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Waging Heavy Peace - Neil Young

Even as a fan of Neil Young’s music I didn’t rush out and buy this when it was first published. I chanced on a copy last week in WH Smith and thought why not read  what my favourite Canadian (not that I know that many, but he gets top billing just from the hours of enjoyment I have had from his music) has to say for himself. This is not your average rock biography of excesses and touring. This is probably because Neil Young is not your average rock star.

I imagine from what I have read over the years about Neil Young’s independent resoluteness that he wouldn’t have let editors mess about too much with his original manuscript and ideas on narrative for the book. It reads more like a journal or a blog with each chapter being about what he feels like writing about at the time and jumping from his early days gigging with his band The Squires in not-so-tropical Northern Canada to a leap ahead in the turn of a page to the present day describing how his ‘Puretone’ project works and his goal and passion for bringing back what recorded music used to sound like before it was compressed into a shadow of itself in the digital format of ipods and mp3 players. His explanations of the different technologies he personally and his team have developed are fascinating and made understandable to a layman such as myself who enjoys listening to music without knowing the technical aspects of how it is made (and who also knows that Jimi Hendrix sounds one hundred times better on vinyl).

For fans of NY there are many love letters to the usual suspects whose names you will be familiar with in his story. His wife Pegi, his brothers in arms from Crazy Horse, record producer and carousing spiritual swashbuckler of the North American West Coast David Briggs (or as Neil mostly refers to him “Briggs”), Danny Whitten, and Ben Keith amongst many others.

The excesses are mentioned in passing, but as with war veterans the ones who were right in the thick of battle very rarely talk about or feel the need to brag about it and I sense this is the case with NY. A man who could rip it up with the best of them in the era of the late sixties and seventies in California and is at an age where he understands that those stories are not important in the grand scheme of things. What he seems to want to do with this book is just chat about what’s going on with him at the moment, his passion for music, family and friends, and to reflect on his life.

Two of Neil Young’s sons have cerebral palsy, which is a condition I only have knowledge of as an observer and have never had the experience of living with a family member who is born with such a severe condition. How NY describes the times he has enjoyed with his son Ben was deeply moving and inspiring to me showing that somebody who faces such adversity from being born different from others into the world should be celebrated, embraced, and nurtured and from what Neil proudly writes about him he is now a brilliant young man. I never cry at books but as I was a few pages from the end of this book sat at my kitchen table I cried as I read about a recurring dream Neil has about Ben. I don’t know if it’s because I’m now a Dad or what? What I do know is that Neil Young’s music moves me. Always has always will. And this book was like a conversation with a wise and funny old friend and was inspiring about what life should be about. Neil Young, you’re alright man!

The key to Young is his independence. Ive got most his albums and some of his work is brilliant, on the lines of a genious both lyrically and musically yet some is absolutely appalling - Mirror Ball for one. But if you understand him and his reasons you sort of don't mind that.

Everybodys Rocking done in the early 80's was a two finger solute to the record company who dropped him because of his two previous albums (Reactor and Trans - a dabble at electro synth!!!). This after a previous decade of classic albums).

He does feel most at home playing with Crazy Horse though. Sadly that alliance and subsequent 25 minute tracks were spoilt by the appalling sound system when I saw them in Dublin but I have seen them before and its something you don't forget.

As for the cerebral palsy thing, I am proud to say I am close to someone who is wheel chair bound with the condition. People are shocked the way I talk to him, taking the piss out of him, but I know I can. I once said to him 'look mate to anyone seeing you for the first time you are a bloke in a wheelchair who you can't fucking understand. But if they spent 2 minutes with you that's all forgotten'. He liked that!!!

He's done things I could only dream off, bungy jumping, parachuting, getting arrested for being pissed you name it. but his greatest achievements have come in the last few years - he got married (to a girl who also is in a wheelchair with severe disabilities). And they now have two lovely children.

He talks about that period you mention HH. His record company tried to sue him for, and I quote, "Making music uncharacteristic of Neil Young". He mentions it a few times in the book as an example of the corporate crap that goes on in the record industry.
Late Doors

what a chuffing great review pal, put a right chim on m'fosh that has.

Love his music, must admit to being a bit worried about reading too much about the man though. I detect something not quite agreeable about him.

Great review that - I've had the book since Xmas but haven't read it yet, aim to put that right forthwith.

It's been said many times but the thing that sets NY apart from most others is his sense of certainty. From what I know of his personal life he's approached the illness and tragedies in the same way - with an uncompromising instinct of facing up to things and dealing with them, for which I am somewhat in awe. It must certainly make any decisions he makes about his music quite straightforward but again he can do what he wants and that's certainly been the case with Le Noise and Psychedelic Pill. It's not a case of right and wrong, like or dislike but quite simply - 'here it is/ what you see and hear is what you get'. Forum Index -> Fishy Tales
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