What were the sessions like for Déjà Vu? Was it a band effort?
The band sessions on that record were "Helpless," "Woodstock" and "Almost Cut My Hair." That was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. All the other ones were combinations, records that were more done by one person using the other people. "Woodstock" was a great record at first. It was a great live record, man. Everyone played and sang at once. Stephen sang the shit out of it. The track was magic. Then, later on, they were in the studio for a long time and started nitpicking. Sure enough, Stephen erased the vocal and put another one on that wasn't nearly as incredible. They did a lot of things over again that I thought were more raw and vital sounding. But that's all personal taste. I'm only saying that because it might be interesting to some people how we put that album together. I'm happy with every one of the things I've recorded with them. They turned out really fine. I certainly don't hold any grudges.
You seem a bit defensive.
Well, everybody always concentrates on this whole thing that we fight all the time among each other. That's a load of shit. They don't know what the fuck they're talking about. It's all rumors. When the four of us are together it's real intense. When you're dealing with any four totally different people who all have ideas on how to do one thing, it gets steamy. And we love it, man. We're having a great time. People make up so much shit, though. I've read so much gossip in Rolling Stone alone...Ann Landers would blanch. It would surprise you. Somehow we've gotten on this social-register level and it has nothing to do with what we're trying to put out. The music press writes the weirdest shit about us. They're just wasting their fucking time.
There was a recent item published that CSNY had tried to record a new album but couldn't because you 'felt someplace else.'
Total bullshit. That's just somebody trying to come up with a good line and stick it in my mouth. 'Yeah, that's kind of ethereal. Sounds like something Neil Young might say.' And bingo...it's like they were there. We had some recording sessions, you know, and we recorded a few things. That's what happened. We went down to the Record Plant in Sausalito, rented some studio time and left with two things in the can.
What was that?
A song of David's and a song of Graham's that were great. We were really into something nice. But a lot of things were happening at the same time. Crosby's baby was about to be born. Some of us wanted to rest for a while. We'd been working very hard. Everybody has a different viewpoint and it just takes us a while to get them all together. It's a great group for that, though. I'm sure there'll come a time when we'll do something again. We really did accomplish some things at those sessions. And just because the sessions only lasted three days, people started building up bullshit stories. We all love each other, but we're into another period where we're all hot on our own projects. Stephen's on tour with his new album, Graham and David are recording and I'm into my new album with Crazy Horse. Looking back, we might have been wiser to do the album before the tour. While we were still building the energy. But there's other times to record. Atlantic still has CSNY. Whenever we record together, we do it for Ahmet, which I think is right. Ahmet Ertegun kept the Buffalo Springfield afloat for as long as it was. He's always been great. I love him. There may be a live album to come from the tour last summer too. I know there's at least 25 minutes of my songs that are definitely releasable. We've got some really good stuff in the can for that tour. There was some good playing.
Why did you travel totally separate from everyone else on that tour?
I wanted to stay totally separate from everything, except the music. It worked well. I left right after every gig with my kid, my dog and two friends. I'd be refreshed and feeling great for every show.
Why did you make a movie?
It was something that I wanted to do. The music, which has been and always will be my primary thing, just seemed to point that way. I wanted to express a visual picture of what I was singing about.
One critic wrote that the movie's theme was 'life is pointless.'
Maybe that's what the guy got out of it. I just made a feeling. It's hard to say what the movie means. I think it's a good film for a first film. I think it's a really good film. I don't think I was trying to say that life is pointless. It does lay a lot of shit on people though. It wasn't made for entertainment. I'll admit, I made it for myself. Whatever it is, that's the way I felt. I made it for me. I never even had a script.
Did the bad reviews surprise you at all?
Of course not. The film community doesn't want to see me in there. What do they want with Journey Through the Past? [laughs] It's got no plot. No point. No stars. They don't want to see that. But the next time, man, we'll get them. The next time. I've got all the equipment, all the ideas and motivation to make another picture. I've even been keeping my chops up as a cameraman by being on hire under the name of Bernard Shakey. I filmed a Hyatt House commercial not too long ago. I'm set. [laughs] I'm just waiting for the right time.
What about a plot?
It's real simple. Maybe it's not a plot but it's a very strong feeling. It's built around three or four people living together. No music. I'll never make another movie that has anything to do with me. I'll tell you that. That was the only way I could get to do the first movie. I wanted to be in a movie, so I did it. I sacrificed myself as a musician to do it.
So you don't really consider the soundtrack album an official Neil Young release?
No. There was an unfortunate sequence of events surrounding Journey Through the Past. The record company told me that they'd finance me doing the movie only if I gave them the soundtrack album. They took the thing [the soundtrack] and put it right out. Then they told me that they didn't want to release the movie because it wasn't...well, they wanted to group it with a bunch of other films. I wanted to get it out there on its own. So they chickened out on the movie because they thought it was weird. But they took me for the album. That's always been a ticklish subject with me. That's the only instance of discooperation and confusion that I've ever had with Warners. Somebody really missed the boat on that one. They fucked me up for sure. It's all right though. We found another distributor. It paid for itself. Even though it got banned in England, you know. They thought it was immoral. There were swearing and references to Christ that didn't set well with them.
Why did you leave the ranch?
It just got to be too big of a trip. There was too much going on the last couple of years. None of it had anything to do with music. I just had too many fucking people hanging around who don't really know me. They were parasites whether they intended to be or not. They lived off me, used my money to buy things, used my telephone to make their calls. General leeching. It hurt my feelings a lot when I reached that realization. I didn't want to believe I was being taken advantage of. I didn't like having to be boss and I don't like having to say 'Get the fuck out.' That's why I have different houses now. When people gather around me, I just split now. I mean my ranch is more beautiful and lasting than ever. It's strong without me. I just don't feel like it's the only place I can be and be safe anymore. I feel much stronger now.
Have you got a name for the new album?
I think I'll call it My Old Neighborhood. Either that or Ride My Llama. It's weird, I've got all these songs about Peru, the Aztecs and the Incas. Time travel stuff. We've got one song called "Marlon Brando, John Ehrlichman, Pocahontas and Me," I'm playing a lot of electric guitar and that's what I like best. Two guitars, bass and drums. And it's realy flying off the ground too. Fucking unbelievable. I've got a bet with Elliot that it'll be out before the end of September. After that we'll probably go out on a fall tour of 3000 seaters. Me and Crazy Horse again. I couldn't be happier. That, combined with the bachelor life...I feel magnificent. Now is the first time I can remember coming out of a relationship, definitely not wanting to get into another one. I'm just not looking. I'm so happy with the space I'm in right now. It's like spring. [laughs] I'll sell you two bottles of it for $1.50.
This story is from the August 14, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone.
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