Tommorow and the Day Before Yesterday

I can’t stop thinking about the tongue-in-cheek comment Neil Young made about “there was always more.” I took it as a backhanded slap at nostalgia, a bit uncharacteristic of a “greenie.” Going through some old links, I stopped to have a look at this Tom Snyder montage. I really can’t remember whether I liked him or not—I don’t think I did. His sideburns always seemed like they were on the attack, and he never seemed to have much of a grasp of the issues. But the clip near the end of John Lennon saying that the reason people become performers is to “get a little extra” made me smile. I don’t think Snyder got the joke any better than the Star Tribune reporter did. Today, I noticed that most fans are reporting a different experience.

But the bit at the end of the clip where Howard Cosell accuses Snyder of being a shill for the network bosses is the best part. It brings out another cliché stated well by Bob Dylan: “You gotta serve somebody.” I suspect it is scariest when the biases (and masters) are hidden. A few commentators have suggested that the centerpiece of the current Neil Young tour is the song “No Hidden Path.” Everyone talks about the groove, but no one talks about the substance. For some, it’s an instant classic—for others, a recycled dirge.

In my case, I’m struck with the tension between the sort of abstract hijacked Native American spirituality (a common Neil Young trope) and a pragmatic anti-metaphysical stance that there be “no hidden path.” The song opens with the invocation of a spirit guide, but then asks the guide to:

Show me the way
No more darkness. No more wasted time
Show me the way
Let me stay here with this heart of mine
And with you I feel no hidden path

It’s hard not to take this as political, for me at least. Given the establishment of so many secret paths to “homeland security,” I keep wanting to hear lyrics that are not there—the piece is vague, and, according to some, mawkish. But placed against the other songs chosen to close out the evening on this tour (Like a Hurricane, Tonight’s the Night, Cortez the Killer) it seems that it is best read as a song meant not to communicate any profound verbal message, but to riff on a particular harmonic—a certain resonance in the soul of themes of love, loss, and conflict. It’s about centering on a feeling, finding that chord that lifts you off the ground.

Lately I’ve been feeling like there is way too much talking in the world. You won’t find me on twitter. Monologues seem rather pathetic. It seems to me that the interview (with it’s model of dialog as the highest knowledge) is similarly wrong-headed. I think there are other things to know, and other ways to know them. But such arguments are always made in words, and such words always offer multiple paths—even if we don’t want them to.

Attempting to make that argument seems about as silly as writing a song about walking with an invisible companion claiming that there is no hidden path. But then, perhaps the reason why good musicians “get a little extra” has more to do with how they make people feel, rather than what they make them think.