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book review: Neil Young, Long May You Run

[Book Review]

Neil Young, Long May You Run:
An Illustrated History

By Daniel Durchholz and Gary Graff
Voyageur Press Minneapolis, 2010,
hardcover

book review by Kent Manthie

Into his fifth decade as an uncompromising, unpredictable and awe-inspiring songwriter Neil Young has touched the hearts and minds of many types of people: in other words, there’s no particular demographic for who listens to Neil. Punkers like his irreverent style and noisy charms, “classic rockers” still dig the old stuff (even though Neil’s always been about forging ahead and not staying stuck in the past) – like “Southern Man”, “Old Man”, “Cinnamon Girl” and that particular oeuvre. Few realize, I’m sure, the way most Americans are blissfully unaware of most things, Neil was one fourth of Buffalo Springfield (he wrote “Broken Arrow”, “Mr. Soul”, “I Am A Child” and others even though, sadly, the only song that most people are aware of is the Steven Stills song “For What It’s Worth” (Stop! Children, what’s that sound/Everybody look what’s going on). Young’s time in Springfield with Steven Stills probably is why Young shows up on Crosby Stills & Nash’s Déjà Vu album in ‘71. Still, the Neil Young-penned songs on that record are distinctly Young’s music and the other three are merely backup singers on songs like “Helpless” and “Ohio”, songs that have become part of Neil’s concert catalog over the years. Personally, I think CSN’s best album was their eponymous debut (on which Young, un-credited, plays pump organ on a couple tracks). I still LOVE “Guinevere” and “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” has always been a guilty pleasure of mine.

Anyway, this brand new coffee-table sized book from Minneapolis’s Voyageur Press, just out, chronicles Neil Young’s career and personal life in both excellent photographs and much text too. It not only contains many photos, some of which are new to the public in this book, but on certain pages you can see pictures of memorabilia like concert tickets, showbills, and pictures of 45 rpm singles as well as other stuff. But, in between all those cool pix and stuff, there is a lot to read about the man, the myth and the long and winding road he’s traveled, with no signs of stopping. He’s even done film – he played a “bad guy” in some b-flick, the name of which escapes me and has done some work with auteur extraordinaire, Jim Jarmusch. So, between the interesting anecdotes, histories, interviews, narratives and whatnot in the textual material combined with the great pictures that capture many phases of Neil in his chameleonic career.

Anyone who is a huge fan of Neil’s (and that group encompasses a wide, wide spectrum of people – even the dude from the Bay Area’s agitprop collective, Consolidated (American cousin to Meat Beat Manifesto but much more agitating in their lyrics), in stating his favorite music, on one line wrote “Anything by Neil Young”.

In fact, Young’s music, if it wasn’t already, was handed down to a new generation, who, no doubt, hear all his “hits” – you know, the same 10 or 12 songs they play on “classic rock” radio stations, on the radio, etc, when Young started doing something the Rolling Stones used to do all the time in the 1970s and on their Tattoo You tour in 1981 – have newer, up-and-coming bands/artists open for them – Prince got booed off the stage opening for the Stones in Los Angeles in 1981. George Thoroghgood has also opened for the Stones, back when he was still a relative newcomer. As for Neil, in 1991, coincidentally, just two or three days after the Gulf War started, I saw Neil Young play in Minneapolis and the coolest thing about the show was that the two opening bands were: first Social Distortion and then Sonic Youth put on as good a show as they could, though I felt kind of bad for them because they weren’t in their element, I mean, the audience was obviously there to see Neil Young and I suppose that 90 % of the people in attendance came to see Neil play, not the opening bands (although I was just as psyched to see Sonic Youth).

Anyone who lives in the Bay Area is no doubt aware of the annual Bridge School Benefit – started by Neil Young and continuously performed at by him as well as an ever-changing roster of “friends”. The Bridge School was established by Young’s wife Pegi, after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with a severe form of Cerebral Palsy. The couple looked and looked but were ultimately dismayed by the quality of care and education possibilities. In 1986 Neil hosted the first of what would become the annual Bridge School Benefit, becoming an awaited affair, with a who’s who of rock & rollers playing the benefits: in the past, Bruce Springsteen, REM, Tom Petty, Don Henley and especially Pearl Jam have played the annual event at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. One ticket stub photo in the book shows one year’s line-up: Headlining, of course, is Neil himself and then it was Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Brian Wilson, Foo Fighters, Trent Reznor, Death Cab for Cutie, Gillian Welch and Devendra Banhart and in parentheses it read “with special guests”.

The book is full of little bits of info like that and stories of things that went on between him and all sorts of people in here, it’s a great read and just looking at the photos alone is worth it. You get to see Neil in all the different phases of his career, with his mildly varying looks and whatnot. Definitely a must-have for any Neil Young fan. – KM

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