Neil Young

Neil Young é outro dos meus “living heroes” e uma referência fundamental no meu espectro (já de si, bastante largo e ecléctico) de gosto musical.

Tal como acontece relativamente a outros semi-deuses do meu Olimpo musical (Caetano Veloso, Miles Davis, Mercedes Sosa, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, Keith Jarrett, Cesária Évora, Pablo Milanés, Duke Ellington, para só citar alguns de uma longa lista de referências), conheço razoavelmente bem a discografia de Neil Young, dos Buffalo Springfield aos registos a solo, passando pelos CSN&Y e Crazy Horse. Tenho, naturalmente, discos preferidos (Buffalo Springfield, Déja Vu, After the Goldrush, Harvest, Unplugged, o fantástico Prairie Wind e último Americana), mas não conheço nenhum mau. Numa carreira de 50 anos, é obra !

Já agora, e numa nota ainda mais pessoal, se tivesse que escolher uma canção, entre as centenas que o génio do canadiano produziu?  Old Man, está bom de ver.

O NYTimes publicou no passado dia 19, uma entrevista de carreira a Neil Young, conduzida por David Carr. São 5 páginas de revista de vida e de carreira que, mesmo que não tragam nada de novo, são um resuno dos 50 anos de actividade de um dos génios maiores da musica popular.

Com a devida vénia e o reconhecimento que se impõe ao autor e ao jornal, aqui fica o excerto inicial dessa entrevista. No final desta transcrição, encontram o link para o texto integral.

Driving down the hill above his ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains, south of San Francisco, Neil Young took a deep whiff of the redwood forest momentarily serving as the canopy for his 1951 Willys Jeepster convertible.

 Young’s ranch in California

“I can still remember how it smelled when I first pulled in here — I was driving this car,” he said, recalling the trip in 1970 when he bought the place and named it Broken Arrow, after the Buffalo Springfield song.

The author of some of the spookiest, darkest songs in the American folk canon seemed jolly on this late-August day. Even if he was accompanied by a reporter, generally not his favorite species of human, the motion soothed him. “I’ve always been better moving than I am standing still,” he said.

Young, 66, spotted this land out the window of a plane banking out of San Francisco four decades ago and now owns nearly 1,000 acres of it. His song “Old Man” is a tribute to the caretaker who first showed him the place.

“I ran out of money, so I had to sell some of it,” he said. “That’s O.K., because it was too big. Everything happens for a reason.” He kept his eyes on the narrow road through the giant redwoods.

It was hard to reconcile the affable guy motoring along on a sunny day with his past incarnations: the portentous folkie of “Ohio,” the rabid anti-commercialist who gave MTV the musical middle finger with “This Note’s For You,” the angry rocker who threatened to hit the cameramen at Woodstock with his guitar. He was happy partly because he was here.

“For whatever you’re doing, for your creative juices, your geography’s got a hell of a lot to do with it,” he said. “You really have to be in a good place, and then you have to be either on your way there or on your way from there.”

We would spend a few hours creeping along — he drove slowly but joyfully, as if the automobile were a recent invention — on our way there or on our way from there, the ranch where Young lives with his wife, Pegi, and their son, Ben. His longtime producer and friend, David Briggs, who died in 1995, hated making records here, deriding the hermetic refuge as a “velvet cage.”

In addition to the studio, where more than 20 records have been made, there is an entire building given over to model trains, another where vintage cars are stored and another piled with his master recordings. Llamas and cows roam under cartoonishly large trees. It seems like a made-up place, an open-air fortress of eccentricity meant to protect the artist who lives there. But what it has most of all is not a lot of people.

“I like people, I just don’t have to see them all the time,” he said, laughing. David Crosby, his bandmate in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, used to describe the complicated route into his ranch as “my filtering system,” Young said.

He made a bunch of rights and lefts through the forest before getting out to unlock the gate. Others might have an electronic gate, but Young likes the mechanical experience of slipping a key into a padlock and swinging something open. He is fundamentally analog, despite the occasional electronic excesses in his music. He likes amps with knobs that go to 12 and things that click when you touch them.

I made it past the filtering system because Young was promoting his autobiography, “Waging Heavy Peace,” which comes out next week. The book is elliptical and personal, with little of the period poetics of “Just Kids,” by Patti Smith, or the scabrous detail of “Life,’’ by Keith Richards.

Young once promised he would never write a book about himself, according to Jimmy McDonough’s biography of him, “Shakey.” But time passed, and then Young broke his toe a year ago and needed something to fill his time and refresh his fortune.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to continue to mainly be a musician forever, because physically I think it’s going to take its toll on me — it’s already starting to show up here and there,” he said. Writing a book, he added, allowed him “to do what I want the way I want to do it.”

“Waging Heavy Peace” eschews chronology and skips the score-settling and titillation of other rocker biographies. Still, Young shows a little leg and has some laughs. Yes, he partied with Charles Manson and tried to hook him up with a recording contract. He admits he saw a picture of the actor Carrie Snodgress in a magazine before he courted her, married her and divorced her. He pleads guilty to having been busted for drugs with Eric Clapton and Stephen Stills. He even has a little fun with Crosby. “I still remember ‘the mighty Cros’ visiting the ranch in his van,” he writes. “That van was a rolling laboratory that made Jack Casady’s briefcase look like chicken feed. Forget I said that! Was my mike on?”

But as the book progresses, the operatics of the rock life give way to signal family events, deconstructions of his musical partnerships and musings on the natural world. It is less a chronicle than a journal of self-appraisal. The book, like today’s drive, is a ride through Young’s many obsessions, including model trains, cars like the one we were touring in and Pono, a proprietary digital musical system that can play full master recordings and will, he hopes, restore some of the denuded sonic quality to modern music.

 With his mother, Rassy, in 1968.
 With his father, Scott, in 1969.
 Although he rarely meets the press, mostly out of lack of interest, there is no reluctance on this occasion. A plain-spoken Canadian from the tiny town of Omemee, Ontario, and a son who has done the work of his father — Scott Young, a Canadian journalist, wrote more than 30 books — he wants to be understood. Every question is mulled and answered directly, without ornamentation. But each time when I guessed which way we were turning, on the road or in conversation, he almost always went the other way. “Too many decisions to make with no sign of what to do,” he said, laughing as he steered around a hairpin onto a side road.

Young has routinely fled success, severed profitable musical partnerships, dumped finished records and withdrawn when it was precisely the moment to cash in. He is a person who will never leave well enough alone. “Sometimes a smooth process heralds the approach of atrophy or death,” he writes in “Waging Heavy Peace.”

Doing as he pleases has worked out pretty well for him. As a young musician torn between the crunch of the Rolling Stones and the lyricism of Bob Dylan, he avoided the fork altogether and forged his own path. Over the course of more than 40 records and hundreds of performances that date to the mid-’60s, he has backed Rick James, jammed with Willie Nelson, dressed up with Devo, rocked with Pearl Jam and traded licks with Dylan. Some of it has been terrible, much of it remarkable. He has made movies by himself and with Jim Jarmusch and Jonathan Demme. He called out Richard Nixon, praised Ronald Reagan and made fun of the second Bush. And he has little interest in how all of that was received. “I didn’t care and still don’t,” he said, then went on: “I experimented, I tried things, I learned things, I know more about all of that than I did before.”

His longtime manager and friend Elliot Roberts describes Young as “always willing to roll the dice and lose” and says: “He has no problem with failure as long as he is doing work he is happy with. Whether it ends up as a win or loss on a consumer level is not as much of an interest to him as one might think.”

His records don’t sell as much as they used to, but while many of his contemporaries are wanly aping their past, Young takes to the stage surrounded by mystery and expectation. And now he’s doing so again on tour with Crazy Horse, a thunderous, messy concoction of a band that has backed him over the years and been a source of constancy amid all the hard turns in his career. “We’ve got two new albums, so we’re not an oldies act, and we’re relevant because we’re playing these new songs, so that gives us something to stand on,” he said.

It’s safe to predict that people will come, critics will rave and a 66-year-old man afflicted with epilepsy and serious back problems (and who has had polio and suffered an aneurysm) will rock hard enough to become a time machine back to when music was ecstatic and ill considered.

Dylan, in a note his manager passed to me, says it’s clear why Young has not tumbled into musical dotage: “An artist like Neil always has the upper hand,” he says. “It’s the pop world that has to make adjustments. All the conventions of the pop world are only temporary and carry no weight. It’s basically two different things that have nothing to do with each other.”

Leiam o resto da entrevista, aqui.

2 responses to “Neil Young

  1. A história de uma Vida e de uma Carreira cheias de História as quais, felizmente, ainda nos hão-de continuar a deliciar com novas propostas. Como diz, e bem, este Senhor não tem maus trabalhos. À sua lista atrevo-me a acrescentar um trabalho de 94, gravado com os Crazy Horse e que me fascina: Sleeps With Angels.

    • Totalmente de acordo, o difícil é mesmo escolher porque o toquezinho do génio está sempre lá. Para mim, em qualquer selecção entrará sempre After the Goldrush mas, se não parasse nalgum ponto … acabaria por listar todos.

      Este blog está à sua disposição para textos e fotos que queira partilhar. Vá dizendo coisas.
      Abraços

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