Neil Young on the “worst record” he ever made

Following his formative tenure with Stephen Stills, David Crosby, and Graham Nash in various combinations over the late 1960s, Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young returned to a more permanent solo career with his spellbinding third solo album, After the Gold Rush, in 1970. This slice of magic would kick off the star’s most prolific and indisputably vital decade.

“I need a crowd of people, but I can’t face them day to day.” As this excerpt from ‘On the Beach’ hints, Young is a particularly capricious artist. When writing material for his acoustic masterpiece, Harvest, in the early ’70s, Young revealed his double life in the countryside as his peaceful hippie retreat.

“About that time when I wrote [‘Heart of Gold’], and I was touring, I had also—just, you know, being a rich hippie for the first time—I had purchased a ranch, and I still live there today,” Young said of ‘Old Man’ in the film Heart of Gold. “And there was a couple living on it that were the caretakers, an old gentleman named Louis Avila and his wife Clara. And there was this old blue Jeep there, and Louis took me for a ride in this blue Jeep”.

He added: “He gets me up there on the top side of the place, and there’s this lake up there that fed all the pastures, and he says, ‘Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?’ And I said, ‘Well, just lucky, Louis, just real lucky.’ And he said, ‘Well, that’s the darnedest thing I ever heard.’ And I wrote this song for him.”

Young’s capricious nature led him to explore a healthy breadth of styles from country and blues to the proto-grunge sound of The Rust Never Sleeps, which earned him the title of ‘The Godfather of Grunge’.

As with any intrepid creative straining the walls of convention, Young made a couple of wrong turns in his career that he’s made no bones to admit. Young’s self-proclaimed nadir came in 1987 with the release of Time Fades Away, a live album recorded with The Stray Gators on the supporting tour for 1972’s Harvest.

In a 1987 British radio interview with Dave Ferrin, Neil Young discussed the release. “My least favourite record is Time Fades Away,” he said. “I think it’s the worst record I ever made – but as a documentary of what was happening to me, it was a great record. I was onstage, and I was playing all these songs that nobody had heard before, recording them, and I didn’t have the right band. It was just an uncomfortable tour. It was supposed to be this big deal – I just had Harvest out, and they booked me into ninety cities. I felt like a product, and I had this band of all-star musicians that couldn’t even look at each other. It was a total joke.”

In a 1999 conversation with Q, Young added: “The whole tour was a nervous experience. It wasn’t really a lot of fun. I kind of got into documenting that vibe. It’s not something I want to listen to a lot, and when I listen to it, I’m not that impressed.”

Listen to ‘Last Dance’ from Time Fades Away below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like