Gleaning Gold: Neil Young’s Harvest Turns 40
I have always had dark heroes.
Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Brian Jones all captured my imagination. Their deep mysteries, their devotion to otherworldly muses, their wrecked cool and even their idiosyncratic clothing kept me enthralled as I pored over the exoticism of their guitar excursions like they were consecrated texts concealing some code that would reveal the profundity of a great unseen world.
And in some ways, they did. This unholy trinity opened up whole vistas of thought and sensations, allowing me to develop what Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to when describing transcendentalism: “an original relation to the universe.” It was both music and extra-musical—but at the heart of it, what they were imparting obscured more than it revealed.
I liked the idea that rock stars were not like the rest of us. That they existed in some alternative universe breathing in saffron-scented air, wearing tight velvet stovepipe pants, riding in chauffeur-driven Aston Martins—all while thinking great thoughts of profundity and consequence and consorting with woman who resembled The Beatles wives and girlfriends, or winsome fashion models.
But if I am entirely honest with myself, my greatest mystery has always been Neil Young. And unlike the aforementioned guitar gods, his mystery wasn’t as occult or obvious—but rather more homegrown and inexplicable because it occupied that unsettling juncture between the familiar and the unknown, like a human manifestation of Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.”
Neil Young may look like the rest of us—may even appear to act like the rest of us—but at the core, you know he really isn’t. That’s even before we get to the Pontiac hearse that he drove from Toronto to Los Angeles in 1966, or how the Buffalo Springfield came into being because all the members just happened to be stuck in the same LA traffic jam—in a moment that seemed to momentarily subvert the law of physics and geography to make musical history.
At the center of my devotion to Young is his emotional austerity and loneliness that has always mirrored my own. I have a theory that the artists that you most revere are the ones that reflect something of yourself back to you, to show some wound or strength in a more exaggerated form, allowing you to understand yourself better. For me, that has always been Young and never so much as on his fourth album, 1972’s Harvest —with its trajectory of wanting love but not quite knowing how to give into it wholly; looking for a heart of gold, but finding a heart of darkness.
There are few places as uncomfortable as the full surrender of your affections—for me, anyway.
And for Young, I suspect.
At least back in 1972.
Beyond Neil Young’s ability to manipulate events, traffic conditions, overcome health concerns or be my own personal mirror, I think his greatest gift is his unfathomable, often wary imagination.
Do words descend on him like Jeanne d’Arc’s visions, fueled by his (and her suspected) epilepsy? How can one explain where a song like Buffalo Springfield’s “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” comes from, with images that feel pulled from Greek tragedy with an economy of language that brings Ernest Hemmingway to mind?
Part poetry, part obfuscation, Young has always created a culture of unease, first witnessed here, oddly asking, “Who’s putting a sponge in the bells I once rung?” then demanding, “Whose seeing eyes through the crack in the floor?”—an early reveal of his incipient paranoia and ability to sense some threat that the rest of us are only dimly aware of.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
- Relix Live Fridays: Trey Anastasio at The Fox
- Grace Potter & The Nocturnals "The Lion The Beast The Beat" (Official Video)
- The Allman Brothers Band Before Gregg?
- The M & Ms: Medeski, Mali, Mercurio, Moore at (Le) Poisson Rouge (A Gallery)
- Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger "The Pequod"
- Trey Anastasio with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center
- More Visions of the Hangout Music Festival 2013 (A Gallery)
- A Blowout for the So So Glos
- Interlocken Festival to Feature Neil Young, Furthur, String Cheese Incident, Black Crowes, Zac Brown and More
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil" at the Beacon
- The Salvation of Page McConnell (Relix Revisited)
- Interlocken Adds Widespread Panic and John Fogerty, Furthur to Play Workingman’s Dead
- Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa "If Heartaches Were Nickels"
- The Final Ingredient in Dogfish Head’s Grateful Dead Tribute Ale Is…
- Stone Gossard Readies His Moonlander
- Trey Anastasio Band at The Hangout (Video Stream)
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll