Thursday, August 14, 2008

GMVW # 32: "The Chameleon"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 32:  The Chameleon
Song:  Change Your Mind by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
(Songwriter: Neil Young)
August 14, 2008

Neil Young can surprise you, and he does it in a number of ways.  One is his versatility.  You look at him and think "that guy is set in his ways.  He's got the plaid shirt, the ripped jeans and the hippie hair.  He's a 60's guy through and through".   Nothing could be further from the truth.  Hanging out with Pat Shea in Ottawa several weeks back, we were in agreement that Pat's fellow Canadian is the gold standard for connecting with younger generations of musicians.  He's toured with and learned from younger bands like Social Distortion and Sonic Youth.  He has sung songs about Johnny Rotten and Kurt Cobain, and he does all this while maintaining his own musical integrity.  Neil Young is indeed multifaceted.  He's a chameleon.

Another way Neil Young surprises is his energy on stage.  The first time I saw him live was a show with his band Crazy Horse (the mid-80s Garage Band tour, complete with garage deco all around the stage).  I lucked out.  I could have been initiated into Young's live act thru a variety of other incarnations, including with CSNY, the Blue Notes, Booker T and the MGS, solo, with wife and friends or in several other flavors (all good).  Crazy Horse does the best job though of bringing out Neil Young's amazing stamina and physical exertion, taking some songs as far as they can go and then back again.  The man is energetic all right.  He's a force.

Finally, Neil Young can surprise with how revealing he is through his lyrics and stage presence.  He is a brutally honest, personal, and courageous musician.  Bruce Springsteen and U2 are known for these superlatives, but Neil Young is the one I connect with on this level.  He takes chances and does not always pull it off, but that's ok: You may luck out and see the best show of your life.  I'm usually willing to take the risk.  Neil Young is intense and thought provoking (check out the album 'Tonight's the Night').  He's an open book.

Which brings me to this week's Gem.  I dug around a bit, because Neil Young has many gems to choose from, but I wanted a video that showcased the feel of a live Crazy Horse song, which made the search a bit harder.  Finally I came upon this great song and video 'Change Your Mind' from the 1993 album "Sleeps with Angels".  The entire album lamented the suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, which hit the grunge music scene and the rock world in general pretty hard.  A number of younger musicians wrote songs about this tragedy, but it was Neil Young who hit home the hardest, jumping across 2 generations to connect with the reaction and give it a much needed elders perspective that could only come from a sage like Young. 

The video also gives a glimpse (about half way thru) of the jam sessions that Neil Young and Crazy Horse will often break into in their sets.  The Grateful Dead, The Who, and The Allman Brothers are all known for their jams and they are all great, but Neil Young with Crazy Horse is equally superb (yet less recognized in Rock History).  Of all the qualities of a great live band, it's the ability to break into an eye-opening jam that separates the men from the boys.  It's in a great jam where many musicians can sound like one.  It's something that can only develop from years of playing together as a band (in Young's case this was enhanced with his studio music, which was often done with the entire band playing the studio song together from beginning to end, instead of relying on overdubbing prerecorded instruments together on the final record).  The sound of a Crazy Horse jam can be brooding and build up in intensity.  The band seems to relish these moments together on stage.  My friend, Bob Bouvier and I used to joke that Crazy Horse probably waited with bated breath by the phone to get the call from Neil to go on tour (I've often wondered what they did when Neil was touring with others or solo). 

Seeing Neil Young and Crazy Horse that first time in the mid 80's, particularly during songs like 'Powderfinger' and 'Cortez the Killer' was a jaw dropping experience....probably the biggest gap ever between what I expected out of a concert and what I got.  This proved to be reason to catch just about every Neil Young show that has come down the pike ever since.  Watching this video has me thinking that it has been too long....I've got to get myself to another Neil Young and Crazy Horse show.

- Pete

Gem Music Video: Change Your Mind (this fantastic footage has been temporarily lost.  Need to find… need to find!  In the meantime, here’s the music with amateur video footage)

* A correction to last week's entry, when I labeled John a Yankee fan.  He denies this and insists his position has always been one of begrudging admiration.  You never want to make someone into a Yankee fan who is not.  Sorry, John.


About the Video: An amazing live video of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, performed in studio.  The light fades to dark at times, then illuminates the band again.  Billy Talbot is wearing a fedora.

Video Rating: 1 (a big, fat, 1)


Best Feedback: Amy:

Amazing Pete.
How I wish he could read this. 

Also: Paul:

Nice one Pete.  I still wish that I had seen Neil in California when I worked for Ken Fisher.  The bar he goes to is on top of "sugar mountain" next to my old boss's house (there is nothing else up there but a fancy restaurant almost accross the street - which Neal apprently never goes in).  I went in there several times to no avail.

Also: Tina:

dear pete,
thanks so much for sending me this weeks edition. i love it and i cant wait to share it with my friend kimberly. she is a HUGE neil young fan. so huge that when she saw him at great woods she fell to her knees and started chanting neil young is god, neil young is god. (there might have been a tiny bit of drinking involved, but i cant really remember...). anyway, would you please add me to your list? id love to keep in touch with you and in this way. i love reading your writing!
love tina
ps mine is at you go from the home page to the blog. still writing about the roadrace
pss i always have a blast when i see you and your family. it seems like we all say that, so why dont we do it more often???????????????????
pss have not stop giggling about lambie...

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