The Archive

A dip into Young’s archives for a stun­ning acous­tic set from 1976. Rar­i­ties! A new song! The ghost of Judy Gar­land! Michael Bon­ner re­ports

UNCUT - - Contents -

In­clud­ing: Neil Young, Art En­sem­ble Of Chicago, Kate Bush, Brian Eno

In keep­ing with neil Young’s leg­en­dar­ily con­trar­ian rep­u­ta­tion, Songs For Judy starts with an ar­gu­ment. It is the late show at the Fox The­atre, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, on novem­ber 24, 1976, and Young is try­ing to in­tro­duce a new song, “Too Far Gone”. One rowdy sec­tion of au­di­ence, how­ever, has other ideas – they keep shout­ing for him to play “South­ern Man”. Pre­dictably, Young is hav­ing none of this. “I love it when you ask me for those old songs and ev­ery­thing,” he says. “But it’s funny, ’cos what keeps you alive is what kills you, you know. If you get too much of the old shit, you know… it’s good­night.”

To an ex­tent, ten­sions like this be­tween the sec­tion of his au­di­ence who want him to dou­ble down on for­mer glo­ries and those who cheer on his present-day es­capades have been on­go­ing for much of the mu­si­cian’s ca­reer. Largely, though, Young’s mis­sion to be­wil­der his loyal fan­base has only served to ex­ac­er­bate th­ese stresses fur­ther. In 2018 alone, he cy­cled through the Para­dox film project, tours with Prom­ise Of The Real and a re­ac­ti­vated Crazy Horse as well as a clutch of ‘im­promptu’ solo shows.

But de­spite the quixotic method­ol­ogy that ap­pears to gov­ern his cur­rent ac­tiv­i­ties, re­cently Young has taken a more fo­cused ap­proach to his back cat­a­logue. Pre­sum­ably in an­tic­i­pa­tion of Archives Vol­ume 2, Young has spent the last few years cir­cling back to his sto­ried mid-’70s pe­riod. There have been gems like the longdeleted 1973 live al­bum Time Fades Away and the 1979 con­cert film Rust Never Sleeps along­side ‘new’ sets Roxy – Tonight’s The Night Live 1973 and, late last year, Hitch­hiker. As­ton­ish­ingly, it seems that for once Young’s strat­egy threat­ens to make com­plete sense. It tran­spires that Hitch­hiker was a turn­ing point in Young’s archival plans. Is­sued as part of Young’s Spe­cial Re­lease Se­ries, Hitch­hiker was a com­plete, ‘lost’ al­bum recorded dur­ing one ses­sion on Au­gust 11, 1976. now comes Songs For Judy – a straight-up com­pan­ion piece, taped that novem­ber dur­ing Young’s north Amer­i­can tour with Crazy Horse.

Both records are ex­plic­itly linked by “Cam­paigner” – a wry commentary catch­ing the con­tra­dic­tions be­tween po­lit­i­cal and spir­i­tual faith that felt es­pe­cially per­ti­nent dur­ing 1976 – an elec­tion year. The song be­came a reg­u­lar fix­ture dur­ing this tour; de­spite its un­fa­mil­iar­ity, the line “even Richard Nixon has got soul” raises lively, if sar­donic, cheers on the take in­cluded here. Young him­self played the Berke­ley Com­mu­nity The­atre on novem­ber 2 – the night Amer­ica went to the polls to vote in Jimmy Carter as 39th Pres­i­dent Of The United States. On novem­ber 24, mean­while, he ded­i­cated “Here We Are In The Years” to “our new pres­i­dent”. (Many years later, he bullishly dis­missed the Carter ad­min­is­tra­tion, telling Melody Maker, “Ev­ery­body was walk­ing around with their tails be­tween their legs…

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