Tried and failed to sell someone on Neil Young on the weekend. There must have been many beers involved, because I have two-and-a-half decades of fandom and structured argument for his genius. Young’s career as a musical chameleon means that many people have totally different ideas of him. The best known persona is that of his big commercial breakthrough album, 1972’s Harvest. Yep, the one with “Heart of Gold”.
It’s a gentle, folksy album backed by the Stray Gators. Before that Young had done straight rock and blues jams, but a back injury forced him to make a literally laidback album with Harvest – it was the kind of music he could make in a rocking chair.
Twenty years later Young reprised a lot of the Harvest themes with his Harvest Moon album, a very sweet love letter to his wife Peggy. The title track features the the amazing use of a broom for softly swept percussion. But there’s also a great song called “Unknown Legend”, which was covered beautifully by TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe in the film Rachel Getting Married.
There are so many Neil Young stories I’ll have to do a better post another time. I mean, Kurt Cobain quoted Young’s lyrics from Rust Never Sleeps in his suicide note. He rocked out with Pearl Jam when he had his 90s resurgence as the “Grandaddy of grunge”. Where do you think Powderfinger got their name from? He spent most of the 80s trying to piss off his record label by making horrific concept albums, sometimes in rockabilly and electronic style. He’s a cantankerous old bastard who’s still incredibly prolific, and retains the same idiosyncratic, shaky childish voice.
Seeing him live with my Dad on the 2003 Greendale tour was one of the most special shows I’ve ever seen.