Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Tuesday: Neil Young, 'Long May You Run'

Neil Young and Stephen Stills have had something of a fractious on-off relationship since the mid sixties, crossing paths intermittently in the following decades, like magnets drawing together but more often than not ending with acrimonious recriminations. It seems that Young used the Stills collaborations as a means of recharging artistically, using his erstwhile partner as a point of reference to his own past.

The Stills-Young Band recorded an album and began a tour in 1976 prior to the album's release. The album stemmed from a desire by both Young and Stills to pick up where they left off with their Buffalo Springfield-era guitar explorations. CSNY cohorts David Crosby and Graham Nash got wind of the project, hoping to be added to the collaboration they provided backing vocals for the original version of the title song. Young and Stills decided to wipe Crosby and Nash's vocal harmonies from the track when they left the sessions. These harmonies are now present in their restored form on the ‘Decade’ album.

The tour following these sessions proved to be a massive anti-climax when Young dropped out having grown bored with the project and Stills’ behaviour, forcing Stills to complete the concert tour solo.

The title song itself is the most notable thing to arise out of the collaboration, supposedly a loving tribute to a black ‘48 Buick Roadmaster hearse he christened ‘Mort’, that Young had driven around early sixties Winnipeg. But a car is more than a car to Neil Young: “Mort was part of my identity, like a cowboy and horse”.
Musically the beach boys get a name check and ‘Caroline, No’ is given a few bars of melody. Emmylou Harris later commented “that’s an odd song”, “it’s about a car, but there’s other things in there too, I think Neil writes on other levels.”

The most hilarious part of this Stills-Young episode was Young’s telegram sent to Stills to end the tour, “funny how things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach. Neil”

Where to Find: Long may You Run (1976)
Decade (1977)

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