Monday, 27 November 2017

Neil Young: Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1977-2016





Non-Album Recordings Part #8: 1977

'Decade' included just one 'new' track - ironically one still older than the 'new' tracks from the first side of 'American Stars 'n' Bars'. Though I've always challenged the idea of Richard Nixon having 'soul' (well at least Neil didn't sing 'heart' or 'brains'!) [111] 'Campaigner' is a fascinating song and a much more nuanced sequel to the strident anger of CSNY classic 'Ohio'. Neil had been troubled by the coverage of 'Watergate' on TV - not just the lies the Government were up to but how many careers and lives it wrecked. Neil was particularly moved by watching Nixon - the 'monster' Neil had been campaigning against for so much of the past decade - bursting into tears as he walked out of the White House for the last time on his way to see his dying father in hospital. 'I hardly slept the night you wept' sings Neil guiltily, aware that he more than anyone has been calling for Nixon to be hung drawn and quartered but only now has he seen him as a 'man' rather than a politician. Kicking Nixon out the White House has solved nothing: injustice still prevails and 'people steal from their own kind', while all the rhetoric about the 'good' Nixon did during his time has made Neil think again about his legacy and how no one is all saint or all sinner. His conclusion: there are many things wrong with America as heard across 'On The Beach' - 'The beach got too crowded for a stroll' and Neil vows to pick his targets with care from now on (which he will, George Wallace-supporting 'War Song aside, all the way up to the Bush-baiting 'Living With War' in 2006, with Young even breaking a musician taboo by coming out in favour of Reagan in the mid-1980s). Neil was never a natural political animal unlike his CSNY buddies and rarely spoke out on behalf of the down-trodden the way they did, with 'Ohio' (and the more vague 'American Dream') rare exceptions. This song reveals why: Neil identifies even with the baddies in politics and ultimately he understands Nixon's 'campaign' and what he was standing for - just at the moment when Nixon has been impeached and won't be around to campaign for it anymore; allowing that even for all his hatred and distrust of the man even Richard Nixon is a human being who deserves a second chance - and that he maybe even has soul. Neil still sings his last repeat of that line dripping with sarcasm, however, so as ever there may be more to this song than meets the ear...Find it on: 'Decade' (1977)

Non-Album Recordings Part #9: 1982

The alternate first pass at [154b] 'Sample and Hold' is generally agreed as the superior take - so how it never made the 'Trans' album in favour of the more 'normal' shorter version is anybody's guess. Weirder, harsher, more electronic and a lot more desperate-sounding than its record-mate, this career stand-out sounds good in either version but particularly this one. An extra three minutes are added to the running time and most of this is repetition - but somehow the repetition is important, with several extra repeats of the chorus really adding to the paranoia and fear of the track. Never has the number '110!' been sung with so much loaded meaning as a computer sadly rejects a planned 'baby' for being underweight. The biggest change: instead of ending the song kicks back in on another gruelling 'not the lonely one, a new design new design' verse before playing out with two minutes of criss-crossing guitar riffs and a few more falsetto 'you know will be happy's. There's also a very different mix on the guitar, which is up loud in the mix instead of being buried under the dreams and you can really hear the 'holes' in the riffs Neil play, as if forcing his guitar to play in binary code, all '0s' and '1's - Neil later does the same to his voices. There's an impressive opening noise that sounds like a psychedelic Dick Dale pushed through a blender too that has to be heard to be believed, while the peak roar of the guitar going into the final 'push' is phenomenal. Geffen got a real coup when Neil dug this alternate take out for them and - ironically - this abandoned version is now by far the most common, having 'replaced' the original on all known CDs (why not have both? You can't have too much of a good thing, right?) Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992) and the CD version of 'Trans' (where it's labelled as being 'taken from the Lucky Thirteen' compilation on the rear sleeve)

Against all odds Buffalo Springfield flop 'Mr Soul' was re-recorded and released as a single a second time, a full fifteen years since its first release. Always a Neil favourite you can see why he would want to demonstrate to the world his 'after' shot to go with the 'before' one and the 12" only single version came with several variations to the version on Trans'. For a start the song was re-titled [155b] 'Mr Soul (Part II)'(it's just plain ol' 'Mr Soul' on the record) and like many a 12" mix comes with an extended running time (six minutes rather than three) and lots of long instrumental passages where not a lot happens. The biggest changes are the 'drop-out' of the 'main' voice for part of the track which just leaves the vocoder-part hanging in the air, the dead-end stop that now interrupts verse and instrumental, a lengthy instrumental finale that thuds it's way to a slow conclusion and a 'false' second verse that just has Neil going 'aaaaaah' while the backing vocals occasionally chime in randomly (...'Trick of disaster!') It's no more convincing than the original Trans mix, but it's still worthy of a listen of you like the song or the album (personally I can never get enough of vocoder Neil) and would make a fine addition to the 'Trans' CD one day. For now it's one of the few Young recordings never to have appeared in the digital age - which is rather ironic given that 'Trans' is meant to be an album celebrating them... Find it on: the original 12" single (1982)

Non-Album Recordings Part #10: 1983

I'm not the first fan to point out that 'Everybody's Rockin' would have been substantially better had Neil actually included all the songs he wrote for the album and resulting tour. It might have lasted longer than your average single with this seven minute song attached too. By far the best song from the whole sorry project is...'Betty Lou's Got A New Pair Of Shoes'. No, I'm kidding of course. It's  [167] 'Get Gone', a fake autobiographical tale about the imaginary 'Shocking Pinks' band. As Neil puts it in his introduction which gets so into character you grow a little concerned, this is 'what happened to 'em and why they ain't playing for you today'. On the one hand it's the same old boring tale of bandmate does badly at school, bandmate buys car, bandmate meets bandmates, band makes wild passionate music together, band gets overworked to death by cruel managers (David Briggs must have giggled himself silly at that verse!) and an unexpected fiery death in a plane crash. However as generic as this is - and as familiar as the overworked guitar riff sounds (it's a sped up 'Not Fade Away' - the Stones arrangement of it) - this is a whole lot of fun, certainly a lot more fun than the 'Rockin' album ever was. Neil nails his slurred-vocal teenage high school dropout who fell into music simply so he could buy a Buick and  enjoying it by 'having a lot of fun and a lot of kicks!' He slips in a sly dig at drugs again, peddled by his own manager ('Gonna take a lot of drugs, gonna feel no pain!') and how they ended up crashing, 'a little low on fuel' in body, mind and especially airplane engine. An affectionate look at the 1950s that's neither reverential or stupid (unlike most of the record) this clever song is another track on the 'Lucky Thirteen' compilation that's a lot better than anything that could have been taken from the 'real' record! Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992)

The slow and brooding [168] 'Don't Take Your Love Away From Me'was taped on the same Shocking Pinks tour and though much more serious would also have been a highlight of the 'Everybody's Rockin' record had it ever been included. Actually it's more soul than rockabilly, with an early use of the horn section that will blossom into full bloom on the Blue Note sessions in about five years time as Neil sings with a commitment rare for this era about all the bad things that are going to happen to him if he's ever stupid enough to let his missus walk out on him. Lyrically this song isn't up to much that can't be heard better elsewhere, but the slow dramatic unfolding of the melody and the sudden punchline of the horns is an unusual format for Neil and it sounds mighty good here. Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992)

[  ] 'Depression Blues' is from an entirely different project - the original, abandoned version of 'Old Ways' -  but once again it's superior to anything that made it onto the finished album (with the exception, perhaps of 'Misfits' which as the title implies didn't really 'fit'). Neil was found of the track and toyed with releasing it as the lead number on an EP to benefit Farm Aid in 1985 but that too got cancelled by Geffen so it ended out coming out on 'Lucky Thirteen' instead (lucky for some, indeed). A depressed maudlin backing track full of country fiddles and honky tonk pianos, this should sound dreadful, but instead there's a real pathos and emotion about this song which puts it several notches higher than the album itself. Neil is a poor farmer, his heart broken by watching his poor family struggle right along with him. His pretty wife is 'all dressed up with nowhere to go' while his farm is 'being bought up by somebody nobody knows', his family business ending up in the hands of a faceless (handless?) corporation (if this was a later album you'd assume it was Monsanto). It's happening to all the narrator's pals too - the high street is a ghost town - and there's competition as he tries to learn a new trade and find a different source of income. However what makes this song work is that it's not all bad - 'we still got the kids' warms Neil, adding that they're 'going out to the movies right after this!' as if this is a vox pop of American farmers taking place and he's about to spend his last dollar on giving his family some entertainment while he can. A moving performance makes good use of Anthony Crawford's backing vocals especially and the mood is sombre but never bleak. An impressive song that's clearly from the heart, even if 40-year-old Neil can't resist an old-timer dig at young people's music tastes as per most of the rest of the 'Old Ways' album! Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992)

Non-Album Recordings Part #12: 1988

Geffen had agreed to let Neil go when he was partway through the 'Blue Notes' album but they clearly considered it one of 'theirs'. As a result they 'claimed' an early live tape of the band in action and argued that it counted as a Geffen recording. As a result live renditions of a snazzy 'This Note's For You' ended up on the 'Lucky Thirteen' compilation alongside oddity [216] 'Ain't It The Truth?' This track may well be the oldest of any Young has yet released (it's on a par with 'The Sultan' and 'Aurora' anyway) being an early Squires highlight Neil performed with the band around 1962-1964 and even recorded, though sadly the tape was passed over for release on 'Archives'. This is a silly inconsequential song based around a simple blues riff and it comes with some of the daftest lyrics Neil ever wrote ('Eat watermelon, eat peaches and cream, eat tomatoes if you know what I mean!' Was he hungry when he wrote it?!) However it's worthy of release on something, especially this fine band performance that cooks up a storm as Neil's guitar, the bass and drums chugs along and suddenly the Blue Note horns burst into full colourful life. I'm not sure any of this song is 'the truth' somehow (Neil may have been thinking of the Lena Horne song of the same name, which is a little like this track slowed down) but it's not bad a for a seventeen-year-old novice that's for sure. Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992)


[  ] 'I'm Goin' is interesting too, not so much a song as a riff, full of drama and tension. In many ways it's just the riff from 'Ten Men Workin' (the A-side to this B-side - they should have been the other way around!) without all the shouting, as this one feels far more real and more heartfelt. Neil hollers that his life is going wrong and he's on a 'downward slide', Old Black rigidly stuck in place as Neil tries to lift up his weary body and move on, before ending in a sting of 'Eldorado' style noisy chords. No one seems to have told the horn section though, who keep leaping into the song full of beauty and optimism, as if trying to cajole Neil out of his blues. They never sounded prettier and while the song itself isn't the most beautiful thing Young ever made the tension between the two halves is quite something. Neil also sounds far more 'real' here than he ever did playing the part of a band-leader: he's no longer having fun writing blues songs, he means every word - and his guitar never fitted into the genre more. Only a pathetic middle eight prevents this song from being the best of the era and this song should have made the album not been kept as a little-heard flipside. That said, the easiest version to track down today (the live take on 'Bluenote Cafe') is even better after a few months of extra work and living on the road. Find it on: the studio version is the B-side to 'Ten Men Workin' and the live version is on 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

Proof of Neil's prolific writing output in this era comes with the large quantity of tracks left off the 'This Note's For You' album and only played on the resulting 'BlueNotes' tour. Like 'A Treasure' and its post-'Old Ways' output almost all of this is better than what came out on the album and sounds better too thanks to the simpler arrangement of the road, plus the Blue Notes have had more than a few hours to get to know each other here (and the songs!) Audaciously Neil even starts the gig with a new song nobody in the audience had heard before - or would hear again unless they went to another night on the tour. [  ] 'Welcome To The Big Room' is more ratpack than anything that made it to the album, as Neil plays the part of a sleazy MC a little too convincingly for comfort. This isn't much of a song, just a chance for more 'Life In The City' horns and Neil to act out a character. Find it on: 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

[  b] 'Hello Lonely Woman' is better, despite being a full quarter century old! Like 'Ain't It The Truth?' this is another early Squires song recorded in 1964 but never released at the time and it works well here as a cute innocent song featuring lots of corny chat-up lines ('Do you want to grab a bite to eat?) which an older but still horny Neil sings with a sly sneer. The horns really earn their money on this song and this track features perhaps the greatest arrangement of the whole bunch, as well as a groovy drum 'n' bass groove that's played really well. I'm not so sure about Neil's harmonica playing but when the breeze in the room is this strong you can overlook the odd mistake! Neil really should have released this track, if not on the 'This Note's For You' album then certainly on the 'Lucky Thirteen' compilation! You can hear an early version of the song, performed by Neil and pal Comrie Smith, on 'Archives Volume One' (2009) where it sounds pretty spiffing too! Find it on: 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

Hot on the heels of 'Crime In The City' on the album comes [  ] 'Crime Of The Heart'. Alas the song is timid and inward looking where that track was aggressive and outward looking, seemingly based around the lesser Beatles B-side 'This Boy' with Neil noodling around the chord changes. The lyrics are stronger than the music even if they are depressed and bluesy again, as Neil gets into a state about being at the 'crossroads' of a relationship and wondering which road to take. 'There's two kinds of love - one is love and one is right' Neil sings, but he doesn't know which lover represents which. Is this an early song about the stability of Pegi v the allure of Darryl Hannah? The fact that Neil throws in the detail about having 'three children to feed who think the world of me' (which is true!) suggests it is. Find it on: 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

[  ] 'Doghouse' continues the theme and the fact that it might be about Pegi v Darryl; is re-enforced by the fact that it's the only song of Neil's that Pegi has sung herself! Neil's been a naughty boy, he's been up to something he shouldn't have been and his wife is mad at him, so he guilty slinks off to sleep in the kennel. Though Neil sings this song like a guilty confessional, everyone else seems to be in on the joke and this is a fun track, full of a great stinging horn riff, some fiery guitar and lots of deep-throated yells of 'doghouse!' Neil sees the funny side by the end of the track too saying that the party was worth the price of living in the dog house! Not very substantial but this song is right up there as one of Neil's funniest songs. Find it on: 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

Eldorado would been one hell of a noisy LP. Even at EP length is sets your ears ringing for a long time afterwards, without any of the lighter 'Freedom' songs to get in the way. Unusually for Neil, he really did choose his better material to add to a 'proper' album and neither of the two 'Eldorado' songs released strictly on the EP are up to the standards of those that made the LP ('Don't Cry' 'On Broadway' and 'Eldorado' itself). Neil might have had reason for hiding  [217] 'Cocaine Eyes' from view - a sequel of sorts to 'Hippie Dream' (where Crosby's failing health and addiction summed up the wasted potential of a whole generation), 'Cocaine Eyes' is reported to have a target even closer to home: Stephen Stills. We fans aren't quite sure how bad Stills' dependencies got - he never made the news public or served prison time like Crosby and seems to have kicked his habit by the mid-1990s, but we do know that the others were 'cross' with him for something during the sessions for 'American Dream' in 1988 and 'Live It Up' in 1989 (originally just a Crosby-Nash album because they felt Stills was 'unworkable' till Atlantic insisted. Having gone through this so recently with Crosby, Stills' friends were worried that it might happen again to Stills. This surprisingly nasty song (more savage even than 'Hippie Dream', which was more sad than angry) probably didn't help.  'You got cocaine eyes, can't hide your face,  it's no surprise you lost the race again!' squeals Neil on top of one of the angriest guitar sounds of his career, adding for good measure that seeing his un-named friend in such a state 'burns a little bit of my soul'. The song then remembers other fallen friends (no do0ubt with Danny Whitten amongst them) who have left Neil 'behind' along the way: 'Some go mad for poison, and some for too much love, some just go to sleep at night and are too fucked to wake up!' he explodes. The result is a powerful song deserving of its status as the 'one that got away' for all of Neil's fans who didn't know a good record shop in Spain, although it's still less intense and rather clumsier than both 'Don't Cry' and 'Eldorado'. Find it on: the EP 'Eldorado' (Released in parts of Europe 1988)

[218] 'Heavy Love' is more noise, a shade less intense than 'Don't Cry' and 'Cocaine Eyes' but still pretty relentless. Chad Cromwell and Rick Rosas hit a metronomic beat above which Neil sings - no, hang on, screams is a better adjective - how he's mystified by his lover and her mysterious eyes. It don't sound like Pegi so I'm willing to bet this is an early song about Neil's obsession with Darryl Hannah. For all the cocksure bravado and noise Neil sounds painfully vulnerable here, pleading with his lover that one day she might find a  reason to date him and that surely they'll end up together one day. Neil sounds unable to wait though, putting his all into a turbulent noisy thrash guitar solo that's more feedback than tune. Still, this song isn't quite as fun and unhinged as some of the others from the same EP and was probably the right one to drop from 'Freedom' when EP became LP. Find it on: the EP 'Eldorado' (Released in parts of Europe 1988)

Non-Album Recordings Part #14: 1990

[240] 'Don't Spook The Horse' is a rare non-album B-side (the first in eight years!), a self-referential spoof cowboy song recorded during the sessions for Crazy Horse get-together 'Ragged Glory'. Neil said he chose to release the song as a single rather than album to take pity on all the reviewers and radio DJs ('so that they could get everything they needed about the album from that one song without having to listen to an hour!') As it happens, 'Horse' couldn't be less like most of 'Ragged Glory' - it's not ragged for a start, with a pretty tune that's a little heavy-handed but is played much tighter than other tracks o the album (at only 15 seconds as opposed to two or three minutes, even the ending is 'normal'!) It's also funny, like 'Farmer John' was supposed to be but wasn't, with Neil offering sage advice in life with a series of cowboy phrases (the first verse is about the horse, the second a woman, both handled in much the same way, both of them ending in the straight-faced comic line 'make sure they ain't rolled in shit!') The guitar playing is much more like 'Nowhere' vintage Neil Young, weaving round Sampedro's rhythm in nicely telepathic style, both guitarists breaking out for the odd mini-solo, while Billy and Ralph's rhythm section just about keeps the song going. While light by Neil's usual standards, this delightful comic number deserves to be better known - now that the 'Ragged Glory' CD is a quarter century (or so) old, why not re-issue the disc with this song on the end and let more people delight in its whimsy? Find it on: the CD single 'Mansion On The Hill' (1990)

Recorded as part of the 'Ragged Glory' sessions but only released on the vinyl double-disc version of 'Broken Arrow' in 1996, the lovely [  ] 'Interstate' seems a little too mellow for either company and should perhaps have been left until 'Silver and Gold' in 2000 (where many songs share this song's wigged out weary beauty). Like many of Neil's best songs of the decade it's based around themes of travel and has Neil's future laid out not as a long and winding road but a criss-crossing interstate full of possible routes and plans for the future.  Neil's scratchy guitar lines are kinda distracting but the tune is lovely, blossoming slowly over six carefully controlled minutes. The lyrics too are great if surreal, as Neil hears children laughing but knows he can't join in because he's got a much harder road to run down. He's leading a double life, presumably the one split between wife Pegi and mistress Darryl, but here it manifests himself as an extrovert performer on stage with bright lights and loud music and the quiet introverted stillness he feels when he's alone. A 'voice' calls Neil to 'bring his guitar home', which might be his muse urging him to move on fro the crunch of Crazy Horse in 1990. If so he seems to have ignored the voice for the moment, preferring instead to release his noisiest album yet with live CD 'Weld'. However this revealing song about Neil working out what genre to do next already hints at the beauty of 'Harvest Moon' to come the year after. This lovely forgotten song deserved a much wider release and would make a lovely addition to the CD re-issue of whichever album wants to call it home. Find it on: 'Broken Arrow' (vinyl edition) 


Non-Album Recordings Part #15: 1993

When Neil announced he was recording an 'Unplugged' concert for MTV, fans were excited: surely this would be a chance for Neil to drop in a few of those unreleased nuggets we'd been waiting for now for years (sometimes decades?) In the end the sweet piano ballad [253] 'Stringman'  - a song reportedly recorded for the unreleased 'Chrome Dreams' album in 1977 - was the only rarity in a set list high on classics. However 'Stringman' blew most of the more famous songs away: it's Neil back in his 'Dylanesque' poetic mode (best heard during the early Springfield years), with memorable lyrical images that might mean everything or nothing. The stringman himself is one of Neil's greatest characters, easily manipulated without realising it, but loved all the more for it. Legend amongst CSNY fans has it that the 'Stringman' is none other than Stephen Stills - a figure 'not like he was so long ago', taking charge and acting like a 'Sergeant Major' whether he's needed or not and who recently 'lost his wife' (Stills and third wife Veronique Sanson - his most stable shot at a life partner in the 20th century - split in 1976). If this is true (knowing Neil he had a few other people in mind too and 'the hippies' didn't exactly 'tear down everything that he was fighting for' as it says in one line) then it points to just how spookily close this love/hate relationship has always been: 'There is no dearer friend of mine that I know in this life'. Certainly the middle eight is very Stills, a musician unable to articulate his deep feeling in words so he writes them into his songs instead ('On his shoulder rest a violin, for his head where chaos reigns'), so different to Young (whose songs, this one included, are cryptic and poetic rather than - usually - powerfully honest like his partner's). Even if 'Stringman' is just about Neil's postman none of us know, however, 'Stringman' would be a powerful song, poignant and warm in a style that Neil doesn't use very often (no wonder he kept this song unreleased - it's not a natural 'fit' with any of his other works and even the 'Chrome Dreams' version sticks out like a sore thumb), another of those classic Neil Young songs that anyone else would have turned into a hit single, relegated to the vaults on a whim. Find it on: 'Unplugged' (1993)

Non-Album Recordings Part #16: 1994

I tell you, I was robbed! There I was at the million pound question  on the online version of now-defunct UK quiz 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' when I thought I'd hit the jackpot. The question was 'which of the following had a 'hit' with a song from the soundtrack of the Tom Hanks film [254] 'Philadelphia'? 'Aha', I thought, 'no fooling me - I even bought the film soundtrack album - it's obviously Neil Young!' Alas it turns out this song wasn't a hit even though it was a single (with 'Such A Woman' and the Unplugged 'Stringman' unusual B-side choices) The answer's Bruce Springsteen's 'Streets Of Philadelphia' if you were wondering - his song of the same name is so forgettable I don't remember it at all even though he won an award for it and I still say as the song title includes 'Streets Of' I was write and the game was wrong (Bruce peaked at US #9 and Neil at #62, it so should have been the other way round). You see, 'Philadelphia' should have been a hit: came at just the right time for Neil, at the very end of his '90s crest' when he could do no wrong and the one and only Neil Young song written for a film he didn't also write the script for is a popular one amongst fans (we all think it's a hit', don't we?) Like the film itself (the first blockbuster to talk about HIV and Aids, with Tom Hanks never better - he even got the 'Toy Story' films as a result of doing this, which must be one of the oddest spur-of-the-moment castings for a children's film!) Neil's song is moody and intense, just about staying polite and reserved but clearly with lots of drama and emotion bubbling up inside. A pretty tune that's more complex than most Young songs written on the piano is enhanced nicely by a synthesiser full of sweeping emotion. While Young, typically, steers clear of the plot in the lyrics (he needs this song to work in his concert set-lists without an explanation of the film), his words are a pretty accurate portrayal of what's going on, writing about the city rather than the people in it. Once a 'city of brotherly love' (in all meanings of the word), Philadelphia has since turned its back on the people who need companionship most, the 'place that I call home' now treating the people who 'created' it as strangers. This leads Neil on to reflect once more over 'what love's all about' and comes to the conclusion that it's about having a supportive home there, no matter what he's done in his life and that flying in to Philadelphia should be a happy occasion, but isn't anymore. Neil's vocal is nicely suffused with shock and barely concealed hurt, with the feeling that the world is a messed up place common to many Young songs, but in common with the forthcoming 'Sleeps With Angels' CD the mood is confusion rather than outrage. The result is a pretty, sophisticated ballad from a writer at the top of his game that is a hit, whatever the charts and online games say (Bruce owes me a lot of money - or at least my name somewhere in the top end of the online scoreboard!) Find it on: the original CD single or the Various Artists film soundtrack 'Philadelphia' (both 1994)

Non-Album Recordings Part #17: 1995

The deal with Pearl Jam over their collaboration was that Neil, as the more famous and established artist, would get the LP ('Mirrorball') and the younger band would get left-overs for a tie-in single with their name first (released as 'Merkinball' in December 1995, six months after the album and with similar packaging). The single is clearly less interesting for fans, not least because Neil features purely as guitarist and doesn't sing but also because Pearl Jam are clearly flinging anything into the pot and trying to use Neil's own 'first thought only thought' mantra and they really aren't that kind of a band (to be fair nor are most of Neil's bands but he makes them work like that anyway). [277] 'I Got ID' is also known colloquially by fans as 'I Got Shit' (it's working title but also a reflection of how bad it is). Eddie Vedder warbles his way through a track about young people wanting more out of life than their elders are prepared to give them but even by 'Mirrorball' standards this sounds more like a rehearsal for a demo never mind a finished track. Neil's big sturdy fat guitar in the right channel is the highlight of the song, but even that is under-used and only joins in midway through. In concert Eddie joked that he'd 'learnt' songwriting firsthand off Neil and got a 'B+' for this effort. That's probably more generous than what I'd have given him here.  Find it on: 'Merkinball' (CD single 1995)

[278] 'Long Road' is more interesting, at least at first. The song starts with the same wheezy drone of the pump organ familiar to Young fans from the 'Unplugged' and 'Mirrorball' period and is quieter than the bulk of the album. The lyrics are a little basic though despite being heartfelt - they're Eddie's reaction to hearing the news that a favourite teacher of his had died.  Surrounded by memories, the narrator wishes he could go back to the olden days but sadly the lyric gets too obsessed with the usual clichés about 'fallen wings' and 'wishing' the present to be more like the present so it loses the impact it might have had. Most of Neil's 'Prairie Wind' album is a much better place to go to for songs about loss. Find it on: 'Merkinball' (CD single 1995)

Non-Album Recordings Part #18: 2000

First heard in concert with Bluenote horns in 1988,  [297]  'Fool For Your Love' made a surprise revival on the 'Road Rocks' live CD. The song worked ok as bluesy fare, drenched in sax and brass and with Neil pleading his innocence in a way that sounds not unlike 2002's  'Are You Passionate?' However what worked well there rather fizzles out when re-arranged as a simple pop song complete with Neil's wife and sister shouting 'fool!' every so often in a way that's meant to be cute but just comes out as irritating. Like the rest of the album it's as if Neil sifted through his weaker songs and wondered what arrangements he could give them to make them worse. At this point fans had been crying out to finally hear abandoned songs 'Ordinary People' and the original 'Crime In The City' after all (even a few of us wanted to hear 'Doghouse' again) - but nobody was calling out for this one! Find it on: 'Road Rocks' (2001)

Neil's cover of Dylan via Hendrix is best described as lumpy. [298] 'All Along The Watchtower' is too obvious a choice of song to cover and despite it's high-standing reputation in the canon of both artists is actually a pretty average song with some vague metaphors of a 'joker' and a ';thief' plotting their escape. Neil adds some pretty poor Hendrix type stylising and tries to get away with bluster and noise and extended Crazy Horse style soloing rather than cohesion and understanding on another truly mind-bogglingly poor choice of live recording. Neil played this song so much better across the rest of that tour but here even anything would have been preferable for release - including the cleaning lady's whistling! Find it on: 'Road Rocks' (2001)

Non-Album Recordings Part #19: 2009

We haven't included the Ben Keith discography in this book because, well, we've all got homes to go to and you've probably already spent a fortune buying all the 'Archives' sets and I don't want any more completists to get mad at me as I describe something near-impossible to get hold of! However they're worth looking out if you're interested because Ben Keith is like family to Neil - even more perhaps than Crazy Horse he's been the musician the guitarist keeps coming back to and for a while there at the end of his life he even lived on Neil's 'Broken Arrow' estate. Ben's last album before his death was a Christmas record recorded at 'home' there and which featured a whole range of special guest stars - mostly from the world of country music, his original home. Naturally Neil and Pegi turned up too and their vocals on the Keith original [  ] 'Les Trois Cloches' are a rare chance to hear Mr and Mrs Young singing together. Neil has never sounded more conservative and traditional as he puts on yet another 'character' voice, this one an old-time crooner (yep, I can't wait for that 'genre' album either, it's gonna be hilarious...) What with the austere lyrics about 'little Jimmy Brown' wishing for love for Christmas and his parents wishing him 'eternal love' (which he receives when he gets married) and the very 'Old Ways' style backing, this sounds like some giant piss-take of all sorts of traditions, Neil's included. It's also weirdly affecting, with all sorts of Ben Keith guitars and banjos coming and going in the mix, some sweet strings and some spooky mouthorgan. We've heard Neil singing pretty much everything there is to sing - but even so we've never heard him sing like this! Find it on: Ben Keith's 'Christmas At The ranch' (2009). 

Non-Album Recordings Part #20: 2012

Hmmm. Included on the deluxe DVD special of 'Psychedelic Pill' was the 37 minute barrage of noise  [377] 'Horse Back', perhaps the most outré thing Neil had recorded since 'Arc' back in 1991. 'Horse Shit' is probably nearer the word as fans forked out their extra money to hear...37 minutes of the 'Americana' album sped up and played backwards with bits of jamming sessions for rehearsal takes of 'F*!#in' Up' and 'Cortez The Killer' thrown in too. Chances are someone came up with the (admittedly) clever (if crazy) title and thought of the song afterwards. Or maybe Neil was trying a bit of out-there promotion for a record he wanted fans to know or about. Or maybe he had a nervous breakdown or was in a really grumpy mood that day. Whatever the reasons this lengthy collage stretches your patience after the first minute and I still haven't come close to getting all the way through to the end of it yet. I've got better things to do. Like listening to 27 minutes of 'Driftin' Back', listening to 'Re-Ac-Tor' on repeat and working out which of the characters on 'soap opera 'Greendale' should have been killed off instead of Grandpa. Find it on: the download of 'Psychedelic Pill' (2012) - but if you download it just to hear this track after that description than you're crazier than any horse!

Non-Album Recordings Part #21: 2016


The one token new song on live album 'Earth' was [  ] 'Seed Justice', a record that sounds so similar to the scatter-brained politics of 'The Monsanto Years' I hadn't even realised it was a 'new' song at first. Mixing ideas of love and romance with love for one's planet, this song veers between a noisy 'I won't quit!' chorus and a more reflective 'show me the love!' refrain. Neil pours in some more angry lyrics aimed at companies doing the wrong thing and wanting 'justice for the land' and there's a fiery guitar and then a funky bass solo in the middle, but in truth this song is too vague to be up to the standard of the 'Monsanto' album proper. Although the monkey 'laughing' the third solo, followed by a crowing rooster, steal the show! Find it on: 'Earth' (2016)

'On the sacred land there's a battle brewing'. Neil surprised everyone by releasing his first single in fifteen years with [  ] 'Indian Givers' - and surprised even more of us who'd sat through the last few CDs waiting for something good by being pretty darn good. Still performed with The Promise Of The Real, Neil returns to his love of the American Indians and performs a restless song caught halfway between electric and acoustic. Damning the people who gave people small pieces of their own land back ('it makes you sick and gives you shivers!') and inspired by a protest over an American Indian tribe in Dakota over a planned waste pipe being built, Neil wishes someone would 'share the news' although what news this is never is explained in song. Like 'Monsanto' Neil riups into big business taking away natural soil and turning it bad and may well be comparing our present age to the Indians being pushed out of their lands by big business, only now it's happening to a new generation of 'native' Americans powerless to stop them. Thoughtful but light on it's feet and jazzier than any song since the Blue Note days, this is a rather splendid little song and bodes well for the next CD to come (which has yet to be released at the time of writing but knowing Neil there'll be another five before this book's final drafting session!) Note that there are two mixes of this song doing the rounds - Neil made the second when an American Indian fan objected to the use of the word 'squaw' (discussion still rages between historians over whether Indians used 'squaw' to mean 'wife' or simply a female's genitals, with the rest of her being unimportant - chances are it originally meant 'woman' and ended up being used offensively after many centuries of use. Here ends your English language history lesson). Find it on: a single (2016) 

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