I remember getting out of bed really late one night, around the age of 11-12, with a flashlight at the ready, to tune in to a rare radio interview with Neil Young I was supposed to be sleeping through. Pressing my ear against the radio, swooning in some nocturnal communion with this man I’d begun to revere. The influence of an older brother. My obsession continued through high school, and this is humiliating, so never bring it up in person, haha!, but I used to sign yearbooks with “Neil Young is #1!” LOL. And my nickname with my BFF, Maria, was “Cinneman Girl” (hers was Wild Child, after The Doors). Watching archival footage like this live BBC show from 1971 would’ve made me cream my panties back then; that long hair, willowy silhouette and awkward prettiness was so sexy. I’m actually crushing all over again watching and listening to him!! And OF COURSE I memorized every word to every song:) so I can sing along. Check it out though as he’s uncharacteristically ebullient in this performance. Its sweet.
Anyway, I began to stray in the 1980s, always appreciating his desire to experiment and fail, the mark of a true artist, IMHO, and I bought Trans, 1982. but my sensibility shifted more post punk By the early 2000s, I hardly ever played his music, it felt so wedded to that silly high school girl, a nostalgic thing.Then one day at The Carlyle, that famed hotel, after meeting with this tacky Sante Fe collector who wanted to hire me to “curate” something, there in the lobby was NEIL. Maybe 10 feet in front of me, leaving through the side door with his entourage. The obsessive fan possessed me again – fulfill your fantasy to meet him, was pushing myself – but I hesitated too long, too fearful that it would disturb him. Knowing he was such a private, taciturn guy. Eventually I followed them out onto the street where I caught a glimpse of him, sliding in his black suit into a dark sedan. I did ask one of his roadies, “Is that Neil?, what’s he in town for?” And he said, “yeah, its him, he’s here for an CSNY tour”. A few years later I slept with this beautiful guy, 15 years younger, who I bonded with – much to my surprise! – over a love for Neil (and he had the whole pretty boy, long hair, tall and thin thing going on). I realized then that with the whole 1970s culture revival, which strangely hasn’t abated, a whole new fan base for Neil Young would grow. Now music critics say he took Dylan’s baton in the 1970s, already elevating his significance – revisionist history: I teach it, I live it, it heartens me.
Maybe its the strong political messages, and distrust of fame are finally resonating again with a new generation, instead of being relegated to mom rock (or should that be dad rock), a “genre” I first encountered on artist Juliana Huxtable’s FB post about Sleater Kinney. HILARIOUS. Anyway, a few days ago it was announced wNeil Young, with a new band and Willie Nelsons sons (!!), was working on an “ANTI-MONSATO” album, and social media’s been abuzz ever since. A NME piece on it leads with a funny, flatfooted quote that’s so Neil: “No auto tune was used and no ears were harmed in the making”, but even Check out his recent album Storytone, which is like a prelude, at least in ts initial song, “Whose Gonna Stand Up” with lyrics like: “damn the dams save the rivers starve the takers feed the givers, stand up to oil, protect the plants,…whose going to stand up and the earth, whose gonna take on the big machine, this all starts with you and me”…there’s a solo version followed by a symphonic version, the latter an earnest plea with a Broadway tone that’s a wee goofy, and each song is given its orchestral version, btw, which is another classic foray of his into territory untread. the songs that follow are reminiscent of a sweeter, grandpa Neil. Its like he’s channeling Pete Seeger.
And FYI, I actually tried to photograph one of my year books, only to realize that my signature “Neil Young is #1!” would be found in someone else’s yearbook. What I did find though were some incredibly intimate and long “entries” by girlfriends (I went to an all girls’ Catholic high school) that were so touching. And serious! Full of darkness. Rreminded me why particularly in my teens I was so attached to this man and his music. It was a real emotional attachment. I guess that’s what I wanted to convey to him in that split second siting in The Carlyle. It was always the moody and (alternately) rancorous sides of his work I liked best, I guess I instinctively responded to the emotion as well as the songwriting. In some ways, I always thought of him as father grunge.
December 1969, San Diego, California, USA — Neil Young plays his vintage Gretsch White Falcon during a sound check at Balboa Stadium just before a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. — Image by © Henry Diltz/CORBIS