Howard Stern has been asked many times over the years to name his number one dream guest and his answer has never changed: Neil Young. His dream finally came true Tuesday morning when Young entered his studio at SiriusXM headquarters in midtown Manhattan for a 90-minute interview promoting his new book Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars, his new digital music service Pono and his upcoming album Storytone. Here are 12 things we learned from the incredible interview.
1. Young was understandably nervous about appearing on the show for the first time. “I woke up this morning at 4:30,” he said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘God, what’s he going to ask me about?’ I couldn’t go back to sleep. Some of the thing we got into in a very kind and nice way could have upset my family and my kids. We didn’t do that, which I really appreciate. People say things without understanding the depth of damage they do to people’s lives.”
2. He’s smoking weed again, occasionally. “I do it every once in a while,” he said. “Just a little tiny bit.” Stern gave it up years ago because it makes him paranoid, but Young had the solution. “Try black pepper balls if you get paranoid,” he said. “Just chew two or three pieces. I just found this out myself. Try it.”
3. He wasn’t kidding last week when he said he’s never going to perform with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ever again. “Playing with Stills and Nash in that band was really great,” he said, intentionally leaving out a certain other member. “I wish [Crosby] the best with his life. There’s love there. There’s just nothing else there. [A reunion] will never happen. Never happen, no, not in a million years….You have to think about things before you do them. If you make a mistake, you have to fix it right away. [A reunion] will never happen. You don’t have to worry about it. It’s easy to say ‘no.'”
4. His relationship with Crosby remains strained, though he didn’t get into specifics. “There’s nothing to apologize for,” Young said. “It was fixable, but it didn’t get fixed.” Stern asked if it was Young’s fault it didn’t get fixed. “Absolutely not,” said Young. “I did everything I could to make sure it got fixed…We were together for a long time. We did some good work. Why should we get together and celebrate how great we were? What difference does it make? It’s not for the audience. It’s not for money, either. When you play music, you have to come from a certain place to do it and everything has to be clear and you don’t want to disturb that. I like to keep the love there, and if the love isn’t there, you don’t want to do it.”
5. Even 45 years later, he’s still pissed about all the cameras onstage at Woodstock. “They didn’t have to be right there on the stage,” he said. “They’re cameras, hello! Use zoom, dickhead. We were playing music and there’s some jerk standing there in black clothes. We’re playing music, get out of there.”
6. He finds it difficult to tell stories about the old days without saying the name of a certain person. “I love the Woodstock movie,” he said. “If you listen to when they introduce Crosby, Stills and Nash, you can tell…Wait a minute, did I say the full name of the band there? Okay, when the guy says, uh…I have to get this right…When he says, uh…Stills, Nash and Young, you can tell he cut. They had to take my name out.” Later in the interview, he referred to Crosby’s 1971 album If I Could Only Remember My Name as a work by “whatshisname.” Stern joked that Crosby wouldn’t like Pono and Young facetiously said, “This Pono player is poisonous. It’s going to kill something? Isn’t that what he said?”
Stern didn’t understand what he was referring to there, but it was clearly these recent comments that Crosby gave to The Idaho Statesmen: “I happen to know that [Neil is] hanging out with somebody that’s a purely poisonous predator now. And that’s karma. He’s gonna get hurt.” Crosby isn’t backing down, telling a fan recently on Twitter that he has “no regrets.”
7. Bono gave him advice about how to write more commercial music. “I sung all the songs in Greendale,” Young said. “And Bono commented that the songs needed hooks that went over and over again and more people could hear them.” Young didn’t take him up on the advice.
8. He’s tremendously disappointed in President Obama. “He just opened up the Gulf of Mexico to fracking,” he said. “Like the Gulf of Mexico didn’t need a break…Politicians are empowered by the system to do nothing but take money from the corporations that control them. Obama campaigned on change and hope, and they’re fracking in the Gulf of Mexico. Barack, hello! Wake up, buddy.”
9. The first batch of Pono players are sold out. “We’re going to try and make more in January,” he said. “We’re starting to build and scale up, but the demand for them was awesome…We’re making this for people that want it. We’re not making it for people that don’t want it, but they may not know then want it until they hear it. It’s a gentle revolution. We’re not trying to bowl over the world. We don’t think success is anything you can tangibly see. It’s a smile.”
10. His newest hobby is paddleboarding. “I’m going out paddleboarding with my girlfriend tomorrow morning,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing…I can’t worry about the paparazzi. You can’t see them anyway. They are taking pictures from behind trees. You can’t think about that.”
11. He’s psyched about his upcoming album Storytone. “It was a great experience,” he says. “I was in a room with all these musicians. We did it all at once. There’s no overdubs. Be great or be gone. That’s what my producer David Briggs always said. You only have one shot at a time and you can’t go fix it. I knew where I wanted to go with the songs, and the orchestra had charts and an arranger and everything…It was done with up to a 90-piece orchestra. We did it live in the room like Sinatra.”
12. Sharing a Toronto apartment with Rick James in 1966 was nonstop fun. “We did some wild things,” he said. “It’s all very hazy to me now. I’m glad I made it through that stage. It got a little dicey. There were some drugs going on. I remember singing one song for about a day and a half.”