NEIL YOUNG AND THE DAMAGE DONE | The Godfather of Grunge’s Early Years

December 1969, San Diego, California, USA --- Neil Young plays his vintage Gretsch White Falcon during a sound check at Balboa Stadium just before a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

December 1969, San Diego-- Neil Young plays his Gretsch White Falcon during a sound check at Balboa Stadium before a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. -- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

Over his long and storied career, Neil Young has explored and influenced a wide range of musical styles– but it’s his early days that I love the most.  There’s an ache and an angst in Young’s voice that resonates, and his guitar playing feels bare, matter of fact, and honest.  Neil Young is often referred to as “The Godfather of Grunge” for the impact and influence he had on the grunge scene– Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain in particular.  Cobain even went as far to quote Neil Young in his suicide note– using the line “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away” from Young’s song “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”.

Not everyone is a Neil Young fan, I guess you either get it, or you don’t.  I’m sure it has something do with our very different upbringings, but sadly– my wife is not a Neil Young fan.  It pains me to say it.  She’s definitely a more refined and accomplished artist than I, musically speaking– and his nasally tone (her words, not mine) is not exactly her speed.   We also part ways when it comes to Lucinda Williams– who my wife not-so-lovingly refers to as “that warbly bar hag”.  Ouch.

As a child of the 70s, and raised in a very, eh-hem, “progressive” family that always had the stereo playing– music (and the artist’s story behind it) became extremely personal and important to me.  I would comb through the stacks of records and ingest the lyrics, images and liner notes.

I remember becoming strangely intrigued by the “Southern Man” record responses, feud, or whatever you want to call it– that went on between Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  I remember feeling like I had to pick a side– plant my flag with either Neil, or the Skynyrd boys.  Life had to be black and white then as a kid.  I hadn’t yet fully learned of the ambiguous grey matter that (consciously and subconsciously) fills the cracks in our adult judgements, personas and so-called principles.

*

December 1969, San Diego-- David Crosby, Neil Young, and Stephen Stills.  Crosby, Stills, and Nash were formed in the late sixties from members of The Hollies, The Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield.  CSN collaborated with Neil Young occasionally, and racked up many hits in the 60s & 70s. Young went on to create more critically acclaimed music with Crazy Horse and his many solo albums. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

December 1969, San Diego-- David Crosby, Neil Young, and Stephen Stills. Crosby, Stills, and Nash were formed in the late sixties from members of The Hollies, The Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield. CSN collaborated with Neil Young occasionally, and racked up many hits in the 60s & 70s. Young went on to create more critically acclaimed music with Crazy Horse and his many solo albums. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

July, 12th 1970--  David Crosby smokes "something" in the backstage bathroom while Neil Young looks on.  -- Image by © Henry Diltz

July, 12th 1970 --- David Crosby smokes a cigarette, of sorts, in a backstage bathroom as Neil Young looks on. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

July 12th, 1970-- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young rehearse backstage before a concert. -- Image by © Henry Diltz

July 12th, 1970-- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young rehearse backstage before a concert. -- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

12 Jul 1970-- Stephen Stills and Neil Young hanging out backstage. -- Image by © Henry Diltz

July 12th, 1970-- Stephen Stills and Neil Young hanging out backstage. -- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

June 1971, California --- Neil Young at his northern California ranch with his dog. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

June 1971, California --- Neil Young at his northern California ranch with his dog. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

May 27th, 1971 --- Neil Young jokingly offers his dog a toke. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

May 27th, 1971 --- Neil Young jokingly offers his dog a toke. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

Neil Young driving an old Jeep on his Broken Arrow Ranch --- Image by Henry Diltz

Neil Young driving an old Jeep on his Broken Arrow Ranch --- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

Neil Young

1973 --- Neil Young home on the ranch, playing his Strat. --- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

Neil YoungNeil Young

*

July 15th, 1974, San Francisco-- Neil Young and Stephen Stills --Image by © Neal Preston

July 15th, 1974, San Francisco-- Neil Young and Stephen Stills --Image by © Neal Preston

*

San Francisco, July 15th, 1974 --- Neil Young holds his son Zeke at a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. --- Image by © Neal Preston

San Francisco, July 15th, 1974 --- Neil Young holds his son Zeke at a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. --- Image by © Neal Preston

*

Neil Young may be a control freak, a recluse, a guy who will fire a band on a whim, and an obsessive perfectionist (how long have we been waiting for his Archives box set?), but one thing about Young emerges: Neil Young loves his family. Nowhere is this more evident during Young’s account of his son Ben’s first few years. A nonoral quadriplegic, Ben Young was diagnosed with having cerebral palsy as an infant. After supporting Rust Never Sleeps, Young and his wife Pegi entered a program designed to teach Ben basic motor skills, which involved trying to teach Ben to crawl, for 14 hours a day. Neil and Pegi did this, every day, for an astounding eighteen months. His son’s disability (his first son Zeke, from his marriage to Snodgrass, also suffers from mild cerebral palsy) has inspired Young’s highly successful annual charity concert for the Bridge School in San Francisco, as well as his development of a disabled-friendly remote control for model trains (he eventually bought the Lionel model train company).

*

Malibu, 1975 ---  Neil Young enjoying a stroll on the Beach --- Image by © Henry Diltz

Malibu, 1975 --- Neil Young enjoying a stroll on the Beach --- Image by © Henry Diltz

*

22 thoughts on “NEIL YOUNG AND THE DAMAGE DONE | The Godfather of Grunge’s Early Years

  1. I believe the Neil Young and Crazy Horse album pre-dated Young joining CSN&Y. Otherwise, great stuff….

    • You’re right, friend. That was the caption that came with the photo… I believe Crazy Horse first released in ’69, CSNY ’70.

  2. one of the best “compliments” I ever got on an outfit came from an old time Neil Young fan, “very Neil Young circa Everybody Knows this is Nowhere.” — this means a lot to a girl. Wish I could wear my ’78 Rust Never Sleeps shirt to the office today…

    This was right on and perfect, thanks JP — XOX

  3. love this post. i’m 31 and got into neil young through pearl jam. you’re right about his early work being very vulnerable. his playing and voice are about as honest as you’ll ever hear on wax. btw, how cool are those frikkin shades in the last couple of photos?

  4. That’s funny, just minutes ago, I referenced Neil as “Flying the Flannel” along with what appear to be Red Wing boots on a back or sleeve of, I can’t remember which album.

  5. only saw him once, with a bunch of guys at SPAC (saratoga) during his Blue Note phase. the other guys were pissed he only played the “new stuff”…

  6. Neil Young is the gold standard for folk rock. Even Bob Dylan (the folk singer, the humdinger) was so fascinated with Neil Young that he did a pilgrimage to where Neil Young grew up in the Canadian Prairies.

    This song in particular transports me back in time to the Canadian Prairies (a.k.a nowhere) in the 1970s:

    “See the lonely boy, out on the weekend – trying to make it pay. Can’t relate to joy,
    he tries to speak and can’t begin to say.”

    Thanks for the pictures, great post! And really enjoy your site.

  7. Kudus on the photo archives! Not only did Dylan make the pilgrimage referenced above but, as he said in a recent Rolling Stone interview, he found the apartment Neil grew up in and looked through the same windows; wanted to see the sights Neil had. He really reveres Neil, which I think is something.

    This web site typically speaks to just what I want to hear! Bravo…

  8. This is by far one of the finest blogs I’ve come across. Great stuff and a constant source of delight! As one who grew up with Vietnam and the 60′s culture i find time is well spent here

    Thanks much

  9. Found your site quite by accident whilst surfing for more on my lifetime love of all things Neil Young. Thank you! What great pleasure I have found, the pics and the blog are fabulous.

    Keep up the good work!
    Jude (UK)

  10. harsh words from the wife…does she have any appreciation (not saying she needs to enjoy it) of contemporary classical or “academic” music or does she have no use for that also? No offense just trying to understand the musical background/taste of someone who could make the ‘warbly bar hag’ statement. I don’t know if I’ve ever come across someone who claimed to dislike Neil..in my presence anyway.

    really great work here. really lucked out finding it…I actually don’t even know how it happened.

  11. I’ve always been a huge fan of Neal Young.His sound is so raw and real. Thanks for the article brotherman!

  12. I came to Neil Young through grunge (I turned 17 in 1991…) and have been a huge fan ever since. I relate to the fact that some people, who otherwise have similar enough taste, just don’t seem to get Neil Young. Could he be too rural for some? Some survey is needed. Your blog is currently a huge source of inspiration to me!

Comments are closed.