Although Jimmy McDonough's semi-official biography Shakey isn't in any danger of losing its position as the definitive account on the life and career of Neil Young anytime soon, there's a new arrival in the neighborhood that may be ready to challenge that classic for bragging rights.
Daniel Durchholz and Gary Graff's Long May You Run: The Illustrated History may not break any new ground in terms of telling the actual Neil Young story. But it does tell it well, and is often an easier, or at least more compact read than the opus that is Shakey.
Where McDonough's nearly 800 page book goes into painstaking detail about virtually every aspect of Neil Young's life from his childhood in Canada right up to about the time of that book's 2003 publish date, Long May You Run instead compresses most of these same points into a quicker, more easily digested 200 or so pages. Yet, even with the significant reduction in length, little is missed here.
But the thing which really sets this book apart from Shakey — or any other Neil Young book for that matter — are the pictures. In boasting that it is the first fully illustrated Neil Young biography, Long May You Run lives up to that claim, and then some.
Beautiful, full-color photographs from every phase of Neil Young's five-decade career — many of them never before seen — leap off of every single page. In between the actual story, there are also hundreds of photos of ticket stubs, concert posters, rare foreign singles and albums, and other memorabilia. This package is just beautifully put together, and the sort of collectible in itself that any fan is sure to recognize as an instant keeper.
Neil Young's story has of course been told many times before, probably most successfully in the aforementioned Shakey. But in both condensing that story, and telling it in simpler, easier to read language here, the authors bring a fresh perspective to it that makes this book seem like reading it all for the first time.
All of the major points are covered too — from Buffalo Springfield to Crosby Stills Nash & Young to Crazy Horse and the Stray Gators, and from the deaths of Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry through the "ditch trilogy," the so-called "lost eighties," the battles with David Geffen, his comeback as the "godfather of grunge" in the nineties, and more.
As a bonus, there are also numerous sidebars sandwiched in-between the chapters that focus on Neil Young's numerous unreleased albums, his often contentious relationship with the other members of CSN&Y, his collaborators, and even the various women in his life. A number of Young's musical peers also chime in with their own thoughts (including a lengthy letter of praise from Aerosmith's Joe Perry).
One of these sidebars even deals with Neil's sometimes strange relationship with Shakey author McDonough, who went from being his official biographer to suing the artist just to get the book out. Seems Neil Young can sometimes be a rather difficult guy to deal with.
Long May You Run also brings the Neil Young story up to the present day — as much as that is even possible with a mad scientist as wildly prolific as Young. An extensive (and again, beautifully illustrated) discography in the back section of the book brings things right up to last year's Dreamin' Man Live CD, and of course the massive Archives set.
With Long May You Run, Daniel Durchholz and Gary Graff have managed to pull off the rather impressive trick of adding new dimensions to the already well documented public account of Neil Young's volatile, mercurial, and often misunderstood musical genius.
Oh yeah, and the pictures are pretty awesome too.