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Monday, February 12, 2024

Time Capsule: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps | Paste

Rust Never Sleep! (sic)
Unreleased Rust-oleum Commercial w/ Neil Young
(Click photo to enlarge)


By now, we all know that one of the most fundamental universal laws of physics -- in the immortal lyrics of Neil Young -- is that Rust Never Sleeps

With that, we bring you Time Capsule: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps  | Paste by Matt Mitchell.  Every Saturday, Paste  revisits albums that came out before the magazine was founded in July 2002 and assessing its current cultural relevance. This week, they’re zeroing in on Neil Young’s theatrical, enigmatic career resurrection that became an epitaph for a decade of grief.

While the immediate cornerstones of Rust Never Sleeps are obvious anti-pastorals of the dense nuances of America’s widened and, sometimes, consequential utopia— “Powderfinger,” “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue),” “Ride My Llama”—it is on “Thrasher” where Young uses the frontier to make the most sense of his own morality with allusions to farmland, passerine birds, full moons and hightailing across the country before dawn. 

“Thrasher” is, in no short terms, a song about Danny Whitten. 

And it’s a particularly damning and heartbreaking one at that—a text that conjures allusions to heroin use and the $50 plane ticket Young gave to Whitten when he kicked him out of the Stray Gators ahead of the Harvest tour. The entire second verse, in particular, remains a crucial tableaux of Young’s grief: “I searched out my companions, who were lost in crystal canyons when the aimless blade of science slashed the pearly gates,” he sings; “Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand with a one-way ticket to the land of truth and my suitcase in my hand. How I lost my friends, I still don’t understand,” he continues. 

Full article @ Time Capsule: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps  | Paste by Matt Mitchell.



Also, answers to the quintessential question: "Why does Rust Never Sleep?" ... or "Out of the BLUE and into the BLACK" .


Rust Never Sleeps - Rust Repair Shop Sign
Photo by Mimi R.

Labels: , , , , ,


At 2/15/2024 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I don't think so.

By the way, eagles and vultures are not passerines. Matt needs to get off the pavement and hit the sand. (In Thrasher, Neil mentions an eagle and a vulture- these two are from distinct families/genus.)

But then how does one really argue that this song is about Danny Whitten? Neil clearly seems to be talking about "dead weight" that he is leaving behind. Consider the lines, keeping in mind the whole context of the song, "with a one way ticket to the land of truth and my suitcase in my hand, how I lost my friends I still don't understand." (Neil would never, in my opinion, let Danny be considered "dead weight" and he did not "leave him behind," he lost him forever.)

Not Danny Whitten, more like CSN and others. Neil was on a singular trip, totally dedicated to authenticity. On this path he will end up with "just another line in the field of time" and time will give him what is his own.

At 2/15/2024 03:31:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Abner.

we agree. 'who were lost in crystal canyons" seems more of a reference to CSNY than Whitten.

decided not to challenge the author in the post. we did find the RNS retro to be quite thorough otherwise.

At 2/15/2024 03:39:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Hi Thrasher. I challenged because Rust seems to me a crucial album in the history of rock. The whole thing is about artistic stagnation and how to embrace the future- move forward!

The RNS retro brought back many memories for me.

At 2/17/2024 03:39:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I’ve always heard, and read, it was more related to CSN. Maybe the breakaway from the Springfield is in there, too. More universally, I think it reflects cathartic moments of change that can occur in life: transition, growing pains, the “death” before rebirth. The imagery, for me, certainly evokes an arc through space and time and a delicate balance of restlessness and peace that carries one through a lifetime journey of impermanence.

Speaking to RNS as an album, I think it succeeds partly because of an element of symmetry, the record neatly divided in half through acoustic and electric mode. Structurally crucial are the Out of the Blue/into the Black bookends. I don’t think Hey Hey My My would work well in the middle of an album, on its own. It functions as a portal, a way in to and out of the album, surrounding the other songs that I think are generally stronger. Also, the range of styles means something for everyone.

Aesthetically we humans often find symmetry, parallelism, and circular structures (ends where it starts? Or no end and no beginning?) pleasing and digestible. Gives us something recognizable to hold on to, like seeing a face in the clouds.

At 2/17/2024 03:44:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Addendum: the 2 sides of RNS have a yin/yang effect. Out of the Blue/Into the Black exists in both halves, however, showing that they are interrelated and overlapping after all.

At 2/18/2024 07:57:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

The first reason RSN succeeds as an album is because it made up of great songs. How it all hangs together is a different issue.

At 2/20/2024 01:36:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Very true, Abner: structure (essentially the order the songs play in) can only get you so far if the constituent songs are lacking, though I'd argue a relatively uncompelling song can get a boost from good placement relative. The flip side is that most songs on RNS would have been highlights on any album; we can glean this from archival releases like Hitchhiker and Chrome Dreams.

Instead of "yin/yang", I should have just said dualistic. The album has a dualistic quality, with all the paradox that implies--western thought is sometimes lacking symbols to convey those ideas. But all vinyl albums have (at least) two sides, so this is not rocket science! It is, however, an art to realize this kind of cohesion effectively.

At 2/21/2024 02:11:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I agree. I am thinking about the song order on Rust. Could it be better? Do some of these songs get a boost? Good questions and I have no answers.

At 2/21/2024 07:38:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I would have to sit down and listen to the album again. I am glad to have the Dume electric Horse take of Ride my Llama. I used to wonder what it would sound like heavier. I like it—but it’s possible some of the more eccentric Dume tracks, like this one, would have been a little “out there” for folks in ‘75.

NY had just come off the post-Harvest Ditch trilogy. Classics now, but they confused people initially. With the Archives, outtakes, etc. I hear a lot of things the artist may have felt were too “weird” (also personally revealing) to put out at the time. The music landscape has grown in 40-50 years. We live in a world of subcultures (to borrow an anthropology term), each with their own sounds, and they tend to bleed into each other (cross-pollinate), necessitating open ears and an open mind. Some stuff Neil was doing back in the ‘70s would fit amazingly with the quirky, “indie” kids today. Will to Love springs mind, along with the entire Homegrown album. “Ahead of their time” is the pat expression.

So commerce (in this case, music biz) may very well slow down artistic experimentation—but it doesn’t, and can’t, eliminate it entirely. Despite some of the alienating aspects of a de-centered society, the worldwide web simplifies distribution and, more importantly, can make it easier to fine an ideal audience beyond geographical boundaries. Big challenges notwithstanding, I am hopeful: the up-and-coming generations have potential to change the rules for the better. We just have to *not* squash the inspiration before it ripens.


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