So, in the last couple of posts we have talked about what happened to Stephen Stills, Richie, Furary, and Jim Messina after the breakup of Buffalo Springfield and I bet some of you might be wondering what happened to Neil Young. Looking back on the second post in this series you might recall that Neil had already left Buffalo Springfiled a couple of times before the band officially broke up so he had more time to plan his future moves than the rest of the guys. Soon after the breakup he was quoted as saying “I never wanted to be in a group. I came out here to make as a single…” and that was the path that Neil resumed with the breakup of Buffalo Springfield. Neil selected Elliott Roberts as his manager after the breakup of the group and, amazingly, Elliott is still his manager today. With the help of Elliott, Neil was signed to a recording contract with Warner/Reprise records and work on his self titled solo was initiated in mid-1968. David Briggs produced the album kicking off a relationship with Neil that lasted through David’s death in 1995. The Rolling Stone review of the album stated: “One could very easily view this disc as an extension of Young’s work on the Buffalo Springfield Again album….” and I agree that the album was somewhat of a natural progression. Let’s listen to my favorite song from the album.
Much of the remainder of the album seemed to be over produced, in my opinion. Here We Are In The Years is one example that highlights the over production.
This excerpt from Shakey (a Neil Young biography written by Jimmy McDonough) serves to somewhat build a case for my opinion “Neil Young shows Briggs and Young in a conventional L.A. studio setting: building tracks piece by piece, playing around with string sections, echo chambers and limiters, making the smooth, seamless, professional record expected of them. Who knew it would be their last?”
At this point you might be saying, that quote doesn’t make sense! I though you said Neil and David worked together through 1995, how could Neil Young have been their last? Well that isn’t what Jimmy McDonough meant. What he meant was that this would be the last time that Neil and David did anything that was expected of them. Neil Young was, and continues to be, a chameleon and after the release of Neil Young he was getting ready to change everything.
Neil had stumbled onto a group called The Rockets during his Springfield days and over time their relationship grew closer (read Shakey if you are interested in the details). He eventually played with them during one of their gigs at the Troubadour and something in Neil clicked. While the sound on his first album was over produced, the sound when he played with the Rockets was raw, improvisational, and exactly where Neil wanted to head next. After a follow-on jam session with three members of the Rockets (Danny Whitten on guitar, Billy Talbot on bass, and Ralph Molina on drums) Neil named the trio Crazy Horse and they went into the studio in 1969 to record Neil’s next album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (credited to Neil Young with Crazy Horse). Let’s listen to a couple of songs from the album. First up is Cinnamon Girl, my favorite song from the album.
Next up is the title track from the album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
Quite a difference between the sound of these two songs and Here We Are In The Years from the first album isn’t there? Neil had found his niche.
With the release of his first two albums, Neil’s solo career was off and running and it was hard to imagine him ever going back to being a member of another group that he did not exercise complete control over. But we shall see…..don’t forget what I said about Neil being a chameleon! We will check back in on Neil’s career in a future post in the Southern California Sound series.