ou calling Neil Young a hippy? A dinosaur? Neil? Hmmm. Neil. Yeah. l suppose. like Dylan in The Magic Rozmdabout. the fact that the flower- powerless loser in The Young Ones was very deliberately called ‘Ncil‘ did kind of retrospectively tarnish the bullish Canadian’s image.

So he likes hanging out on his ranch. and. all right, in ‘Ohio’, he did sing about kids being gunned down by the cops but then so did Zappa. one of whose favourite pursuits was hippy-baiting. And during the 805. Young did. I‘ll admit. exhibit the nasty tendency of the soured hippy to go all Reaganite on us (babe) but then so did Iggy Pop. whose primitivism had the incense-burners running in a panic back to Mommy in 1969.

But a dinosaur? Look at his peers for the answer to that one. While

videos the networks daren’t show for fear of offending their advertisers and public decency.

He’s the guitar hero it’s okay to like, using limited technique to maximum effect. shooting every line through with urgency. That‘s what it is. Neil Young never lost his urgency. Or his fear of being frozen in time.

He was one of the few artists of his generation to salute punk rather than scorn it, and a decade later, just as the Seattle sound was about to

o The {iii-2:15 July 1995"


still vital, still cool.’

to be a hippy dinosaur?

explode into the mainstream. strapped on his electric guitar and blew the roof off. to show who the grandfather of grunge really was.

He was smart enough to realise that reuniting for a 90s tour with Crosby, Stills and Nash would be a nostalgia trip for an audience which was either trying to relive the Woodstock era or couldn't forgive themselves for not being there first time around. Better to put a new slant on it. So. every gig they did during the Gulf War. he and Crazy Horse played a funereal ‘Blowin‘ In The Wind’. overlaid with sirens and bombs and deliberate echoes of Hendrix’s ‘Star Spangled Banner‘. But this was no cosy celebration; Young was using the language he shared with his audience to comment angrily on what was happening right there and then.

My own introduction later than most came with ‘Crime In The City‘. a track on 1989‘s Freedom.

anyone who was ever even anyone who The story of a cop mired in remotely ‘anyone’ is exploiting was ever corruption gets more and more rose-tinged memories in themed wired as he recounts his woes: ‘They nostalgia packages, Neil Young is even paint my car like a target/I take my Still moving, still vital, Still cool. fem0t8Iy orders from fools/Meanwhile some Equally convincing whether he’s ‘anyone’ is kid blows my head off/When [play playing cranium-splitting rock or I -t- by the rules.’ Then he‘s standing in achineg affecting country ballads. exp 0! "'9 an alley. a wad of money in his A stubborn. unpredictable I'OSB'tlnged hand. and with

frontiers-man (‘He wants the memofies in the line ‘I get paid by a ten year- government to leave him alone, and themed old/He says he looks up to me'. the drifts from left to right depending , degradation is complete. I still get on which side is butting into his n03t3|gla stopped in my tracks by that line. business,‘ said Written In My Soul packages, and other Young lyrics. in a way that author Bill Flanagan), he‘ll blast Young is ‘Don 't follow leaders/Witch the ‘deceitful and misleading' . . parking meters" never quite corporate sponsorship by making Sh" movmgs matched.

Young sings with anger. but sorrow and resignation too. and it's no surprise to find that he claims to have put ‘a piece of Roy Orbison‘ on every album he's made. He‘s earned the right to do that. ‘Often in my life.‘ he told one interviewer. ‘l‘ve felt that l was singled out for one reason or another for extreme things to happen to.’

The twist of fate which dealt him two sons. Ben and Zeke. with cerebral palsy (by two different mothers and with a medical all-clear for Young


In these days of weekly Unplugged career revivals, there’s never been a better time to be a fortysomething rocker. But some ageing gurus are more deserving than others of deep respect. Alastair Mabbott traces the mercurial career of Neil Young. Didn’t he use

‘He’s the guitar hero it’s okay to like, using limited technique to maximum effect, shooting every line through with urgency.’

himself) can only be compared with lightning striking the same place twice. ‘You can‘t understand the words on Trans and I can’t understand my sons‘ words. So feel that.’ he challenged. when his electronic album met with bemusemcnt. ‘lBen‘sl programme is driving, implacable. repetitive. And so is Reactor.‘

His dive into full-tilt country gave him reassurance and certainties he found rewarding for a while. ‘And then one morning I woke up and all I could hear was this massive fucking beat. And my guitar was just rising out ofit.‘ lt was time to rock 'n‘ roll again.

But if there‘s one thing that‘s constant about Neil Young other than his exquisite songs it‘s his compulsion to stall his career every time it looks like he's getting too successful. After initially making his name with ambitious studio productions. he opted for rawness. Then. after major successes like Harvest or Rust Nei'er Sleeps. he would abruptly change direction. He shelved Hmnegrown ( ‘a sort of sequel to Hal‘l’L’SI‘) in favour of the gloomy and uncommercial Tonight's The Night (a masterful album all the same). Then. there was his famous stint in the 80s as be shifted from synth-rock to 50s rock ‘n‘ roll to country to blues. Neil Young is cresting a wave now. but what’s he going to do when it starts to feel uncomfortable? Square- dancing. anyone?

Young’s unpredictability inevitably throws up surprises. That ‘Aw yeeeaah!’ from a member of the Unplugged audience as Young unexpectedly launches into the Trans song ‘Transformer Man'. reshaped for small. tasteful acoustic combo, is one of delight and astonishment. That‘s the feeling that anyone who puts their faith in music wants. Neil Young (47) is still delivering it. Dinosaurs. by definition. don‘t. L]

Neil Young plays the SEC C , Glasgow on Mon 12.