Harvest by Neil Young


I sometimes hear people say that they don’t like queuing, or even worse, they don’t “do” queuing. I don’t mind queuing at all – it’s the free for all before a queue forms that I really hate. Possibly, at some point, I’ll be back in The Lord Nelson in Brighton before a Brighton game, trying to order pints of Harvey’s. It’s a great pub but I hate the bit where I’m fighting to get noticed by the person behind the bar and it really annoys me if somebody pushes in ahead of me. One of the many great things about the bar area at The Amex is the orderly queues that form – there’s zero chance of somebody pushing in. It’s the same in the loos – the queuing system is great. As Dave and I rush to get the train after the game, there’s a frantic time when we are running to join a queue. The last fifty yards before the entrance to the platform is barricaded and it’s pretty near impossible to jump the queue at that stage. It’s the bit before the queue that I really hate when people are pushing in. Sometimes I drive to the game – when Brighton play Crystal Palace, otherwise sane and reasonable people turn into monsters and the atmosphere on the train is horrible so I reserve a place in the car park. Getting in to the car park is easy but getting out is a nightmare as everyone has to inch forward and barge in front of others. There’s no queuing system and I hate it. So I love a good orderly queue.

Yesterday I was reminded of queuing to go for a meal at Royal Holloway College in the early 70s. There was always a queue and if you arrived late or simply waited for the queue to die down, you ran the risk that they ran out of your favourite meal. It was very common to get there 15 minutes early and be about 10th in the queue only for people ahead of you to have saved a place for their mates so that by the time the queue started to move, you were about 30th. It was infuriating.

I was reminded of this because yesterday I went to the Brighton Centre to get my vaccination. It was very well organised and I did have to wait in a few queues but I suddenly realised that everyone in the queue was about the same age as I was – we were in the 65 – 70 cohort and I found myself trying to work out if I looked older or younger than other people my age. I looked older and more in need of a haircut. It was like a meal queue in 1973 with everyone 48 years older.

Peter asked me today whether I got the Oxford vaccination or the Pfizer one. He looked surprised when I refused to tell him which was mainly because of this hilarious video.

The vaccination should have made me happier but it hasn’t. Not yet anyway. Our esteemed Prime Minister is announcing a road map out of lockdown next Monday. A letter in The Guardian points out that only people of a certain age will know what a road map is. Maybe he should be announcing some SatNav instructions. Maybe by this time next week, it will be clearer what the next phase of this inconvenience will look like. As I said, I haven’t really been feeling more positive since the vaccination – I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’ve been missing. I’ve been thinking about the damage done by the pandemic and hoping that the needle in my arm yesterday will make things better.

The title track “Harvest” was identified by Neil Young as his best song on the album. One suggestion is that the line about “did she wake you up and tell you it was only a change of plan” was a reference to Carrie Snodgrass’ mother changing her mind about attempting suicide. Carrie Snodgrass was in a relationship with Neil Young from 1970 to 1975 and this song is one of the few positive love songs on the album.

“A Man Needs A Maid” refers directly to seeing Carrie Snodgrass in “Diary Of A Mad Housewife” and falling for her. The lines about wanting a “maid” to take care of him, put food on the table and keep his house clean weren’t well received at the time, let alone now. The song was recorded in Barking Town Hall at the end of a British tour.

“Alabama”, along with “Southern Man” (on “After The Goldrush”) provoked a response from Lynrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama”) because of their patronising lyrics. Neil Young later said “I richly deserved the shot Lynyrd Skynyrd gave me with their great record. I don’t like my words when I listen to it. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.” Nevertheless, the music is great.

One of the reviews of “Words” criticised Neil Young’s poor guitar solo but I interpret it as being deliberately stuttering and inarticulate, in line with the lyrics of the song. The 16 minute version of this song that appeared on one side of “Journey Through The Past” is even better. 38 years later, at Glastonbury, it’s even more spectacular.

In 1970, Neil Young bought a ranch in Northern California called Broken Arrow. When he went to live there, he found that there were two caretakers living there. He said that they were “an old gentleman named Louis Avila and his wife Clara. And there was this old blue Jeep there, and Louis took me for a ride in this blue Jeep. He gets me up there on the top side of the place, and there’s this lake up there that fed all the pastures, and he says, “Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?” And I said, “Well, just lucky, Louis, just real lucky.” And he said, “Well, that’s the darnedest thing I ever heard.” And I wrote this song for him.”

“Heart Of Gold” is a good song and it was never off the jukebox in the Union Bar at Royal Holloway College. Neil Young reflected on the success it bought him by saying “This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.” Bob Dylan thought that Neil Young sounded like him on this song, saying that every time he heard it he thought “Shit, that’s me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me“. (It sounds nothing like Bob Dylan to me). The song is Neil Young’s only single that got to Number One in the US Charts. James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt sing backup vocals.

“The Needle And The Damage Done” refers to the heroin addiction of Danny Whitten, a member of Crazy Horse, who wrote “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”, a hit for Rod Stewart. Danny Whitten died in November 1972, nine months after the release of “Harvest”. The song was recorded in concert in January 1971.

I think my favourite track on “Harvest” is the opening track “Out On The Weekend” which Peter calls, in a nice way, plodding. It’s certainly a song with an insistent but medium paced beat. It’s a real slacker song – Neil Young thinks he’ll head out of town for the weekend but he’s not sure – he’s feeling depressed and can’t relate to joy. Mmmmm.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

10 thoughts on “Harvest by Neil Young

  1. ‘I richly deserved the shot Lynyrd Skynyrd gave me with their great record. I don’t like my words when I listen to it. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.’

    -What a generous and considered response!

    I know a lot of these r n r stories are just ‘he said-she said’ little bits and are no more than tittle-tat in the great scheme of things, but they are part of r n r legacy (and we all love a bit of gossip). So many rockstars would have taken the more common road and said something, oh, you know, outrageous!? In a (simple) twist of fate NY turns the whole thing on its head and comes out on top, again!

    Thanks for posting this, NY settles the evening somewhat.
    Congrats on the vax and hopefully we’ll all be queuing for something with a lot more grrr in it in the future!

    ps: I’m a big fan of The Basketmakers whenever I get to Brighton – best bloody mary a n y w h e r e! I don’t follow either Eagles or Seagulls, or any team to be honest, but I lived for awhile in Crystal Palace on Anerley Hill and on a clear afternoon the voices carried all the way from Selhurst Park – like some kind of angelic choir!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I used to head down on a midweek morning from Croydon to get some sea air and trawl the North Laines for records and books and smelly vintage shirts and whatever.

        The Basketmakers was a cheeky one before noon, trawl, back later for lunch. Even on a Wednesday morning I could never figure out why it was so busy and not with barflies – though I do recall a couple of faces that seemed always to be there, but the suited and booted ‘just nipped out from the office’ also. I had to conclude that Brighton was the land of the part timer: and rightly so! Croydon (bless her), and even Palace (ditto) to an extent, had that attitude sucked out of it years before! I had to guess it was something to do with living on the coast?

        I live in Cullercoats now and the sea, as ever, is a (gin and) tonic!

        Liked by 1 person

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