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!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Child: The Replacement's Kids Don't Follow

 Kids Don’t Follow is the first track off the Replacement’s first release, the EP Stink.  It’s a bold statement from a band that would go on to make many statements. The Replacements are a band that took on a far greater prominence than the drunken shenanigans of Stink would promise.  But, then, this is the Replacements and their influence, lazy ambition, sneaking brilliance, and pure, astounding genius and capacity to bring the shock and awe (or one good dose of thunder) made them one of the greatest bands ever to never really make it. Starting with Stink, and hopping along like an exposed electric wire for a total of 6 more albums and a few lifetimes of madness, what the ‘Mats did for music is almost immeasurable. Even if they would deny it. Then or now. Which they do.

I like to talk a lot about firsts in music. First tracks, first times a song was played, first time one heard a band, what must it have been like to see a legend in the making when they first started out. Kids Don’t Follow is another first, an opening shot of punk muscle that would start a career that would morph and go in unexpected directions, but never lose that ‘fuck you’ attitude that in retrospect was so essential.

One of the best parts of Kids Don’t Follow is the opening recording of a party being broken up by the Minneapolis Police. Amid the ambient noise comes out a clear, angry, “Hey fuck you, man!” to the otherwise kindly, Barney Fife-kind of sounding cop politely asking everyone to please disperse. It’s such a visual moment. Supposedly it was recorded at First Avenue. Supposedly, the kid who yells the expletive is Soul Asylum’s Dave Priner. Supposedly the cop was Danny Murphy’s father. Supposedly, the Replacements put their original demos in the river and set them adrift, hoping Prince would discover them, ala the infant Moses in the Nile in a reed basket…There are a lot of what ifs with a band like The ‘Mats. And a lot of could have been...But what they left behind is like a great promise that might still come true.

...The Replacements, one of rock’s closest near-miracles...Kids Don’t Follow. A song like this makes sure they never will…