Neil Young

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
/wiki/Neil Youngcreator
Neil young.jpg

"Old man, look at my life --
I'm a lot like you were."


My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It's better to burn out than to fade away
My my, hey hey


Neil Young (1945-) is one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 20th century. He has written and performed numerous hits throughout The Sixties and The Seventies and had a major comeback during The Nineties. He's best known for his solo work, but was also a member of Buffalo Springfield. He's also performed with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, albeit on an irregular basis.

His style changes often, with his albums falling into blues, acoustic folk, rockabilly, jazz, and even electronic. He is sometimes called the Grandfather of Grunge, as his music and harsh, noisy guitar playing had a strong influence on both the bands that would later popularize that genre (Nirvana, Pearl Jam) as well as Alternative Rock in general (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.). Young is also adept with many different instruments, though is best known for the piano, harmonica, and guitar.

Though well-known in America and currently living in California, Young is a Canadian citizen and wishes to remain so. Ironically, he has been very vocal about American policies and politics, and is a well-known liberal activist. He is also an active philanthropist, having founded The Bridge School and the benefit concert, Farm Aid. He is also a sometime engineer-inventor, whose most recent project is a prototype electric car.

Not to be confused with Young Neil.

  • Neil Young (1969)
  • Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
  • After the Gold Rush (1970)
  • Harvest (1972)
  • Time Fades Away (1973)
  • On the Beach (1974)
  • Tonight's the Night (1975)
  • Zuma (1975)
  • Long May You Run (1976)
  • American Stars 'n Bars (1977)
  • Comes a Time (1978)
  • Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
  • Hawks & Doves (1980)
  • Re·ac·tor (1981)
  • Trans (1982)
  • Everybody's Rockin' (1983)
  • Old Ways (1985)
  • Landing on Water (1986)
  • Life (1987)
  • This Note's for You (1988)
  • Eldorado (1989)
  • Freedom (1989)
  • Ragged Glory (1990)
  • Harvest Moon (1992)
  • Sleeps with Angels (1994)
  • Mirror Ball (1995)
  • Broken Arrow (1996)
  • Silver & Gold (2000)
  • Are You Passionate? (2002)
  • Greendale (2003)
  • Prairie Wind (2005)
  • Living with War (2006)
  • Living with War: "In the Beginning" (2006)
  • Chrome Dreams II (2007) [The first Chrome Dreams was never released]
  • Fork in the Road (2009)
  • Le Noise (2010)
  • Americana (2012)
  • Psychedelic Pill (2012)
  • A Letter Home (2014)
  • Storytone (2014)
  • The Monsanto Years (2015)
  • Peace Trail (2016)
  • Hitchhiker (2017; recorded 1976)
  • CSNY/Déjà Vu (2008 Documentary, as Bernard Shakey, with Benjamin Johnson)
  • Greendale (2003, as Bernard Shakey)
  • Weld (1990, as Bernard Shakey)
  • Human Highway (1982, as Bernard Shakey, with Dean Stockwell)
  • Rust Never Sleeps (1979 documentary)
  • Journey Through the Past (1974 documentary, as Bernard Shakey)
Neil Young provides examples of the following tropes:
  • After the End - After The Gold Rush paints a very striking and saddening image of this trope.
  • Age Progression Song - "Sugar Mountain"
  • The Band Minus the Face - Crazy Horse's albums without Young.
  • Braids, Beads, and Buckskins - Neil wore them while he was in the Buffalo Springfield, but insists he has no Indian ancestry that he knows of. He has written many songs about Indians and is an official member of the Muckleshoot tribe in Washington state.
  • Breakup Breakout - After Buffalo Springfield split.
  • Canada, Eh?
  • Career Resurrection - After spending a lot of The Eighties in a Dork Age so bad that his record company sued him for making bad music, he finally restored his reputation with Freedom.
  • Cluster F-Bomb - "Fuckin' Up". Neil says he wrote that as an attempt to get a Parental Advisory sticker, but the attempt failed.
  • Cool Old Guy
  • Creator Backlash - One of the main reasons Time Fades Away has not been reissued on CD: Young has been quoted as saying he regards it as his worst album (as of 1987, anyway). This opinion is not generally shared by fans, who tend to regard it as at least a good album if not one of his best. It does not help that the album was recorded with the "Compufuck" (actually the Quad-8 Compumix, the unreliable first digital mixing soundboard), which would make remastering it for CD with traditional methods impossible; the album would need to be remixed from scratch using the original multi-track tapes.
    • He has also expressed disappointment towards his first album for relying too heavily on overdubbing.
  • Creator Breakdown - The "Ditch Trilogy" Time Fades Away/Tonight's The Night/On The Beach, as explained on that page.
  • Deep South - "Southern Man" references many of the negative aspects of this area.
  • Drugs Are Bad / Ode to Sobriety - "The Needle and the Damage Done", an anti-heroin Tear Jerker.
  • Epic Rocking - Half the reason he gives concerts at all. Pretty much any song can go beyond 10 minutes if he feels like it. Frequent offenders include "Cowgirl In The Sand", "Like A Hurricane", "Down By The River", "Spirit Road", "Cortez The Killer"...

Audience: It all sounds the same!
Neil: It's all one song!

    • Several tracks on his studio albums invoke this trope as well. For example, the essentially live-in-the-studio album Ragged Glory has two tracks that exceed ten minutes ("Love to Burn" and "Love and Only Love"), Sleeps with Angels has the nearly-fifteen-minute "Change Your Mind", and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere has "Down by the River" (9:13) and "Cowgirl in the Sand" (10:06).
  • Greatest Hits Album - It took a very long time, but Young finally released one in 2004.
    • Decade (1977) could be regarded as an in-depth one for his early work.
      • Lucky Thirteen (1994) for his Geffen period.
  • Handicapped Badass - Neil suffers from epilepsy, and in his Buffalo Springfield days would often have fits on stage, earning him the nickname "Shakey". He's since learned to control it, but his eccentric guitar playing style and tendency to almost go into trance during Epic Rocking often come across as barely controlled seizures.
    • He's also a polio survivor, diabetic (type 1) and in 2005 nearly bled to death from complications following (successful) surgery for a deadly brain aneurysm. Between that and his many other health problems, he could be the Iron Woobie poster boy. Rusted iron.
  • I Call It Vera - Young has a tendency to name his guitars. Some in his collection include "Old Black" and "Hank," the latter of which was named after its previous owner, Hank Williams.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes - "The Missing Six", albums that Neil for a long time refused to re-release on CD. He eventually released four of them, but Journey Through The Past and Time Fades Away are still unavailable.
  • Lyrical Dissonance - "Rockin' in the Free World" is not proud or patriotic
  • Murder Ballad - "Down By the River"
  • Not So Different: "Old Man."
  • Pearl Jam - Young collaborated with them for 1995's Mirror Ball album.
  • Perfume Commercial - spoofed in his video for "This Note's For You".
  • Perishing Alt Rock Voice - Young's distinctive voice has been imitated by some Alternative Rock singers, like Wayne Coyne and J Mascis.
  • Pop Star Composer - Young for the film Dead Man.
  • Protest Song - So, so many.
    • "Ohio" - written/performed during his time with CSNY, it was about the famous Kent State shootings in 1970.
      • Written, recorded and released within two weeks of the tragedy itself.
    • "Southern Man" and "Alabama" were tied to the mistreatment of African-Americans.
    • "Rockin' in the Free World" is a a general protest against the George H. W. Bush administration and the effects of Reaganomics.
    • Living With War is an entire album about Neil's thoughts on George W. Bush. Including one cheery sing-along called "Let's Impeach The President!"
  • Rail Enthusiast - some people buy model trains. Young bought a model train manufacturer.
    • Actually, the reason why may be a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming -- both of Young's sons have cerebral palsy, and one of them, Ben, is also especially into model trains -- so he started getting into trains to have something he and Ben could enjoy together.
    • Something of an engineer, Young invented a new kind of control for the train set allowing everything to be run from what he called "The Big Red Button", so that Ben, a nonspeaking paraplegic, could run the whole set himself.
  • Record Producer:
    • DIY Producer: Neil's had a production credit on every album made since his solo debut.
    • The Martin: Count how many of his albums are co-produced with David Briggs, Tim Mulligan, Elliot Mazer or Niko Bolas.
  • Sequel Gap - It took 20 years between Harvest and Harvest Moon, and 30 years between Chrome Dreams and Chrome Dreams II - more, if you count the fact that Chrome Dreams was never officially released in the first place.
  • Something Blues - "Revolution Blues," "Vampire Blues," and "Ambulance Blues," all from the 1974 album On the Beach.
  • Something Completely Different - Neil explained his Genre Roulette experiments post-Harvest to a NME reporter by saying:

"This song (Heart of Gold) put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch."

  • Song of Song Titles - Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" contains many references to Young's songs "Alabama" and "Southern Man," mostly in the form of a Take That.
    • Not as much as you might think. Lynyrd Skynyrd were fans of (and later friends with) Neil Young, and he even offered them a couple of his now classic songs ("Sail Away" and "Powderfinger") but the plane crash happened before they could take him up on the offer. Similarly squashed was a plan for Young to appear with the band during a show on the Street Survivors tour to play guitar on "Sweet Home Alabama" and sing the line "a southern man don't need me 'round anyhow".
    • And to add to that, rumour has it that Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zandt and Neil were planning to work on an album together as well. And that Ronnie is buried in a Neil Young t-shirt.
      • The Drive-By Truckers' song "Ronnie and Neil" illustrates their friendship.
  • Three Chords and the Truth - in fact, his 2009 release "Fork in the Road" uses only one chord.
  • Vaporware - Archives was first proposed in the late '80s, but didn't actually come out until 2009.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song - One of Young's recent efforts was the 2006 release Living With War, an experimental album detailing all the ways in which he disapproved of George W. Bush.