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Neil Young's 1974 "On The Beach" -- initially dismissed by some critics as "difficult" -- is now hailed as a masterpiece. Long out of print on vinyl and one the infamous "Missing 6" on CD, an On the Beach CD release had been expected for years. Now re-released on CD, "On The Beach" is the last album in Neil's so called "Ditch Trilogy" (along with Times Fade Away and Tonight's The Night).
The cover and artwork for "On The Beach" is considered by many fans to be one of the best and most favorite of all Neil Young album covers. Designed by Gary Burden, photographed by Bob Seideman, and graphic lettering by Rick Griffin, the cover is quite enigmatic with a Cadillac car fin jutting from the sand like a crashed rocket being buried by time. A shoeless Neil stares out into the ocean near a forlorn potted palm. A jaunty yellow beach umbrella matches Neil's jacket. The yellow theme is even continued with a Coors beer can on the table. Inside the album, things become even more crpytic with the album's liner notes. Fans have poured over Rusty Kershaw's strange handwritten note for clues and meaning often to no avail. Apparently, the recording sessions' heavy use of Honey Slides took a toll ... possibly to the creative sides' benefit?
But probably the most significant item on the cover is the newspaper's headline "Senator Buckley Calls for Nixon to Resign". Young and Nixon have had a bitter and strange relationship over the years. From "Ohio" 's lyrics "Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming" to "Campaigner's" lines "Even Richard Nixon has got soul", Neil has never made a secret of his feelings towards U.S. President Richard Nixon.
The album's infamous "blues trilogy" of "Revolution Blues", "Vampire Blues", and "Ambulance Blues" have provided rich fodder for analysis and commentary of the song's lyrics . The "blues trilogy" is considered by many fans some of Neil's richest and most metaphorical work.
Fans have clamored for it's CD release for years along with American Stars n' Bars, Hawks & Doves, Reactor, Times Fades Away and Journey Through the Past -- known collectively as the "Missing 6".
In June 2000, a fan named Colin Young established a web site to petition for the release of "On The Beach" on CD. The site gathered over 5,000 signatures and in August 2003, On The Beach along with American Stars n' Bars, Hawks & Doves, and Reactor were finally released on CD. Unfortunately, Times Fades Away and Journey Through the Past are still missing in action.
In an interview in Australia's The Age by Patrick Donovan on November 21, 2003, Neil commented on On the Beach's re-release :
In January 2004, Colin contacted Thrasher's Wheat about hosting the "Release On The Beach" web site. So in the spirit of archiving the best of Neil on the web, here are the original pages of Release On The Beach. Thanks Colin!
As a side note, there is a film titled 'On the Beach' from 1959. Featuring Gregory Peck and set in Australia, the plot centers on the aftermath when the world is destroyed by nuclear war. And, Neil Young's 1982 film Human Highway portrays the Earth's last day following a nuclear holocaust. Original movie posters referred to it as a "nuclear comedy" and filming began soon after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and continued over four years with Young spending $3,000,000 of his own money on production (source).
Also, here's a collection of album reviews of the original release and the CD re-release.
Colin Young's original Release petition web site (re-hosted).
Analysis of lyrics of On The Beach
On The Beach - re-release, BBC, 7/14/03
On The Beach - by Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 9/26/74:
From Australia's The Age by Mark Mordue:
Perhaps On the Beach's mood of grief and menace and uncertain acceptance has hidden chords for the present American climate. "
From Nude as the News review by BEN FRENCH :
The most important thing to note, though, is not all the depressing events of the artist's life around this time, but rather that he was learning to cope with them. Most of Beach finds him floating in this soup of negative energy with a sort of complacent glow to him. He isn't drunk and depressed like he is on Tonight's The Night. He's STONED and depressed. An important distinction, you understand. He's not cool with the cloud hanging over him, but he's learning to deal. Of course he sounds bitter and downtrodden for much of the album, but he also manages to sound suprisingly upbeat on more than one occasion. "
From Australia's Undercover Paul Cashmere writes:
Neil Young Album Reviews
Thrasher's Wheat - Neil Young Archives