Wednesday, January 25, 2012

John Lennon Vs. Neil Young...

ALTERNATE TITLE: "Can't We All Just Get Along?"

I've been mad at John Lennon lately, for something he said back in 1980 about Neil Young. Yes, I know he's not around to defend himself these days. This puts me in a really difficult position, because as much as I like(d) John Lennon, I like Neil Young More, at least as far as their solo careers are concerned. It all started when I read Lennon's 1980 Playboy interview for the first time. I'd long heard that was one of Lennon's landmark interviews, where he calls 'em like he see's (or saw's) them. He enumerated a lot of intriguing descriptions of the Beatles' music, revealing who wrote what and other details about the Beatles legacy-creating music. At one point, Lennon was asked something about Burning Out vs. Fading Away (A Neil Young-ism). Young, sings "it's better to burn out than to fade away", and Lennon didn't buy into that at all. Lennon went as far as to say that if Young actually felt that way, he (Young) should just disappear immediately. After all, Young kept coming back over and over and over. It was at that point that my jaw fell open and I haven't closed it since. (Just kidding!)
This leaves me Terribly Conflicted. And makes me think that if I'd personally known John Lennon, we probably wouldn't have been great friends. Yes, I admire John Lennon for what he did with the Beatles...if you listen to their earlier material, Lennon wrote a whole heck of a lot of it. Later on, as drugs, Yoko, bagism, drugs and protest came along, Lennon didn't write so much. I have a Beatles book which awarded points to each Beatle as far as songwriting contributions were concerned, and Lennon came in first-place, with McCartney coming in a fairly-distant second-place. Even though most of the Beatles' songs were said to be composed by "Lennon-McCartney", most of the time, one of them would have most of the song done, while the other might end up throwing in a chorus, or a few words here and there. Rarely did Lennon or McCartney write an entire Beatles' song. As far as Lennon's Solo Career, to me, his songs either are weak on ideas or irritatingly shrill and provoking. I wasn't proud of his Peace Movement things, and in the later '70s, I found his albums "Mind Games" and "Walls and Bridges" to be, overall, fairly weak, monotonus or just plain Uninspiring. His "Plastic Ono Band" album (1970) featured a lot of wailing, teeth-gnashing and shouting, and although I respect him for laying his soul open, it's an album that is Hard To Like. I don't play it much. I would have to say that his "Imagine" album (1971) is probably his best Solo Album; it's provoking, yes, but it's a heck of a lot easier to listen to, because it is more Musical, and give me a combination of melody along with message-lyrics anytime; that combination is always compelling. As far as his "Comeback" (which was, of course, ended due to circumstances beyond his control), his songs on "Double Fantasy" (1980) and the unfinished "Milk And Honey" album (released 1983) were okay, not great, but he was getting it together, sounding better, and who knows what he would've done had he not been Elimated. (Something I'm still, over 30 years later, very angry about).
'''I cannot say enough good things about Neil Young. I admire him for who he is and what he does. He writes from the Soul. Yes, there are some albums he has totally "bombed" on ("Trans", his 1980 computer-vocalized album, and "Everybody's Rockin", an early 1980's album that was barely half an hour long on which he sounded like someone who'd been dumped from the "Stray Cats"). But...he's recorded some achingly beautiful music (1997's "Harvest Moon" or 1978's "Comes A Time" come immediately to mind), and then he turns around and rocks like a Man Possessed (on such albums as 1979's "Reactor", 1975's "Zuma" or 1989's "Ragged Glory". Many is the time I've put on one of his albums and he seems to be speaking to me, making me ask (to myself), "Neil, how did you know?" As a listener, I never know what kind of music he'll be coming with from album to album, but, that's half the fun. He's written zillions of songs over the years, and more than once, a current album of his has at least a few tracks that he'd recorded years before, but had never been released. I cannot stress how much I've come to value his musicianship, quality of song lyrics, but more than anything, just being who he is and who does what he does. Neil's not the greatest guitarist or vocalist, but neither am I, and that's one reason his music hits me so hard. He keeps trying to Get It Right, and mostly succeeds. Back in the 1970's and '80s, I wrote a whole bunch of songs; I've got a CD laying around my place somewhere that features My Music. Most of my song lyrics got lost, and I haven't even tried to write a song since the mid 90's. Neil has said that songs just invade his mind, and he has to write down what he hears in his head. And he's kept writing, and Writing and WRITING. I haven't been to one of his concerts, but I've got almost everything he's ever recorded. And no matter how old or new his songs may be, they always sound fresh. And that's the trademark of a great artist.
So that's why I feel so conflicted about John Lennon, and what he said about Neil Young. Lennon does have a point, which also frustrates me. Telling Neil to Just Go Away, just like that. Burn out and go away, Neil. On the other hand, no matter how many relationships Neil may have had through the years, he wasn't conned into cocooning himself away from doing anything musical for five years. So John Lennon was a house-husband for 5 years, taking cae of his kid while Yoko did whatever she does. He composed during that time, and made home-taped recordings. C'mon, much time can an album take...many are recorded in less than a month. You wouldn't have had to tour...we would've been buying your music anyway. Have I solved anything here? No. I'm still conflicted. But this has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks, festering away. So I had to Write It Down. Now if I could just put these words to music...
Finally, a closing note: Evidently a singer named Justin Bieber has really been popular over the last half-year, causing what's known as "Bieber-Fever". Really. That must explain why, when I was shopping at a thrift store today, I saw one of his CD's in the rack for two bucks. That means Justin Bieber is on the fast track to obsolescence, and when he gets there, The Backstreet Boys will greet him.


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