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

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