I guess Neil Young’s been on my mind a lot this week – I rediscovered the Weld album which took me to writing about how I first discovered. And before that I enjoyed the Live Rust tribute concert. Sitting there, hearing so many of those great songs got me to thinking about how so often there’s a line – just a single line – that shows off a worldview, sets up a mood, shows a philosophy. You can enjoy Neil for so many reasons. There’s country-Neil, rock’n’roll-Neil and many points between. But lyricist-Neil is important. To me anyway. I love picking just a single line and wondering how he got to that. So clean. So simple. But containing multitudes. Here’s five off-the-top of the head examples that, er, mellow my mind…
1.On The Beach
The whole album is a revelation to me. But the title song has a line that gets the mood Neil sustained across the record. And it’s been part of a philosophy of sorts for me in recent year – a good trigger for empathy: “Just because my problems are meaningless, that don’t make them go away”. We’re all just struggling through. Muddling. Making a fist of it if and when we can.
2. What Did You Do To My Life? |
From back on the self-titled solo debut- a curious wee album with some gems. Fifty years old now – but still so relevant. Neil just taking his own path, his own stand: “It’s hard enough losing/Without the confusion/Of knowing I tried”. Stoicism. That’s Neil. Stubborness is how it gets written up. But like all of us, any of us, he’s just struggling through. Muddling. Making a fist of it if and when he can.
3. Don’t Let It Bring You Down
The whole lyric really, but I love the half-line of “It’s only castles burning” – where it was about the small stuff being big in the On The Beach lyric here it’s the opposite. Don’t let it bring you down. It’s only something fucking enormous. Move on. Get through it. Don’t let it drop a shit in your milkshake. This song fucking destroys me. And I’m grateful for that.
4. Razor Love
“You really made my day/With the little things you say”
It feels right to bookend this with On The Beach cuts, plus there’s some genuine anger here, what a killer-closer: “Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars,/But I hate them worse than lepers and I’ll kill them in their cars.” Venom. Fire. But what I really love is the verse-ending couplets here that speak to Neil’s go-it-alone philosophy. First “I won’t attack you, but I won’t back you” and then, “I won’t deceive you, I just don’t believe you”. Sometimes Neil is the best person to write you a good Bob Dylan line.
Bonus: The Full BBC 1971 Solo Acoustic Gig
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