Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Number 479 - Neil Young

Number 479

Neil Young

"Rocking In A Free World"

I don't have too many hero's and I always think if you have more than 3 hero's who you look up to, then you will spend most of your time looking up rather than viewing life at an even eye level.
But, Neil Young is one of mine and he sits quite comfortably with me as one of the trinity of hero's I admire, John Lennon being one and Alan Alda as the other. Neil was the one I listened to intensely and not just the sounds, it was the lyrics too. His sound was vast but his words were mountains.
By 1990 I owned every published, bootlegged, live & pirated [ugly recordings done on a home tape deck at a concert] album this man ever made and to be blunt ... it was worth it.
As for his "activist" duties he has done Canada proud, for his "outrage" at what happened on 9/11, Neil even supported USA with a John Lennon tribute song with "Imagine" and not to mention how he feels about the environment, especially about the countryside. In fact, Neil was a pioneer in environmental issues dating all the way back to 70's, 1972 to be specific, Neil originally wanted the album cover "Harvest" to be "earth friendly". Neil wanted the album sleeve to biodegrade after the shrink-wrap was broken, but was overruled by the record company on the basis of expense and the possible product loss due to shipping accidents.
I don't know about you guys, but this man is a living legend and should be treated accordingly so.
Neil Young, esquire
Neil Young is famous for scrapping completed albums and substituting hastily recorded ones in radically different styles. Freedom, which was a major critical and commercial comeback after a decade that had confused reviewers and fans, seemed to be a selection of the best tracks from several different unissued Young projects. First and foremost was a hard rock album like the material heard on Young's recent EP, Eldorado (released only in the Far East), several of whose tracks were repeated on Freedom. On these songs -- especially "Don't Cry," which sounded like a song about divorce, and a cover of the old Drifters hit "On Broadway" that he concluded by raving about crack -- Young played distorted electric guitar over a rhythm section in an even more raucous fashion than that heard on his Crazy Horse records. Second was a follow-up to Young's previous album, This Note's for You, which had featured a six-piece horn section.
A man needs a maid bro
They were back on "Crime in the City" and "Someday," though these lengthy songs, each of which contained a series of seemingly unrelated, mood-setting verses, were more reminiscent of songs like Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" than of the soul standards that inspired the earlier album. Third, there were tracks that harked back to acoustic-based, country-tinged albums like Harvest and Comes a Time, including "Hangin' on a Limb" and "The Ways of Love," two songs on which Young dueted with Linda Ronstadt. There was even a trunk (or, more precisely, a drunk) song, "Too Far Gone," which dated from Young's inebriated Stars 'n Bars period in the '70s. While one might argue that this variety meant few Young fans would be completely pleased with the album, what made it all work was that Young had once again written a great bunch of songs. The romantic numbers were carefully and sincerely written. The long imagistic songs were evocative without being obvious.
This notes for you
And bookending the album were acoustic and electric versions of one of Young's great anthems, "Rockin' in the Free World," a song that went a long way toward restoring his political reputation (which had been badly damaged when he praised President Reagan's foreign policy) by taking on hopelessness with a sense of moral outrage and explicitly condemning President Bush's domestic policy. Freedom was the album Neil Young fans knew he was capable of making, but feared he would never make again. ~ [William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide]
Explain Rocking In A Free World will ya?
According to Neil Young's biography Shakey, while on tour in the late '80s, Young and Frank "Poncho" Sampedro looked at photos in a newspaper of the Ayatollah Khomeini's body being carried to his grave. These images showed mourners burning American flags in the street, which incited fear in Poncho. Sampedro commented, "Whatever we do, we shouldn't go near the Mideast. It's probably better we just keep on rockin' in the free world." Then Young asked if he could make a song out of it. The lyrics criticize Reaganomics and make specific references to the administration of George H. W. Bush and the social problems of late Twentieth Century America. The first line of the song, "Colors on the street / red, white, and blue," while clearly intended to evoke the colors of the U.S. flag, can also refer to gang colors, or possibly homelessness in America. The second verse is a narrative of a drug-addict who abandons her newborn baby in a trash can before leaving to "get a hit." "We got a thousand points of light / For the homeless man" refers to Bush's use of the phrase "a thousand points of light" as a metaphor for individually initiated community service in place of government-sponsored public welfare programs. "We got a kinder, gentler, machine gun hand" is a cynical take on Bush's call for "a kinder and gentler nation" during the 1988 U.S. Presidential campaign.
Classic Album
Ironically, the song also received extensive radio play again shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, owing both to its (albeit cynical) celebration of "life in the free world" and for the lines "There's a lot of people sayin' we'd be better off dead / Don't feel like Satan, but I am to them," which overtly references Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini's epithet for the United States, "the Great Satan." An edited version of the song accompanies the end credits of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11; the phrase "That's one more kid that’ll never go to school / Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool," which originally referenced the second verse's abandoned child now appears to reference a dead U.S. soldier in Iraq. The chorus is played through the end credits as a call to action to oppose President George W. Bush and his policies. ~ [Source:Wikipedia]
Rolling Stone Magazine says it was the 214th Greatest Song of all Time, but to me the song has been overstated for political reasons rather than solely on merit with Neil Young's catalogue of other songs. Please remember, Rolling Stone only awarded Neil Young 3 songs in total in their "500 Greatest Songs" and remember "Rocking In A Free World" was their highest rated Neil Young song. "Rocking In A Free World" is a great song, a fantastic song, but it is not Neil's most exceptional song that he ever performed/written/released. There are better songs and we all know it, this is one of the reasons why I started this [futile] crusade. ~ crowbarred
For more Neil Young see Number 677 & Number 938
For John Lennon see Number 492 & Number 639
For Bob Dylan see Number 491, Number 841 & Number 929
For Linda Ronstadt see Number 665
What does Rolling Stone think about Neil Young?
The end of a decade really seems to bring out the fear and loathing in Neil Young. In 1969, he bid an embittered adieu to the shaky Sixties promise of Peace and Love with the irascible guitars and confessional despair of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Ten years later, on Rust Never Sleeps, he addressed the advancing arthritis and superstar complacency of Seventies rock with bristling verse and corrosive guitar violence, not to mention the deliberately provocative evocation of Elvis Presley and Johnny Rotten in the same song.

It's no coincidence that "Rockin' in the Free World," the album's de facto theme song, bookends Freedom in separate live-acoustic and studio-electric versions. Like "My My, Hey Hey ..." – its twin on Rust Never Sleeps – the song is a sing-along ball spinning on an axis of deadly irony, its superficial cheerleading charm soured by Young's parade of victims: the homeless "sleepin' in their shoes," a young woman addict, her abandoned baby ("That's one more kid/That will never go to school/Never get to fall in love/Never get to be cool"). And in the acoustic take, which opens the record, Young plays it like a body-count blues, his high, lonesome countertenor ringing with plaintive desperation. ~ [Source:Rolling Stone 1989]
For Elvis Presley see Number 501 & Number 840
For Johnny Rotten see Number 500
Rolling Stone magazine deemed their '479th Song of all Time' was "Lady Marmalade" by Labelle. Labelle has [and will] not appeared in The Definitive 1000.
Other songs with reference to Nirvana #495, #537, #558, #573, #589, #590, #610, #616, #617, #640, #650, #655, #660, #665, #671, #703, #708, #728, #738, #770, #797, #827, #828, #858, #899, #975, #980
Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs ranked this song at Number 214 the Album ranked at (So, we only liked the song .. so what?) ~ a huh
This song has a crowbarred rating of 76.2 out of 108
Search Artist here:1-2-3-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z

I have every book ever written, I have a dictionary, that way I save on paper [Alan Alda]



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This project is wonderful. You should be very proud! Thanks!

Just in case I thought of something Crowbarred did not, my own paltry notion of a playlist is at Not close to this site from a qualitative point - just a song list.

2:04 am  
Blogger crowbarred said...

Thankyou ... and yes... I love Lost In Translation too ... a lot!

2:31 am  

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