Monday, May 12, 2008

Rare Neil Young Interview Footage Unearthed From 1986

My continuing explorations of a pile of VHS Hi-Fi videotapes I recorded back in the late 1980s has turned up another real gem: Rare 1986 interview footage with hippie folk-rock iconoclast Neil Young.

Neil Young, in 1986, was at one of many (usually self-created) "weird spots" in his long and storied career. He was just coming off a strange three-album run which had resulted in his actually being sued by Geffen, his record company, for musical output "uncharacteristic of Neil Young," as hard as it may be to wrap your mind around that.

In 1983, Neil had become entranced with the possibilities of computer/electronic alteration/enhancement of his music; the result of that particular flirtation was the Kraftwerk-esque Trans album, heavy on the vocoder and light on the folkishness. Not surprisingly, Trans left many longtime Neil fans mystified.

Later that same year, matters were further muddled when Neil didn't just return to the basics: He went all the way back to 1950s-style rock and roll for the Everybody's Rockin' LP, which was credited to "Neil and the Shocking Pinks." While Everybody's Rockin' was actually quite catchy, especially on fun tunes like "Betty Lou's Got A New Pair Of Shoes," it served to further confuse Young's folk-rock fan base.

When Neil's next offering, 1985's Old Ways, was more a traditional country album than anyone familiar with his previous output might have predicted, the suits at Geffen had had enough. Artistic vision be damned, they must have been thinking; we signed the guy who wrote "Cinnamon Girl" and "Heart Of Gold," and instead he gives us computer music, 50s doo-wop, then Nashville-style twang?

So they took ol' Neil to court, and tried to FORCE him to "act right." That, of course, didn't set very well with Neil, and when he DID decide he wanted to rock again, even that effort -- 1986's Landing On Water -- was lambasted by the critics of the time for its prominent synthesizers and loud drums, and by many modern Neil-watchers for its "80s production values."

Young wouldn't be fully returning to critical favor until a few more albums down the road, 1989's Freedom with its monster anthem "Rockin' In The Free World". But those of us who love him embrace the entire catalog, and know that Neil's just gotta be Neil...

The interview footage was taped from the short-lived "Rock'N'Roll Evening News" program and was conducted by Adrienne Meltzer. Enjoy!

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