Neil Young News
(Adapted from RUST@DEATH posts November 1993 and April 1994.)Here's a response to the original post on meaning of the song Thrasher.
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 95 11:28:02 EST
From: Steve Peck <SPECK@INDYCMS.IUPUI.EDU
Subject: Thrasher and the old bands
Well, Thrasher I think you've topped yourself on this one. Excellent
job, and very well written too (of course). I have just a few little
comments and a little digression to add....
Literally, "the great grand canyon rescue episode" probably refers to one
of the many Western TV shows like "Rawhide", "The Rifleman", or "Cheyenne"
that were broadcast during the mid- 50's. Or maybe "Lassie", as several
have mentioned. This puts the shows in line with the line "Brings back the
time when I was 8 or 9 watching my mama's TV".
Please don't forget "Wanted: Dead or Alive" starring Steve McQueen. That
show ruled! Very stark and cool...
More significantly are the references to "they".
In the Thrasher, "they" refers to CSN - who went artistically bankrupt.
Thus, the autobiographical "Thrasher" is a metaphor for the liberating
effect of Neil breaking away from CSN or "that great grand canyon rescue
episode" where our hero makes the save from the artistic death of
creativity "where the vulture glides descending".
I think there is no doubt that this is a clear CSN reference, but I think
it could be looked at as also a judgement on the whole 60's musical movement,
especially the West Coast/California folk/country/rock groups. He could
be singing about just about any of the old groups and performers from that
era and place. Look at all of them at that time, circa 1978. CSN were
relatively boring, going through the motions of creating the "great vocal
wow" (to quote Neil himself). They weren't writing inspiring music.
Pleasant maybe? Yes, but nothing of any real substance. The Dead was
far from their creative peak on album, although they were doing alright
live. Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship, a shallower, more
commercial bastardization of their earlier sound. Poco was also much
more commericial in their music, and had lost most of their members.
Richie Furay was doing insubstantial stuff, even going disco briefly in
1979. The Byrds were long gone, their members producing solo albums
that occaisonally were brilliant, but lacking the idenity and strength
of their earlier work. And we must remember their sad attempt at CSN-ism,
the lethargic McGuinn, Clark and Hillman (although live they were a
different band). Janis, Morrison, Hendrix were dead - John Fogerty was
AWOL, Quicksilver was busted up, the whole scene was artistically bank-
rupt, and creatively stagnant.
Except for Neil. Now there are those who say Neil went through a "dodgy"
period in the 80's, and even if you love those albums (like I do), one
has to admit they were pretty strange. It is hard to think of a musician
from the old era that was still kicking ass in the late 70's. The only
one that really comes to my mind is Gene Clark from the Byrds. His stuff
from that time maybe is not his best, but it is still really good and
invigorating and inspiring (Of course, the McGuinn, Clark and Hillman
stuff was bad, but if you would hear him do the same songs solo they
were great - totally different devoid of the rank, slick production of
those records). Gene was great, and truly overlooked and underrated.
(If any Clark fans are out there, drop me some personal mail if you want
to talk Gene).
What is interesting is that some of these same people have made some
pretty solid comebacks. I think a lot of them needed to kick drugs and/or
lose their popularity to come back to earth and be hungry again. Face it,
most of them got fat and rich, and they lost their edge. Look around today.
While David Crosby is far from making his best music, his attitude is great
and his whole reformation is inspiring. Roger McGuinn made a milestone of
an album back in 1990 with "Back From Rio," and is out on the road playing
great shows. The Dead are still not what they once were, but they still
play very hot at times, and are going stronger now as a unit/performing
machine than before. A very interesting comeback has been made by Paul
Kanter from the Airplane, along with Mary Balin and Jack Casady in their
new unit Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation (I kid you not). This
group is a 100 times closer to the old Airplane than the old Starship,
doing much of the old JA catalog along with some real good new tunes.
They have a fine singer taking the place of Grace, and they can really
soar. Not much is known about them now, but please don't mistake them
for Starship, the gross Mickey Thomas led barf patrol.
Other old fogies are doing well too. The Allman Brothers have made some
of their finest music since the days of Duane in the last 5 years or so,
and they really jam. I could go on. I wonder what Neil has to say to
all this now. Clearly he is the leader, the man who has stayed on top
of his game. Even Dylan is playing very well again, you can never, never
count old Zimmy out of it. But Neil is the standard bearer, the one who
didn't fall prey to the tempations and the apathy. I'm not saying this
in blind worship, its just the truth. At least it is to me.....
P.S. Sorry if I offended anybody by saying things they didn't like to
hear about some of their favorite artists. Its all my opinion,
"For What It's Worth." :-)
Here are more responses to the original post on meaning of the song Thrasher.
Neil Young Lyrics Analysis
Thrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young Archive