Greendale - Summer 2003

 

 

The Latest from Neil Young

Pictures From Greendale Movie

Greendale Lyrics

A Few Special Greendale Reviews

Melbourne, Australia - Greendale Pictures

 

 

Neil Young 

Toronto International Film Festival 2003

 

 

 

Acting Young and Crazy


Source: Age, The (Australia)
Author: Patrick Donovan
Published: November 25, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Age Company Ltd
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.theage.com.au/ 

It's a weird feeling being on stage with one of your greatest rock idols, writes Patrick Donovan.

Any music fan would be thrilled at scoring great seats to see one of their favourite artists for the first time.

This was the situation I found myself in on Saturday night at Neil Young's Sidney Myer Music Bowl concert. 

But just when it seemed I couldn't get much closer to the action, I was asked to join one of the great rock'n' roll bands of all time on stage as part of Young's theatrical performance of his new concept album, Greendale. 

A morality play about the loss of community values and the greed of Western society, it's part The Who's rock opera Tommy, part high-hippie school play.

Local singer-songwriter Dan Warner, the owner of Prahran's Greville Records, Warwick Brown, and I were chosen to play the small part of irate townspeople on the basis of our affection for Young's music. 

I had only acted once - one line in a medieval school play - but Young's people said acting experience was not a prerequisite.

As the local townspeople, we were angry at the fact that Earl and Edith decided to change the name of their ranch from The Double L to the Double E. "Change comes slow in the country," Young says. 

The rest of the cast, who played the Green family and the characters who live in and around the fictional seaside town of Greendale, were members of the production crew, touring company and the support band.

The stage director who handed out the pitchforks and spades had only a few words of advice, "Be angry, and don't dance" - easier said than done, considering our cue was The Double E, one of the album's grooviest songs.

The transition from watching the show to being part of it felt transcendental, and we soon forgot about watching the show as we focused on our roles.

That was until Warner and I looked at each other, gazed over at Young and the 9000 sets of eyes looking back at us, and burst out laughing.

The transition from watching the show to being part of it felt transcendental.

We returned to our seats before coming back for the finale, Be the Rain, which celebrates Sun Green's coming of age as an environmental activist.

Like the final scene in Hair, we danced around euphorically with the 40 other extras, pumping our fists in the air and playing air guitar while Crazy Horse ground out another blues groove and Young sang: "We got a job to do/We got to save Mother Earth".

It was a night the three of us will never forget, for many reasons, and something we will be reminded of when we read the show's program notes, which acknowledge us as three of "12 dancers from your home town".

 

 

 

Neil Young and Crazy Horse



Source: Age, The (Australia)
Reviewer: Michael Dwyer
Published: November 25, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Age Company Ltd
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.theage.com.au/ 

Not even Pink Floyd had a real helicopter. The freak appearance of a media chopper in the grey night sky, at precisely the right point in Neil Young's Greendale narrative, lent weight to a spine-tingling suspicion that what we were witnessing was beyond rock'n'roll.

By combining elaborate, multi-media theatricality with a calibre of thunderous rock that would shame AC/DC, Young's first Melbourne show in 14 years lived up to his maverick reputation with a unique combination of conceptual vision and brute force.

It was, in effect, two of the most stunning rock concerts of the year. The first was Greendale, his new narrative opus about a small-town American family, with enough actors, ingenious staging devices and food for thought to make We Will Rock You look like a vacuous school pantomime. The second part saw Crazy Horse's distinctive sonic tempest scale delirious heights through six radically strung-out older tunes, including Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black), Powderfinger and a ferocious tilt at Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower. 

Those hoping for some concession to Young's easy listening 1970s folkie phase had to be content with Bandit, the down-tuned acoustic number from Greendale. Without so much as a "Hello, Melbourne", he dragged 10,000 punters into the intimate camp fire glow of his story. He made us laugh, gasp and think, then blew us away with a hugely potent electric squall that seemed, at times, more about chaos theory than three-chord theory.

Young's skill as a spinner of simple, resonant truths came hand-in- hand with a dogged 1960s' idealism that made Bruce Springsteen's recent Telstra Dome show look like a fence-sitting exercise. 

If his anti-war subtext went over any heads, his free-spirited guitar work was the perfect metaphor for individualism in an increasingly homogenised world. 

Even as he hid behind his trucker's cap and spot-lit characters, Young exuded a peerless sense of experience and integrity both as social commentator and musician, as well as an aura that seemed to hold even the elements in thrall.

The threatening rain largely held off until Like A Hurricane provided its cue. And when he and the Horse finished with a sprawling, feedback-driven climax of Rockin' In The Free World, sure enough, we were.

 

 

 

Neil Young last night at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. 

Picture: Angela Wylie 

 

Neil Young And Crazy Horse, Entertainment Centre



Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Author: Bernard Zuel
Published: November 24, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Sydney Morning Herald
Website: http://www.smh.com.au/
Contact: [email protected]

You either go with him or you leave: there's no middle ground with Neil Young. It doesn't mean he's always right. Lord knows some of his decisions have been bad calls or miscalculations - even if sometimes it was not a failure of craft but a failure to communicate why he was doing it this way. But it does mean that what you get on record or in concert is mediated not by your demands/expectations but by where Young's restless imagination has landed that year.

This year it's a concept album and home-made movie called Greendale, a bizarre enough idea in an age when political parties run from ideas and pop shows make a virtue of their shallowness. But it's made more outrageous by Young's decision to perform the album as theatre. 

While Young and Crazy Horse perform the Greendale songs in sequence, around and behind them actors, singers and some roped-in nobodies from each city on the tour act out, lip-sync or dance. The acting is gestural and broad and, combined with props such as cut-out cardboard cars, film footage and crudely drawn animation, there is a distinct rock eisteddfod feel. 

And all this with songs that are light on melodies and that work within a narrow framework of bluesy rock that doesn't have the beauty of his prettiest folk songs nor the ragged assault of his rockiest Crazy Horse moments.

It shouldn't work. And sometimes it nearly doesn't. But by the time Young closes the first part of the evening with the final exhortation of Greendale - "be the rain" - it becomes clear that he's pulled it off. He's made you party to this story, this ramble through a fictional everyman American town and the central three-generational family, the Greens.

The secret is that he's made the songs live - much more so than they do on the album. Linked by his explanatory, documentary-maker style "narration" and some visual cues to its philosophical core (for example, a billboard purportedly from the conservative media conglomerate Clear Channel asking "Support Our War" that blocks out the "Welcome to Greendale" sign) the story becomes tangible.

More than that, though, it becomes involving, emotional. Sure, the solo acoustic song Bandit is a riveting moment of pure Young, tinged with lost dreams and the highlight of the Greendale set. But either side of that song, Carmichael builds on itself masterfully while circling death and anger and Grandpa's Interview turns repressed frustration into a sort of viciousness while never letting go of the sadness.

Mind you, for all the satisfaction of seeing Greendale work when it could so easily bomb, it is the second leg of the night that really rouses the audience. Here, after a brief break, Young and Crazy Horse return for a straight-ahead drive through some of their back catalogue, along the way finally animating bassist Billy Talbot, guitarist Pancho Sampredro (who had played keyboards throughout the Greendale set) and drummer Ralph Molina.

Over the next hour this still-fiery rock band play only five songs, beginning with a Hey Hey My My so bursting at the seams that it almost loses control in the piledriving outro. But it's a visceral hour, lacerated by Young's expressive control of noise, soothed by his ability to coax tenderness out of that noise and climaxing with a defiant and energised Rockin' in the Free World.

Undoubtedly no one in the room would have objected if the band had played Cortez the Killer or Like a Hurricane. He knew we wanted them and how easy it would be to satisfy us. But, well, he's Neil Young.

 

 

 

Neil Young, left, and Crazy Horse
put on a theatrical performance of Young's
new concept album, Greendale, 
on the weekend. Age music writer
Patrick Donovan, right, was invited to join in. 

Picture: Angela Wylie 

 


Young Steps in His Father's Shoes




Source: Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Author: Noel Mengel
Published: November 23, 2003
Copyright: 2003 News Limited
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/


An early Neil Young memory, when he was about three: he remembers going up to the attic where his father worked, still trying to make his mark as a writer.

"He had an old Underwood typewriter," Young says. "I walked up there and it took a lot of nerve, because you weren't supposed to go up there because he was writing.

"So I walked over and I looked up at him and I said, 'What are you doing, daddy?' And he said, 'Well, I'm writing'. And I looked up at him and said, 'What are you writing?'

"He said, 'I don't know. I just come up here every day and start writing. Sometimes I don't write anything, sometimes I write all day. I don't know what I'm writing'."

Young thought about that again last year, when the songs for his new album Greendale were arriving. There was no strategy or manifesto, no plan to sit down and write the first concept album of a recording career that now stretches back close to 40 years. But the songs kept tumbling out anyway.

"We never did rehearse it," Young says, on the eve of his first Australian tour since 1989.

The "we" is Young and his occasional band of almost 35 years, Crazy Horse.

"We recorded it as I wrote it. About two or three songs into it, I was pretty sure we had something going on because the characters kept coming up from one song to another and a story started developing," Young says.

Often he would write songs on the way to the studio, stopping the car, writing something, driving on 800km, thinking of something else and pulling over . . . at the studio, everyone was waiting to find out what would happen next.

The story is about a family in turmoil the Greens living in a small town. There is a murder, jail, bad luck, a new generation that comes through.

One day, much to everyone's surprise, Young killed off his favourite character, Grandpa. The next day, he turned up without a song, even though he had pulled over in all the right places. 

He even told the others they might as well go home because he had no idea what was going to happen now. Which is about the time he thought about his father up in the attic, writing, waiting. 

And about what happened to Grandma and the rest of the family in his story.

Back on the road with Crazy Horse, Young is playing the songs from Greendale in their entirety before closing with some seven songs from that vast back catalogue. 

Among these have been Mr Soul, Expecting To Fly, After The Goldrush, Old Man, Like A Hurricane, Powderfinger, Cinnamon Girl, even Heart of Gold.

"Oh," says Young of his fans. "They're used to me by now." And breaks into the hearty laugh of a man enjoying his latest musical incarnation.

"I was shocked when I went out and played Greendale and read some reviews where people said I was disregarding the welfare of my audience. These people have become so tuned into everything being like it's on a conveyor belt that they think they can predict everything that is going to happen. They forgot that creativity is what made music start happening in the first place."



My, my, hey, hey

 

Source: Age, The (Australia)
Author: Jo Roberts
Published: November 23, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Age Company Ltd
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.theage.com.au/


In a stunning combination of theatre and music the Grand Daddy of Grunge, Neil Young, along with his legendary band Crazy Horse and a cast of about 50 extras delivered what was arguably one of the best concerts of the year at the Myer Music bowl last night.

Before a police-estimated crowd of about 9000, the 57-year-old Canadian brought to life Greendale, his latest album, which features the story of the Green family of the town Greendale. There were stage props including a jail, a house (complete with a smoking chimney) and a revolving screen of images, and all this before a second set of highlights of his almost 40-year career.

Young told the tale of Earl Green, his family, Officer Carmichael and the tragic events surrounding them. 

Dressed in shirt, jeans and baseball cap, Young and Crazy Horse became the musical backdrop for a show that was as much theatre as it was music.

Between songs, Young fleshed out the characters with greater detail than revealed on the Greendale album and liner notes, talking more than he has on his previous Australian visits in 1985 and 1989 with warm, dry humour. 

It was a stunning display, but oddly the highlight of the Greendale set was when Young, solo with an acoustic guitar played Bandit, which drew the most raucus response of the night. 

Finishing the set with the album closer Be the Sun, with all extras joining him, Young then left the stage for 10 minutes before returning with Crazy Horse for an incendiary gravel guitar set of highlights opening with Out of the Blue, Into the Black.

It was a night of two halves that each delivered so much that not even the rain could dampen the audiences elation. 

A stunning show.

 

Young and Free



Source: Age, The (Australia)
Author: Patrick Donovan
Published: November 21, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Age Company Ltd
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.theage.com.au/

"I don't really see the need to go out of my way to make people happy." 

Neil Young has followed his muse across a wide musical landscape, leading most recently to the fictional town of Greendale.

"Well, yeah, the older you get the mellower you are. A lot of things that would have got me into trouble, I just don't bother with any more. But the important things are still there - last time I checked, anyway." Neil Young is talking over the phone from Fukuoka, Japan, having just arrived from Osaka by bullet train. Speaking in a deep drawl - in stark contrast to his falsetto singing voice - he's commenting on how he gets on better with his old bandmates from Buffalo Springfield these days, but every fan who has followed Young's zigzag path can relate to the sentiment.

Young's music affects listeners to a degree few other artists can match, whether it's Kurt Cobain quoting him in his suicide note, Bob Dylan - who rarely mentions contemporaries in his songs - namechecking him in his song Highlands, or Australia's biggest band, Powderfinger, naming themselves after one of his songs.

But if people like his music, it's a coincidence, because Young says he doesn't write to please the fans.

He works on the theory that the first thought is the best. In his biography Shakey, he told author Jimmy McDonough that playing music is a pure expression of the soul - the truth - but that lyrics are contrived and adulterated. So he waits for thoughts to come to him, whether in a dream or on a long drive, and his songs represent snapshots of different phases of his life.

"I don't want to put any thought into it if I can help it; I'd rather just have it come out and try not to edit it."

Young is in town tomorrow for his first Melbourne show in 14 years, and his first here with the legendary Crazy Horse. The show starts with a stage production and performance of the new album, Greendale, followed by a set of old favourites. This is when fans will finally witness the dynamics of the band that in one day wrote Down By the River and Cowgirl In the Sand.

"It's just a natural thing with us," says Young. "We're just happy to be here. We still enjoy it and it's always fun, and now we've got all this new material, so when we play Greendale you get a feeling for us, that we're still alive, not just re-creating old stuff."

On his last tour of Australia, Young showcased both his gentle acoustic work and his brutal, cathartic rock-outs. He says the two sides of his music don't represent extremes of emotions for him, even if they elicit extreme reactions from some of the audience.

"It's just folk music and rock'n'roll. It's pretty straightforward. It's all the same emotions, just different ways of expressing them."

After he opened, on that last tour here, with the relatively obscure Ordinary People, people were yelling for hits off Harvest. How does Young handle his legacy and his fans' expectations of him?

"Well, they're used to me now. I can't surprise them any more with any of that," he says with a laugh. "I really don't see the need to go out of my way to make people happy. I don't think that's what I'm here for. I'm just here to do what I do and play my songs, and a lot of people like them, which is cool, but if they didn't like them, I'd play them anyway. 

"It's not that I don't appreciate them; it's just that I don't feel anything other than 'Thank you'. 

I don't owe them changing what I do to accommodate them."

The Canadian-born Young struggled to make a living out of music in his home country, but found fame in Los Angeles with Buffalo Springfield, who had a string of hits in the 1960s. He became a star in his own right in 1972 with Harvest, Billboard's top-charting album of that year. However, he alienated many of his new fans when he followed it with dark, jagged albums such as Journey Through the Past, Time Fades Away, On the Beach and Tonight's the Night.

It was considered commercial suicide at the time, but these days the latter two albums are considered classics.

Does he believe this credibility justifies the direction he chose to take back then?

"At the time all I was doing was what I thought I should do. I was only doing it because I had the idea. The idea came to me, so I did it. So it's pretty straight-ahead. There's no planning or thought that goes into it - 'Is this cool?' or 'Is this going to be good?'. I really don't care. All I want to do is what naturally comes out of me. When I first started out I tried to spend a lot more time trying to fix things, and as I started to mature a little more, say, with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, I started getting a little more loose and just letting things happen, not judging what I was doing and really respecting the fact that I had a gift, that these things would come through me if I let them."

In much of his work, Young's music is defined by simple strumming or jamming on a couple of chords, given meaning by his heartfelt delivery. But for Greendale, Young offers in-depth liner notes, a film (which he wrote, shot and directed under his alias, Bernard Shakey) and stage play.

Young says the concept was born out of one song, but then the same characters kept re-emerging in other songs, and soon he had created the fictional town of Greendale (based on many places he's known, he says) for the cast to live in.

There's stubborn old-timers Grandpa and Grandma Green; their Vietnam veteran, psychedelic painter son-in-law Earl; hippie activist daughter Sun; and her gun-toting cousin, Jed, who shoots and kills a policeman, Carmichael. The media descend on the Green household for an explanation, causing Grandpa to have a heart attack, which spurs Sun into action.

It's not rocket science - Bruce Springsteen did it better in one song, Highway Patrolman, on his Nebraska album - but it gives Young the platform to voice his feelings about the arrogance of Western society and the loss of community values.

I explain that with the current Howard Government, many Australians can relate to Greendale's themes: the erosion of personal freedoms, trial by media and the destruction of the environment.

"Well, I'm glad it has, because a lot of changes need to be made. It's too bad that Australia went along with the coalition, but I guess the leaders felt that by co-operating with Bush's agenda they were making the right move. They were probably acting on the same information that America had, which has turned out to be a bunch of bullshit."

Steve Earle, the Dixie Chicks and Michael Moore have been slammed in the US as being unpatriotic for questioning their president, but Young says he's had a mostly positive reaction to Greendale.

"I've had more emotionally charged reactions to Greendale from the audience. When people come up and talk to me, they sound different about it than they have about anything I've done."

Are the problems in Greendale limited to the West?

"I think they relate to the entire free world, particularly Australia and Japan - anywhere where people are on the edge of co-operating with the US agenda and trying to figure out what they should be doing. All the governments seem to be polarising rather than bringing people together, which I think is interesting."

Like Bob Dylan's previous two albums, Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft, Young seems to be pining for simpler, more innocent times when he namechecks Leave It To Beaver and sings: "When I was young, people wore what they had on."

"There's always room for reflection on what's going on," he says. "You can always find things that are wrong and things that are right at any time. And right now the seeds for revolution - not a huge, violent revolution, but like the one they had in the '60s - are a very ripe environment for it. I don't think the youth have had a target like Bush since Nixon, so we'll see what happens in the colleges. It's got to start with the young people."

The visual extension of his work isn't an attempt to capture some of the younger TV-fed generation, he says. It's simply to help tell the story. The music, though, still comes first.

"That's what makes the whole record work."

As the tour progresses, so, too, does the Greendale show, and Young says Melbourne, being the last show on the tour, will see it in its most evolved form.

The album has polarised the critics. Some say it comprises little more than hippie cliches and student sloganeering atop plodding blues. Believers say it's Crazy Horse at their grooviest, and that a line such as "A little love and affection, in everything you do/We'll make the world a better place, with or without you" is appropriate for such troubled times.

Young does use cliches - they were all over Harvest - but they're honest ones, and he believes that sometimes they're the purest form of communication.

Physically, Young has been dealt a horrid hand that has also left scars on his psyche. He suffered polio as a child, which left him rake-thin and shy, which was compounded when his parents divorced. As a teenager he suffered epileptic fits and migraines, and he was so spaced-out that a doctor warned him never to take LSD or "you'll never come back".

As a parent and husband he has also had his share of heartache - both his sons were born with cerebral palsy, and his wife Pegi survived surgery for a brain tumour after being given a 50/50 chance of pulling through.

Young isn't the only artist to endure such trials, but he's managed to overcome his obstacles with compassion and truth. Even if it's a cliche, fans believe him.

He says some critics have changed their mind about Greendale and are seeing it in a more positive light. I suggest that although some of his albums appear to offer their wares up front, some, such as Silver and Gold, take a few listens to fully reveal themselves.

"I just try to perform the songs so that I feel them when I'm singing them. Lately we've tried to not worry about the mistakes; we don't even fix them up, because it seems like a mistake is almost a feature in today's sterile world, the way that people make records these days."

Young says plenty of young people are attending his shows, and I suggest that some of them should buy 1974's On the Beach (recently released on CD for the first time, along with American Stars 'n Bars, Hawks and Doves and Re-ac-tor), as it covers similar themes to Greendale, such as environmental destruction and intrusions from the mass media.

"On the Beach is a record that reflected what was going on at that time, and what was going on in my life at that time, and I think, like anything, if it's true in the first place, it'll be true forever. It should just ring differently, but it will still ring. If you're contriving it or working too hard to create something, then it's not going to ring true later on. So I'm glad On the Beach is happening now, and I hope people get something out of it."

He says he's has remastered all of his other albums, so fans can soon expect to hear Journey Through the Past and Time Fades Away on CD.

Those curious about the meanings behind Young's songs were enlightened by the release of the 800-page Shakey last year.

Was it a big decision to let someone into his life, or was it just an extension of his songwriting?

"I think it was a mistake, but I did it, and I chose him because I like Jimmy and he's a great writer, but I think it was a mistake to put it out."

After giving author Jimmy McDonough unprecedented access to his personal life, Young then tried to block the book's release, and McDonough, fearing that eight years of research and 300 interviews would go to waste, sued Young for $US1.8 million.

Young, though, says he was just trying to delay its release until his daughter was old enough to read it.

"My daughter wasn't even 17 when they wanted to put it out, and I didn't get a chance to go through it before they handed it in to the publisher, which was the way I thought it should be. So I was a little upset about it, so I did what I could to hold it up as long as possible, which was 18 months, which made everything work out fine, because she was over 18 then, and if she was going to read it, then fine."

Many of this year's best albums, from bands such as Songs: Ohio, My Morning Jacket, Grandaddy, Will Oldham and the Autumn Defense, have their roots in Young's soulful country sound. But Young says he's too busy with his own work to keep tabs on new music.

"I listen to the radio, where you only hear what the corporate people decide you should listen to, so that's not rewarding. Hopefully now with the implosion of the record business, the radio waves will open up a bit. I just listen to stuff at parties, but I don't have time to go out and check on things."

In his 34-year solo recording career, Young has meandered between rock, folk, blues, country, psychedelia, grunge and electronica. He says that after this tour he will continue to take Greendale on the road in the US in the lead-up to the next election. But what kind of music does he think he will dream up next?

"I haven't heard anything in my head that I felt like I wanted to grab. I don't like to write a song if I can't record it straight away. I don't go looking for songs. I want to feel fresh about it."

Neil Young and Crazy Horse play at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl tomorrow night, with support from Lisa Miller (gates open at 7pm). Greendale is out through Warner.

SOUND AND VISION

Greendale isn't Neil Young's first venture into film.

DEAD MAN 

As Ry Cooder did on Paris, Texas, Young wrote the soundtrack music while watching the film.

"There was a circle of 20 different-sized TV monitors. There was nowhere you could go that you couldn't see the pictures or hear the dialogue. They played back the film three times and I played my piano and the organ and we did it in one day.

"I love that film. Jim Jarmusch (who also made the Crazy Horse documentary The Year of the Horse) is a great filmmaker. The first time I saw it, it didn't have any music, just dialogue. I need to get another copy."

That film inspired some of Young's most beautiful playing. Does he often conjure a picture in his mind before he writes?

"Usually a song is pretty new when I'm recording it. It's just organic and it just happens, and usually when you feel that you're delivering the song, that's when you see the pictures."

THE LAST WALTZ

Young performed alongside Bob Dylan, Dr John, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison at the Band's final gig, captured by Martin Scorsese in The Last Waltz.

"It was a great night. I was actually pretty toasty at that show - we'd been up about 48 years. The night before, we played a double show in Atlanta. I don't really remember a lot of it, but I think everybody was having a good time."

 

Storyteller Rocks



Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Author: Sean Sennett
Published: November 21, 2003
Copyright: 2003 News Limited
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/

Neil Young is one of rock's last great visionaries. The enigmatic Canadian debuted his stage production Greendale for Australian audiences in Brisbane on Wednesday night. Although the album that bears the same name may be tough to penetrate on CD, the stage show may well be remembered as Young's masterwork.

The concept piece is based in Greendale, a fictitious town on the US seaboard. With a population of 20,000, it is home to the Green family. It's here Young plays out his meditation on the bungled Western dream, youthful ambition and the wisdom of age. There's an eco war going on, and Young's characters and their stories span the generations. There's Edith and Earl, Grandpa and Grandma Green, Captain John, Sea and Sky, and the future of the clan, Sun Green. 

During Young's song cycle we meet various souls with differing political and social consciences. There's a Vietnam vet, a cop killer, media pimps - and behind it all is Young and one of rock's finest ensembles, Crazy Horse. Played out with tremendous stage visuals, mixing live actors with cinema, the backdrop continually evolves as a host of props are brought into play. 

One minute you're inside a teenager's bedroom, the next it's the county jail. As Young powers through the tunes, we're treated to a cheerleader display followed by a media scrum and a protest rally. As he denounces corporate greed while casting an eye at the state of the environment, he finally bellows his wake-up call from the stage: "Hear the rain." 

In this context, the music is of tremendous merit. The reconfigured Crazy Horse ably back Young's melding of folk melodies with gritty blues riffs. Highlights in the set include Falling From Above, Bringing Down Dinner and Carmichael. Young is equally at home with the band, alone on an acoustic guitar or at a pump organ. The maestro talked his audience through the Greens' tale with engaging between-song patter. Relaxed and in fine voice, he alternated between a guttural yelp and a bell-like falsetto. 

By the end of Greendale, there were close to 40 people on stage. With this triumph, Young had the collective audience on their feet. His bravest artistic move in three decades was inspired. 

While the Greendale props were removed, after running at more than 100 minutes, the backdrop then blazed "Rust Never Sleeps". Young had a new head of steam as Crazy Horse started their sonic assault on Hey Hey, My My, Powderfinger, a searing Like a Hurricane and a cover of Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower. With Frank Sampedro back on guitar (he played keyboards during Greendale), Crazy Horse rocked like men possessed. Despite their clout, after the emotional punch of Greendale, the old songs were almost anti-climatic. 

As the set drew to a close, Young dedicated Rocking in the Free World to Slim Dusty. Years ago Young mused that rather than stick to the middle of the road, he might drive off into the ditch in the hope of testing himself and meeting more interesting characters. This is almost a rebirth. Young once again is challenging his audience and himself. Long may he run. 

 

Neil Young Rocks On



Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Australia Web)
Reporter: Kerry O'Brien
Published: November 18, 2003
Copyright: 2003 Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Website: http://www.abc.net.au/
Contact: [email protected]

KERRY O'BRIEN: Not only is Neil Young still standing as one of the giants of rock'n'roll after 40 tempestuous years but he's also resisted the pressures of a greedy and ego-charged industry to keep his integrity intact.

The young Canadian emerged in the hippie-charged atmosphere of California in the '60s, starred at Woodstock, made notable albums either solo or with bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Crazy Horse but always did it his own way, sometimes to the annoyance even of his fans.

He's also run the rock'n'roll gauntlet of drugs, losing who knows how many contemporaries, including two band members, to overdoses in the '70s.

Neil Young is in Australia for three concerts to promote his new album -- a narrative tale of post-September 11 small-town America called 'Greendale' -- with a movie to follow.

And I spoke with him in Brisbane earlier today.

Neil Young, after all these years we've come to expect the unexpected from you.

What drove you to write 80 minutes of Greendale?

NEIL YOUNG: The life of the Green family is in the atmosphere of America and the life there and that a atmosphere is full of politics.

It's full of people trying to come to grips with the changing morality, whatever you want to call it, of the 21st century and the way things have changed rapidly in such a short period of time.

It's a story of a family turning over -- of the old going out and the new coming in and the statements that they made and what they believed in and what made a difference to the young girl who is just finding her voice.

And what made her come out and say what she said and start speaking her mind about what she believed and what gave her if conviction to come out.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've been driven by the desire to change for just about 40 years.

Why?

In your own work?

NEIL YOUNG: In my own work I just do what I want to do.

I just keep trying and trying to not do what I'm told to do but to do what I feel like doing.

I'm really only happy when I'm doing and following the muse, if you will, that's what I like to do.

KERRY O'BRIEN: In 'On the Beach', there's a line, "I need a crowd of people but I just can't stand them day to day".

NEIL YOUNG: That's right.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That's you?

NEIL YOUNG: That's me.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What does it mean?

NEIL YOUNG: It's just -- I love to be in front of people, I love to have people to accept my work for what it is, if they -- I feel really good when people really enjoy what I do or when they get something from it and they come to me with a positive reflection of what my work has been.

But on the other hand most of the time I don't want to see them.

I don't seek out the 'In Style', 'People' magazine-type of celebrity that seems to permeate a lot of the art that goes on and the art that's in the mainstream, in television art, movies.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You don't think much of the media, do you?

NEIL YOUNG: My father was a media man.

He was a journalist.

And I've been around the media my whole life and I know there's a mission there.

And I know there's a great struggle for integrity.

And, you know, I think that a lot of the old hardliners, the old -- not hardliners but the old Walter Cronkites and the Edward R Murrows and those types, they defined what it was supposed to be about.

And now the line between reality TV and reality and news and entertainment and everything is all blurred and really people's lives are at stake.

So it seems like, you know, when you have a Madison Avenue type of marketing team behind a war program, working to give a good slogan to the war so the American people and people around the world will get behind the shock and awe of something or they give it a title.

They market it like it was a new product, and I just -- to me, that's -- the line is blurred.

Maybe I'm out of place in today's world, but that I really care.

I'm just -- that's how I feel.

KERRY O'BRIEN: There's a lot of songs I'd like to ask you about, but of course we don't have the time.

One that I can remember making a big impact on me at the time, the power of the words was 'The Needle and the Damage Done'.

And I wondered where it came from.

It was such a searingly personal or sorrowful song, it was as if you lost someone close.

Had you?

NEIL YOUNG: Yes, I had lost some people close to me at that time.

It seemed like more than one there for a while.

It was pretty intense.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Because in fact, I think in a way it turned out to be a portend of people lost, rather than those you already lost.

NEIL YOUNG: Unfortunately the song didn't stop the flow.

I just commented on it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, it was more than a comment, wasn't it?

NEIL YOUNG: Yep.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It was -- a few songs I can think of that seemed more heart felt in a way.

NEIL YOUNG: That's right but nonetheless it was my personal expression at the loss of a friend and at the loss of other friends to drugs and just -- it just keeps on going.

It doesn't stop.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Have you ever worked out whether drugs and booze have added value to the history of rock'n'roll or whether they've destroyed more than they've helped create?

NEIL YOUNG: I've never been able to figure that out.

I can't really say.

I think that it speeds up the process of some things.

But it shortens the lifespan of them too.

So, I think it concentrates things.

I'm not sure of that.

I wouldn't want to be saying that it's a positive thing.

I really don't think it's necessary.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Where did you personally draw the line?

NEIL YOUNG: I just personally draw the line at drugs that I thought were a threat to my life that I could see from other people doing things that were happening around me.

KERRY O'BRIEN: When you wrote 'My My, Hey Hey' and it was described by one critic as probably the most bitter, ironic and honest statement about rock'n'roll and its attendant lifestyle.

There was a line in there that said, "Better to burn out than to fade away."

Is that something that you believe?

NEIL YOUNG: I think in rock'n'roll that, if you're going to rock, if that's what you're going to do, then you might end up just disintegrating at some point if you keep trying to bang at the edge of things.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Those were the words that Kirk Cobain left behind when he killed himself.

In a way, it was a line very obviously that stood out to him.

NEIL YOUNG: Yeah, I think it did.

KERRY O'BRIEN: We may never know what he meant.

NEIL YOUNG: I think I have no idea what was on his mind, but -- because I'm the survivor.

But I don't understand, but I believe that he -- that he knew that he was going to have to be an entertainer and that that killed him.

I think he was drained.

He did everything he could do and he couldn't see that, you know, that he couldn't -- that it was alright to stop.

It's OK to stop for a while until it comes back.

I don't think he knew that he could stop.

KERRY O'BRIEN: In 'Greendale', Grandpa Green says right at the start he won't retire but he might just retread.

NEIL YOUNG: I wonder how that translates into Chinese and Japanese.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How many miles, how many retreads are left in Neil Young?

NEIL YOUNG: I don't know.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You're still running on the original tyres?

NEIL YOUNG: I seem to be running on threads.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Threads.

NEIL YOUNG: You know the rubber when it's all gone and you start to see the fabric.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Neil Young, thanks for talking with us.

NEIL YOUNG: Thank you.

I appreciate it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And Neil Young will play in Brisbane tomorrow, Sydney Friday, Melbourne Saturday.


 

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