The Making of Neil Young's Greendale
Neil Young News
Of course one of the best sources of insight into the meaning of Greendale is from Neil himself. Here's what Neil says introducing "Bringing Down Dinner" in Dublin, May 2003:
From press release on "Greendale: Second Edition":
Now, the "Greendale" experience is available in an extraordinary new version titled "Greendale: Second Edition," featuring a unique DVD titled "Inside Greendale."
"Inside Greendale" will replace "Live at Vicar Street," the DVD of Neil Young's acoustic concert performance of "Greendale," part of the original two-disc package released last summer, which also included a CD of the ten original songs that comprise the "Greendale" album.
"Inside Greendale" highlights in-studio footage of Neil Young and Crazy Horse recording "Greendale," as well scenes from the "Greendale" film, brought together by the artist in an innovative mixed-media format. The result, which includes dazzling special effects, adds new depth to both the visual and audio components of Neil Young's epic tale of the Green family, a Northern California clan that includes Earl Green, a Vietnam vet who makes a deal with the Panama-hatted devil to sell his psychedelic paintings; his drug dealing cousin Jed, who kills a cop and goes to jail; and his daughter Sun, an eco-warrior who battles big oil in the Alaskan wilderness.
Joining Neil Young in the studio is his legendary backing band Crazy Horse. Scenes from the "Greendale" film included on the "Inside Greendale" DVD were shot on location in Northern California by the artist, with a cast that includes his wife, Pegi, and long-time collaborator, Ben Keith. The film, which Neil Young aptly describes as "songs you can look at," premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year. It has gone on to huge critical acclaim and accolades describing it as one of Young's "career highlights."
Inside Greendale can be previewed on Shakey's Garage.
And then during the recording, I was shooting with video all the time with multiple cameras and green screen windows in the studio, so that I could put anything in the windows that I wanted to. And so we started filming some things to use in the windows. I did some stuff down in South Africa and some stuff here in the US and at different locations.
And then I decided I'd shoot a little dialogue for some of these characters that are in the songs, and why don't we get so-and-so to play this character and we'll do that scene and we'll put them in the window or whatever, so you can see them through the window behind us while we're playing and you'll see them talking and see then talking to each other like they do in the song.
So I tried to do that and we did do it, and it was so fascinating to watch it, that we decided we should do more of that and less of the music. Until finally we took all the music out, so you couldn't see any music and it was all film.
So the whole thing kind of morphed from one thing to another and now we have both things. We have the studio version and the film and a live show and all kinds of stuff that just kind of came off of it.
From Neil Young interview for German TV 'aspekte' in Oslo on making Greendale:
In the first song, I found it exciting that there were characters with names, that conversed. The next day I wrote a new song with the same characters. When I think about it, I really believe that it's interesting, it's different. I didn't know that when I was doing it was reflections of my thoughts. I'd rather that the film speaks for me, instead of me speaking. Because as a person I'm actually not so well-spoken. The things, the songs, that I create and write, speak with a much clearer voice than I do.
I'm not a clear person. In me there are many conflicts."
'I didn't even know what it was,' Mr. Young said. 'I said, what the hell is this? What is that? What am I talking about?' Then came another song, 'Falling From Above.' And another, 'Double E.' For the first time in Mr. Young's career, they both mentioned the same characters: Grandpa, his son Earl and Earl's wife, Edith, and a granddaughter. "
Rob Garriot reports on Bad News Beat, on the Mill Valley, CA screening of Greendale:
From The New York Times article Great Tunes, but Where is the Cover? by J. GREG PHELAN:
'The idea was to make a piece of art that could work everywhere,' said Gary Burden, the art director for 'Greendale,' who has designed album covers for Neil Young for 35 years, as well as classic covers for The Doors, the Eagles, and Jackson Browne. The map is presented in varying levels of detail as an icon, a CD cover and in interactive form at neilyoung.com.
The staying power of such artwork may seem doubtful. Musicians' Web sites, in particular, are often redesigned with each release, which in Mr. Young's case could mean that material about 'Greendale' may someday be removed.
Still, 'there's no reason for anything to be lost forever,' said Paul Zullo, president and CEO of Muze, a supplier of music data and album cover art to online retailers and in-store kiosks. For the next version of his product, he is encouraging record companies to supply additional artwork that will enable consumers to look inside an album before a purchase, just as they can when purchasing books online.
So in the future, if Neil Young chose to provide the photographs, lyrics, liner notes, maps, video clips and other 'Greendale' artwork in a specified digital format, Muze could make this graphical information a permanent addition to its database, as a virtual album cover.
The technology may have a long way to go before it will satisfy the demands of fans accustomed to holding album artwork in their hands.
Until computer screens are as portable and malleable as paper, they won't replace it," Mr. Byrne said. "Not to say that won't happen someday."
"I don't feel a responsibility to anything or anyone in terms of what I do," Young says. "If you are baffled or infuriated by Greendale, you shouldn't read anything other than People magazine."
"You should stay in the comic book section a lot longer than usual," Young laughs.
This message-laden and ultimately uplifting show, a kind of grunge musical about one family's response to societal pressures, has been on the road since June 6. We've done 40 shows across the United States, eight more in Asia, and there are plans in the works for more. I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the most amazing group of people as we brought Neil's vision of "Greendale" to life. Though he could be very specific about what he wanted, he seemed to trust all of us to find what was real in our characters and in the music. For me it was magical and memorable to be able to act, dance and sing on stage with my fellow "Mountainettes" ( Pegi Young, Twink Brewer and my sister, Susan Hall) or hide out behind the drum riser while Neil and Crazy Horse played, riding this deep, ponderous wave of a groove through solos that were like whole lifetimes, while 30,000 people stood there screamed for more.
We were treated with incredible kindness everywhere we went. We worked with three stellar opening acts including Lucinda Williams, Emmy Lou Harris and Elvis Costello, getting to know them and their incredible bands. I even met and spoke with two Democratic Presidential hopefuls; Dennis Kucinich at the Farm Aid festival in Ohio, and General Wesley Clark at movie star fundraiser in L.A. The activist in me appreciated the opportunity to see how radically different it is to watch news not produced by U.S. networks. "
He's really talented. But most of what I learned about filmmaking I learned from David Myers and Larry Johnson. David was the cameraman that did "Human Highway", "Journey Through the Past", and "Rust Never Sleeps".
So I learned cutting his footage, watching his dailies, especially on improvised scenes, where if there was one camera and he had to get all of it so that we had cutaways, different angles, how he would move around and try to get the whole scene in one shot with nice moves so that you don't have to cut it. Yet, not leaving the editor with nothing to do and nowhere to go, just maybe because you made a bad move and there's no way out of it. So I learned a lot from watching David, who's truly a master with the camera."
Read more reviews of the Greendale film , CD and commentary.
See Undercover a Australia site for more Greendale photos.
See ZDF.de - "Ich mache mir um einiges Sorgen" a German site for more details and an interview with Neil.
"You can make a difference if you really try." - Be The Rain
Neil Young Greendale
Thrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young Archives