Tuesday, January 27, 2009


For some reason I woke up this morning desperately wanting to hear this song. Don't know. Must have been about a decade since I heard it. Thank god for Youtube.


Blogger AG said...

Thanks so much for this early morning treat, Johannes! This is my very favorite Neil Young song of all time.

"Cover me with the thought that pulled the trigger."

6:10 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Umm... this is absolutely crazy. I posted the same video on my blog earlier today (about 6 hours ago).

6:53 AM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

Did anyone hear Young's Living With War album? I thought it'd be kind of hokey but it's quite good and I highly recommend it, even if the central character is out of work and living in a "formerly" all-white neighborhood in Dallas.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Uh oh.

Max you are my obscene double.

Or the other way around I guess.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Of his contemporaries, Neil Young is perhaps the only one worthy of "legend" status, and I think the main reason why this is denied him (he does seem to be fairly ignored, at least compared to, say, Dylan) is because he always embraced the new in each musical era, instead of reacting against it. I mean, Dylan pulled out an electric guitar, but what else did he ever do other than crawl back into his lonely Dylan hole where he's safely and incontrovertibly revered and "legendary"?

Young's "Trans" album from 1982 is just one example of his continued risky behavior, and definitely among his best works. "Transformer Man" absolutely kills me.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

These things change Max. You may remember in the early 90s when I was going to 5-dollar concerts with Bob Dylan at the Minnesota State Fair, Neil Young was playing Grunge on MTV. At that point he was very canonical.

I have always said that nothing Dylan did after 1966 measure up to the mid-60s stuff, which to be fair is better than anything else ever done by anyone in pop music. It is also interesting that his second best stuff tends to be stuff where he is not most progressive or modern but most reactionary (like his last couple of albums).

8:15 AM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I think this period is very much like the period after Blonde on Blonde (so John Wesley Harding) through Planet Waves (so just before Blood on the Tracks). It's a reactionary exploration of the old Americana music Dylan grew up listening to. Some of that is folk, some of that country, but mostly I think it's early rock and rockabilly even. What Dylan is doing now seems to be another wave of exploration, only of slightly different styles.

Neil Young certainly is underrated, and I think to an extent it has to do with being someone that can't be pinned down by a culture that prides itself on pinning down. Sure Dylan's changed a ton over the years, but for the public consciousness, he's still the guy who did "Blowing in the Wind". But what does the average person equate Neil Young with? If you're my age, you remember him hopping around in flannel with Eddie Vedder. But that's not Neil Young- or maybe it is- who knows.

I feel like we're very happy to continue praising folks that gave us one 'large' moment vs. several 'smaller' moments.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


I haven't bought a new record for years. But I'll check it out.


10:32 AM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

The new stuff is quite good, though a bit more commercial. Much like the Never-Ending Tour is about making money, I think the last two albums are about that as well, especially after Time Out of Mind and realizing that he could actually make money off of album sales!

Not that I blame him, I should add. If he feel he's financially unsecure at this age, he certainly has earned the right to be so in his old age.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Johannes -

I think that timeliness is exactly what prevents Young from being canonical, though, because it represents a refusal, on his part, to sit around and let music pass him by. By all accounts, he should be a fat old grouchy recluse by now, living off Buffalo Springfield reissues, but what makes him so great is that he seemingly embraces everything that goes on. He has none of that "It was better back in my day" to him that one gets from Dylan and others. The fact that Young was "hopping around" at grunge shows in the 90s only demonstrates, even further, how open he is to the world around him. Of his contemporaries, he's the only one I can think of who wouldn't have looked on that genre/movement with utter bafflement and contempt, due to its neo-punk emphasis on the amateur and the unpracticed.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Not to mention the fact that there is nary a blemish on Young's "CV," quite a feat considering all the genre-hopping he's done over the decades. I'm surprised he didn't make a hip-hop record, to be honest, though his taking an interest in Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra is nearly good enough for me.

Dylan, on the other hand, has become like the Beatles in a lot of ways. Just this unassailable, but certainly overrated, "legend" whose relevance doesn't extend nearly as far as it once did, but who cares, because the only big difference is that they direct deposit the checks now.

Not only is Neil Young a consistently great artist, but he just seems like a cool, down to earth guy as well. The advocacy he's doing for emissions-free automobiles is excellent, and the fact that he can bullshit with the kids about iTunes and Blu-ray technology is just icing on the cake.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read this blog for a long while now and I'd like to comment on Max's statement of Dylan being overrated. For one, I believe that this excavates Dylan's range, for so often he is widely mentioned yet never in a facet that determines his expansiveness. Ask nine out of ten people who dig his tunes to name more than one album and they will most likely answer with the name of a song. Albums like "John Wesley Harding," "Bringing it All Back Home," "New Morning," and even the "Basement Tapes" are so bizarrely unknown that since they are penetrating from an obscure pulse they are never known as the brilliant sub-cells that they are, instead plugged into that which is referenced and thus considered overrated. To call something overrated is to have listened to the entirety of it and therefore have the capability of knowing it as such, and I doubt one can do so with someone like Dylan, who is not only one of the greatest songwriters of all times but in a similar arena one of the greatest poets. There is even a recent collection of his drawings during his "religious phase," a gem I challenge anyone to call less than marveling. Simply put, Dylan has never asked anything from his music fans, and for something to be overrated there need be a connection between the ego and the output. Also, the tendency to label something as overrated is because one is ignorant of its privacy, thinking it strides on a public realm too applicable to the populace tongue and laud. I therefore ask that anyone disregarding a certain form of rating instead survey the entire catalog before gently lambasting its particles, even if unintended in full. This, coming from someone entirely adamant about promoting both Young and Dylan, equal in their poetic and musically lyric propulsion.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Max said...

flynn -

When I say "overrated," I mean it in a way that wouldn't require even a second of experience listening to Dylan. Like the Beatles, Dylan is held in higher regard than any single artist could ever live up to. He's not overrated because he's bad, but rather because he has become so unassailable that he is seen, by many, as positively, impossibly God-like. This is more a critique of the Cult of Dylan perpetrated by overzealous supporters than it is of his music. Of course, to think of him as anything less than a God instantly triggers a predictable response, that one can't possibly craft a comment on Dylan until he/she has scoured every single document, because the a criticism of God Himself demands it. In other words, criticism is rendered impossible, which is again, part of the entire scheme by which Dylan's legend is reinforced. He is unassailable because he is unassailable, and that's that.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...


Terms like "overrated" and "legendary" are somewhat too blunt for a discussion since Dylan has largely tried to undo his own legend and to ruin his legendary status (overrated). Rather than hold his legendary status against him, I think I hold it against the over-canonical way we talk about "classic rock".

It's easy enough to say that YOung has embraced new styles and technologies, but I think that's a pat way of thinking about art. Part of what makes Dylan is indeed his insistent "rewriting" and wrecking of his "legendary" status - both in his interviews/biographies and in the way he consistently rewrites his most canonical songs (and the songs of American).

But mostly I feel that your line of discussing is part of that way we discuss classic rock - who's more legendary? who's overrated? I think that line of discussion doesn't do much for me.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Max, I am glad that you clarified the "overrated" element, yet I still think that its usage doesn’t work well here, especially while speaking of someone in terms of a god of sorts, for we would then need a word to praise Dylan highly and consistently so, as a god, and overrated implies he is too highly praised. I think this sort of praise that occurs is itself an emblem of the populace's inability to talk about rock...not that there's any easy way in.

It seems too easy, then, to leave him at unassailable, because this creates an opposition between overrated and unassailable when so much between is available in our musically-critical lexicons. I don't think I was reading your usage of the term as one that called him bad, yet one that suggests we have placed him in a place that disallows a conversation about him to bring anything to light, when in fact there may not be anyone with more material to allow us an entrance into conversation that would in turn dwindle the cult, as perceived, and open up meaningful ways of rock-discourse.

I admit to being a bit touchy with what words hold, especially in reference to anything Dylan, and that is most likely what made me jump into this, but I do wish that people continue to find ways to speak of Dylan's work and in doing so work between the spaces of the language of the cult and the absence of language in way of unassailability.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Johannes -

The terms I'm using are merely a way of saying that perhaps Young deserves a little more attention, and people like Dylan a little less. You make this kind of argument about poetry all the time.

3:02 PM  

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