September 19, 2012


Neil Young's 'New York Times' Profile: 8 Things We Learned

Lester Cohen
Lester Cohen

Neil Young has a new memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, out soon, which is great news for serious music fans.  To promote the book, Neil Young allowed New York Times scribe David Carr access to his California ranch for a profile which will run in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. The piece is excellent and should be read in full, but here are some highlights:

Young was once forced to sell off part of his massive California ranch: “I ran out of money, so I had to sell some of it,” he said. “That’s O.K., because it was too big. Everything happens for a reason.”

He has a bit of a temper:  According to Carr, Young once threatened to hit a cameraman at Woodstock with his guitar. He also once abruptly cancelled a tour with Stephen Stills via a telegram that read: “Funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach, Neil.”

He’s newly sober: "…he’s been sober for a year, the first time in decades that he has worked without drinking or smoking pot."

But before that he did a ton of drugs: "He pleads guilty to having been busted for drugs with Eric Clapton and Stephen Stills. He even has a little fun with Crosby. 'I still remember ‘the mighty Cros’ visiting the ranch in his van,' he writes. 'That van was a rolling laboratory that made Jack Casady’s briefcase look like chicken feed. Forget I said that! Was my mike on?"

And he once hung out with Charles Manson: "Yes, he partied with Charles Manson and tried to hook him up with a recording contract."

He has an entire building devoted to his model train collection: “…the model-train barn near his home is framed by two actual rail cars. Back in the day, he and his pals used to snort coke and drink wine and tinker with the model layout until it grew into 3,000 square feet of track and trains.

He’s invested bundles of cash and time developing an electric car: With a team of technologists and investors, he has been working on an electric car for years — the LincVolt — and when there was an accident and it burned, he just started over. He still has plans to drive it to the White House and make a movie about the car. He can speak with authority about biodiesel, Chinese battery manufacturing and the specific optical properties of 16-millimeter film.

He has some awesome opinions about commercial expectations: “I’m not here to sell things. That’s what other people do, I’m creating them. If it doesn’t work out, I’m sorry; I’m just doing what I do. You hired me to do what I do, not what you do. As long as people don’t tell me what to do, there will be no problem.”