Saturday, October 20, 2007

Weekend video: Neil Young, Crazy Horse... and Devo

I haven't posted a weekend video in a while and man, Neil Young's got some gems out there. First up: Journey Through the Past, Young's 1972 autobio-doc. As I montioned before, it's near-impossible to find, but somebody posted the opening credits and first seven minutes or so on the redoubtable YouTube. I believe this is Young's first use of his alter-ego Bernard Shakey, who usually turns up on film projects.

The film opens with a scene of Young and posse walking in to a radio station, presumably for an interview. Young banters with the DJ for a bit, and the film fades into that Buffalo Springfield TV performance I posted a few weeks ago. The clip cuts off just as the band switches to "Mr. Soul".

Kind of reminds me of Radiohead's Meeting People Is Easy movie: very little context, just disorienting shots of the tedium of promotional work. It certainly makes me interested in seeing the movie; anybody got a copy?

Shakey's next film venture, to my knowledge, was a concert film of the same show as the Live Rust album, entitled Rust Never Sleeps. I was going to post a video from that movie (and found this while searching for it; I think that's Dutch), but you can find that anywhere. I also stumbled on this clip of Young and the Horse playing "Hurricane" in 1976. I think this might be the same footage Jim Jarmusch used toward the end of his Neil Young doc The Year of the Horse, which would make this Young-directed footage as well. Er, Shakey-directed. It's clearly a professional shoot and a multi-camera edit, so it's no bootleg.

"Hurricane" is my personal favourite of the long-form Crazy Horse numbers because of the way Young uses it as a launching pad for so much melodic exploration. The bluesy tonal wails of "Down By the River" are all well and good, but I think it's when he's building on the possibilities of a simple scale that Young really soars as a soloist. Compare that to this version from his famous Berlin concert in 1982. Sure, the 80s seem to have infected his backing band a bit, but once Young gets into the solo it still sounds like classic Neil, and he has yet to exhaust the song's potential.

In fact, screw it: here's the Rust Never Sleeps version as well. There's just no end to what he can do with this one song. He's even been known to play it at his solo shows on an organ. Far out, man.

But oh yeah, I was talking about Young as a filmmaker. Not always so hot. He wrote, directed and self-financed a narrative film in the early 80s called Human Highway which went unreleased until about ten years ago. It stars Young, a bunch of his aging-hippie neighbors from Laurel Canyon (Dennis Hopper, Russ Tamblyn, Dean Stockwell) and Devo in an incomprehensible technicolour fantasia about... nuclear weapons. And... stuff. Young discovered Devo pretty early on in their career and gave them one of their early breaks. Here he incorporates their song "Worried Man" into his movie as a big production number.

Did you make it all the way through? Almost unwatchable, isn't it? Actually, the only good scene is towards the end, when Young and Tamblyn are dancing on shovels. The song is reprised elsewhere in the film in a performance by the spuds themselves.

Incidentally, wanna see something really weird? At the end of this clip, a segment from a short biographical TV special about Young, there's footage of Young and Devo rocking "My My Hey Hey". Totally awesome. If anyone knows where I can find the clip in it's entirety, hook me up.

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