Entries tagged with “Neil Young” from this Public Address 1.0
Someone commented on the Neil Young list regarding his carrying along a wooden Indian as a stage prop for his performance on the Leno show last night on the rustlist:
What's up with Neil hauling around that noble wooden Indian to all of his gigs??? It must be some sort of security blanket or something...it couldn't be that his Neilness is trying to establish a trademark orimage because...after all... the folks most likely to take notice of such minutia are us Rusties/Zumans/NYAS members...and we now know from that Shakey tome that Neil could give a flying f*ck about what we think...The very use of the word “noble” in this post shows how pervasive myths are. My first thought was that Neil never strays too far from myth; myth is a big part of dreaming, and he is most effective as a dreaming man, rather than as a political pundit. I tend to skip that part.
Inside jokes are always a big part of any artists work, I think. Sometimes they're embarassing, as Walker Evans so rightly pointed out.
Performing, particularly on the scale of artists of Young's stature is nothing if not mythic. Identifying and controlling those myths is a project that every artist strives for; I suppose you could say that it is a security blanket. It’s the how of mythmaking that dominates much of my thinking lately, rather than the why.
Are you negative?
In a world that never stops
Turning on you
Turning on me
Turning on you
Neil Young, "Are You Passionate?"
I became interested in the poet Hart Crane for an odd reason. I suppose it’s not that odd, if you know me, that is. I was listening to a bootleg of Neil Young at the London Festival Hall from February 12, 1971, and he introduced a song like this:
This is a song I wrote about uh. . .If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a sad/hopeful piano tune which wasn’t released until the 1973 album Time Fades Away
I don’t know how many of you have heard of a poet called Hart Crane, he wrote a poem called The Bridge among other things. . .
and uh, I’d just been reading it . . .and I wrote this song.
I started out feeling like I was Hart Crane so I wrote this song called “The Bridge”
Shortly after that, I bought Hart Crane’s Collected Poems, though I didn’t have the time to give it that it deserved, because I was knee-deep in W.B. Yeats. I finally got around to giving it a close read, as I reflected on the fact that the first edition of this poem was also Walker Evan’s first big break. I recall being rather confused by most of Crane’s poems, and the book had been sitting on my shelf for at least two years. Sometimes, poems don’t find you until you need them.
Because it was neatly nestled in the middle of the Collected Works, I didn’t realize that the poem To Brooklyn Bridge was just an introduction to a sort of American epic, which dances on the line of social engagement and detached aesthetic sense. And I didn’t know that Hart Crane committed suicide at the age of 32, and was a tortured homosexual. Crane worked on The Bridge for almost ten years, and felt that it was incomplete, a fragment that he just couldn’t bring together. Finding that out, brought Neil Young’s song into sharp focus:
The bridge, we'll build it nowCrane wrote The Bridge as an answer to T.S. Eliot’s “Wasteland” because he felt that it presented too negative a view of the modern condition. It is, in essence a sort of tragic love poem to America composed in eight parts. I’m still rolling in it, thinking of what I want to say. I’ve spent little time with modern poets, largely because of a huge distaste for Eliot and Pound, but I’m making an effort to get over it. Hart Crane and William Carlos Williams have helped.
It may take a lot of time
And it maybe lonely but
Ooh baby, ooh baby.
The bridge was falling down
And that took a lot of lies
And it made me lonely
Ooh baby, ooh baby.
The bridge was falling.
The bridge was falling.
The bridge was falling.
The enterprise of trying to write about deep topics on my blog forces me to let go of chronology and focus, while at the same time they assert themselves. I wanted to write about Walker Evans. But my Tristram Shandy mind has me writing about Neil Young, and thinking of the second part of Crane’s poem, “Powahatan’s Daughter,” and wondering about the entire process of myth construction, as it says on the Smithsonian web site:
Historians have pieced together her life from the accounts of others, most notably her friend, Capt. John Smith, whose veracity of detail and recollection is, to put it mildly, questionable. During the intervening four centuries others have showered her with virtues. Poets and writers from Thackeray to Hart Crane celebrated her charm. More lately rocker Neil Young sang, "I would give a thousand pelts / To...find out how she felt." And now we have the animated eco-warrior princess from Disney.I really wish they wouldn’t sanitize lyrics this way. The exact lyric is:
I wish a was a trapperI suspect that most people miss the irony here. The vision of America we hold is an illusion, a myth for hire if you can afford the price of admission.
I would give thousand pelts
To sleep with Pocahontas
And find out how she felt
In the mornin'
on the fields of green
In the homeland
we've never seen.
And maybe Marlon Brando
Will be there by the fire
We'll sit and talk of Hollywood
And the good things there for hire
And the Astrodome
and the first tepee
Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me
Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me
And that’s all there, with much more, in Hart Crane’s Bridge.
O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies dreaming sod,
Unto the lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the Curveship lend a myth to God. (41-44)
I think the sad song of America took a big twist through Hart Crane on its way to the Beats and Neil Young. I think that all of them fail in one way or another, but it’s America’s nature to try and fail. I'll get back to Walker Evans, when I get back to that confounded bridge.
Sometimes it seems like love and death are the only subjects really worth writing about. This binary quickly becomes unary when you think about it, though. I was walking to class yesterday evening when I approached a girl I know from an intro survey literature course. She was walking down the green path, just scanning the skies with a deep smile. She stopped and said:
You know what I was just thinking?I just stall midstream when I try to think about death. The master narratives of glorious death just don’t do it for me, though the transformation of death into sleep through elegy is interesting, largely because these poems become love poems to life. Most of the time, I feel like Woody Allen’s idiot questioner in Love and Death:
How could anyone think of suicide on a day like today!
What happens when we die? Are there girls?I prefer this line of questioning more than the militant struggle of survival, epitomized by the answer to the old joke “Why did the chicken cross the road,” in the Hemmingway style: “To die. In the rain.” I like Yeats’s take on the topic in a poem called “Politics.”
How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics,
Yet here’s a traveled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there’s a politician
That has both read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and wars alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms.
We understand so little about love, and why it drives us so. I was teaching a short bit on sexist language today, and while I hate the PC tongue-twisting, the avoidance of generic objectifying is relatively easy. When you speak of everyone, you cannot say man alone. But all the same, if we speak in character, we do objectify those that are different from us. Objectifying, dividing things that are different from us into the “not us” is a fundamental building block of language. I speak of love only with the terms that I know. Being heterosexual I can only speak of women as different from me, and a binary that love seeks to unify.
But what triggered all this, more than anything else, was a song from the Pontiac Brothers called “Almost Human.”
Well she’s almost human when she steps up to you,I suspect that love is the only thing that allows us to tolerate one another. I was struck by the description of the discovery of the Pontiac Brothers by the guy who constructed the site I linked:
And gives you a kiss, from the lips that never miss,
Well she’s almost, she’s almost human.
I came across The Pontiacs in an appropriately unassuming fashion. I dug up Doll Hut out of the incoming bin of a local used record store. I remembered seeing a Frontier Records ad for it calling it "Stones"-like, so I figured it would at least be a style of music I liked. I got Tom Waits' Closing Time the same day. I had just had a death in the family, just split with a girl.
Love and death and the Pontiac Brothers and Tom Waits. Go figure. But then, I started to think about how many rock lyrics get a bad rap for being sexist, among them Neil Young’s A Man Needs a Maid. I just can’t read it that way, no matter how I try. It seems to me that its one of those inner voice things, and his musings about needing “just someone to keep my house clean / fix my meals and go away” is part of that same frustration in the Pontiac Brothers’ song. A frustration that we just don’t know why we need lovers so much, and yet we do. I think Liz Phair’s “Canary” really expresses the other side of being loved as an object through so many layers of sexual metaphor that it makes my head spin. I still haven’t been able to remove that damn CD from my player...
I learn my name
I write with a number two pencil
I work up to my potential
I earn my meat
I come when called
I jump when you circle the cherry
I sing like a good canary
I come when called
I come, that's all
Send it up on fire
Death before dawn
Send it up on fire
Death before dawn
I clean the house
I put all your books in an order
I make up a colorful border
I clean my mouth
'Cause froth comes out
Send it up on fire
Death before dawn
Send it up on fire
Death before dawn
Love and death, that’s the stuff... Or maybe just love. I’ve been collecting definitions of rhetoric, and I found another one I like from Jim W. Corder:
Rhetoric is love, and it must speak a commodious language, creating a world full of space and time that will hold our diversities. Most failures in communication result from some willful or inadvertent but unloving violation of space and time we and others live in, and most of our speaking is tribal talk. But there is more to us than that. We can speak a commodious language, and we can learn to hear commodious language.
To be told we objectify something is the deepest insult to love. Sexist language does violence, on both sides. But if a room is truly commodious, isn’t there room to say what we really feel?
Then a strange imperative wells up in him: either stop writing, or write like a rat . . . If the writer is a sorcerer, it is because writing is a becoming, writing is traversed by strange becomings that are not becomings-writer, but becomings-rat, becomings-insect, becomings-wolf, etc.
Deluze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (240)
Walking with the beast
Desparate for something new, I mined an old tape case, and pulled out some music I hadn’t listened to in years. My listening habits have changed since I became more of a bibliophile. I don’t listen to music while reading like I used to. When I do listen, I tend to listen more deeply, and often repetitively. I suppose I got that habit from Slim.
Before I left on my trip, I had just received a copy of “Exile in Guyville” by Liz Phair, one of those records I didn’t pay any attention to when it first came round. I think I listened to it four times in a row, while getting the stuff together for my trip. I keep wanting to buy something new, but when I cruise the CD listings I balk at paying $18 for a CD. I tend to cruise for gems that I might have missed over the years, and buy the bargain CDs. This was a good choice, a real gem that I hadn’t heard before. Sometimes history seems so deep that it is hard to expend the energy on keeping up with the present.
My old tapes are split into three categories: live tapes of things I don’t want to risk to a car tape deck (probably about 5 or 6 hundred), a core group of around a hundred old beer-soaked and sun-bleached tapes that used to get me down the road in crazier days, and around a hundred tapes I made for archival purposes when I was living in a record store.
It wasn’t really a record store, it just had more records than many small record stores. It was the only time that I had a roommate. In a tiny ghetto apartment, Rick Hodgson paid half my rent, even though he spent most of his time with his girlfriend (now wife). He had a collection of around 2,000 records, and it sat in the same room with my collection of 1,200 or so. So I frantically taped a lot of his stuff. There was only a little overlap, though we did have many points of coincidence in our collections. He was more of a “hippie” type (though he had short hair) and I was more of a punk (though I had long hair). I never sold him on the Minutemen, but he never sold me on the Grateful Dead. It was fun for both of us to try though.
I pulled out a tape of Creedence Clearwater Revival albums, “Cosmos Factory” and “Willie and the Poor Boys” that I made from Rick’s albums, sometime in the early eighties, and a few beer soaked tapes from a little later than that from those old beat up tape cases, and hit the road.
From the moment that “Las Vegas Story” by the Gun Club started playing, I was transported back. Though I favor the Ward Dotson line-up (“Fire of Love” is one of my all-time favorite albums), it was a refreshing blast of tribal power. Music sets up territories, creates communities, and has a social function beyond its entertainment value. There is just something bestial about this music, then and now, and I was reminded just how small that community was. It was all about the tone. I never managed to sell many of my friends on this tone. They missed the point; it wasn’t about songs, lyrics, or chord structures. It was the tone.
I know a lot more about it now. Looking back, I can see that The Cramps had it; The Scientists had it; Neil Young and Crazy Horse had it; The Wipers had it. And the next forgotten gem on that tape, The Toiling Midgets “Deadbeats,” had it. So what was it?
Researching Defoe’s The Journal of the Plague Year has pointed to the power of historicity over and over. I think that has a lot to do with it. Rex, who turned me on to most of these bands, used to always say in the mid-eighties when we would listen to local schmoes pounding out their cover classics that “They have deep musical roots all the way back to 1977.” I think that’s it. What the tone I became sensitive to was the echo of a chord stretching all the way back to Robert Johnson and beyond; it was muscular, it had a power that refused to let go. Jeffrey Lee Pierce tapped into that tone, and like Johnson, he was walking with the beast. The claim to historicity gives weight and substance to any argument, and seemingly separates it from myth while it creates myths all its own.
When I heard the long versions of “Heard it through the Grapevine” and “Effigy” on that Creedence tape for the first time in 20 years or so, I realized that it was that same tone. A primal tone stretching back to the moment when humanity first began to make sense of pain through music. I resist all tendencies to abolish history, particularly that part that resonates inside me. That’s the problem with most Internet histories; they want to deny those things that ultimately, refuse to die. It’s the animal inside.
But some people just don’t hear it, and can’t hear the difference between the antiseptic studio perfection that some bands strive for, and real human tone. I’m not that interested in perfection. I’m in it for the beast. Sloppiness isn't a guarantee of it though, I still believe that the Grateful Dead definately never had it. I suspect they were just too stoned to let the beast in.
I believe in the worth of history. However, the historical perspective is troublesome because with every telling of the tale we cannot cease our compulsion to rewrite it in our own image, as we are now, or rather, as we would like it to be. Placing writers like Jack Keroauc in the larger context of constructs like “the Beat generation” limits them, but at the same time, illuminates their difference from the arbitrary constructs.
The troublesome concept of “generations” can be traced to the romantic essayist William Hazlitt. In his book The Spirit of the Age, he offers commentary and gross generalizations about his “generation” which are at once contradictory and comforting in their simplicity. For example, in his chapter on Coleridge he proposes:
The present is an age of talkers, and not of doers; and the reason is, that the world is growing old. We are far advanced in the Arts and Sciences, that we live in retrospect, and doat on past achievements. The accumulation of past knowledge has been so great, that we are lost in wonder at the height that it has reached, instead of attempting to climb or add to it; while the variety of objects distracts and dazzles the looker-on. What niche remains unoccupied? What path untried? What is the use of doing anything, unless we could do better than all those who have gone before us?And yet, Hazlitt concedes in his chapter on Byron that:
Lord Byron is dead: he also died a martyr to his zeal in the cause of freedom, for the last, best hopes of man. Let that be his excuse and his epitaph!The Spirit of the Age which Hazlitt seeks to contain includes those who were “talkers not doers” (like Southey, Coleridge, Wordsworth, etc.), and those who were zealous champions of the cause of freedom and fought in battle (like Byron) or produced revolutionary pamphlets at the risk of their lives (like William Blake, Tom Paine, Percy Shelley, etc). The neat concept of history falls apart with even the slightest scrutiny. It could be argued that it is the process of youth to age which is the real distinction. Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth were all “revolutionary” in their youth and denied the martyrdom of dying young, they become objects of scorn in their old age.
Hazlitt’s case for William Godwin, using Wordsworth as a mouthpiece, points at the problem of perspectives that shift with age:
'Throw aside your books of chemistry,' said Wordsworth to a young man, a student in the Temple, 'and read Godwin on Necessity.' Sad necessity! Fatal reverse! Is truth then so variable? Is it one thing at twenty and another at forty? Is it at a burning heat in 1793, and below zero in 1814? Not so, in the name of manhood and of common sense! Let us pause here a little. Mr. Godwin indulged in extreme opinions, and carried with him all the most sanguine and fearless understandings of the time. What then? Because those opinions were overcharged, were they therefore altogether groundless? Is the very God of our idolatry all of a sudden to become an abomination and an anathema? Could so many young men of talent, of education, and of principle have been hurried away by what had neither truth nor nature, not one particle of honest feeling nor the least show of reason in it?'
I believe that retrospective critiques of Kerouac and others who sought to break the bounds of the weight of literary tradition, to find the spirit of their age, suffer greatly when examined through the framework they sought to overthrow. Because they sought to break through, however, they must be examined inside that matrix, which has moved on since the time they wrote. Did they capture a spirit, or merely expose their irreverence for the world to see? History is the final judge, jury, and executioner in these matters.
I do not doubt the sincerity of Kerouac’s belief, only the ultimate worth of a lifestyle built on restless movement and above all else, speed. Age tempers these notions: “When I was faster I was always behind,” as Neil Young says, or as the penultimate line in Easy Rider succinctly puts it, perhaps the best reflection of the sixties is: “We blew it.” As my father always said, "Hindsight is 20:20." Longshoremen philosopher Eric Hoffer declares reason why we feel compelled to start moving best: “The best impetus for moving forward is to have something to run away from.” Generalizations of history are good at describing the disenchantment, the "beaten" nature of the beats, and why they took their show on the road. The question addressed and left unanswered by Kerouac is: where do you run when there is no place left to go?
The only thing that remains is to revel in the trip itself. This is great advice when you are young, but age brings reflections on what you have left behind. On the Road cannot be read with that weight held in the mind. A free-flowing, stream of consciousness prose style is perhaps the only real contribution of Kerouac when viewed through the lens of age. However, to sense only that is to miss the spirit of freedom, a freedom from possibility which lies at the core of Kerouac (and perhaps Henry Miller too, from an earlier generation). The labels of Lost Generation or the later Beat Generation are shaky simplifications that don’t really hold up. But it’s the way that history deals with things.
Hazlitt's Wordsworth was astute: “Because those opinions were overcharged, were they therefore altogether groundless?” Wordsworth's question does not require an answer, for those who read only to revel in the freedom. Literature scholars are bound to attempt an answer, however. And the answer, in Kerouac’s case, is to perhaps just dodge and say that he was not groundless, just unrealized. He has stiff competition from the generations that came before and after when it comes to his worth as a literary figure. But there is no denying his importance as a central figure as a spirit of his age.
I revisited some memories of Keroauc from his close friends in the oral biography Jack’s Book. Alan Ginsberg relates their first meeting with William Burroughs:
So Jack and I made a formal visit to Bill, and I remember that he had copies of Yeats’ A Vision, which Lucien had been carrying around. Shakespeare, Kafka: The Castle or The Trial, The Castle I think; Korzybski’s Science and Santity, Spengler’s Decline of the West, Blake, a copy of Hart Crane, which he gave me and I still have, Rimbaud, Cocteau’s Opium. So those were the books he was reading, and I hadn’t read any of those. And he loaned books to us . . .Most of these books are on my shelf. It feels kind of weird, thinking that it is a writer’s job to overcome this weight and move the project forward. I think Kerouac and Ginsberg “moved the project forward” a bit, but only just a bit. The idolatry of my youth is gone, and now I look to all books as things I can use, but things I must overcome if I am to move on. I suspect Kerouac felt the same way, though he never seemed to get past the breakthrough phase into the realm of pure vision, in the way that Blake or Yeats did.
Perhaps though, it’s fitting that the spirit of this age be incomplete and unrealized. Perhaps that’s true of all the ages, and only history can find the neat closure that we so fervently crave. I think that the new pluralist trends are a good thing; there is no one spirit of the age, only spirits that we can seek to comprehend.
Yes, I know that Spirit of the Age is a Hawkwind song too. But Hazlitt said it first. Hazlitt's defense of Godwin would be the only sort of defense that I would offer for Kerouac, but this matters little to a young reader who would drink deeply of the speed, the movement, and the joy that is deeply conveyed with its dark side intact, in the writing of Jack Kerouac. Under 25? You must read On the Road. At least, if you have the flame of disenchantment within you. Who doesn't, when they are young?
This is actually the 7am to 9pm day for me, but it went by in a whirl. Both day classes were good, and I think I solved my little conflict problem. Most of the people seem really anxious to learn, and I've already got one paper back revised. I felt really good today.
In Dr. Anderson's class, we watched Dolores Claiborne. The readings we had this week gave me an idea for my paper in the class. I think I'm going to do a textual analysis of Defoe's Journal of a Plague Year to see what the nodes of authority are in the text.
Defoe is trying to make sense of horrendous events at a time when science and religion were first coming into conflict. I haven't read it before, and it is one of the earliest "documentary fictions" in English literature. In 1717, people were grasping for some way to establish standards for reasoning, while the impact of Christianity was still strong. I wonder how it all plays out in a time of crisis? I think I'm going to look into it. I know the book marks a radical turn in political perspective for Defoe, and I wonder how much the tragic experience shifted the "balance of power" in his view.
Dr. Anderson wrote an interesting response to my introductory essay. He said that reading it felt a little like going from 0 to infinity in a quarter mile. I suppose I do that a lot. I take in ideas, and then I take off. He also told me, as we walked to his car tonight, that I sound like I'm studying for my comprehensive exams for a Ph.D. Not really, I'm just trying to make some sense of stuff, and it seems like I'm finding a new piece in the puzzle every day.
In a Dark Time is doing Plath right now, so I had to pick up my copy of Ariel to look through it again. One of my students, Adam, has taken to surfing my site from time to time. He also seems to be doing quite well at blogging. His first essay did remind me of a poem by Plath, so I suppose I'll just have to quote it.
The Night DancesA smile fell in the grass.
And how will your night dances
Lose themselves. In mathematics?
Such pure leaps and spirals—
Surely they travel
The world forever, I shall not entirely
Sit emptied of beauties, the gift
Of your small breath, the drenched grass
Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.
Their flesh bears no relation.
Cold folds of ego, the calla,
And the tiger, embellishing itself—
Spots, and a spread of hot petals.
Have such a space to cross,
Such coldness, forgetfulness.
So your gestures flake off—
Warm and human, then their pink light
Bleeding and peeling
Through the black amnesias of heaven.
Why am I given
These lamps, these planets
Falling like blessings, like flakes
On my eyes, my lips, my hair
Touching and melting.
This reminds me of so much more, though. It reminds me that I preferred to photograph dead flowers. Their shapes were so beautiful as they died. It reminds me of the calla lilies around the stage in the Nirvana unplugged performance. It reminds me of a Neil Young lyric: "I see a comet in the sky tonight / makes me feel like I'm all right / I'm moving pretty fast, for my size." It reminds me of the snow that fell last week. It reminds me of the constant calculations, trying to put a frame around the mountains of knowledge that pass across my eyes each week. It reminds me that it's been a long time since I made a woman smile.
The pronunciation of "tea" has been the main subject of discussion lately on the C-18L list. Evidently it is pronounced "tay" in Gaelic, and Alexander Pope rhymed it that way. I find it hard to think of myself as a "tay" drinker. Tee hee. Tay was the original pronunciation in Dutch, were the word originates, so leave it to the English to reinvent it. Remember, as Monty Python says, that the Dutch don't really have a language, they just gargle and call it a language.
However, the real fun came in when they were seriously debating how big a barrel of oysters was. I found out that oyster barrels are indeed of a different size than you'd think, holding four dozen oysters. Not a very big barrel, I'd say.
In other news, Neil Young's new album is going to be called "Are You Passionate?". A rather silly question, for anyone who knows me. I also discovered that Concrete Blonde has reunited, has a new album that came out a couple of days ago, and now has an official site. Wow, I knew there must be a reason why I dragged out those old dusty albums a while back. I can't say that I'm all that impressed with the single posted at the official site, I'm not a big ballad guy. But I'll buy the record. I'm a sucker that way.
However, I got really pissed at the diary section of the site. It's dark red text on a black background, and tiny text at that. I had to bump up the font size, and highlight it to be able to read it. Has anyone ever heard of usability?
Enough carping. I'm done now. I suppose I'm just looking for some grain of sand to turn into a pearl, but the world isn't cooperating lately.
For those who don't recognize it, the Wipers logo is actually a play on Ohm's law. It's more than fitting for perhaps the most electric of sounds I've ever heard. I'm so glad I got the chance to see him. He doesn't play out much, and there's almost a sort of religious quality to it. But it's certainly an electric church. Many of his songs just cut me to the bone, like "Window Shop for Love."
There is also an unofficial site with some interesting interview snippets. I particularly liked this bit:
Standing on the small stage, playing to fewer people that his accomplishments deserve, Greg Sage turns up his guitar and his swooping, soaring songs. It's a beautiful noise of a power that seems larger than life, with an interior cry, like the eye of a hurricane. As Sage says, it's a "falling effect, but also like catching yourself in a fall."That about says it. Other than Neil Young and Crazy Horse, I've never heard a more powerful noise. But no one falls like Greg Sage. I like that. I like that a lot.
I don't ever read Rolling Stone, but David Fricke's written a surprisingly good article concerning John Lennon's Imagine. There is an interesting contradiction with Lennon's own words that I heard regarding the song on the video collection I downloaded last week. The article states:
Lennon had written "Imagine" earlier that year, one morning in his bedroom at Ascot, while his wife and collaborator, Yoko Ono, looked on.I always love this stuff. Were they there? What's the source for this information? What Lennon said on the videodisc release was that the lyrics came from a notebook that he shared with Yoko. They had been riffing on "imagining" and said it was impossible to tell who wrote what, or came up with what idea. Consequently, he later gave her co-writer credit. However, it is impossible for most people to accept the idea that Ono was responsible for anything "good" when it comes to John. That sucks, in a big way.
However, they do credit Neil Young's wife with the idea to do the song for the WTC tribute, and even attribute the source of the information:
According to Don Was, the show's musical director, it was Young's wife, Pegi, who suggested he play "Imagine."
Sometimes I wonder just what the fuck people think artists do, and how they come up with stuff. This bit in particular just grated like fingernails on a chalkboard:
"It's extraordinary that Lennon was able, out of a clear blue sky, to construct this elegant appeal for a saner universe," says songwriter Jimmy Webb. "I could see something like this being inspired by a horrific event like the World Trade Center attack. But he was just sitting around one day and came up with this idea for a song calling for a better world. It's clairvoyant.Uh, remember Vietnam? No, there were never any horrific events before the WTC to inspire anyone, no wars, no need to think of a better world. Yeah, he's psychic. And he was just sitting around and perked the damn thing up, and had never thought of stuff like peace, or imagining before. Get real people. Most artists I know of spend a lot of time engaged with the big subjects, playing with things and experimenting until eventually something works. It isn't as mythic as most people seem to want to claim. It's called work. Lots of it. I tend to think of the song as a very well-wrought conversation, between John and Yoko, that Lennon has invited the world to join in on. With great music besides.
Later in the article David Fricke goes on to say much the same thing. But it's way past the attention span of a typical reader, after the strangely biased scene painted in the beginning. Fricke invites the help of Michael McClure to explain the song's poetry:
The poet Michael McClure, a charter member of the Beat movement in San Francisco in the 1950s, describes the actual metric structure of "Imagine" as a combination of "white soul and American, black Southern heart. It would have been a pretty good blues song - it has that kind of cadence. But it also echoes, in a subtle way, the English tradition of William Blake, saying, 'How sweet I roamed from field to field' - the classic English ballad structure.McClure actually gets it. Which is a nice way to close the article. But Fricke didn't. He went on with some more stuff. Okay, so maybe I don't think it is as good as I originally stated. But as an artist, and a writer, I can't help but have my say as well.
"It's a great poem," McClure says. "It's a great song. But I think that's minor to the fact that it's really a wisdom work. The essentials of life are all in this poem, all in this anthem. And we're so lucky to have it in Lennon's voice. We don't have the voice of the writer of the Book of Job or the Tao Te Ching. But we have the voice of Lennon.
Neil Young recently debuted a new song written about the events of 9-11 on KFOG in San Francisco. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, and the generosity of Neil Young fans, you can find an mp3 here. It's considerably more hawkish than his performance of Imagine on the benefit.
Most of it isn't personal stuff anyhow, and when I last looked at my inbox today, it had over 400 unread messages. From the last three days, no less. I suppose I should cut back on the mailing lists I subscribe to.
But, so many interesting things come in that way. Found an interesting link on the Neil Young mailing list: Gilmour says that Pink Floyd is calling it quits. It's about time I'd say, when you haven't had anything new to say in about twenty years. Gilmour cites his age as one reason: "I don't want to be touring anymore. I'm fifty-five; it's a young man's game." What a load of crap.
Neil Young is around sixty; listening to a compilation CD of his latest European tour, I'd say it's some of the best work he's ever done. I really think age doesn't have much to do with it. When the creative fountain stops up, it's time to quit. But for some, the fountain erupts like a geyser periodically for many years past when the critics seem to think it's time to stop. I'd add Pete Townshend to that list; though it's been a while since he did much that was really new, I think the potential is still there.
The New York Post has joined a great deal of the Internet community in damning Hollywood for trying to do something good in the face of tragedy. What a sick, sad world. Neil Young was condemned loudest of all. Sorry, but I think peace is something that the world needs to imagine right now. Fuck you John Podhoretz, just turn off the TV if you don't want to see it. People do what they can. Entertainers entertain. While I think it's healthy to question the messages sent out by the media, sometimes cynicism goes over the top too.
Speaking of Podhoretz, on a lighter side there is a new book coming out October 30th: A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman. I don't think I need to buy it though, I know what happens in the end. They all get jobs at newspapers and on TV.
Neil Young performed John Lennon's "Imagine" on the tribute thing tonight. I'm sort of awestruck by him, and by Paul Simon's performance. I didn't even commit suicide when Celine Dion sang "God Bless America." I'm slipping; normally that would have induced vomiting. The whole affair was quite restrained; nobody grandstanded too much with the possible exception of Paul Schaefer, as usual. I never watch this sort of thing. Why did I watch it?
I can't explain why I sat there like a drone throughout the thing, only nearly throwing a brick through the TV once when Tom Petty did "Won't Back Down," and again when Limp whatever re-wrote a Pink Floyd tune, clearly reading the lyrics off a sheet in front of them. Funny, I was thinking about Pink Floyd earlier, listening to "Careful with that Axe Eugene." People are having a hard time being careful these days; it was sort of scary to see Ali jitter through saying that "if he had a chance he'd do something about it." There's a lot of "champs" out there right now, biting on their fists, looking for something to hit. Me, I'd rather imagine but that's pretty hard these days.
Neil noted this in his one minor alteration to Lennon's lyrics. Instead of singing "Imagine no posessions / I wonder if you can" he sang "I wonder if I can." That's the sort of honesty that I have come to expect from Neil.
I really had trouble sleeping last night. Read five essays for class; read large stretches of Hume's History of England; Finally opened my mail to find out that I had the front cover of an entertainment insert of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, and three more photos inside. It's a Republican newspaper, so I don't read it. It was from about a month ago, and they were photos of Martha Jordan (Louis Jordan's widow) and some photos of the tribute concert a year ago. They were cropped in a crappy fashion, a typical newspaper hack job. I'm almost sad I was given photo credit. Oh well, it wasn't the first time this has happened. I suppose I'll give them to Karen, she keeps a sort of clip file on me. I don't plan on selling myself anytime soon, so publication credits of this type are of little use to me. I was glad that Steve Koch (the brains behind the tribute, who is trying to get a monument erected for Louis Jordan) sent me articles from the St. Louis and Memphis papers too, regarding his continuing effort.
When I got up, I read Bob Lee's post on the Neil Young list about Clearchannel banning a bunch of songs from their playlist. I thought about linking to it, but when I checked Badger's blog, I saw that it was already buzzing about. It was a rough day, schoolwise, and I scrambled to find the microphone for my walkman for class. I flipped the switch to test it, and the local Clearchannel drone was playing "Head Like a Hole" by NIN, which was on the banned list. When I got home tonight, I found out it was sort of a hoax. I tend to think that it's probably "only a hoax" because they got caught so quickly. Silly, silly corporate program directors. "Yes, we know what the public really wants..."
I walked the teacher back to her car after class, and she asked "How do you have the time to read so much?" I didn't give my usual, true answer: I have no life. This time, I just didn't say anything at all.
I was surprised to see a vistor from the United Arab Emirates today; I noticed that I also had a referral from Slashdot. I wonder what for? This place is about as far off the mainstream of web life as things come; most people can't take too much of me.
Just another observations I want to get down: ALL the home shopping and infomercial programing went off the air right after the attack, and for a day afterward. Commerce stopped? I never would have believed it, if I hadn't been watching. Also, I noticed today on a yahoo newsbyte that Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen are slated to perform on a special telethon for New York, from Hollywood, this Friday. I wouldn't have dreamed this either; all four major networks are going to carry it, burying the hatchet in the ratings war. In America, this is pretty damn unbelievable.