About the Live Aid event, Boyd contends that “Crosby, Stills Nash, and Young were hardly memorable on a day that also included the cream of the era’s superstar rock-‘n’-roll talents. CSN&Y’s set was particularly horrendous.” I’m personally glad that Boyd addressed this issue, because I was at Live Aid, and my memory of those Young-involved performances are indistinct, though I do seem to recall some pitchy moments from America’s reconstituted counterculture idols of the ’80s.
Speaking of the ‘80s, the less said about the albums Trans and Everybody’s Rockin’, the better, perhaps, but Boyd gamely and discerningly rummages amidst the details of the David Geffen years—when the head of the label infamously sued Young for breach of contract for failing to serve up any actual “Neil Young records.” Condensed drive-by reading is fine with me, though. It leaves more time to explore the nooks ‘n’ crannies of some particular Neil Young faves, afforded by going into-the-black of the bolt-from-the-blue Rust Never Sleeps, and the stellar Live Rust, which contains a groove-worn sequence of back-to-back powerhouse tracks (I think they comprised a whole side on LP): the evocative “Powderfinger,” the provocative “Cortez the Killer,” and the propulsive “Cinnamon Girl.” Hey hey, my my.
Moving on in our Journey Through the Past (page 124), Boyd gratifyingly provides a chunky chapter—“There Was a Band Playing In My Head and I Felt Like Getting High” â to 1970’s After the Gold Rush, the bestselling precursor of sorts to the even bigger blockbuster Harvest. The author examines one of Young’s “more naïve attempts at a political statement,” the controversial “Southern Man,” with its “blunt, and perhaps somewhat misguided, lyrical bombs.” The song notoriously triggered the ire of the understandably indignant Lynyrd Skynyrd, who aimed back with “Sweet Home Alabama’s” trenchant rebuke that, concerning Mr. Young, “southern man don’t want him around anyhow.” What may not be as well-known is that, while familiar with the fact that vocalist and lyricist Ronnie Van Zant was a Neil Young fan, I hadn’t known the tidbit that Van Zant â who died in a fiery plane crash in 1977 with two other members of the band â was buried in the same “Tonight’s the Night” T-shirt that he wore on the disquieting flame-lined cover of the Dixie stalwarts’ posthumously released Street Survivors album.
Also included in the chapter is an astute and fascinating analysis and speculation—Boyd’s and others’—regarding the of the haunting and inscrutable but beautiful title track—which has implications touching on the fate of Crazy Horse guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Danny Whitten, whose 1972 death from a heroin overdose inspired the bleak but brilliant Tonight’s the Night. Jarring fun fact: Whitten was the writer of the song “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” popularized by Rod Stewart!