Our best clients spend substantially on video production and, with all but the most ephemeral projects, there is always the hope, if not the goal, of producing something that will deliver value for a long time. That kind of staying power is rare and worth examining. I was doing the dishes and, as is my wont, listening to the kind of mix that only Shuffle can DJ (Curated Randomness will be addressed in another post) and I was struck, both by Shuffle’s genius juxtaposition with the Buzzcock’s “Boredom” and by the repetitive eloquence of Neil Young’s guitar solos. They’re epic and irreducible and, thus, kind of timeless. Evergreen. How did Neil Young survive punk rock to rule my playlist today?
When punk rock, with its propulsive urgency, swept out – to simplify music history a bit – “prog” and folk rock and established itself as a new paradigm in pop music, a few musicians not only survived the purge but also were adopted by the insurgency and expanded their audience. David Bowie, of course, because he’s a shape-shifting cultural shaman who had already prophesied punk rock several incarnations before it took root but also, more surprisingly – with his old man slouch, hoary grimace and flannel shirts – Neil Young.
Beneath the folksy, laidback and not just Californian (where he lives on a ranch in the northern hills) but Canadian vibe is a storyteller whose authenticity and, moreover, economy of delivery gives his songs resonance. Punk rock’s rallying cry, “no guitar solos” was clearly not directed at the insistent, stripped down (sometimes one note) solos that are Young’s signature in songs like “Down By the River” and “Cortez the Killer.” There is a sense, even in the often extraordinarily long songs, that Young isn’t wasting a note. He’s not showing off his virtuosity or giving bandmates their time in the spotlight. The songs feel driven by narrative urgency with emotional underpinnings that require every note of even the longest guitar solos.
Authenticity and economy; hallmarks of great, timeless communication always, everywhere. Rock on.