What this audiobook calls for is a good editor.
Neil Young rambles on and on, often switching times so the chronology seems non-existent. There are endless lines, thoughts, ideas, musings that should have been pared down or cut from the book. It is not necessary to know each and every thought that Young has ever had.
In addition, there are endless descriptions of Lionel trains and cars of every vintage.
Amid the frustration of Young’s meandering, however, are some gems that could only come from Neil Young. His descriptions of places, like his ranch in California and his home in Hawaii, are vintage Young: “How many places are there on earth that really are healing places?” Or check out the startling imagery in one of his ballads like “Needle and the Damage Done;” Then listen to the anthem, “Ohio.” There is an elegiac quality to parts of the book where Young pays generous homage to lost friends and colleagues. The ending, however, jumps up unexpectedly, and an Appendix of the songs would have helped.
Thankfully, though, he does share some thoughts about his creative process and how he went about making music with some of the seminal musicians of his day: Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; and later, Crazy Horse. It is interesting to meet the caretaker who inspired the indelible “Old Man.”
He appears to be an upbeat fellow, with only good things to say about his former wife and girlfriends. He is an enthralled father to his severely handicapped son, Ben, his first son, Zeke, who sounds as though he did a lot of acting out, and his daughter, Amber.
Maybe it is best to concentrate on the superb work itself. We learn that the Time magazine picture of students shot at Kent State inspired Young to compose on the spot the haunting “Ohio: Four dead in O-hio.”
Keith Carradine as narrator is the perfect choice.
Despite the unnecessary parts of this book, this writer was moved to spend the evening after finishing it listening to Neil Young songs.
Maybe that’s the point.
Photo credit: I took this picture from Images of Neil Young by cultmontreal.com on the Internet.