Bad News: Neil Young in the 1980s
As a follow-up to yesterday’s excursion into Reagan-era Young, here’s a revamped compilation I posted way back in the early days of this blog.
Confusion, anger, David Geffen, synth pop, disappointment, the blooze … The 80s were not kind to Neil Young, and it shows in the records he released during that decade. But as a dyed in the wool Neil fanatic, I find the period pretty fascinating. Even if the official albums were spotty at best, he was still making some great — or at least really interesting — music. So here’s a homemade comp cobbled together from various, commercially unavailable sources with some of the high points.
1. Bad News (w/ the Bluenotes, 1988) - A big, swaggering, slow number with Neil’s guitar playing nicely off of the horn section. If This Note’s For You sounded more like this, maybe I’d actually listen to it once in a while. There is apparently a version of this song recorded in the mid-70s with Levon Helm on drums! Levon, suffice to say, is not present here. There is a sax solo though!
2. Berlin (w/ the Trans Band, 1982) - Not a cover of the Lou Reed smash hit, but an original that sounds quite a bit like “Love & Only Love” — nice guitar work, doomy synths and kind of forgettable lyrics (Neil probably wrote them five minutes before the performance), except for the chorus, which sums up the vibe of the Trans tour nicely: “Help me help me help me help me.” Congas.
3. Ordinary People (w/ Bluenotes, 1988) - Finally released on 2007’s Chrome Dreams II, this song is an epic survey of the 1980s landscape — or at least the 1980s landscape in Neil Young’s head. He must’ve been reading Time Magazine that week or something. I like David Briggs’ comment about this song: “Neil knows nothing about ordinary people!!” More sax solos.
4. Road of Plenty (w/ Crazy Horse, 1987) - This one was rewritten as “El Dorado” a couple years later, but I might prefer this stomping Crazy Horse version. Some great, surreal lyrics here — Neil was definitely into these weird, disturbing travelogues in this period, each verse a little vignette. This would reach its apex with the 20-minute “Crime In The City” — see below.
5. If You Got Love (w/ the Trans Band, 1982) – An outtake from the legendary Trans, but this isn’t one of the techno numbers, sadly. Catchy enough tune though, seemingly recycling one of the riffs from “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong” for some reason. And is that Santana on guitar during the outro? I sure hope not.
6. Big Room (w/ the Bluenotes, 1988) – A big, swinging number you can imagine Sinatra himself having a go at. Apparently, Neil prepared a live album of Bluenotes material he planned on calling This Shit Don’t Sell.
7. Boxcar (Times Square studio outtake, 1988) - Another tune that showed up 20 years later on Chrome Dreams II for some reason. I like this better than the re-recording, with the spare percussion, tremelo-laden guitar and howling harmonica.
8. Interstate (w/ the International Harvesters, 1985) - An almost impossibly lonely song that’s gotta be one of the best songs Neil wrote in the 80s. Who can say why he discarded it, but that’s what makes him so much fun, right? He did end up cutting a super-spare version in the 90s (it showed up as a bonus track on the vinyl Broken Arrow).
9. Sixty To Zero (Crime in the City) (w/ the Bluenotes, 1988) - A legendary 20-minute tour de force performance that goes on and on and on but manages to hold your attention throughout. Some of the verses here are funny, some are scary and some are heart-rending. And there are sax solos.
10. Razor Love (solo, 1989) - The sound of Neil waking up from a bad dream.
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- rrrick said:This is great
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- whenyrlivinginafascistdream said:truly, you are a curator-as-artist (as Eno put it). brilliant
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- pfcidb said:lots of sax solos in the 80s, apparently.
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