It's hard to blame Neil Young for wanting a little pick-me-up on the day of The Last Waltz. Two days before the Band's farewell concert, he played two long Boston shows with Crazy Horse in a single night. He then flew cross-country and gave up his Thanksgiving in order to give his friends a proper farewell. There was a huge party backstage, and when it came time for Young to take the stage and play "Helpless," he had done more than a little cocaine. "He performed with a good-size rock of cocaine stuck in his nostril," the Band drummer Levon Helm wrote in his memoir, This Wheel's on Fire. "Neil's manager saw this and said no way is Neil gonna be in a film like this. They had to go to special-effects people, who developed what they called a 'traveling booger matte' that sanitized Neil's nostril and put 'Helpless' into the movie."
They couldn't edit out that coked-up look on his face, but he was in good enough mind to start the song over after a few seconds when the rest of the group didn't quite join in on time. He chuckles and says, "They got it now, Robbie." Neil was no stranger to playing on coke, and he delivered a spellbinding rendition of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young classic.