For the last couple of months I have had the great pleasure of reading this book and re-examining the catalog of Neil Young. I have been a fan of Neil’s music ever since a friend turned me on to Decade (1977 career retrospective) in high school. This book allowed me to literally dissect Neil Young’s immense body of work piece by piece, learning the background of what I was hearing.
The material is extremely interesting, or as Young would say “innaresting”. The format in which the information and story is delivered is genius. The book surpasses what your garden variety biography would deliver with a mish mash of chronological story telling, excerpts from interviews with Young himself, short biographies and quotes from the large cast of characters that have occupied Young’s life, all mixed in with commentary from the Author.
The book covers Neil’s life up to around 1998 including a quick but detailed history of his Grandparents and Parents lives. Once you get to his High School days you will learn all about his influences and his early musical ventures. Moving further on though his musical career the bulk of the book is about the music he created as a solo artist, with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Crazy Horse, and the many other incarnations of his backing groups. Among the characters that are covered include his manager Elliot Roberts, the producer for many of his albums David Briggs, early collaborator Jack Nitzsche, and most of the members of the bands he was involved with.
My only qualm with the book is that I think Jimmy McDonough is a little heavy handed with his opinions about some of Young’s work and decisions. Most of the time he is right and he tells Young to his face, but I do think he has some pretty high expectations.
I have always found Young to be a fascinating character, and I was surprised by some new facts. For example before he moved to America, Young was in a group called the The Mynah Birds with Rick James (Beotch!) of all people. They even recorded an album for Motown which sadly has never seen release. Another strange connection was his involvement with Devo which I covered in a recent post which you can see here. The last little tidbit I’ll offer is his involvement in the toy train industry. In the early 1990’s Young purchased part of the Lionel toy company and eventually bought them out. Also check out the ever eccentric Young’s newest projects on this recent post.
Usually I include a playlist with each of my music book reviews and I fully intend to do so for this one as well. Actually it will be more like 3-4 playlists, each covering a different era of his recording career.