Wednesday, April 27, 2016


I have loved Neil Young ever since I was a child myself, the problem often being as to which Neil I like the best, the melodic acoustic troubadour or the feedback-drenched electric maverick, let alone all the shorter term infatuations he has dabbled in, from brass-heavy blues to wacky contract-breaking electronica. I guess like so many I came in around Heart of Gold, backtracking then to the glory of the After the Goldrush album, destroying many a pair of jeans to evoke the multi-patching of his distressed denim. I was at a single sex boarding school at that time, all short hair and uniforms, with Young, all straw hair, sideboards and the scruffiest wardrobe ever, being the man I most wished to be. Indeed, I fear this version of basse couture has remained the template for me, even now, to the despair of wives and partners to this day. (Hell, if ol' Shakey still dresses like a derelict in the dark, why shouldn't I?)

As stated often here before, I was an odd boy, and one of my eternal quests has always been the whys and the hows of music, with a liking to burrow back into the beginnings. This led me to my hardly original theory that all (white) popular music arose from the 4Bs: the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. What about the Stones, I hear you say, to which my response is that they are black music, or the Blues. Jazz? That's Blues too. And I will allow the B of Bluegrass to encompass the whole of Country music, itself morphing into some of the style of the Byrds and the Buffalo, anyway, which is where I began. OK, it's trite and simplistic but I will defend it defiantly and devoutly (until some smartass says so what about Kraftwerk then?) But my point is that I thus obtained a copy of a Buffalo Springfield best-of in about 1973, hearing a whole different Neil. This was how he sang pre-whine, and I here mean whine as a compliment, being unable to think of a less damning description of his style, unless anyone can come up with a better name. Almost angelic, clear and smooth at this stage, as much a shock as it was later to hear his strangely low speaking voice. And, on this song, surprisingly or, probably, intentionally childlike, with only rudimentary guitar. This was a trick he was able to later return to, on Sugar Mountain, similarly faux-infantile and just as fetching.

So, how is the child now? Roll forward from 1968, the Buffalo Springfield recording, a full 46 years to 2014, his annual Bridge School concert, the school he set up for his own, now deceased beloved child. The clothes remain the same, the hair, well, a bit thinner on top, but the voice, less childlike but unmistakeably his, present and correct. And the child, listening in 1973, is still listening now.

There are a dozen or so recordings available over the decades: go buy!!

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