I identified with the enigma that is Neil Young after reading this book. We’re both epileptic Scorpios who played the Teenage Fair in ‘66. We’re both loners with eccentric parents (his were quiz show stars) and were told we sucked by our band mates.
Young’s destiny was formed by numerous forces: Winnipeg, Canada; by a chill desolation (carrying radio waves from New Orleans over the plains); his own bout with polio; records brought by Liverpool sailors (before they went Stateside); and the Gretsch guitar work of mentor/school chum Randy Bachman (The Guess Who).
Young left for Toronto to play lead guitar with Rick James (who was dodging the draft), but the label found out about James, so Young pinched his genius bassist (Bruce Palmer) and drove a hearse to L.A. in search of Steve Stills and Richie Furay. As they were leaving for Frisco, Furay spotted the duo on the other side of the freeway, and Buffalo Springfield was born. This Young-approved book focuses on the tempestuous rivalry between despot Stills and ruthless Young (rekindled in CSN&Y), as well as the influences of producer Jack Nietzche and Crazy Horse’s second guitarist, Danny Whitten (who overdosed on heroin).
Throughout McDonough’s lengthy book (800 pages, $29.95), I further identified with the Topanga Canyon ‘60s subculture (where I lived at that time), the essence of which was captured in Young’s best work. Despite on-stage seizures, beatings from cops he badmouthed, bailing on The Tonight Show and Monterey Pop (and refusing to be filmed on stage at Woodstock), talent, fate and insightful associates sustained his career. Neil Young had the horse sense to keep the tape rolling and to record under a full moon. It all makes for an interesting read.