When John Lennon began the process of leaving the Beatles circa 1969-70, he was free from the pressure to feed the myth of the Fab Four. Many of his songs over the next few years, with the help of wife Yoko Ono, were created quickly. The most obvious example was “Instant Karma,” written in a morning fit of inspiration, recorded that evening, and out in the shops within a couple of weeks. Some of his more topical material, such as “Attica State” and “John Sinclair,” were performed on TV or at concert rallies ASAP. To Lennon, these songs were musical action paintings, newspaper rock, the closest thing to tweeting he could come up with at the time. To think of what he would be doing now if he were still around.
Neil Young has been doing something similar for about a decade or more. After a couple of health scares, it appears Neil has been facing his own mortality. He won’t be “young” forever, and has devoted the time he has left to make the world a better place for future generations. He apparently has more interest in getting the word out than constructing a commercial album. If you’re wishing for another “Harvest” or “Rust Never Sleeps,” don’t look for it from Young. Been there, done that. There are dozens of releases already out there to bring you comfort and nostalgia. I’d say he has bigger fish to fry, but another of Young’s concerns is the depletion animals on the planet, especially the ones in our oceans.
On Wednesday evening, Neil Young made a few appearances at Greenwich Village’s IFC Center, during the venue’s week long celebration of the films of Bernard Shakey, Young’s nom de cinema. Films like “Journey Thru The Past” and “Rust Never Sleeps” were mixed with the rarely seen “Human Highway” and “Solo Trans,” with directors Jonathan Demme and Jim Jarmusch appearing to discuss other screenings on other nights. Hoped-for appearances by Young were confirmed at the last minute. I wasn’t able to get a ticket for the 9:30 showing of “Muddy Track,” with a post-screening Neil Young Q&A, but I did secure tickets for the 11:20 and 11:45 showings of (work-in-progress) “The Monsanto Years,” a movie based on nine new songs recorded with Legends of the Real, featuring two of Willie Nelson’s sons. Young introduced both showings.
ICYMI: Neil Young at ‘Monsanto Years’ film preview in New York (Short version)
In the embedded video, you can (barely) see Young enter the theater. The next two sections feature Young’s introductions at the 11:20 and 11:45 screenings. After his first speech, where he pointed out he had nothing against the people who worked for Monsanto, only with the company’s policies, Young sat in the back row until it was time for the second introduction. About 15 minutes later, Young appeared at a theater upstairs, and sat in the aisle, waiting to be introduced. This speech was much shorter – about 30 seconds – and then he left.
As I wrote previously, “The Monsanto Years” movie, one hour in length, features Neil and his young band playing new material, with some bits and between song banter sprinkled throughout the film, with the occasional low key special effects, some reminiscent of silly music promo films of the 1960s.
I’ll focus on the music here, based on preliminary notes taken during the screening. Lyric samples are most likely copyrighted by Silver Fiddle Music, transcribed as best as I could under the circumstances.
(Bathroom footage for sound.)
1. BIG BOX: Trademarked Neil grunge rocker, harmonies on the choruses. This would fit right in with “Living With War.” References to Walmart.
“In the streets of the Capitol/Operations are taking control/Democracy crushed/At their hands … When will we take back out freedom/To choose the way we live and die? … Corporation have feelings/ Corporations have souls/That’s why they’re like people … Too big to fail/Too rich for jail …”
(Group discussion, thinking sad thoughts.)
2. A ROCK STAR BUCKS COFFEE SHOP: Group whistling, chugging beat. Group chorus: “Monsanto … Let our farmers grow what they want to grow.”
“I want a cup of coffee but I don’t want a GMO/I like to start my day without Monsanto … Corporate control takes over the American farm/The fascist politicians and the chemical plants walking arm in arm … Mothers want to know what they feed their children …”
(Discussion of the take, whistle rehearsal.)
3. RULES OF CHANGE: Lots of falsetto vocals from Young. More Monsanto references.
“No one owns the sacred sea … Birds have flown … People must be free to grow … Wrong side of right/Right side of wrong …”
(Mocking cell phone users)
To be continued ….
Of the dozens of Dylan Internet sites … Expecting Rain … and the zoomdune.com Bob Dylan blog by Harold Lepidus are the best places for up-to-the-minute Dylan news – David Kinney, “The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob.” (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
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