Tag Archives: Neil Young

New Neil Young: Lookin’ For A Leader 2020

Video: Neil Young – “Lookin’ For A Leader 2020”

Neil Young - Lookin' For A Leader 2020 (Official Music Video)

From The Times EP, due September 18 on Reprise.

A new version of a song originally released during the George W. Bush administration, Neil updates the lyrics for today.

We got our election
But corruption has a chance
We got to have a big win
To regain confidence
America is beautiful
But she has an ugly side
We’re lookin’ for a leader
In this country far and wide

Good old Neil. We know he recently sued the Trump campaign for using his music at his rallies and now he’s calling him out in song.

Just like his big new fence
This president’s going down
America’s moving forward
You can feel it in every town
Scared of his own shadow
Buildin’ walls around our house
He’s hiding in his bunker
Something else to lie about

We’ve given Neil crap over the years for dashing out lyrics without putting much craftsmanship into the effort but sometimes the directness works. This is one of those times.

We don’t need a leader
Building walls around our house
Who don’t know black lives matter
And it’s time to vote him out

Yes it is. Make sure you’re registered. And make sure you cast your ballot. And if you don’t trust the USPS, you can drop off your ballot in person. Find out where. Your place probably has a secure dropbox where you don’t even need to get within six feet of anybody. Do it!

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Continue reading New Neil Young: Lookin’ For A Leader 2020

Music, Politics & Iggy on a Cruise Line

So a question is to what extent does a musician “own” her or his music, not necessarily in a legal sense–which is certainly more than a trivial consideration vis-à-vis the livelihood of people–but in that the music represents, one suspects, though can’t be certain of*, what that person’s beliefs are.

This thought occurred as a result of the law suit filed in the Southern District of New York by Neil Young against the Trump campaign for the campaign’s unauthorized use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk.”

Other musicians who have objected—not all in court—against the use of their material by the Trump campaign over the years include Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Pharrell Williams, Tom Petty (his estate) and The Rolling Stones.

Which brings me back to the original question. Why does an organization like Trump’s campaign think that those musicians in any way represent the thinking, beliefs or social mores of Donald Trump? Aren’t many of these people antithetical to that?

Would, say, the Biden campaign use—unauthorized or otherwise—music from Ted Nugent or Toby Keith?

Music is a fundamental part of our culture. As such it reflects, in many ways, our values.

While one could argue that music has long been co-opted for reasons political and, more substantially, commercial. For example, right now you can hear “Magic” by Pilot in a TV commercial for diabetes drug Ozembic and Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” in a spot for Anoro, which is a COPD medication.

And who can forget the soundtrack for a Royal Caribbean cruise line ad from a few years back: Iggy’s “Lust for Life”? A waterslide? An endless buffet? Umbrella drinks? Sandals, socks, Bermuda shorts and overstuffed swimsuits?

In those cases, of course, the songwriters are undoubtedly being compensated for their work, and it is hard to imagine a political case being made against ads for medications (unless, of course, one is anti “Big Pharma,” which Trump has declared himself to be, so one wonders what pop song his people will roll out for that position—the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”: “And all the politicians making crazy sounds. . . “?).

One interesting aspect of the Neil Young situation is that it wasn’t until January of this year that he became an American citizen. “Rockin’ in the Free World” was released in 1989. “Devil’s Sidewalk” was released in 2003.

Which means that the Trump campaign has been not only music from a man who does not reflect or support the candidate’s ostensible positions, but from a man who was, at the time he released those songs, was a foreigner. And we know how Trump feels about them.

*This is problematic in some regards as let’s face it: many songs are written about fictional situations so it is impossible to say that anyone is making authentic statements in their songs, as it may simply be a reflection of what seems to be relevant in the market at the time of composition.

Continue reading Music, Politics & Iggy on a Cruise Line

New Neil Young video: Peace Trail

Video: Neil Young + Promise Of The Real – “Peace Trail”

Neil Young + Promise Of The Real - Peace Trail (Official Music Video From the Film 'Paradox')

Directed by Daryl Hannah. From the Paradox soundtrack, out now on Reprise.

This is a new version of one of the best songs Neil has written this decade. “Peace Trail” was the title track of his 2016 album recorded with session musicians Jim Keltner and Paul Bushnell. This new version is with his band Promise Of The Real and is featured on the soundtrack of Daryl Hannah’s film, Paradox (available on Netflix).

I have to take good care
When something new is growing

Can’t really tell from this video what the movie’s about but Netflix says, “Neil Young and his band of outlaws sow seeds of strange mischief and musical wonder under Western skies in this dreamlike film by Daryl Hannah.” Looks like it might be a sequel to Grizzly Adams. I think I spotted Ben but where’s old Number Seven?

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New Neil Young video: Almost Always

Video: Neil Young + Promise Of The Real – “Almost Always”

Neil Young + Promise Of The Real - Almost Always (Official Music Video)

Directed by Daryl Hannah. From The Visitor, out now on Reprise.

I love it when Neil goes pretty and acoustic. But he’s still got some bite in his lyrics:

I’m living with a gameshow host
Who has to brag and has to boast
About tearing down the things that I hold dear

I also appreciate the fact that Neil is not ashamed to admit how easily distracted he is:

Can I take a minute to do what’s right
Before that starts me thinking,
Distracting me again?

Think he’ll ever release his Archives Vol. 2?

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New Neil Young video: Already Great

Video: Neil Young + Promise of The Real – “Already Great”

Neil Young + Promise of The Real - Already Great (Official Music Video)

From The Visitor, out now on Reprise.

Seems somewhat appropriate to celebrate Boxing Day with Neil Young.

I’m Canadian by the way
And I love the U.S.A.

Good old Neil. Hasn’t stressed too much about refining his lyrics in a couple decades, has he? That’s okay because the sentiment is righteous and so are the guitars. Willie Nelson’s kid’s band seems to have reinvigorated Neil and inspired him to dig back into his ragged glory.

This sounds like a band. The harmonies in the chorus are straight up CSNY 1974. The chanting, later on, unfortunately, is a little more Greendale or Living with War.

I still wish Neil would spend a little more time on the craftsmanship of his songwriting, but that’s never gonna happen, so at least he’s giving us gnarly guitar tones. Which is more than you can say for most people of his generation.

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New Neil Young video: Hitchhiker

Video: Neil Young – “Hitchhiker”

Neil Young – Hitchhiker (Black Balloon version)

From Hitchhiker, out now on Reprise Records.

This is the second animated video Neil has released to promote Hitchhiker. We already covered the first one, but this album is really holding up as one of the greatest gems from the Neil Young Archives. It’s such an immediate, intimate, intense collection.

The song itself, Neil’s “drug chronicles,” has been fairly legendary among Rusties. He played it live during his 1992 solo acoustic shows, causing fans to speculate about which came first, “Hitchhiker” or 1982’s “Like an Inca,” since they share some lyrics. Neil finally recorded it with Daniel Lanois on the 2010 solo electric album, Le Noise, but not before adding a couple of extra verses.

How many years have come and gone
Like friends and enemies
I tried to leave my past behind
But it’s catching up with me

I don’t know how I’m standing here
Living my life
Thankful for my children
And my faithful wife

“Finishing was important,” Young told American Songwriter in 2010. “The song never could have been done without those verses.” I guess that explains why it sat unreleased for so long despite the fact that it’s awesome.

In that same interview he said, “So I have recordings of ‘Hitchhiker’ from the ’70s but there was never any reason to put it out. I felt like, ‘Whoa, that’s not really a good idea.'” Glad he changed his mind! Finally releasing the Hitchhiker album is one of the best ideas he’s had in decades.

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Continue reading New Neil Young video: Hitchhiker

New Neil Young video: Powderfinger

Video: Neil Young – “Powderfinger”

Neil Young - Powderfinger (video created by Black Balloon)

From Hitchhiker, out now on Reprise Records.

Hitchhiker is an incredible album, and I’m frankly shocked that Neil Young has let it out into the world. In Shakey, Jimmy McDonough revealed that Neil would sometimes hold back the “best” version of a song because it was “too real.” I could argue that these are the best versions of all these songs, and — recorded in one session in 1976 — this recording is as real as it gets. This is peak Neil.

In his memoir Super Deluxe, Neil wrote:

I spent the night there [Indigo Ranch Studios] with David [Briggs] and recorded nine solo acoustic songs, completing a tape I called Hitchhiker.

It was a complete piece, although I was pretty stony on it, and you can hear it in my performances. Dean Stockwell, my friend and a great actor who I later worked on Human Highway as a co-director, was with us that night, sitting in the room with me as I laid down all the songs in a row, pausing only for weed, beer, or coke. Briggs was in the control room, mixing live on his favorite console.

In a recent radio interview, Neil explains why it wasn’t released at the time:

Back then when we played this record for business folks, the reaction was that it was not a real record, but a collection of demos. I was advised to record the songs with a band, but the Hitchhicker versions are the true originals, recorded earlier than any versions you may have ever heard, and I always knew the original album would find its place and surface. That time is now.

I can’t imagine that there’s anything left in the archives as great as this, but I would love to be surprised. So bring it on, Neil! The time is now!

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Great ideas in record label marketing: Free Dirt

It must have been fun to work at Warner/Reprise in 1969. There were so many great groups on their roster: Joni Mitchell, Van Dyke Parks, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, the Kinks, the Grateful Dead… They were the cool label. Selling those records to all the hip kids must have been a piece of cake.

Or maybe not.

Because when it came time to come up with a campaign to promote Neil Young’s first album with his new band Crazy Horse, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, they ended up with a novel idea: free dirt. That’s not a euphemism for anything. You could send in a form and they’d mail you a baggie of dirt from Topanga Canyon. No self-addressed stamped envelope or anything!

“Miss Penny in shipping has demanded tranquilizers, overtime, and an Easter bonus for her boys if they have to bag dirt. But what the hell. Nobody understood Galileo either. Read on.”

Continue reading Great ideas in record label marketing: Free Dirt

Live: Graham Nash in Portland

If I am being honest, I am just as guilty as anyone—maybe more so. I see “legacy” acts touring and think, “Why bother? They can’t be as good as in their prime.” Sometimes I’ve been proven right when a band that hasn’t spoken in 20 years gets together for a tour only to realize they stopped speaking for a reason and should leave us all out if it. But sometimes I am proven wrong; gloriously wrong.

Graham Nash has always been the secret ingredient. His harmonies are unmatched, and that’s evident in the work he’s done from The Hollies, to CSN(Y), and anything else he’s lent that magical voice to. It’s a high harmony, which is a big responsibility to hold in a singing group because those are the notes everyone really hears. Guys like David Crosby and Chris Hillman have a special gift for the harder to find middle parts, but they can also hide a little easier. With Nash, it’s right out there hovering over the entire song. That means his voice needs to be in top form, lest we all walk away just a little disappointed.

Continue reading Live: Graham Nash in Portland

Songs, Law Suits & Sundaes

Neil Young - Everybody's Rockin'

While the idea that artists can make music that is not what people, fans, mainly, think or expect them to make and yet that music has as much validity as anything that they may have previously recorded or performed raised in this recent entry about Elvis Costello, it has come to my attention that this isn’t some philosophical rabbit hole, but potentially something that could have crippling consequences for the performer in question.

That is, back in the 1980s, when Neil Young was signed to David Geffen’s label, Geffen sued Young for $3-million, with the suit claiming that the music that Young was putting out—Trans and then Everybody’s Rockin’—were “unrepresentative” of, well, presumably Neil Young music.

The suit was dropped, but consider what the existence of the suit in the first place meant.

Neil Young was signed to a label presumably because there was something that was considered to be “Neil Young Music.”  Prior to that point in time, Young had put out a rather robust body of work, a collection that could be considered, to put it modestly, eclectic.

Does, say, Harvest (’72) have much similarity to Rust Never Sleeps (’79)?

Yet Geffen seems to have thought that there was Neil Young Music and there was something that was Not Neil Young Music.  He had paid for NYM.  He was getting what he perceived to be NNYM.  And so he wanted his money back.

If you went to an ice cream store and ordered a banana split and they gave you a hot fudge sundae, you’d probably want a redo, at the very least.  Arguably some of the components of the banana split are like those of the hot fudge sundae, but that’s not what you had in mind.

And Geffen didn’t have, apparently, Trans and Everybody’s Rockin’ in mind, either.

So who’s right?  Who decides?  The artist/performer or the person paying for the product?  (Yes, “product” is a loaded word, but most musicians are not involved in personal not-for-profit undertakings, because when they go to the ice cream store for that hot fudge sundae, the person behind the counter expects money, not a song.)