Album: Ragged Glory
Released: April, 1990
There is a key word in that line, and it’s the last one; ‘were’. If the word had been ‘are’ instead, the song would have taken on a different meaning, and could easily have been received as a bit of a slight. Not a significant one mind you, but one nonetheless. After all, how could anyone put themselves in the shoes of a person much older….someone with many more years of living under their belt….someone with far more experience in life? Neil Young knew this for a fact. How did I come to this conclusion? It’s because of a song he wrote many years later, this week’s Forever Young entry, Mansion on the Hill, which comes complete with a bonafide classic of an MTV video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1WpgTzf8nk ). Both video and song need some serious dissecting. I’m here to serve.
Before doing so, a brief overview is in order. Mansion on the Hill is a hard rocking song on a hard rocking album; ‘Ragged Glory’. The entire package is pretty darn impressive without taking anything else into account, but to consider that Young and his entourage, Crazy Horse, were in their mid-40s when they released this disc makes it even more provoking. In the short history of the middle-aged rocker, there really is no one else to compare to in terms of creativity and spark. Yes, Neil Young and crew had our attention in 1990, but again, the important thing to remember is that this was a unique (mid-life) stage for any rock musician to be achieving such lofty -and deserved - recognition, especially for something as raucous as ‘Ragged Glory’. And they seized the moment, in more ways than one. Much of the album helps explain this, but a few key concepts come together on Mansion on the Hill.
3. Preacher Neil: Sees the world in black and white. While conducting a funeral service for an elderly man (in this video), he initially seems obsessed with the notion of towing the line rather than rocking the boat. Preacher Neil and Frazzled Neil have much in common, and could actually be one in the same.
4. Toast Neil: The crazed gas station attendant giving directions. I’ll get to him.
* Note: there is overlap in all these personas, which is refreshing: No multi split-Sybil personalities here.