The Rust List Page
The Words zone
Neil and the Beatles
Compiled/edited by Graham Spook The Horse Gales
(A Rusties Discussion)
In 1996 there was a Neil Young and the Beatles thread on Rust,
around the time of the anniversary of John Lennon's death.
What follows are the main comments from this thread. Repetitions, errors
and mis-attributions, have been omitted. I have included all of Mr.
SoulMan's response, others I have paraphrased.
The thread was started by the following message ...
I recently watched the entire, 10-hour Beatles Anthology
video series (I love libraries.) Throughout it, I thought
about what Neil was up to during different periods in the
Beatles' career. Does anyone know if Neil and the
Beatles ever met, if he worked with any of them after
they split (or before), if they ever expressed opinions
about each others' music, etc? I think of Neil and the
Beatles as so distinctly different from each other that I
have to remember that they overlapped a bit, particularly
Buffalo Springfield and the Beatles. I think of After
the Goldrush coming out the year the Beatles split, and
for some reason I can't put it and Abbey Road (or a lot
of other music current at the time) in the same time and
space. I tend to imagine towering artists like the
Beatles and Neil as blotting all their contemporaries,
which probably wasn't always true.
.... (deletions) ...
Neil Young and The Beatles never met, either professionally or even
personally before the Beatles broke up. However in the time since,
George Harrison & Neil were on stage at the same time at the Dylan 30th
anniversary Concert aka Bobfest.
Neil met and jammed with Ringo (and others) at The Last Waltz in 76.
As well, one of Neil's former 'employees', Nils Lofgren, was in the
'Ringo Starr All Star Band' as the musical director and singer/guitarist
for 2 years. And occasionally played his squeezebox. Neil may have seen
one of the shows and ventured backstage ...
Quote from Cameron Crowe interview of Neil Young (Rolling Stone,
Febraury 8th, 1979):
In his mid-teens, Neil Young hit the Winnipeg dance-band circuit with
his band, The Squires, and his own songs -- stinging instrumentals
heavily influenced by the Shadows and the Ventures. Then came the
Beatles and Bob Dylan, and Young started to write lyrics.
"I never forgot," he says,
"that every time a new Beatles or Dylan
album came out, you knew they were way beyond it. They were always doing
something else, always moving down the line."
John Lennon said in his book Lennon Remembers in the 70's, when he was
asked what kind of music he is listening to, answered something like this:
"You can recognise Neil Young from miles away".
From the Rolling Stone article "Neil Young: The Last American Hero",
February 8th, 1979, where Billy Talbot talks of touring after Zuma
"It was an idyllic time, man, Neil was just sparkling. We had
a band again. I heard us playing like I knew nobody else could play. I
remember in Rotterdam, coming offstage and seeing Paul McCartney
standing there. We'd just finished the set, the four of us are running
through this wind tunnel to get back to the dressing room, and
McCartney's just standing there. He nods at me like, you know, musician
to musician. I just kept thinking...Four of us. Four of them. Have we
got a band or what!"
One writer doubted that each influenced the other much, but felt that
the structure and sophistication of the Springfield song, Broken
Arrow, owed something to Sgt. Pepper.
Neil commented on Lennon's death only once, in the Rockline radio
interview of November 1991 (to premiere WELD). Neil was asked
about digital sound which he compared to the dark ages of recorded music.
The same caller also asked Neil about his reaction to Lennon's death.
Neil simply (and poignantly) replied, "It was
the Dark Ages [of rock and roll]."
From Mr SoulMan...
Hi Folks, I was gonna post this yesterday but never got around to it.
Ended up playing guitar all day. John Lennon -- a man I'm sure affected
most of us -- was senselessly slain on a New York street Dec 8, 1980, in
front of his home in the Dakota apartment building.
Unfortunately because of the actions of one madman, yesterday was an
anniversary that also affects most of us. I never knew John personally,
but the thought of it has brought me to tears a number of times. Let's
celebrate John's life instead of mourning his death! Let's discuss John's
influence on Neil.
Here is a quick summary. I hope everyone else will add to it. Of course
it begins with the Beatles. From Rolling Stone, Aug 14 1975:
Cameron Crowe: When did you start singing?
It was the Beatles that inspired Neil to sing, and he chose two songs
that John Lennon sang lead on. Later on, the Beatles studio-crafted
orchestrated soundscapes influenced Neil on such Buffalo Springfield
tracks as Expecting to Fly (add in some Phil Spector, too) and
Broken Arrow (which always reminds me of A Day In The Life,
a song the BS would've heard as early as January 1967 thanks to David Crosby
bringing back an acetate from England - check out Dave Zimmer's book Crosby,
Stills & Nash for the full entertaining story. Neil would also open his
1978 shows during the Rust Never Sleeps period with A Day In The Life
playing over the P.A. system.
Neil: I remember singing Beatles tunes
... the first song I ever sang in front of people was It Won't Be Long,
and then Money (That's What I Want). That was in Calvin High School
[Winnipeg] cafeteria. My big moment."
[Spook The Horse comment: Of course Money is a Barrett Strong
song, as many on Rust pointed out. But like most Canadian and United States
young people, Neil would have become familiar with it through the Beatles'
Also don't forget the "namecheck" on the back of Buffalo Springfield
Again, where you'll find "The Nurk Twins & George, Ringo". The "Nurk
Twins" being an early name John and Paul used when they played as a duo.
So obviously the Springfield were into the Beatles deep enough to know this
weird piece of trivia.
Later Neil would totally abandon the Beatlesque overdubbed and
orchestrated style for reasons I believe also owe a debt to John Lennon.
I have no doubt the sparse confessional songs and the raw emotion of the
Plastic Ono Band LP would influence Neil. Though I've never
read evidence of it, I hear it every time I listen to Tonight's The
Night or any of those early 70's albums. Vivid portraits of an artist
stripped of all pretense, singing reports from his tortured psyche.
As far as I can tell, Neil might've actually met John once in November 1972.
From Neil Young: A Visual Documentary by John Robertson:
"Neil Young, John Lennon and Yoko Ono are among guests at a celebrity
party as a third Record Plant studio is opened in Sausalito, California."
A funny Neil and John connection came up in an interview with Alan
Jenkins in Broken Arrow magazine, issue #40:
Alan: Were you invited to the recent Nordoff Robbins Silver Clef
Winners concert in Britain this summer? You seem to be one
of the few winners not booked for the event?
Obviously for Neil to buy John's suit -- not his Rickenbacker or his
Gibson J-200, not his psychedelic Rolls Royce, but his suit -- it
must've been more than respect Neil had for John. Maybe a little
idolisation. C'mon I don't see Neil walking around in one of John's old
suits. What else is he gonna do - put it in the closet? It couldn't
have been just an investment.
Neil: No I wasn't. You know why?
Because I bought John Lennon's suit. But they wouldn't show me the
suit so I wouldn't give them the money. When am I going to see the suit?!
Neil would also namecheck John on his and Pearl Jam's Mirrorball
track Peace & Love, even featuring images of John in the video.
So what did John think of Neil? Who knows? The evidence is slim.
In a Rolling Stone interview conducted in New York on December 8 l970
(reprinted in the book Lennon Remembers) when asked by Jann Wenner "What
music do you listen to today?", John replies:
"If you want the record bit, since I've been listening to
radio here, I like a few things by Neil Young."
He also adds:
"I only heard Neil Young twice - you can pick him out a mile away, the whole
style. He writes some nice songs."
John may've been commenting on the recently released After The Goldrush
(September 7 1970). At the time John was promoting his Plastic Ono Band
album (recorded Sept. 26 - Oct. 27 1970, released Dec. 11 1970). So
which came first, the chicken or the egg?
We do know what he felt about Hey Hey My My because David Sheff
interviewed him in September 1980 for Playboy magazine (reprinted in the
book The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono).
David: You disagree with Neil Young's lyric in Rust Never
Sleeps: "It's better to burn out than to fade away..."
Neil would reply two years later when asked to respond to Lennon's
Lennon: I hate it. It's better to fade away like an old soldier
than to burn out. If he was talking about burning out
like Sid Vicious, forget it. I don't appreciate the
worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or
dead John Wayne. It's the same thing. Making Sid
Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison - it's garbage to me. I
worship the people who survive - Gloria Swanson, Greta
Garbo. They're saying John Wayne conquered cancer - he
whipped it like a man. You know, I'm sorry that he died
and all that - I'm sorry for his family - but he didn't
whip cancer. It whipped him. I don't want Sean
worshiping John Wayne or Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious.
What do they teach you? Nothing. Death. Sid Vicious
died for what? So that we might rock? I mean, it's
garbage you know. If Neil Young admires that sentiment
so much, why doesn't he do it? Because he sure as hell
faded away and came back many times, like all of us. No,
thank you. I'll take the living and the healthy.
"The rock'n'roll spirit is not survival. Of course the
people who play rock'n'roll should survive. But the
essence of the rock'n'roll spirit to me, is that it's
better to burn out really bright than to sort of decay off
into infinity. Even though if you look at it in a mature
way, you'll think, "well, yes ... you should decay off
into infinity, and keep going along". Rock'n'roll doesn't
look that far ahead. Rock'n'roll is right now. What's
happening right this second. Is it bright? Or is it dim
because it's waiting for tomorrow - that's what people
want to know. And that's why I say that."
All right now, I believe they both got it wrong, Rust Never Sleeps
/ Hey Hey My My is about life not death. It's about fighting corrosion and
decay by continually creating, adapting, changing. But I also believe
both made more valid statements in such songs as Grow Old With Me (JL)
and Staying Power (NY).
Well thanks for reading. I'd like to say one final thing in regards to
Neil. Yoko knowing how much the fans enjoyed her husband's music allowed
the vaults to be opened and for everything from work tapes to studio
outtakes to be broadcast in a radio series called The Lost Lennon Tapes.
I think it's still going strong though no one carries it in my area.
Wouldn't it be great if Neil would allow this to be done in a similar
format or one like the officially sanctioned Grateful Dead Hour which
plays live recordings of the Dead? I can hear it now "Neil Young: A
Journey Through The Past".
John says in the Playboy interview: "Music is
everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own
it." Instead of worrying about how to sell or package it, just put the
music on the airwaves and let the enthusiasts such as us find it and
Thanks to Cowgirl In The Sand, Kevin Jones, Ron Pretli, Mr SoulMan, JL,
TWM, aerostar, Kurt Braun, John, Lasse Willen, AFoY, and Man Of The
The Rust List Page
The Words zone