Neil Young: Waging Heavy Peace

I was excited to read this and in the end I’m glad I did but it was sort of a chore.

neilyoungbookNow please don’t take offense Neil, if you’re reading this, but it reads a lot like the journal of a 15 year old (as I’m sure much of my blog does). The prose and style is sort of cool because it gives you some insight into the thought process of this occasionally brilliant musician. The read itself is very disjointed and fragmented in parts, making it a  bit hard to follow and often unclear whether he had an editor cleaning up after him.

At times he digs a little too far into his day-to-day whatevers. He tended to hyper-focus on some of life’s trivialities, delving into minute details and dragging it all on and out for too long. For instance there’s pages where he just goes on and on about how cool his dog is and other sections about some of his friends that most readers probably have zero interest in. I suppose it’s all great stuff for helping us to understand that Mr. Young is just a mortal but it’s not the fodder we want. Those of us who excitedly who picked that book up were looking forward to a wealth of stories about how his songs were made, crazy escapades from the road and what it’s like behind the scenes with greats like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Well at least that’s what I was looking for and that’s what you can usually expect from most any bio for a musician or band.

Don’t get me wrong there are definitely some amazing yawns.  My favorite, being an obsessive songwriter myself, is about the day he was sick with the flu or something and wrote Cinnamon Girl, Down By The River and Cowgirls in the Sand. What!? That’s unfucking real! Pardon my “fuck” word but seriously…  that’s maybe the best writing streak in the history of everything, ever.

youngyoungMy guess is that it doesn’t really matter whether you deem his ramblings good or bad and it probably never will. Neil Young has always done what Neil Young wants to do and this book is no exception. We would not have the immense and varied catalog of music he has left in his wake if he wasn’t such a stubborn bastard. He is also an honest and caring bastard who stays completely true to his artistic vision and to those he loves and respects. He’s a good guy and deserves a little forgiveness for publishing a good chunk of mental free-associations.

The book is 512 pages; a pretty hefty read. Had someone chopped it up and kept only the more interesting stuff it would easily have weighed in under 300 pages.  That being said if he decides to put out another book (and I kinda hope he does ) I’d happily read it; boring ramblings and all. *((see below for follow-up))

Waging Heavy Peace; Neil Young talked a lot but didn’t say too much.  There’s still a lot of mystery left for me; I guess I have somewhat of a tolerance for listening to genius’ talk about nothing.

Here’s another good read on the man. The Rolling Stone Files. It’s basically complied articles and interviews from over the years.

FOLLOW UP** – So shortly after writing this I came upon news that he has in fact released another book A Memoir; Life and Cars – Cool.