Out of the blue and into the black
They give you this, but you pay for that
And once you’re gone, you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue and into the black.
Notes from the Golden Orange
EppsNet Archive: Neil Young
Have you seen this? This is absolute genius . . .
It’s very easy for people to forget what rock and roll really is. Look man, I’m forty-seven years old, and I grew up in Wyoming, and I stole cars and drove five hundred miles to watch Little Richard, and I wanna tell you somethin’ — when I saw this nigger come out in a gold suit, fuckin’ hair flyin’, and leap up onstage and come down on his piano bangin’ and goin’ fuckin’ nuts in Salt Lake City, I went, “Hey man, I wanna be like him. This is what I want.”
I am getting aware of the fact that I keep writing and thinking about people who have died. I love living. I do not want to die for a long time because I am not ready. I suppose if I thought I was going to die, I could get ready given a period of time, but I am not sure about that. Some folks think that this is not a good thing to think about. I envy the control they must have over their thinking processes.
We saw Rickie Lee Jones at the Coach House Sunday night. I’ve been an RLJ fan since . . . I think it was 1979, when this young woman I’d never heard of showed up on Saturday Night Live and sang “Chuck E’s in Love”:
It might be possible to watch that now and say, “What’s the big deal? I’ve heard women sing like that.”
Not in 1979, you didn’t. In case you’ve forgotten or blocked it out or you weren’t born yet, in 1979 we were listening to Olivia Newton-John, Debby Boone, and similar lame-ass bullshit. (Or Christopher Cross, Barry Manilow . . . the male singers were equally uninspiring.)
I couldn’t have been more electrified if she’d capped off the performance by whacking the Captain and Tennille across the face with her beret.
RLJ’s style influenced a lot of singers, including some who’ve been much more commercially successful, and she really hasn’t I think been properly recognized for that.
She didn’t have a band, just played guitar and piano and sang. She sounded great, reinventing some of her best-known songs with new tempos and phrasing. As I mentioned when we saw Neil Young’s stunning solo show in April, a lot of performers hide their shortcomings as musicians and singers by adding a band, backup singers, electronics and other accoutrements, but when you’re up there all by yourself, there’s nowhere to hide. It’s organic music.
She told some stories between songs, many about living in New Orleans after moving recently from LA. Topics included voodoo ladies, fireflies, impromptu parades and neighbors who sit out on their front porch and wave to you.
The venue was sold out. That’s good. I feel like we were part of something. There was a long standing ovation at the end of the set . . . people went on clapping for several minutes even after the house lights came up, which I don’t remember ever seeing before.
Here’s the set list, to the best of my recollection:
Weasel and the White Boys Cool
Sympathy for the Devil
The Last Chance Texaco
It Must Be Love
On Saturday Afternoons in 1963
We Belong Together
Living It Up
Chuck E’s in Love
You know, the future’s a huge, gigantic place. I have no idea what’s going on out there, I’m just going to walk into it and see what happens. — Neil Young
The whole idea of a singer-songwriter singing the song from the heart, singing a song that means something to them and actually singing a song that’s good enough to stand up on its own without any accoutrements, without any production, without any machines supporting it, without any formulated beats, without any computer making sure that all the rhythms are justified so that everything is perfect, you take all those things away and put a great song there with a great performance, even if it’s not by the greatest vocalists in the world or the greatest guitar player or instrumentalist in the world, if that person is believing what they’re singing and it’s truly there and the song is great and the song is written from a real place, then the song’s going to resonate with anybody who wants to listen to it.
Here’s the set list, to the best of my recollection. I may have some of the harmonica instrumentation wrong. He had the harmonica rack on for the whole show; some songs he played it and some he didn’t.
From Hank to Hendrix – guitar, harmonica. A good opener for this kind of a show: From Hank to Hendrix / I walked these streets with you / Here I am with this old guitar / Doin’ what I do. / I always expected / That you should see me through / I never believed in much / But I believed in you.
On the Way Home – guitar, harmonica
Only Love Can Break Your Heart – guitar, harmonica
Love in Mind – piano
Philadelphia – piano
Mellow My Mind – guitar (banjo?), harmonica. He played the Gibson Mastertone you can see in the right foreground of the photo. He said it’s a guitar, not a banjo. It sure looks and sounds like a banjo though.
Reason to Believe (Tim Hardin) – piano
Someday – piano
Changes (Phil Ochs) – guitar
Harvest – guitar, harmonica
Old Man – guitar, harmonica.
Goin’ Back – guitar
A Man Needs a Maid – synthesizer, piano, harmonica
Ohio – guitar. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? This hasn’t lost any punch over the last 40 years.
Southern Man – guitar
If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot) – guitar. A better interpretation than the original, which I’ve never really liked very much.
Harvest Moon – guitar, harmonica
Mr. Soul – pipe organ, harmonica. I’ve heard a lot of people play guitar and harmonica together. I may have even heard someone play piano and harmonica together. But I’ve never (until now) heard anyone play harmonica riffs while performing on a pipe organ.
Flying on the Ground Is Wrong – piano. Interesting story about this song: when he wrote it, he was living in L.A. at the Commodore Gardens on Orchid Ave. The Commodore Gardens is gone now. It went away when Orchid Ave. was shortened to make room for . . . the Dolby Theatre! (see map)
After the Gold Rush – piano. With a line change: We’ve got Mother Nature on the run in the 21st century.
Heart of Gold – guitar, harmonica.
Thrasher – guitar, harmonica.
He had seven or eight guitars available, several harmonicas, a grand piano, an upright piano, a synthesizer and a pipe organ.
He has an incredible repertoire of songs to choose from, his voice for some reason sounds better than ever, and he’s a fantastic musician, which you have to be for a solo acoustic performance. If you really can’t play or sing, there’s no place to hide.
Most of the guitars came with stories, related in a laconic, deadpan style. One used to belong to Hank Williams. “I got it from a guy in Nashville. Thanks to you, and people like you, I was a rich hippie. And I was able to buy the guitar.”
Two were given to him by Steve Stills. One — the one he’s playing in the photo — used to belong to a folk singer who was performing in Denver when a gunshot blasted a large hole in the front of the instrument. “That was long before weed was legalized. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. But no one singing folk songs in Denver has been shot since it was legalized.”
Neil Young is playing a couple of solo acoustic shows next month at the Dolby Theatre. Tickets went on sale Monday morning, but somehow I missed the fact that they’d been available via “pre-sale” since last Friday and were all gone by Monday morning.
What a heartbreaker. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of technology and social networks, Mr. Young and his team were able to inform me via Facebook that a third show had been added and I was able to log in and get tickets for that one.
The sold-out shows are on a Saturday and Sunday. The new show is on a Tuesday. Am I looking forward to driving in to LA and back on a Tuesday? No, but on a list of solo acoustic shows for which I’d be most willing to knock over my own mother to get a ticket, Neil Young would be second, behind Bob Dylan.
Unlike some singer-songwriters, Young also has a distinctive style and talent as a musician, plus an almost-50-year portfolio of great songs — not clever lyrics or inventive melodies, but a Neil Young song is as real as the day is long. They get a hold of you, like a meathook.
A solo acoustic performance is like he comes over to your house and picks up a guitar. Can you imagine that? Neil Young is at my house and he just picked up a guitar. “Do you mind?” he asks.
One more thought on Bob Dylan: Solo acoustic Bob Dylan is part of the iconography of America in the 1960s. I don’t expect Bob Dylan to ever do a solo acoustic show again but if he did, the significance of it I think would be second only to Jimi Hendrix playing a concert after coming back from the dead.