind of historical or social accuracy, or toward supporting a certain political identification, or simply toward NOT doing something that could be perceived as insulting to those of us with touchy emotional triggers about American Indians, the dark history of Colonial America, or the authenticity of music history.


Neil Young & Crazy Horse - "Americana"
(Zoom Album Cover)

For more of the intense rustie reaction to "Americana" by Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse all the way back in 2012, also, see:

(Again, we point out these 2012 links out as an early warning indicator of the full blown culture wars of today's cancel culture / censorship / woke mob mentality.  A decade ago we warned that this is where this would lead.  And here we are with yet another TW prophecy.)

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At 9/13/2022 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

I liked Americana from the start. I thought there were a lot of great crazy Horse interpretations of these familiar songs. I thought High Flying Bird was one of the best song s on it.

I agree the cover was in poor taste. Is it OK to sing “This land was made for you and me” when it was taken from the natives?!

Welcome back Thrasher & Thrashette!

Your brother Alan in Seattle


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