Neil Young’s Homegrown: 1970s Time Capsule

On June 19, Neil Young, the 74-year-old Canadian-born singer-songwriter, released a new album titled House on his longtime label, Reprise Records.

Neil Young in the 1970s

This is Young’s forty-fifth recording of original music since he began his solo career in 1968 after leaving Buffalo Springfield, the popular group he helped found in Southern California two years over. early.

House is unusual in that Young recorded it in 1974 and 1975, but has never released it until now. As a “lost album” it appeals to both longtime listeners to his music as well as those less familiar, as it captures something of the sound and feel of an era when it was most. productive and most artistically successful.

Young 1972 To harvest, which included the well-known singles “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”, was this year’s best-selling album. “Heart of Gold” became Young’s only successful single, with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor on backing vocals.

To harvest (1972)

Young said of House, “This album is the unpublished bridge between To harvest and Comes a time”, The last of which was released in 1978. During these years, Young remained more in the acoustic, folk and“ country-rock ”genre, from which he broke definitively in 1979 with Rust never sleeps, adopting a more abrasive electric guitar sound, influenced to some extent by punk rock, with his band Crazy Horse.

In a previous interview, Young explained that House was retained because it was recorded during the prolonged break-up of her relationship with late actress Carrie Snodgress (1945-2004), the mother of her first child, Zeke Young. He said, “It was a little too personal, it scared me. Upon leaving, he added: “It’s the sad side of a love story. The harm done. Heartache. I just couldn’t listen to it. I wanted to move on. He was then twenty-nine years old.

His grief shines through on the slow opening track “Separate Ways”. On another, “Kansas”, which also deals with the emotional impact of his broken family, Young sings alone in his tenor voice, with an acoustic guitar and harmonica.

I feel like I just woke up from a bad dream
And it’s so good to have you by my side

Although it is not his best job, House recalls the simplicity and memorable qualities of Young’s songwriter talent. He has had, throughout his career, a seemingly limitless supply of appealing lyrical and musical ideas, although they have at times emerged from the darker side of his psyche.


Young uses simple pop musical forms and riffs. His lyrics are simple, only occasionally drifting into dreamlike – or perhaps drug-induced – imagery, never penetrating too deeply or straying into a metaphorical treatment of the subject.

Young’s appeal has always been his sincerity and rejection of the excesses and affectations common to the rock music genre. Although he has written his share of introspective lyrics and songs, Young’s popularity is to some extent due to his concern for broader social and political issues – the plight of farmers, blue collar workers, the poor and the poor. Native Americans, the environment and American wars.

Listening again to some of these popular songs— “Southern Man” (1970), “Cortez the Killer” (1975), “Like a Hurricane” (1977), “Pocahontas” (1979), “Rockin ‘in the Free World “(1989) – reveals that Young was often successful in writing and performing music with defined social content. Of course, there is no reason to idealize Young’s politics. Something impressionist and sensitive to a variety of populist nationalism, in 1984, to the horror of many, the singer-musician announced his support for Ronald Reagan, on the grounds that he was “tired of people who constantly apologize for being American But four years later, Young hinted that he supported Jesse Jackson.

Sound 2006 Living with war the album included “Let’s Impeach the President”, about George W. Bush, which begins with “Let’s impeach the President for ly / And mislead our country into war” and continues, in reference to Hurricane Katrina , “What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees / Would New Orleans have been safer that way?” “

In 2015, when Donald Trump used Young’s “Rockin ‘in the Free World” – written as a criticism of the administration of George HW Bush – to advertise himself as the Republican candidate for President of the United States, an official statement of the musician said it was not allowed. and that, “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America.”

Young rose to prominence individually through his collaboration with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash beginning in 1969. The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young quartet released the critically acclaimed film. Already seen in March 1970. The album replaced that of Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over murky water to number one in May of that year and remained in the Billboard Top 10 for 23 weeks.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (1970)

Although the three hit singles of Already seen-“Woodstock”, “Teach Your Children” and “Our House” – did not include Young as a songwriter or featured musician, it was the events at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4, 1970 that changed things for him permanently.

In his memoirs of 2011, Waging Heavy Peace: a hippie dream, Young described his response to the news that the National Guards had killed four students at Kent State: “I took my guitar and started playing some chords and immediately wrote ‘Ohio’: four dead in Ohio . ‘ The next day we went to the studio in LA and recorded the song. Before a week, it was all over the radio. It was really fast at the time; very fast. All stations broadcast “Ohio”. There was no censorship from the programmers… The DJs played whatever they wanted on the FM stations… There was no reluctance to criticize the government.

“Ohio” is considered one of the most important protest songs of the Vietnam War era.

Over the decades, Young’s music has remained accessible, although he has changed form and experimented, from the 1980s, with various electronic techniques and genres, including rockabilly.

With record sales declining and his career turned to industry executives as if it were failing, Young reincarnated as a bluesman in a band called the Bluenotes in 1987. A year later he had a single “This Note’s for You,” where he poked fun at corporate rock music and the denounced sponsorships of Budweiser and others:

I don’t sing for Pepsi
I don’t sing for Coke
I don’t sing for anyone
Makes me look like a joke
This note is for you

Young made an accompanying video, and although it was initially banned by MTV during the height of the music video channel’s popularity because it mentioned some of their sponsors, the network ended up naming it Best Video. from 1989. Young asked the time, “What does the M mean in MTV: music or money?”

In the 1990s, Young earned the nickname “Godfather of Grunge” for his avant-garde and distorted electric guitar style, especially when touring and recording with Crazy Horse. He collaborated with the hugely popular Seattle grunge band Pearl Jam on its 1995 release. Mirrorball.

Young’s enduring popularity is due in part to the long list of artists he has performed and recorded with. Although he has a reputation for being somewhat of a cantankerous individualist and even a “libertarian,” this aspect of his personality seems to have been reserved primarily for those involved in what he sees as the negative business aspects of the company. popular music industry, which constantly obstruct and suspend its creativity.

In fact, one of the pleasant features of House is that it includes the participation of musicians such as Levon Helm (died April 19, 2012 at age 71) on drums, Ben Keith on lap slide guitar (died July 26, 2010 at age 73), Stan Szelest on piano ( Dec. 20, 1991, aged 48) and Tim Drummond on bass (deceased Jan. 10, 2015, aged 74), when they were all in their prime. The album also features Robbie Robertson (The Band) on guitar, Emmylou Harris on vocals and Karl T. Himmel on drums, all of whom are active musicians and performers today.

The title of House is a reminder of an aspect of Young’s life as well as several of his contemporaries, some of whom did not come out alive in the 60s and 70s, namely drug use and addiction.

Young wrote the song “The Needle and the Damage Done” (on To harvest) and the whole album Tonight is evening in the grief of death in 1972 by heroin overdose of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Although Young never seems to have used too much of some of the more harmful drugs, he wrote in his memoirs that he finally quit smoking weed and drinking after his 65th birthday.

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