Thursday, January 17, 2013

Neil Young: Illegal Alien, Shameless Huckster

Neil Young says that he never dropped acid. But after poring through the dizzy and convoluted maunderings in his new book, Waging Heavy Peace - A Hippie Dream, you sure could have fooled me.


Apparently in the 2 or 3 years he spent in high school before dropping out, no one ever introduced him to the concept of linear time.

This 497 page effort hops around in time so as to make it nearly incomprehensible.

We start with Neil today, with his Lionel train setup in his California ranch home and jump to when he first discovered Dylan and then to his first band and then to his troubled Canadian childhood and then to Crosby Stills and Nash days and then back to childhood. You get the picture?

He might as well have been tripping on some of Dr. Timothy Leary's best when he penned it.

Oh, and did I mention? He intersperses his stream of consciousness storytelling with a good bit of quite shameless plugola for his most recent start-up company investments: something called Puretone, which supposedly will provide studio quality sound on MP3s and a hybrid car scheme called Linc/volt (the prototype car caught on fire while charging and burnt down Young's warehouse - you'll definitely want to get in on the ground floor of this baby.)

He devotes whole chapters to sales hucksterism to try and drum up enthusiasm for these schemes.

But if you can figure out a way to get to the parts where he talks about the noteworthy things in his storied rock 'n roll career, you do learn some interesting things.

For instance, we learn that Neil Young was an illegal alien for a number of years. He entered the country from Canada by car and just stayed. He was subject to deportation during his Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y days (when he was busy musically lecturing us Americanos on on the racist, warmongering nature of US society.)

But he eventually found a path to legal status in 1970 by shelling out $5,000 to a shady New York immigration lawyer who greased the skids for his green card.

His very own "dream act," you might say.

We also learn that he was briefly married to and had a kid by Park Ridge native and Maine East graduate, 70s movie starlet Carrie Snodgress (you may have known that but it was news to me.)
Young was briefly married to Park Ridge native
 70s movie starlet, Carrie Snodgress

We learn that the producers of the movie Woodstock omitted Young's name from the introduction to the Crosby Stills and Nash performance, because he bitched about the presence of their film crews on the stage.

We learn that his father, Scott Alexander Young, was a pretty significant Canadian journalist.

We learn that when he first performed "Oh Lonesome Me" at a New York coffee house, the audience began to laugh, thinking that any song that sappy had to be a comic satire.

And we also learn that, surprisingly, he didn't think that Ronald Reagan was all that bad a guy.

We really don't recommend running out and slapping down thirty bucks to buy Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace - A Hippie Dream.

That is, unless a long, semi-coherent, rambling, desultory conversation with a stoned hippie is your idea of a wild time.