Friday, January 31, 2014

Forever Young # 5: "Setting the Record Straight"

Song:  Cinnamon Girl
Album:  Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Released:  May, 1969

The ‘White Album’!  I never thought I’d see the day, but there it was in all its glory, playing out from beginning to end before my eyes this past Tuesday night at the Berklee Performance Center.  It was kind of like watching a film you never knew existed of some great moment in your life.  In terms of music events, I equate it to watching the performance of the Kinks ‘Preservation Act II’ at the Middle East in 1998.  But better.  The Boston-based Tom Appleman Band (with Berklee-based accompaniment when needed) that put on the show was good.  Strike that… excellent!  Most every song on this magnificent Beatles album was nailed, including Martha My Dear, Sexy Sadie, Dear Prudence, and Long, Long, Long (my favorite).  Thanks to Mac for clueing me in to this show. 

As I listened, I found myself reflecting back to Christmas of 1975 and my first memories of this album.  There was a new stereo system under the tree that year, which was soon to be the cornerstone to my earliest years of rock and roll awareness.  And with it – acting as a ribbon cutter I suppose - was the ‘White Album’.   It was a brilliant, pivotal (and to a degree unintentional) choice of music by my parents to include in this package deal.  The ‘White Album’ was not your ordinary album, even by Beatles standards.  It was deep and dark and mysterious and bizarre and multi-faceted and inexplicably fluid.  It pointed me down a path that has had me searching for more of the same ever since.  It’s not a path many formative teens go down.  Most end up keeping it simple.  They end up seeing music quality relative to how “easy listening” it is or how danceable or how discernable, or how fun or even worse, as quiet background fodder.  Perhaps they never had a ‘White Album’ moment.   If this be the case, I can only say one thing: I lucked out.

Now, I’d love to delve more into the ‘White Album’, but this is not the time to do so since I plan on a Beatles series somewhere down the road.  The reason I’m discussing it here though is because that initiation into the ‘White Album’ was when I first began to realize the importance of an original album.  There were songs on that album that I’d heard before:  Back in the U.S.S.R, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.  The reason was that these songs were on a compilation (aka greatest hits) album I’d already listened to often…. the so called ‘Blue Album’.  I’d been enjoying a handful of original and compilation albums up to that point, but had never really dwelled much on the difference. No longer!  The contrast between the ‘Blue Album’ and the ‘White Album’ (aka ‘The Beatles’) could not have been starker.  It became clear to me that the ‘Blue Album’ was a pruning out of hit songs.  It also became clear that the ‘White Album’ was how the Beatles originally had intended the listening experience to be.  This was a watershed moment for me.

Flash forward a year or two; Fred purchases the Neil Young ‘Decade’.  I loved ‘Decade’ and listened to extensively.  And as is the case with any great album, the listening was not enough. I read all the details of the songs in the inner sleeves, which included the dates the songs were produced and Neil’s handwritten notes. 

And yet….this was another compilation album.  But  I understood this now;  same thing for the Rolling Stones ‘Hot Rocks’ and the Kinks ‘Kronikles’ both of which I was getting heavily into at this time as well (thanks to Fred’s collection).  Don’t get me wrong….I enjoyed these albums, thoroughly.  But from Christmas, 1975 on, I knew there was potential to delve a lot deeper.

I’ve since looked at compilation albums as inferior products, and find myself impressed with bands like R.E.M. (and Neil Young) who refrain as best they can from this not-so-subtle exploitation.   Call it the purist in me, or even the historian.  My interest in original albums cuts to the core of this blog series, including my attempt at trying to flesh out the unique factors that contributed to growing up in the 70s.  It’s not a simple thing to tackle, but then neither were many of those fascinating albums by the likes of Neil Young, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Who, and others.  The common denominator with all these musicians is that they first made their mark in the 60s but they continued to produce quality music into the 70s and beyond (in the Beatles case, as solo artists).  In doing so, they had a profound and unique effect on us latter-day fans (by "unique" I mean in comparison to their original 60s fans).  My hope is, that by the end of this blog series, I can say:  This is our story.

Anyhow, ‘Decade’ had a handful of songs on it from the first Neil Young/Crazy Horse album ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’.  Again, ‘Decade’ was a brilliant introduction for me, but ‘Everybody…’ takes the listening experience so much farther.  And there’s not a weak moment on this album.  The lyrics to every song convey a truth about the times (1969).  Neil Young was immersed in the California counterculture of the late 60s, but he does not shy away from the fact that this ‘hippie ideal’ world has its share of demons.  This concept, I believe, is at the heart of this album and is there for all to hear in songs like Down By the River, Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long), and Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets).  ** Side Note:  I love the endless possible meanings of the subtitle ‘Requiem for the Rockets’ as this was the name of Whitten, Molina, and Talbot’s band before Neil Young dubbed them Crazy Horse **.  There was premonition in these songs, with Whitten and many others of the era succumbing to the effects of the subject matter.  Neil Young would end up going on a 3-album binder to deal with the aftermath of it all in the early 70s (more on this period in future entries).

The first song on the album is this week’s ‘Forever Young’ song, Cinnamon Girl.   This was a difficult choice to make.  There was heavy competition from the title track and Cowgirl, and the superb Losing End (which will have to be the focus of a Forever Young entry at some point).  You can feel the time period in all of these songs.  But, my goodness, Cinnamon Girl: Amazingly this is Young/Crazy Horse’s very first collaborative song.  You get it all here though:  The extended jamming, the high backing vocals, the solid, simple, rhythmic (bordering on hypnotic) back beat.   It’s often been said that Crazy Horse is musically uneven and that other bands could play circles around them (David Crosby for one, was reluctant to recognize their value early on).  The flip side of that argument, however, is that none of these perfectionists could play like Crazy Horse.  When I saw it for myself for the first time in 1986, I was hooked.

It took one song back in 1969 for Neil Young to realize that he was too.

Here’s Neil Young and Crazy Horse performing Cinnamon Girl on their 1978 Rust Never Sleeps tour:

Here's a link on Neil Young news explaining the likely meaning behind Cinnamon Girl (thanks, Fred):

-          Pete

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Forever Young # 4: "Tarred and Feathered"

Song:  Cough Up the Bucks
Album:  Fork in the Road
Released: April, 2009

Perhaps it was all the Stephen King books I’d been reading those days combined with a flashback to earlier Edgar Allen Poe assignments in high school.  Or maybe it was simply my always-present geographic awareness.  Whatever the reason, that eerie raven has never strayed far from total recall.  We’ve all had our moments with critters of one kind or another, both big and small, and I’ve certainly had my share.  This one however was quite out of the ordinary and, to tell the truth, somewhat disconcerting.  Let me explain.

It was the winter of 1988.  Myself, along with brother Fred, and friends Mac, Kurt, and John (and several other Franklinites) flew to the Canadian Rockies in Alberta for a week of skiing (more of this trip can be found in the January 1, 2009 Gem Music Video of the Week blog entry “Natural Wonders”).  It was a fantastic getaway on the slopes in Banff (Sunshine) and Lake Louise, with all trails of both ranges in prime condition, primarily due to the fact that our trip was coming on the heels of the Calgary Olympics.  

One day in the middle of the week, several of us rented a car and took the scenic highway 200 miles north to the mountain village of Jasper.  Wildlife (elk, big-horn sheep, mountain goats, moose) and magnificent scenery surrounded us during the entire journey, and for the most part we had it all to ourselves.  We arrived in Jasper in time for a late lunch and popped into a pub on the north side of town.  After ordering our meals we made a decision to stop at the Marmot Basin Ski Lodge down the road on the way back to have a beer and to see what the slopes there looked like compared to what we’d been skiing all week further south.  With a little time to kill before lunch would be served, I figured I’d go out to the car to get the map so we could plot a route to the lodge as we ate.

As I was walking to the car, I came to the realization that we were parked at the furthest northern point I’d ever been in North America (though I had been above the Arctic Circle in Norway a few years earlier, which is much farther north than Jasper).  And since we would be heading back south after lunch, this was as far north as we would be on this trip.  So, for the hell of it, I walked right past the car, enjoying the fact that each step was a new record for me. 

A handful of steps were all I took though, because dead ahead of me, at the entrance to a small park on the edge of town, was what appeared to be a black raptor-like bird of some kind on the sidewalk.  Closer inspection revealed to me that this was instead a songbird.  Correction: A large songbird.  In fact, this songbird was so big - a good 3 times the size of your average crow – that it defied the senses.  After a few moments I came to the realization that what I was looking at was an oversized raven.  This alone would have been startling.  But that humongous bird had other adjectives associated with its appearance.  It was unkempt.  It was grizzled.  And after I took another step in the raven’s direction, I realized one other thing: It was nasty. 

Staring into my eyes and hissing, the raven was clearly ready to go at it with me.  I couldn’t believe it! Did he have some type of avian rabies? No, I decided, he looked healthy enough.  But he looked ancient and menacing, and…..otherworldly.  I was not going to tangle with this beast.  I made a feeble motion to go around him, close to the snow banks, but the raven would have nothing of it.  He hissed again. I hesitated.  He advanced.  Finally, I decided to back away, keeping my eye on this raptor-in-disguise as I unlocked the car and pulled out the map.  When I turned to leave, he took a few more steps toward me and let out another, even louder hiss. 

If I could quote the raven, it was not “Nevermore” he said with that hiss.  But it was something close to it; something along the lines of “Civilization stops here!”  I took the hint.  When I returned to the car with the crew after lunch the raven was gone.  But his demarcation line was still there in my mind and I did not hesitate to honor it, making a U-Turn south from the parking spot.  I was not going to play any more games on that day with such a harbinger.

If I interpreted the raven correctly, he was right; there really is not much in the way of modern civilization in Alberta that is further north than Jasper.  There is a Native American holdout, however; a place called Fort McMurray.  But it’s changed awfully fast in the past decade.  It’s become the home of big oil and tar sands in a very big, intrusive way.  Most of us have been aware of this for some time, but not quite comprehending the degree of the change to Fort McMurray. 

Neil Young brought this degree of change to light for much of the world last week with a series of protest concerts across Canada and a radio interview.  Have a listen:
* Thanks to Pat Shea for the link.

If there’s one thing that Neil Young does better than any other musician, it’s that he finds a way to stay relevant.   He not only does this with his music, but also his lyrics in song.  From segregation (Southern Man) to the Watergate scandal (Campaigner) to 60s disillusionment (Needle and the Damage Done) to the Mideast’s hatred of the USA (Mideast Vacation) to late-80s poverty (Keep on Rockin in the Free World) to the 90s teen suicide epidemic (Change Your Mind) to 911(Let’s Roll) to the Iraq War (Let’s impeach the President).  There are not many historical events in the past 40 years that have escaped Neil Young’s scrutiny. 

Then along came 'Fork in the Road'.  This album was loaded with songs covering the current events of the time:  A virtual time capsule for the year 2009.  The album is centered on Neil Young’s Lincoln Continental, redubbed “LincVolt” after its innards were rebuilt for greener pastures; this being the newer, environmental definition of green.  A handful of songs reflect on this true story.  From there, the album hits on all the major topics of the day (and still); reducing your carbon footprint, resistance to this concept, Wall Street bailouts, and the inferior sound of digital music.  But the album consistently loops back to his LincVolt.

Now, anybody that understands me knows I’m not much of a car guy.  Let me put it this way:  I’ve never sold one.  Longevity and economy is all I’m looking for.  But listening to 'Fork in the Road' has me a bit more intrigued.  Neil Young comes across loud and clear as a lover of large American automobiles (and American ingenuity in general).  I’d drop this ball if it were not for the new green angle.  With this emphasis in his songs, however, I can feel the vibes.  So yes, I believe I could get into cars…. If they were environmentally sound.

I came close to choosing Light a Candle off ‘Fork in the Road’ for this week’s “Forever Young” song.  It’s got an amazing affinity with the music of the late Townes Van Zandt.  There was also Just singing a song (won’t change the world) and the title track, which includes the lyrics:

“I'm a big rock star
My sales have tanked
But I still got you

There’s plenty of material to blog about there.  But then I watched the video for the Beastie Boys sounding Cough Up the Bucks ( )and I was hooked.  Here is Neil Young having a little fun in the midst of dire, dour, and otherwise serious subject matter.   It took me a little while, but soon I realized….what he’s doing here is playing himself getting caught up in the world of Wall Street by peddling his LinkVolt invention to investors over the phone in the back seat of a limo.  Excellently done, and of course uniquely Neil. 

Ok,  before anyone thinks Neil Young has abandoned good old-fashioned capitalism for other ‘isms’, here he is making a case for his LincVolt in a speech (parts 1 to 4) to the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) in 2010:
You make the call.

I’d like to conclude this week’s Forever Young with this:  Son Peter is currently taking a high school environmental disasters class (his choice, not mine).  It’s focused on the big issue of the day: Global Warming.  His homework is convincing of this unnatural trend alright, as I knew it would be, and includes research on those oil tar sands in Fort McMurray – it appears that for all his efforts, the raven couldn’t block everyone from those natural and sacred grounds.  Anyhow, Peter is handling what he’s hearing pretty well, all things considered.  After all, it is a reality slap. 

It’s one we all need.

-          Pete

Friday, January 17, 2014

Forever Young # 3: "Carpe Diem"

Song:  Someday
Album:  Freedom
Released: October, 1989

One positive effect from attending a large number of concerts is that sooner or later you get a feel for the strength of a show in relation to others.  Are the musicians going through the motions, or are they jacked up? Does the band sound unfamiliar with each other or are they tight? Is the principle songwriter in a creative lull or on a creative roll?  Is the band reunited simply for the nostalgia and money or are they trying to capture a spark from yesteryear with the intention of building something new?

Looking back, that first Neil Young show I attended with Bob Bouvier in 1986 was off the charts (first discussed in Forever Young # 1).  There was something about it at the time that said to me “this guy is still extremely viable.  Even after all these years, he has plenty of reserves in the tank”.  This was a great feeling to have at a show.  So often I’d heard stories from long time concert-goers of those epic 60s and early 70s rock events along the lines of “yeah, this was good, but you should have seen them in their prime!” 

Several years later, with the release of the album ‘Freedom’, Neil Young proved me correct:  He was still in his prime.  ‘Freedom’ was a brilliant album; one of a triumvirate of strong albums produced in 1989 by three of rock’s top-drawer trailblazers, the others being Bob Dylan with ‘Oh Mercy’ and Lou Reed with ‘New York’.  All these albums were heavy, and I listened to each incessantly that year.  I also attended concert tours by these artists that showcased all or parts of their new material (Reed the most memorable, performing ‘New York’ from beginning to end at the Shubert Theatre in Boston).  Reed’s ‘New York’ and Young’s ‘Freedom’ also had similar biting lamentations on the struggles of the poor and misguided in the inner city.  The music had a moral authority to it.  Toss in those majestic Stones and Who tours and yes, it was indeed a great year for rock and roll, 1989.

 ‘Freedom’ is deep, and consistent, and all-encompassing, and passionate.  I believe there is a concept throughout, and it centers on the album’s title.  Once tapped into this concept of freedom, you find there is no point in the album that strays far from it.  Freedom (or lack-thereof) has so many connotations here.  At face value, the ideal is there (although not without consequences) in the only hit on the album: Rockin in the Free World.  But freedom is what has been lost in most all the other songs….in the broken world of a cheating man (Wrecking Ball); in the missed opportunities of a lost soul (Too Far Gone); in the yearnings of someone trying to shake his addictions (No More); in the downtrodden of the albums one cover song (On Broadway).  When freedom is found, as is the case in Hangin on a Limb, it appears to lead to the end of the very relationship that allowed it to happen.

And freedom is the common ingredient in each stanza of this week’s song, Someday.  I love all of the mini-stories in this song, each of which leaves enough to the imagination to keep things interesting with every listen.  There’s the t.v. preacher (note the whispering, barely audible "we all have to sin" backing vocal masking Neil Young's last wording of the phrase in the stanza - wow).  There are the pipe-line workers (or is it the barons that are making the profit perhaps?}.  The stanza that hits me hardest, however, is the opening one, which goes like this:

Rommel wore a ring on his finger
He only took it off
when he flew his plane
Once he told me why
He said we all have to fly
We all have to fly

Now there’s no need to look into the meaning of the name Rommel .  This is not the German field marshal of WWII renown:  He was not known for his aviation skills.  Nor is it any other famous flying Rommel, at least when trying to track the name on the internet.  I decided early on this was not something to key in on, at least without direct communication with Neil Young (which I do not have).  Another thing I decided to shrug off was the interpretation of the word “fly” to really mean “die”.  Nah, too easy, that analogy, for this song and this album.

Fly as a metaphor for freedom though?  Now we’re talking.   This is a deeper meaning, and more important, it gets to the core of who Neil Young is.  The removal of the ring is about Rommel losing the inhibitions that go with identity and seizing the moment.  It’s about risk.  It’s about not resting on your laurels. It’s about choosing the strong possibility of failure over complacency.  It’s about following your muse. 

It’s about Neil Young’s career. 

Therein is the reason why Neil Young could produce an album like ‘Freedom’ 25 years into his life as a songwriter.  His ability to always follow the music, and in turn not suffer the same pitfalls of many of his contemporaries, kept him open to this possibility through the experimental music and the roots music and the folk music and the old-rockers, and the grunge.  We all have to be free someday.  It can start at any time, and Neil Young insists on making the jump start to get there far more often than most of us.  There’s something to be learned there…. strip those barriers down to your own inner freedom whenever possible.  Forge ahead.  Make things happen.  Carpe Diem.

Last week, Neil Young played Carnegie Hall. The shows got rave reviews, the critics virtually unanimous in their praise of Young playing a set list that consisted primarily of his late 60s and early 70s hits.   Someday was tucked in there, however:  A stray from the norm of the evening (and a rarity, being something I had never heard him play live before).   Below is a link to the studio version of Someday followed by the recent Carnegie Hall live performance of the song.

-          Pete
Neil Young Someday, Carnegie Hall, January 2014


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Forever Young # 2: "Olympic Gold"

Song:  Long May You Run
Album:  Long May You Run (The Stills and Young Band)
Released:  June, 1976

In less than a month, the World will once again be celebrating the Olympic Games.  Sochi Russia will be hard pressed to top the last Winter Games in Vancouver Canada four years ago.  I’m not talking so much about the sporting events (though the men’s hockey final between Canada and the USA was memorable).  No, the lasting impression for me was the class of the host country, which came through big time in the opening ceremonies, and even more so in the closing ones.  There were many displays of this, including the prominent inclusion of regional indigenous peoples in the cultural part of the opening ceremonies, and the “We Are More” speech by Canadian poet Shane Koyczan to help wrap things up.  Bobby Orr as one of the 8 flag carriers was a nice touch, particularly for those of us who grew up in the Boston area in the early 70s.  The humor was top-drawer as well.  All in all a grand gesture by the Great White North.

Canada made another bold statement during the closing-ceremony events…… they unequivocally claimed Neil Young as their own.  Young had made overtures to his home country on numerous occasions over the years, including in song (Helpless), deed (most recently concerts in Alberta to help aboriginals fight oil sands development on their tribal lands), and the written word (his autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace is saturated with stories of his homeland).  This time it was Canada’s turn to reach out with a rather unique invitation.  Neil Young accepted the offer. 

And so, here it was all playing out.  Standing alone under the 4-pillar Olympic torch (including the now infamous malfunctioned pillar from the opening ceremonies, having since been repaired) Young performed Long May You Run ( ) as the flames were slowly extinguished.  It was a magical moment for a number of reasons.  First, it was brilliant to see a serious rock n’ roll musician at center stage for such a singular observance.  Wasn’t this the place for an opera singer or classical composer, or some wholesome and polished pop icon?  Not this time.  Canada was showing the world that it still had a sense of depth and freedom and risk and complexity and quality. Second was the solemnity of the moment:  A man and his guitar (and harmonica), bathed in Olympic flame light, surrounded by a full, hushed stadium:  Tranquility and 100,000 people are 2 terms that do not typically go hand in hand.  Neil Young appeared to recognize the special circumstances by actually dressing up for the occasion; a stark contrast to his standard garb of choice (ripped jeans and an untucked flannel shirt). 

And then there was the choice of song. 

Now the story goes that Long May You Run is a song about Neil’s first car; a 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse.   You can take the meaning at face value, which is fine enough:  It’s a great song no matter the depth.  But let there be no doubt, there is depth and levels of meaning to this song (as is the case with all great songs).  It’s a song that can be about the freedom that comes with a vehicle; the fascination of living on the road with a band (as a teenager no less, which was the case for Young); or the stories that are connected with being on your own for the first time.  For Neil Young this could be about travelling around and playing in the towns and villages near his home as a young man in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  But this song could connect with any of us that have had that wanderlust; that sense of adventure.  Many North American parents of the 60s and 70s either intentionally or inadvertently promoted it in their children to go out, hit the road and see the world.  Live and learn.  Grow.  I saw it all around me in high school as classmates forged off on their own immediately after graduation. 

Neil Young was singing to his compatriots that night, as well as those in his generation from other countries including the USA.  Many were all ears. 

So was I. 

-          Pete 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Forever Young # 1: "Blindsided"

Song: Powderfinger
Album: Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)
Released: July 1979

Blindsided; a term typically used in negative light.  This is not my intention here, but blindsided is the only word I can think of to use to start this series.   It’s the best term to describe how I felt the first time I saw Neil Yong live with Crazy Horse in the mid 80’s.  And so, blindsided it must be.

When we are very young (and innocent), we tend to get blindsided on an almost a daily basis:  The moon, the sky, the sun, waterfalls, insects, snakes, mountains, birthdays, Christmas, fireworks, family, friends:

“I am a child, I’ll last a while.
       You can’t conceive of the pleasure in my smile”

When Neil Young sings these lyrics in I am a Child, he bows to the blindsided fascination of youth:   The magic and wonderment of routinely being caught unaware.  What is the color when black is burned?”

As we grow older, these experiences come fewer and farther between.  If we are lucky, we are blindsided by love at some point or by the birth of a son or daughter or grandchild.  We may have a religious experience or some other unexplained phenomena could happen to us.  We may be blindsided in our travels, visiting natural or cultural parts of the world prior to which we had only read about and imagined.  We may be blindsided by wildlife and wilderness.  But in general, the gap widens between these special moments as we grow older, or better put, the intensity is not as great as to place them on the same level as what we felt in our youth.  Why?  Well, our expectations may be too high, or our knowledge too keen to be blindsided on a regular basis.  Hopefully the fascination is there, but rarely does it equate to blindsided fascination. 

Yet it was indeed blindsided fascination that hit me in September of 1986 at Great Woods in Mansfield, Massachusetts (which opened for business earlier that summer).   I had just turned 24 years old not one month earlier, so was well past my most formative years.  On the recommendation of good friend, Bob Bouvier (Bouv), I hesitatingly agreed to unload him of a spare ticket to the show.   Bouv, a friend since senior year in college, had attended a Neil Young (with Crazy Horse) concert before.  He was certain I would love this show and during the event, he expressed his own fascination often, glancing over to me at eye-opening moments with a look of crazed intensity on his face (the likes of which only Bouv could exhibit). 

Bouv knew I was captivated right from the opening salvo (Mr. Soul).  I don’t know how, but he knew.  I’ve been captivated ever since, having seen Neil Young on stage at least 15 times; more than any other musician in my long list of concert attendance.

And so begins my yearlong in-depth journey into the music of Neil Young.  This should be interesting.  I’m not going to explore Neil’s music in the same fashion I did with the Rolling Stones in 2012. With the Stones, I tackled each “Stepping Stone” through their studio albums.  With Neil Young, I’m going to have to mix it up some.  He’s delved seriously into a handful of media forms including movies and video and he also hosts a number of great websites that showcase his interests in all sorts of things, from cars to trains to sound to farming to charity.  Young appears more willing than most to allow his breadth of work to be easily accessible on the web, and so his live performances will be dabbled more readily here.  And like the Grateful Dead, his music is heavily bootlegged, so there will be some dipping into that realm as well.  In short, there’s a treasure trove of stuff waiting to be explored.  In the process, I hope it all opens up the memory banks to my own past and allows me to connect with those potential blindsided life experiences that still lurk inside, waiting to be tapped.

My first in this ‘Forever Young’ series is a song from that Great Woods show:  Powderfinger.  I believe this song is an apt choice as my introduction for a number of reasons.  First off, it’s a highlight from that blindside event and has stuck with me all these years (along with Cortez the Killer, which I am sure to be covering later in the series).  Secondly, the song’s meaning mirrors the general theme of this opening entry, that of youth and innocence, the foundations for wonderment.  Powderfinger is the story of a young man losing that innocence while facing an impossible task on his own and in the end being literally blindsided (this time the word being used in a negative light) by a force far more powerful than he.  Thirdly, well… there’s really no better way I can think of to open up this series:  Powderfinger is simply a very powerful song that portrays Neil Young and Crazy Horse in one fell swoop ( ).  And every time I hear it or see it live, I like to sing along with those intense backing vocals from Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina……. That “ooohhh, ooohhh” ascending/descending refrain they repeat throughout.

Finally, I’d like to dedicate this series up front to Bob Bouvier, “Brother Bouv”, who passed away several years ago.  Bouv was one of my fellow music aficionados, particularly in relation to Neil Young and the Who.  I hope to capture some of what his friendship meant to me during this series.  He is missed.


-          Pete