Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream (Anglais) Broché – 6 juin 2013
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"The past is such a big place." Neil Young.
Here it is in a nutshell. If you're a Neil Young fan, and want to read a book written in a conversational style, and want to know more about Young-straight from the well-buy this book. It's 497 pages of Young talking about just about everything he sees fit to talk about.
There's no Contents page, no Introduction, the Preface is two sentences in length, there's a Dedication Page (to his son Ben, "my warrior", and Young's family), and there's no Index. There's a black and white photo at the head of most chapters and a few others here and there (including a spaghetti recipe belonging to Young's father), but no separate section of photos. There's 68 chapters, most of them a few pages in length. The end papers have a photograph of a guitar that's been graphically altered four different ways. All in all, this is a simply produced looking book that fits Young the man/musician, and his writing style. His story is laid out simply, almost in a matter of fact style-like you hoped it would be written. Along the way there are many side roads that add depth and interest to Young's story.
Beginning at his ranch in 2011, with Young talking about his model train collection, and sharing it with his quadriplegic son, Ben, the story shifts to David Crosby and Graham Nash coming over to make some music shortly after Crosby got straight-"...still prone to taking naps between takes." Then it shifts to Young's love of old cars and anything dealing with transportation. His cars sit in a garage, where Young sits and thinks about his record company, and how he wants to improve the sound we hear on recordings. And that's just the first few pages.
From that point Young writes about a collection of Crazy Horse recordings that he's been working on ("The Early Daze"), that will tell the band's story. He also relates that he has recently quit drinking and smoking weed for his health. It's interesting to read that Young liked writing this book because it kept him (gladly) off the performing stage-he says he needs to "replenish". This isn't Young's life laid out chronologically-he goes back and forth depending on what's on his mind as he writes.
The entire book is like that. It flows along from one era, one set of circumstances, the people he comes into contact with along the way, what happened and what he thinks of it all. In some ways this is similar to Dylan's "Chronicles"-yet obviously different in many ways. It's a book you'd expect from Neil Young. For an inside look at the various stages of Young's life and career (growing up in Ontario, The Squires, The Mynah Birds, Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, Crazy Horse), the people (his father, his wives/children, Danny Whitten, Elliott Roberts for example), the music ("Thinking is the worst thing for writing a song."), his medical challenges ("They make me who I am. I am thankful for them. They scare me."), including walking ("Maybe I should call this book 'The Shoe Chronicles'."), and a lot of other major and minor happenings along the way, sometimes bordering on minutiae, the book is always interesting.
And in the end, after reading this book-it really is the story of Neil Young. This is Neil Young being Neil Young.
With all the books of late (Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Pete Townshend, et al), by living legends, you might also want to check out "The John Lennon Letters", edited by the well known Hunter Davies (whose writing on The Beatles was largely disowned by the band). It's 386 pages of Lennon's writings from throughout his life and career,divided into 23 parts, "Part one-Early Years, 1951-58", "Part three-Beatlemania Begins, 1963", "Part five-family and Friends, 1965-66", "Part twenty-Letters to Derek Taylor, 1973-78", and so on. The book is stuffed with good reproductions of hand/type-written notes/letters/postcards/telegrams/etc.-with the oftentimes hard to read pieces printed in full next to each for legibility- along with many drawings by Lennon, and a number of photographs throughout. Also included is a very brief biography (11 pages) on Lennon's life. Davies occasionally adds short texts to help put things in correct context. One minor drawback (if you like keeping your books nice looking), is the stark white cover, printed on a fairly rough paper stock that attracts dirt and smudges like a magnet. But combined with the minimal graphics-it is cool looking. I immediately covered my copy in a clear plastic bookcover. Hardcore fans of Lennon (especially) will no doubt find some interesting pieces in this nicely presented book. Others will see this as another attempt to drain more $ from the Lennon name. To each his own.
The book finds Young in a drug and alcohol free state and the straightest he's been since he was eighteen. Recovering from a broken toe and needing to rest a while, he decides to both write his autobiography and start planning to record again with Crazy Horse (a band he refers to throughout in the third person, as a mystic entity) worrying a little if the muse has departed and whether he'll still be able to write songs in his new found sobriety. Despite having not written a new song for more than half a year, Young knows that patience is the key, "Songs are like rabbits and they like to come out of their holes when you're not looking, so if you stand there waiting they will just burrow down and come out somewhere far away, a new place where you can't see them. So I feel like I am standing over a song hole. That will never result in success. The more we talk about this, the worse it will get. So that is why we are changing the subject."
With a new album, "Psychedelic Pill", recorded with Crazy Horse due in October, Young's patience has clearly paid off, yet he remains a deeply contradictory person. A man with such reserves of patience he spends decades compiling his legendary archive releases or working on a definitive version of his thirty year old movie "Human Highway" yet someone who knows that first or second takes with Crazy Horse are usually the best and is not averse to "spontaneous change" waking up and halting a recording or changing musicians. As he puts it "Honesty is the only thing that works. It hurts to be honest, but the muse has no conscience. If you do it for the music, you do it for the music, and everything else is secondary. Although that has been hard for me to learn, it is the best and really the only way to live through a life dedicated to the muse. The muse says, 'If it isn't totally great, then don't do it. Change.'"
If patience is one of Young's core drivers, then his obsessive side clearly is too. A keen collector of cars (many of the stories involve one of his many classic cars, or start in Feelgoods, his garage) as well as model trains, manuscripts, photographs, records, clothes, and recordings. This obsessive ness sees Young immersed in several long term projects, including his work with Lionel, the model train company where he's searching for a method of accurately linking the sound and smoke effects of the models to the effort involved in pulling their loads; to Lincvolt, a four year project to power a huge Lincoln Continental by energy efficient means; and PureTone (currently renamed Pono) a sound system designed to "rescue my art form, music, from the degradation in quality that I think is at the heart of the decline of music sales".
Spanning his life from childhood in Omemee, Ontario up to 2011, Waging Heavy Peace takes a meandering journey, and if Young's reminisces of contracting polio aged five, of his old paper round route, or of mall shopping in Hawaii fail to grip you don't worry, shortly there'll be a chapter describing how he's illegally entering the States without a work visa heading for the golden promise of California looking for Stephen Stills and readying to form Buffalo Springfield. Or describing how Time magazine's famous photo of the Kent State shooting inspired him to write "Ohio" and record it the next day. Or, how holed up in his Topanga house semi-delirious with a fever he managed to write "Cinnamon Girl", "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand" in one afternoon. Or, yes, how David Geffen sued him for making music "that was uncharacteristic of Neil Young" after Young delivered "Island In The Sun", "Trans", and "Everybody's Rockin' (the latter delivered in the guise of an old fashioned rocker after being told to go and make a rock and roll record).
Young goes to places he doesn't need to with a disarming honesty - be it failed relationships, his son's quadriplegia, his enduring love for wife Pegi, a brush with Charles Manson, or even to accidentally poisoning the attendees at his annual birthday party with poison oak. As you might expect in any memoir from a sixty five year old, the roll call of ghosts within the book is long. Crazy Horse Guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry (both lost to heroin within a few months of each other), Ben Keith the pedal steel player, arranger and producer Jack Nitzsche, producer David Briggs and filmmaking collaborator Larry Johnson all brighten the pages when Young talks about them with love. The spectre of his own mortality also dances in the background - his near death recovering from surgery for a brain aneurysm and the worry of a potential descent into the dementia that claimed his father loom large. The book's final paragraph, which sees Young taking a nap near a creek, then in his dreamlike state enter a cafe where his departed friends Larry Johnson and David Briggs are both having a late breakfast and seemingly waiting for him simultaneously bring both a smile to your face and a lump to your throat.
Young says, "Writing this book, there seems to be no end to the information flowing through me" and this theme and enthusiasm seems to still apply to all aspects of his life, be it his music, his family, or his various projects. Happily, Neil Young has neither burned out nor faded away, and long may he continue to run.
From The Squires to the Mynah Birds to the Buffalo Springfield to Crazy Horse to playing solo and beyond. The music of Neil Young is touched upon where he wants to shed light. Not everything here is presented in the fashion that a normal rock biography would lay it all down. Neil, is telling stories and he tends to jump around from thought to different event. The music and the people he made it with are big part of this road he travels but his kids and his cars and his ladies and more cars and some toy trains are covered in these pages like the author is having lots of rambling conversations with you in front of a fire with the dogs at your feet. Neil, tells his story about Linda Ronstadt and Nicolette Larson singing on his great record "Comes a Time" from March 1977 in chapter 57. In the very next chapter you are startled when the floor starts moving in a hotel in Churchill in the northern part of Manitoba. Now you taken back in time to August of 1965 when Neil and the other Squires discovered a polar bear living under their room.
This is an easy read due to the fact that Neil lays down the tale and quickly moves on to something else. This book will be attacked as this isn't orthodox by any means and not presented in the normal manner and that makes perfect sense to the way Neil has lived his life and made his music as it always seems to have come from left-field anyway. I enjoyed this book and fans of Neil should enjoy this as well. Smallish black and white photos appear infront of over forty of the chapters found here and a list of shows from 1963 and notes and cues for the "Rust Never Sleeps" movie can be found here as well.
If you are going to see Neil & Crazy Horse play this fall and expect the loner to play "Heart Of Gold" I say you shouldn't buy this book because he ain't gonna play it and you are not gonna be happy with a the sonic feedback of a 24 minute version of the still unreleased "Walk Like a Giant" inserted in it's place that made some old boys boo him at the concert I attended in August. Neil, has written this book just like he presents his music as to make himself a happy guy and he wants you to enjoy the show as well. This book he was written is about as different as they way he presents his music as there is the way everybody else does it and then there is the way Neil Young does it.
I enjoyed this book a bunch.
Four & 1/2 Stars!
Neil Young ends his autobiography with the sentiment that he intends to change himself. He asks what for him must be a profound question : "How can I respect others' tastes while retaining my own?".
But he told the truth earlier in the book when he observed "the muse has no conscience". At one point, he tells the well-known story of how he rejected the recovering addict and close friend Danny Whitten as a player for an album. Whitten went away and over-dosed. Young can't resist defending his actions: "there was really nothing else I could have done".
You feel Young tells the truth when he says "I never really considered myself to be an activist. I just want to have a voice." and again "it feels like I am massaging my soul when I make music". You also understand his intense romanticism when he attacks the dangers of technology and thinking for music, declaring fervently "I go by feelings".
But all this adds up to a ruthless, narcissistic in-ward focused approach to his art and the main impact of the book is help us see how this narcissism also suffuses his life.
I did not believe the interior states of mind he ascribes to his severely handicapped son, Ben Young. I did believe Linda Ronstadt who condemns Young, by his own account, for not living in the real world. I grew tired of his seemingly endless narrative of his countless purchases of old cars and his interest in his yacht and investment in sound system technology. Not because these are uninteresting topics, but because Neil Young has no insight into any of them - he is just interested and the only thing that interests him about these topics is that he is interested in them.
Yet this is the point. I read Neil Young's autobiography because his music is interesting. His music has succeeded because - as the two major biographies of him both detail already - he has systematically and ruthlessly used people and discarded them to help him realise his artistic vision.
That is all there is to Neil Young - a cold-hearted, bloodied music warrior hitman, executing his mission with lots of collateral damage. The Navy Seal of folk music, living out the motto of the SAS: `Who Dares Wins!'
So here is the truth of it: to like the music of Neil Young, to have the sensibility and openness to emotion to love his words written in song between the lines of age is one thing. To think that the `someone and someone' who wrote those words can also write words in books that will matter or touch you is to misunderstand yourself. Neil Young is a banal individual who has written some great music.
That is the illusory superiority Neil Young gave me by writing this self-revealing, lazy book. But for those of us who like even his bad music because of how it aspires, this ambiguous, intense outcome is no surprise. I give this book one star, because I love the man. And thats the way he wants it.
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