.

The Rebellious Neil Young

Page 2 of 5

You didn't come from a musical family . . .
Well, my father played a little ukulele. [Laughs] It just happened. I felt it. I couldn't stop thinking about it. All of a sudden I wanted a guitar and that was it. I started playing around the Winnipeg community clubs, high school dances. I played as much as I could.

With a band?
Oh yeah, always with a band. I never tried it solo until I was 19. Eighteen or 19.

Were you writing at the time?
I started off writing instrumentals. Words came much later. My idol at the time was Hank B. Marvin, Cliff Richard's guitar player in the Shadows. He was the hero of all the guitar players around Winnipeg at the time. Randy Bachman too; he was around then, playing the same circuit. He had a great sound. Used to use a tape repeat.

When did you start singing?
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 the Calvin High School cafeteria. My big moment.

How much different from the States was growing up in Canada?
Everybody in Canada wants to get to the States. At least they did then. I couldn't wait to get out of there because I knew my only chance to be heard was in the States. But I couldn't get down there without a working permit, and I didn't have one. So eventually I just came down illegally and it took until 1970 for me to get a green card. I worked illegally during all of the Buffalo Springfield and some of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I didn't have any papers. I couldn't get a card because I would be replacing an American musician in the union. You had to be real well known and irreplaceable and a separate entity by yourself. So I got the card after I got that kind of stature--which you can't get without fucking being here...the whole thing is ridiculous. The only way to get in is to be here. You can't be here unless it's all right for you to be here. So fuck it. It's like 'throw the witch in the water and if it drowns it wasn't a witch. If it comes up, it is a witch and then you kill it.' Same logic. But we finally got it together

Did you know Joni Mitchell in those days?
I've known Joni since I was 18. I met her in one of the coffeehouses. She was beautiful. That was my first impression. She was real frail and wispy looking. And her cheekbones were so beautifully shaped. She'd always wear light satins and silks. I remember thinking that if you blew hard enough, you could probably knock her over. She could hold up a Martin D18 pretty well, though. What an incredible talent she is. She writes about her relationships so much more vividly than I do. I use...I guess I put more of a veil over what I'm talking about. I've written a few songs that were as stark as hers. Songs like "Pardon My Heart," "Home Fires," "Love Art Blues"...almost all of Homegrown. I've never released any of those. And I probably never will. I think I'd be too embarrassed to put them out. They're a little too real.

How do you look back on the whole Buffalo Springfield experience?
Great experience. Those were really good days. Great people. Everybody in that group was a fucking genius at what they did. That was a great group, man. There'll never be another Buffalo Springfield. Never. Everybody's gone such separate ways now, I don't know. If everybody showed up in one place at one time with all the amps and everything, I'd love it. But I'd sure as hell hate to have to get it together. I'd love to play with that band again, just to see if the buzz was still there.

There's a few stock Springfield myths I should ask you about. How about the old hearse story?
True. Bruce and I were tooling around L.A. in my hearse. I loved the hearse. Six people could be getting high in the front and back and nobody would be able to see in because of the curtains. The heater was great. And the tray...the tray was dynamite. You open the side door and the tray whips right out onto the sidewalk. What could be cooler than that? What a way to make your entrance. Pull up to a gig and just wheel out all your stuff on the tray. Anyway, Bruce and I were taking in California. The Promised Land. We were heading up to San Francisco. Stephen and Richie Furay, who were in town putting together a band, just happened to be driving around too. Stephen had met me before and remembered I had a hearse. As soon as he saw the Ontario plates, he knew it was me. So they stopped us. I was happy to see fucking anybody I knew. And it seemed very logical to us that we form a band. We picked up Dewey Martin for the drums, which was my idea, four or five days later. Stephen was really pulling for Billy Munday at the time. He'd say 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dewey's good, but Jesus...he talks too fucking much.' I was right though. Dewey was fucking good.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com