Neil Young News
I don't recall if someone has noticed it before and/or mentioned it here,
but it has just struck me that some of Falling From Above's lyrics have some
(coincidental?) resemblance to Let It Roll's:
"Let's roll for freedom
Let's roll for love
We're going after Satan
On the wings of a dove"
Falling From Above:
"Sing a song for freedom
Sing a song for love
Sing a song for depressed angels
Falling from above."
(Listen to Falling from above. on NPR's All Songs Considered.) Falling From Above
" And the human race just
Kept rollin' on.
Rollin' through the fighting
Rollin' through the religious wars
Rollin' down the temple walls
And the churches' exposed sores."
Anyone feels there's a connection here? It kinda gives the "depressed
angels falling from above" a whole different meaning... Perhaps the writing
of Falling From Above (and thus the Greendale tale) started as Neil reminiscencing again
(after the rage of "Let's Roll") about 9-11 events?
After reading the lyrics and some of the concert chatter, my opinion is
that, although not dealing directly with 9/11 events, the Greendale tale is
(like, for instance, the latest Spike Lee movie), a "post-911" tale, taking
into account (if not in the foreground) the subtle effects September 11 has produced
over America and americans. We all know, since the second plane hit the
towers, that the world would never be the same again, and Greendale
acknowledges that, not pretending, like many movies / tv series / books /
music, that 911 didn't happen. I feel that it's quite evident that the
Greendale tale, as it is, would not exist (at least in the same form) if
the tragic events of sept 11th had not been.
I also feel that Greendale is a commentary on the current state-of-affairs
in America, concerning important issues as environment protection (or lack
of), "mediamania" (Grandpa died trying to stop the media), and how the
current administration is using the "terrorist threat" as a way to pursue
their own political and personal agendas and deviate the attention of the
public from "corporate greed" that seem to be such an integrate part of
their concern, while at the same time restraining civil rights in a way not
I think that the following verses from "Leave the Driving" are very telling:
"Meanwhile across the ocean
Living in the internet
Is the cause of an explosion
No one has heard yet
"But there's no need to worry
There's no reason to fuss
Just go on about your work now
And leave the drivin' to us
"And we'll be watching you
No matter what you do
And you can do your part
By watchin' others too"
Is it just me, or does anyone else think that Neil is impersonating the
current american administration leaders (the "drivers") and its reaction to
the terrorist acts (re: the PATRIOT ACT and other civil rights restrictions?)
This theory can also be corroborated by "Sun Green" lyrics with its
references to the White House working with "Power Co" (an obvious reference
to the "big corporations") to "paralyse our state with fear". Neil says
(through Sun's voice) that "There's corruption on the highest floor",
"You're all dirty", "You can't trust any of them." Anyone who heard some of
the live performances of that song can tell that Neil sang those lines with
quite an angry voice. Someone else commented here that "Mr Clean" could be
a reference to GW Bush. At first it made no sense to me, but now, on second
thought, it might well be so.
"And as an afterthought
This must, too, be told
Some people have taken pure bullshit
And turned it into gold"
Perhaps this is Neil's opinion on the farfetched justification (WMD et al)
for the invasion of Iraq? It makes sense, in light of Neil Young public
comments on the war. (and don't forget the "lock your doors and windows,
we're here to liberate you" line, at one of the Euro concerts!)
And the following might be a reference to the terrorists and the difficulty
to fight the so-called "terrorist war" when it's so hard to find the culprits:
"There's a garden growing
And a million weeds
With no way of knowing
Who's done which deed"
Neil's contempt to the governments in general (here, also in connection to
ecological issues) shows up again in "Be The Rain":
"Don't care what the governments say
They're all bought
and paid for anyway."
In the end, Neil connects it all with his concern for the "ordinary people"
(farmers et al) and the way that the big corporations agenda, embraced by
the government (re: Bush's refusal to sign Tokio Protocol) is destroying
"Be the river as it rolls along
It has three-eyed fish.
And it's smellin' strong.
"Dream the hunter on the western plain
The birds are all gone.
Where did they go?
"Dream the fisherman in his boat
He's comin' home empty.
He's barely afloat.
"Dream the logger in the great northwest
They're runnin' out of trees.
They got to give it a rest.
"Dream the farmer in the old heartland
Corporate greed and chemicals
are killin' the land.
"Greek freighters are dumping
crap somewhere right now.
"Toxic waste dumpin'
from corporate farms."
Finally, Neil exhorts the listener to take action and be assertive ("Save
the planet for another day"), thus delivering the most important line of
that song cycle:
"You can make a difference if you really try".
Yes I'm Passionate
Neil is distanced from Jed. But he is also distanced from the murdered Officer Carmichael, whose secret life is mentioned but not judged. Carmichael's possibly troubled relationship with his wife, and his quick remembrance by his CHP peers, is neither heroic nor unheroic. Neil paints a picture that is enigmatic. He refuses to elevate Officer Carmichael and refuses to denigrate him. Who is Officer Carmichael finally? Given the anti-corporate, pro-environmental stance elsewhere, Greendale ultimately suggests that nothing has changed much since 9/11. The chasm between the ideals of the left and right remain deep; the arguments have drifted right back to where they were before 9/11, but are amplified with a harsh edge by the current administration. One of Sun Green's statements as she is chained to the statue is "when the city is plunged into darkness by an unpredicted rolling blackout/the white house always blames the governor, sayin' the solution is to vote him out ."
Then there are the liner notes and all the things that Neil said in concert between the songs -- stuff about how he didn't really know what he was doing when he wrote the story, about how sad the group were when recording the song about Grandpa dying, because they all liked him, about how he thought he was finished until he woke up one night wondering, 'But what happens to Grandma'? This is the creative process he's talking about. He never allows you to think for a second that the characters and occurrences are real, which is, you know, the MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT of most works of fiction. Instead, he keeps reminding the audience and the liner note reader over and over again that he made up these characters and he can't believe the things they're doing. Is he looking at himself as a God of some sort? I don't know. Maybe just as an aging writer.
So those are the facts as I see them: (A) the music sounds deliberately unfinished, like a "work in process," (B) the lyrics make specific reference to the man singing the songs, (C) the liner notes and on-stage patter don't push forward the plot so much as remind the audience that Neil is kinda making up the story as he goes, (D) social messages are thrown in haphazardly all over the place, almost in desperation to bring meaning to the otherwise meaningless story, (E) Neil toured the album BEFORE releasing it, yet clearly was NOT using these performances as rehearsals for the album (as, say, Pink Floyd did before recording Dark Side Of The Moon). There is absolutely no possible way that these songs could sound less practiced than they do as captured on here.
So could I have something here? Is it possible that Neil has thrown a major curveball here, presenting a portrait of the artist as an old man, disguised as a story about a bunch of nobodies in a nowhere town?"
So go figure?!
For opinion and insight into Greendale lyrics, music, and concerts see the Greendale Commentary page.
The complete Greendale lyrics can be found at Shakey's Garage.
Neil Young Lyrics Analysis
Thrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young Archives