Here We Are In The Years: Neil Young’s Music Box (MVD Entertainment), a two-hour documentary released earlier this summer, purports to trace the influences of Neil Young’s musical journey from his early days listening to such artists as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis through his explorations of rock, country, folk, grunge, and everything in between.
It ends up being very interesting in a general sense. The early fathers of rock ‘n’ roll, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, punk music, and grunge, influenced the fabric of popular music and no doubt exerted influences upon Neil Young, but without his direct involvement in the project these influences remain assumed and not specific or proven.
An example would be the section of how American instrumental surf music influenced his guitar style and sound. Duane Eddy, The Fireballs, Dick Dale and other instrumental bands of the day exerted a great deal of influence upon late 1950s and early 1960s guitarists, but whether their influence reached Neil Young’s group, The Squires, while plausible, is not verified. I was amused by the Beach Party clip with Annette Funicello clearly visible.
More logical are the sections about Canadian artists Ian & Sylvia and his early relationship with Randy Bachman. The clip of him singing the folk duo’s “Four Strong Winds” is excellent and leaves you wanting more. The Bachman piece is more of careers passing one another rather than any direct influence.
There is little doubt that he has been influenced by a variety of artists and styles of music and that some of the suppositions presented here are right on or have been proven elsewhere. Young has been an active musician for decades and issued music that has spanned a number of styles, so he has been listening, incorporating, and reacting to what has been happening musically since his teen years.
The best part of the release is the history lesson. It traces various parts and elements of rock music from its beginnings to the present. While possibly unintended, it is interesting to follow how each musical period influenced the next. The various clips of everyone from Roy Orbison, to The Rolling Stones to the Sex Pistols serve to enhance this extended history lesson.
Neil Young’s career has reached a point where because of his talent, stature, and popularity, it will be dissected and examined in as many ways as possible. Here We Are In The Years: Neil Young’s Music Box is one of those ways. In the final analysis, it is an intriguing travel through music history but not an essential Neil Young release.