Posts Tagged ‘Crazy Horse’

Making A Myth?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Poking around in the LP database this morning, I noticed that twenty-one years ago today, I picked up Neil Young’s three-record anthology Decade, released in 1977.

It’s strange, the things that stick with you. I stopped at a garage sale in the suburb of Richfield., a couple miles from my apartment in the very southern portions of Minneapolis. I remember it because of the delusional prices for records. There were several Elvis Presley anthologies in the box of records, all of them priced at $10 or more.

I’d seen many copies of the same anthologies at Cheapo’s for much less.

And I found Decade. I’d glanced at copies of it at Cheapo’s – they were infrequent there – and winced at the $10.80 price. (Cheapo’s sold records in what was considered fine condition for $3.60 a disc, thus a three-LP set in fine condition was $10.80.) That price was a budget-buster back in 2000. But at the garage sale, the fine folks who wanted $10 for an omni-present Elvis collection were asking only $1 for Decade.

I walked away with it, and later that day, gave its three records a listen. It was in great shape, and the music was fine. It wasn’t stuff I was going to listen to frequently, but it was good to have it around: stuff from the Buffalo Springfield years, from his work with Crazy Horse, his solo work, and stuff with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. It left me, however, vaguely dissatisfied.

When the time came for the great vinyl sell-off maybe five years ago, Decade went out the door. I’d gotten hold of Young’s 2004 Greatest Hits CD, and that – along with a few other albums on CD – was all I needed. (I kept the LP of his 1978 album Comes A Time, as it’s my favorite of all his work.)

So, anyway, I was pondering Decade this morning on the anniversary of my finding it, and I went to Wikipedia to check the track list, and I found this interesting segment:

The album has been lauded in many quarters as one of the best examples of a career retrospective for a rock artist, and as a template for the box set collections that would follow in the 1980s and beyond. However, in the original article on Young from the first edition of the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll and a subsequent article in the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide, critic Dave Marsh used this album to accuse Young of deliberately manufacturing a self-mythology, arguing that while his highlights could be seen to place him on a level with other artists from his generation like Bob Dylan or The Beatles, the particulars of his catalogue did not bear this out. The magazine has since excised the article from subsequent editions of the Illustrated History book.

I’ve got both books here, and yeah, Marsh lays it on a little hard. In the Record Guide, he writes: “[F]or all his virtues, Young embedded his good ideas in a trove of bad ones, and his realized concepts are forever juxtaposed (except on Decade) with his worst. With the exception of Tonight’s The Night, he has never been able to make a fully realized concept album, not a terribly significant flaw except that he kept on making half-realized ones. By excerpting the most successful moments from these failures, Young almost managed to convince you they were triumphs.”

I think Marsh is right about half-baked ideas in Young’s oeuvre, but it crosses my mind that it’s pretty rich for the man who helped elevate Bruce Springsteen to mythic status to complain about another rock star’s efforts to hone his own legend.

Decade was a great bargain twenty-one years ago today, but I don’t miss it. Young’s Greatest Hits CD is a better fit for me. It’s missing the Buffalo Springfield  and CSN&Y tracks, as well as stuff from Tonight’s The Night and On The Beach, and a Crazy Horse jam or two, if I read the listings correctly. I’ve got the Springfield and CSN&Y stuff elsewhere, I can find Tonight’s The Night and On The Beach if I want to hear them and the jams aren’t a big deal to me.

So, here’s a Young track with Crazy Horse from Decade that I do like: “Down By The River.” It was originally on the 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.

‘I Can Tell By Your Eyes . . .’

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

As I was wasting time on Facebook last evening, I posted – for no particular reason except I like the song – a link to a video of Everything But The Girl’s recording of “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” from 1988.

The video played as I posted the link, and as Tracey Thorn eased her way through the tune, I thought to myself that I needed to dig into the tune’s genesis. I knew about Rod Stewart’s version from Atlantic Crossing, and I thought I had a couple of other versions in the files, but where had the song come from?

I figured it was something I should know – or maybe something I’d learned a while back and forgotten. If it was the latter – if I’d forgotten – I also figured I’d be at least a little chagrined when I was reminded of what I’d forgotten.

So I clicked a few links, and – as it turned out – I wasn’t chagrined. I just felt stupid.

The song was written, of course, by the late Danny Whitten, a member of Crazy Horse and a friend to not only Neil Young but also to Bobby Jameson, whose career I’ve written about numerous times (and with whom I still share emails and Facebook messages and links). If I’ve never known the origins of the song, I should have. The tune was included in 1971 on Crazy Horse’s self-titled album:

But as I listened to Crazy Horse’s version of the tune – the original version, as it were – I knew I’d heard another version. I searched the RealPlayer and found nothing, which didn’t make sense. I knew I had another version of the tune in the files. Puzzled, I went to All-Music Guide to see who else had covered the tune.

As I knew he would be, Rod Stewart was listed. His version was released as a single in late 1979 and went to No. 46. (I find the four-year gap between the release of Atlantic Crossing in 1975 and the release of the single a little odd.) Others listed as having covered the tune were Rita Coolidge, Ian Matthews, Nils Lofgren, a U.K. singer named Dina Carroll, Steve Brookstein (who was the first winner of the television contest Pop Idol in the U.K.), and a few other names.

The Matthews listing intrigued me, as I have a fair amount of his music from his time in Fairport Convention, in Matthews Southern Comfort, in Plainsong, and under his own name. The album he released in 2000 with Elliot Murphy, La Terre Commune, is one of my favorite albums (though with all the music in the nooks and crannies here, it gets less play than it should). On that album, Matthews’ first name was presented as “Iain,” so I searched for the tunes I have under that name.

And I found the version of the tune I’d been recalling, a live performance from 2001. It was listed, however, as “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It.” Using that spelling, I did some more searching. I found a good performance of the song by the Indigo Girls from the soundtrack to the film Philadelphia. And AMG informed me that Matthews had first recorded the song for his 1974 album Some Days You Eat the Bear and Some Days the Bear Eats You, which is one of the few Matthews’ albums from that era that I’ve not heard.

Others listed as recording the tune with the “Wanna” spelling were the pop group Smokie, performers named Michael Ball, Alexander Murray, Emmerson Nogueira and clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk.

As I noted, I’ve not heard many versions of the song, but of those I have heard, I lean toward the Crazy Horse take as the definitive version. (I’ve never cared much for Stewart’s version.) Other than that, I enjoy the live version I alluded to earlier, the one that Murphy, Matthews and Olivier Durand recorded June 1, 2001, during a performance at the Cornish Pub in Solingen, Germany. It was released as a part of the Official Blue Rose Bootleg Series.