Neil Young: Gold Rush
GW In what respect?
YOUNG There’s less waste now. I had massive amounts of waste all through the Seventies and Eighties. The most wasteful period is coming up in the next Archives.
GW Define “waste.”
YOUNG Things that were unfinished, things that never really got started, things that were finished and never used. There’s just so much music and nowhere to go with it.
GW What you characterize as waste is to some fans your most valued material—unreleased songs, out-of-print albums…
YOUNG That’s true. One thing I’ll tell you about the next volume of Archives is that Time Fades Away II is in there [the original Time Fades Away, a long out-of-print live album from 1973, is among the most soughtafter releases in Young’s catalog]. And it’s interesting, because the whole thing has a different drummer than what was on that album. I switched drummers halfway through the tour—Kenny Buttrey was in there for the first half, and Johnny Barbata came in for the second. It’s a completely different thing, with completely different songs. So that’s interesting. There’s lots of stuff like that that I’m working on right now for the second volume.
GW Among the many revelations on Archives is the wealth of material—recordings, photos, documents—of the Squires, the band you led in the mid Sixties while still living in Canada. While songs from this part of your career have been unearthed previously, this is by far the most complete picture fans have ever had of what was a pretty significant part of your development as a musician.
YOUNG The Squires was a very real thing. In one of the document folders on the first disc there’s a list that [bassist] Ken Koblun kept of all the shows we played. And it’s a lot of shows. I mean, that’s a band’s life right there. And Archives brings that into focus.
GW Overall, the material gathered on the first disc paints a picture of an artist in search of his own style. You move pretty rapidly from the instrumental surf-rock of the Squires to the Jimmy Reed–style blues of “Hello Lonely Woman” to a solo acoustic version of “Sugar Mountain,” which you cut as an audition for Elektra Records in 1965. That song would become one of the defining tunes of your early career, but on this version you sound very unlike yourself, as if you’re approximating what you believe a folksinger is supposed to be.
YOUNG That was probably what was going on. I was just trying to find who I was. And it was very uncomfortable for me to hear some of this stuff. In the case of “Sugar Mountain,” I couldn’t listen to it. I knew what it was and I listened a little bit but I just thought, God, that’s terrible. Because I can tell I was very nervous. I was just trying to be…something. But I didn’t know what it was.
GW At what point do you think that changed?
YOUNG When did it kind of consolidate into something real and I found some little bit of footing? I actually think there’s some showing of it earlier than the Elektra demos, on the Squires songs where I sing lead and that we cut for CJLX radio in Fort William in Ontario with [producer] Ray Dee. There’s two songs on the Archives from those sessions: “I’ll Love You Forever” and “I Wonder” [Young eventually reworked the latter song with Crazy Horse as “Don’t Cry No Tears” for his 1975 album, Zuma]. Those are both pretty good.
GW Speaking of your time in Canada, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan told a story of how, while on tour last year, he made a pilgrimage of sorts to the house in Winnipeg where you lived during the Squires days. He said he wanted to see your bedroom.
YOUNG I read that. Jack Harper, the original drummer for the Squires, sent me a copy of the article. It was a big deal in Winnipeg. That was remarkable.
GW Do you think he found what he was looking for?
YOUNG Absolutely. I’m sure he found it. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure if I went to his house I’d find it there too.
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