It’s been just slightly over a week since Neil Young told Spotify that he’d remove his music from their service if they continued to air The Joe Rogan Experience, but a lot has happened in that time. Young went through on his threat later in the week, and his longtime friends Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, and Nils Lofgren have since made the same move. Young’s estranged former bandmate David Crosby said he would have also yanked his catalog had he not sold it last year. (Stephen Stills, the ball is in your court.)
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek responded with an open letter where he pledged that the company would add a “content advisory” to any podcast that included discussions of Covid-19. It would include a link to their Covid-19 advisory hub. “This new effort to combat misinformation will roll out to countries around the world in the coming days,” he wrote. “To our knowledge, this content advisory is the first of its kind by a major podcast platform.”
Rogan stayed quiet in the early days of the controversy, but on Sunday, he posted a 10-minute video where he said he’d work harder to present all sides of the vaccine debate. “I’m going to do my best, but my point of doing this is always just to create interesting conversations, and ones that I hope people enjoy,” he said. “So if I piss you off, I’m sorry, and if you enjoyed the podcast, thank you.”
He also said that he felt no anger towards Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. “I’m very sorry that they feel that way,” he said. “I most certainly don’t want that. I’m a Neil Young fan. I’ve always been a Neil Young fan.”
Later in the video, he told a story about working as a security guard at Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts in Mansfield, Massachusetts, when he was 19 back in 1986. “The job was kind of crazy because fights broke out,” he said. “I think I got like 15 bucks an hour and I was not about to get beat up for 15 bucks an hour. So I would bring a hoodie with me whenever I worked so in case the shit hit the fan and things got crazy, I would just put my hoodie on and leave and cover my security shirt.
“One day during a Neil Young concert, things got a little rowdy,” he continued. “It was cold out, so they started these bonfires on the lawn. We were supposed to put them out. We tried for a little while and then brawls started breaking out. It started getting crazy. I was like, ‘Fuck this.’ I put my hoodie on, I zipped it up, and I left. And I drove home. And as I drove home, I was singing, ‘Keep on rockin’ in the free world.’ That was my last day on the job. I don’t even think I collected my last check.”
Neil Young did indeed play at Great Woods in 1986. It was a two-night stand that took place Sept. 20 and 21 on the Live in a Rusted Out Garage tour with Crazy Horse. It’s unclear if Rogan’s story takes place on the first night or the second night, but here’s an audience recording of night one. It’s just about half the show, but the sound quality is quite strong. The set is a mixture of Seventies classics like “Heart of Gold” and “Down by the River” and Eighties tunes like “Inca Queen,” “Sample and Hold,” and “Touch the Night.” Young hasn’t played several of these songs in decades, and let’s hope the people on the lawn setting bonfires and pummeling each other appreciated what they were seeing.
Neil Young has admitted that he’s never even heard The Joe Rogan Experience. He merely read about the 270 physicians and scientists who asked Spotify to take action against Rogan because of the vaccine misinformation that he spreads. And it’s quite possible that Rogan’s only encounter with Neil took place at Great Woods back in 1986.
Imagine sitting down with Rogan that night and trying to explain this current situation to him. “Joe, you’re going to become famous years from now for hosting a show called Fear Factor where people eat bugs for money. And there will be this thing called the internet and you’ll host a sort of radio show on it that’ll become so popular that this music service called Spotify will give you $100 million to do it for them. But then this deadly pandemic will hit in 2020 …”
It would be no easier trying to explain what happened to 1986 Neil Young. “Neil, did you see that teenage security guard by the bonfire brawl that put on a hoodie and stormed out? Thirty-six years from now, you’re going to remove all of your music from this streaming music service called Spotify because you don’t like what he’s telling people about a vaccine that’s helping to quell a global pandemic. It will create news all over the world and spark a huge debate. What’s Spotify? Well, all music is basically free in the future, and people get it on their computers and portable phones through Spotify. Does it sound better than CDs and tapes? Well, that’s sort of complicated. And let me tell you, you have a lot to say about this matter come the future …”
Neither of them would have even the foggiest idea what you were talking about. But one thing is for sure: Rogan did not drive home that night in 1986 and sing “Rockin’ in the Free World” to himself. The song wasn’t written for another three years. But at least it’s a Neil Young tune. In his video, Rogan said he loves Joni Mitchell’s song “Chuck E’s in Love.” That is, of course, a Rickie Lee Jones hit. But as we know, sometimes Rogan gets things a little wrong.