Episode 177: Neil Young Never Sleeps

Episode 177: Neil Young Never Sleeps
Pat is joined by Guest Co-Host Christine Blackburn (Story Worthy Podcast) to discuss the career of her favorite recording artist Neil Young.
From December 4, 2014

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat welcomes us to the show. Today's special guest co-host Christine Blackburn immediately says hello as well. Kyle's here as well. His appearances have been a bit spotty this past month, what with Mike Siegel and Matt Belknap taking over producing for a few episodes. But he's back in the chair, the young gun. As we mentioned last week, Kyle's fiancee dumped him so he's dating online now. You know who else is dating, asks Christine. Neil Young. Christine would LOVE to date Neil Young. He's 68, but he's a tough old bastard. Now Neil is going out with Daryl Hannah. And not "Splash" Daryl Hannah, recent Daryl Hannah. Like I said, tough old bastard.
Christine Blackburn
Christine wants to get right into it, but Pat has to introduce her first. Christine's been hosting the Story Worthy Podcast since July 2010. She has a wide variety of guests on who tell entertaining stories and then they talk about those stories.
00:05:00 Christine and Pat both grew up in Pennsylvania and they are both parents. Christine is from a town called Gibsonia. They talk about Pennsylvania's weird alcohol laws, where you have to buy alcohol from a distributor and you can't buy it on Sundays. Those Quakers. First they got their meaty paws in the oats and now they're messing with the Pabst Blue Ribbon. Take it down a notch, fellas.
Today's topic: The career of Neil Young! Neil Young has been a major part of Christine's life since she was a teenager. Neil has a very large body of music. Over 35 studio albums alone. Pat would rather have a large quantity of work than quality. Of course the problem with having such a huge discography is that you can't put every song in the setlist. Christine starts us off with a song from Neil's second solo album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere that she thinks epitomizes Neil Young. The song is "Cowgirl in the Sand".
00:10:00 Long guitar solos, falsetto voice, strange lyrics. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere has huge songs with crazy lyrics: "Cowgirl in the Sand," "Cinnamon Girl," and "Down by the River." In college, Christine skipped classes all day so she could call a radio show and talk to Neil. She asked him about "Cowgirl in the Sand" and he told her what he's told many people. He wrote those previous three songs in his home when he had a 103 degree fever. Even HE doesn't know what the songs mean. Maybe "Cinnamon Girl" really is about a woman who sells spices. Who knows? Christine also got an autographed copy of EKTIN from a friend who worked on SNL. When Neil was on, he got it signed, and then after he died, the friend's brother gave the album to Christine.
00:15:00 Christine's never met Neil Young. She saw him last year at the Dolby Theater. The next day, the whole show was on YouTube. Strange, because most likely you will never watch that video. Nor will you look at that photo you took from the 23rd row. Believe me, I've got a blurry photo of Haircut 100 that I took from the nosebleed section of the Cow Palace that is collecting dust as we speak.
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is Neil's second album, which came out four months after his first. That album has a song on it called "The Loner," which is about Neil splitting from Buffalo Springfield. Pat feels like Christine's doing all the heavy lifting, so he gives his first (and only) contribution to the show with "Cinnamon Girl". Neil was born in Toronto, Canada. His parents split up and Neil moved to Winnipeg, where he played in high school bands. While in Winnipeg he met Stephen Stills and Joni Mitchell, which is pretty crazy.
00:20:00 Christine recommends Neil's autobiography Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream. Pat says that there are a lot of hours of Neil's day. LOT of productivity. When Neil moved to Los Angeles, he took his friend Bruce Palmer with him. By sheer chance, Neil reunited with Stephen Stills. Neil, Stephen, and Bruce soon started the band Buffalo Springfield. Christine plays their biggest hit off their self-titled album, "For What It's Worth".
00:25:00 The song came from the Sunset Strip protests in the late 60s. Pat thinks that all those 60s protest singers must be slapping themselves in the head because of how little things have changed. I mean, things have certainly changed, but you know what they say about how the more things changeā€¦. Christine moves us along with Neil's third solo album, After the Gold Rush. She plays the song "Tell Me Why". Nils Lofgren on acoustic guitar, there. It's a simple, folksy song that is a departure from the last album. That Neil, always changing things up. The next album, Harvest, has a special connection to Christine because she named her daughter after one of the songs on the album. No, her daughter's name isn't "Old Man," as Pat jokes. It's Alabama. The only other Alabama we can think of is Patricia Arquette's character in True Romance. Sure she was a hooker, but dammit she had a real... heart of gold. Ba dum bum.
00:30:00 We hear the song "Alabama". Pat's enjoying what he's heard so far. Of course, we all know that this means Pat is going to soon own EVERY Neil Young album ever. Christine does the same thing. Harvest has some big guests: David Crosby, Linda Ronstadt, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills. It's also an example of the lost art of the "ten song album." Nowadays every album has 15 or 16 songs and only 5 or 6 are actually good. Christine says Neil also understood song sequencing. Neil's also put out multiple versions of songs, so he really is in deep with the art of music.
00:35:00 Pat and Christine briefly talk Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Young wasn't really an all-in member, he would just do certain projects with them. CSNY don't have a big catalogue, which annoys Pat. After Harvest, Neil entered a dark period, putting out a few murkier albums. Then in 1975 Neil put out a rocker album called Zuma. Christine plays a song that Neil originally wrote in high school called "Cortez the Killer". Pat and Christine agree that Neil holds up. You can really hear every instrument.
00:40:00 Pat wonders who David Briggs is? He's dead, for one, but he also produced a bunch of Neil's albums. Inspector Kyle goes to investigate. Is there an album that Christine doesn't like? Not really. She first saw Neil on the tour supporting the album Trans, which is a very strange album in Neil's canon. It's an electronic, synthpop, experimental album. Neil made it to purposefully piss off the record company. That album, along with Hawks & Doves, Re-ac-tor, and Everybody's Rockin' are the weirder albums. Kyle has some David Briggs information. He picked up a hitchhiking Neil Young and produced his first solo album. They became friends and David produced over a dozen of Neil's albums. What are the odds that you pick up a hitchhiker and it's friendly Canadian musician Neil Young? If I pick up a hitchhiker today, I'm getting an axe to the skull and my kidneys will be used in a blood sacrifice to Moloch.
Moving on to Neil's album American Stars 'n Bars, Christine plays a song that Neil plays in practically every show called "Like a Hurricane".
00:45:00 Christine takes us to a live album called Live Rust. She has a live version of the song "The Loner". Pat asks if Neil's live setlist is for casual fans, or only for hardcore Young fans. Christine firmly leans to the latter choice.
Christine's next stop in the career of Neil Young is Rust Never Sleeps, a live album that was overdubbed in the studio to make it sound like a studio album. She plays "Thrasher", a song about Neil breaking up with CSNY.
00:50:00 Christine knows how to play the guitar, the piano, and the harmonica. She's teaching her daughter how to play the guitar, which is a pain. Christine has another song from Rust Never Sleeps that was voted the best Neil Young song ever by Rolling Stone. The song is called "Powderfinger".
00:55:00 Pat assumes "Powderfinger" is about cocaine. But Pat is a fool, because Christine informs him that the song is about war. Neil usually sings about big themes like war and love. Pat wonders why Neil split from his wife. Christine says he's 68, so he might as well be happy. Kyle makes a joke and Christine compliments him. He isn't used to getting compliments, so Kyle is naturally a bit confused.
Neil's first 1980s album Hawks & Doves has more of a country feeling to it. There is an acoustic and electric side like Rust Never Sleeps. This is also his tenth studio album. Christine plays the title track "Hawks & Doves".
01:00:00 Neil went to Geffen Records in 1982 and put out the album Trans. Neil recorded his vocals through a vocoder. Then he put out his next album Everybody's Rockin', which is a rockabilly. The record company was mad at him because it didn't sound like Neil Young. Pat thinks it's strange that Neil was mad at Geffen since he just signed with them. Kyle thinks Neil made Trans because it was the 80s and he was trying to be relevant. Pat wants to hear something from Trans, but Christine didn't bring any. Maybe it's for the better. Of all those weird albums, which does Christine prefer? Trans is fine, but the rockabilly stuff is a one-and-done. The 80s continue and Neil releases a few more albums, like Life and Landing on Water. The Landing on Water album cover reminds Christine of when she was a stewardess.
01:05:00 Christine doesn't like flying anymore because she knows "the bell system." Word of advice: five dings means that you should start clutching your crucifixes because it's pretty much over. Did Christine ever have any airplane trouble? One emergency landing, an engine blowout. Christine's also had non-airplane trouble, like when her first husband got another girl pregnant. Oh boy. When Pat was flying to London with Pilar, he had the worst turbulence. And it's worse when you have kids because you think about their possible future without you. Christine says the problem times are mostly takeoff and landing, rather than when you are in the air. Christine also didn't like Flight with Denzel Washington.
Alright, enough airplane talk, back to Neil Young. Neil finishes the 80s with his album Freedom.
01:10:00 Christine plays the song "Rockin' in the Free World". It's an awesome song that is impossible to hate. Even young Kyle enjoys it. Neil also plays on Chrissie Hynde's new album, which leads to a quick discussion of Chrissie Hynde. Pat saw her in London and is trying to get her on the show. Fingers crossed.
Moving ahead now to 1992's Harvest Moon. Christine plays a song called "From Hank to Hendrix".
01:15:00 It revisits the softer side of Neil from Harvest. Pat brings up the ill-fated MTV Unplugged album. Neil did a million takes because he hated his performances. Christine keeps things moving fast, though, as we zoom by the 90s. Mirror Ball with Pearl Jam, the 1996 reunion with Crazy Horse on Broken Arrow, going back and forth with CSNY. Neil is never getting back together with those guys, by the way. He hates them too much. Christine has a friend in Colorado who likes Neil as much as she does. It's like Pat and David Wild and their non-ironic love of Neil Diamond.
01:20:00 Neil has this thing called Pono, which is a completely new music file format. It's high quality audio that doesn't sound like shit. He raised over 6 million dollars on Kickstarter to fund it.
In 2003, Neil Young put out a rock opera called Greendale. Then in 2005, he got diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. A spot kept growing in his eye. He gets surgery, but he gets complications. One day blood started pouring out of his eye, which makes Neil Young a bond villain. That same year, Neil released Prairie Wind, along with the Jonathan Demme film Neil Young: Heart of Gold. When Christine was in labor for 35 hours, the only thing that calmed her down was that movie. Personally I would just dipped my head in morphine, but to each his own.
01:25:00 Christine plays a song off Prairie Wind called "Falling Off the Face of the Earth". Very emotional. He wrote it for his then-wife thanking her because he thought it was the end. Oof.
THEN, a few months later he came out with a protest album called Living with War. Christine says it's bad enough that Neil had an aneurysm, but now Neil's gotta drag his ass into the studio to do a protest album because no one else could do it. Christine plays a song called "Families". Lot of deep cuts being played today.
01:30:00 Time went on and Neil put out even more albums, including 2010's Le Noise. Christine is moving at Warp Factor 7 now because she's used to hour-long shows. In 2012 Neil put out Americana, a collection of darkly twisted takes on classic American songs. Christine plays Neil's version of "Clementine".
01:35:00 That same year, Neil put out a double album called Psychedelic Pill. Jesus fuck, this guy just doesn't stop. And these are LOOOOOOOONG songs. Christine plays "She's Always Dancing". What is going on with Neil? Is he crazy? Is he a robot? The man keeps going and going. Same with Crazy Horse.
In 2014 Neil again released two albums: A covers album called A Letter Home and another album called Storytone. Christine plays a song from Storytone called "Who's Gonna Stand Up?".
01:40:00 Nothing mystic there, it's a pretty clear environmentalist song. Pat thanks Christine for this education on Neil Young. It's gonna be a slippery slope for Pat, as he'll be buried in Neil Young albums pretty soon. We get some plugs: Story Worthy Podcast and Christine's website. Christine also has a game show called Shotgun Story Worthy. A contestant spins a wheel and has a minute to tell a story based on where the wheel stops. Christine also mentions her podcast co-host Hannes Phinney. He was the second person she met in LA.
01:45:00 We're done here, so it's time to hit the bricks. Christine takes us out with a song that she wants played at her funeral. Credited to Neil and Stephen Still's The Stills-Young Band, it's "Long May You Run" off the album Long May You Run.
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:05:00 Cowgirl in the Sand Everybody Know This Is Nowhere Neil Young Christine
00:15:00 Cinnamon Girl Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere Neil Young Pat
00:20:00 For What It's Worth Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield Christine
00:25:00 Tell Me Why After the Gold Rush Neil Young Christine
00:30:00 Alabama Harvest Neil Young Christine
00:35:00 Cortez the Killer Zuma Neil Young Christine
00:40:00 Like a Hurricane American Stars 'n Bars Neil Young Christine
00:45:00 The Loner Live Rust Neil Young Christine
00:45:00 Thrasher Rust Never Sleeps Neil Young Christine
00:50:00 Powderfinger Rust Never Sleeps Neil Young Christine
00:55:00 Hawks & Doves Hawks & Doves Neil Young Christine
01:10:00 Rockin' in the Free World Freedom Neil Young Christine
01:10:00 From Hank to Hendrix Harvest Moon Neil Young Christine
01:25:00 Falling Off the Face of the Earth Prairie Wind Neil Young Christine
01:25:00 Families Living with War Neil Young Christine
01:30:00 Clementine Americana Neil Young Christine
01:35:00 She's Always Dancing Psychedelic Pill Neil Young Christine
01:35:00 Who's Gonna Stand Up? Storytone Neil Young Christine
01:40:00 Long May You Run Long May You Run The Stills-Young Band Christine