Man of Secrets
In the late '60s he wore ruffled shirts and jewellery. In 1966 Toronto, he was in a band fronted by Rick James until James was arrested for being AWOL from the Navy Reserve. Neil Young is full of surprises. So is 'After The Gold Rush'. which was released on September 19, 1970.
The Record Is The Soundtrack To A Lost Screenplay
Doesn’t that sound spooky and romantic? This is the music that goes along with a story that has disappeared. ‘After The Gold Rush’ was inspired by a Dean Stockwell-Herb Bermann screenplay for an unmade film of the same name. Stockwell has been an actor since childhood and of his many roles, most notable was his Oscar-nominated turn in 1988’s “Married to the Mob”. Herb Bermann is best known for co-writing Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s 1967 debut, 'Safe as Milk'. Stockwell’s pal Russ Tamblyn (“Twin Peaks”, “West Side Story”) was set to star as a reclusive rocker who lives in a castle. “It’s not a linear, regular storytelling kind of film,” Stockwell has explained. “Really what was in my mind was that the gold rush in effect created California. And the film took place on the day California was supposed to go into the ocean. So that’s what happened after the gold rush.” The script has since been lost.
‘After the Gold Rush’
The album’s title track is a time-travelling environmental warning about the end of our time on Earth, at which point, the chosen ones are evacuated from the planet in silver spaceships. It’s surprisingly David Bowie in its themes. If you’ve become accustomed to the live version, you may be surprised to hear that there’s no harmonica on the original. Instead, it’s a French horn, like in “Penny Lane”.
The Reviews Are In
In 2006, 'Time' magazine listed 'After The Gold Rush' as one of the 'All-Time 100 Albums’. In 2003, NME named it the 80th greatest album of all time. At the time of its release, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau praised the record. "While David Crosby yowls about assassinations, Young divulges darker agonies without even bothering to make them explicit … A real rarity: pleasant and hard at the same time." But the review in 'Rolling Stone' magazine was savage.
The Damage Done
'Rolling Stone'’s Oct 15, 1970, review of the album aged like milk. Here’s a taste: “Neil Young devotees will probably spend the next few weeks trying desperately to convince themselves that ‘After The Gold Rush’ is good music. But they’ll be kidding themselves. For despite the fact that the album contains some potentially first-rate material, none of the songs here rise above the uniformly dull surface … On the album the band never really gets behind the songs and Young himself has trouble singing many of them … Another disturbing characteristic of the record, oddly enough, is Young’s voice … (which) often sounds like pre-adolescent whining … Apparently, no one bothered to tell Neil Young that he was singing a half octave above his highest acceptable range … I can’t listen to it at all.”
This Note's For You
By 1975, 'Rolling Stone' was referring to ‘After The Gold Rush’ as a masterpiece. In 2000, 'Rolling Stone' named Young the 34th greatest rock 'n' roll artist of all time. 'Rolling Stone' listed ‘After The Gold Rush’ as the 71st greatest album of all time in 2012.
It Didn’t Hit The Charts Like A Hurricane
That poster in your high school library that read ‘What is good is not always popular and what is popular is not always good’ might apply here. ‘After the Gold Rush’ peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, which sounds amazing except for when you consider that rock was the hip hop of the day so it was no great feat for a guitar-driven record to crack the top 10. And there were just two singles released! "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" made it to No. 33, which is very respectable but now that it’s a classic it just seems wrong that it wasn’t a No. 1. “When You Dance I Can Really Love" barely cracked the top 100, peaking at No. 93. So it wasn’t the “WAP” of its day.
The lyrics of the record’s most rocking song denounce racism in response to the treatment of Black people in the American South. “I saw cotton and I saw black / Tall white mansions and little shacks / Southern Man, when will you pay them back?”
The song inspired a defence from southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, who penned “Sweet Home Alabama" in response. "We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two," said Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant at the time. Young gets called out by name: “Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her / Well, I heard ol' Neil put her down / Well, I hope Neil Young will remember / A Southern man don't need him around anyhow.”
The Joni Mitchell Connection
Graham Nash, of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, has said that "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" was inspired by his breakup with Joni Mitchell. Stephen Stills contributed backing vocals on the track, which became Young’s first top-40 solo hit. And here’s a little-known fact: Young suffered from polio in 1952 during the last major outbreak of the disease in Ontario. Mitchell also contracted the virus during this epidemic. She was only nine at the time and didn’t know Young yet. She met him in folk clubs in Winnipeg in the 1960s.
It Was Recorded At Sunset Sound
The Sunset Sound recording studio was established in 1958 by Tutti Camarata, Walt Disney's director of recording. The audio for Disney films like “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”, “Mary Poppins”, and “101 Dalmatians” were recorded there. But it’s more famous as a rock recording studio. Over 200 gold records have been recorded there, including Prince's ‘Purple Rain’, the Beach Boys' ‘Pet Sounds’, and the Rolling Stones' ‘Exile on Main St.’, pictured. Young, a bedroom pop pioneer, also recorded parts of the record in a makeshift studio at his California home.
The Best Lamenter
While many know that Young’s father Scott Young was a popular sportswriter and prolific novelist, his brother Bob Young was also a capable writer. At the time of ‘After The Gold Rush’, he penned a terrific piece called ‘My Brother The Folk Singer’ for the May 11, 1971, edition of 'Macleans' magazine. He wrote, “You can learn a lot about where Neil’s at from his songs. One national critic in the States described him as 'probably the best young lamenter around.' I think he meant that Neil’s melancholy was tempered with sense and a love of life. Jack Batten, the Toronto pop critic, said the same sort of thing another way: 'There is, not to put too fine a point on it, no crap about him.' His lyrics, like the tunes he sets them to, are simple but effective, and some of them are memorable."
On December 4, 1970, Neil Young played to a sold-out crowd at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. He wore jeans, a plaid shirt, and work boots. In 'Macleans', Bob Young wrote, “Jack Nicholson of 'Five Easy Pieces' came into the dressing room and told Neil excitedly, ‘You sold out Carnegie Hall, man, you sold out!’” The show had sold out in 25 minutes and a second concert had to be added. Fans stood in line for two days to get tickets. His brother closed the article with a memory, “There was one quality about him that had always set him apart, it seemed to me. He was a kid who had kept on moving toward his own undefined goal, no matter what. And all of a sudden I remembered him as a seven-year-old walking down the main street of Omemee, a fishing pole over his shoulder, unconcerned while a bunch of cats snapped and clawed at the fish dragging in a tangled line behind him.”