Tag Archives: Waging Heavy Peace

Not so Special

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Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars by Neil Young (Blue Rider Press, $32.00, 383 pages)

“I see cars as reflections of the American dream through the ages, a mirror of the culture. They are the art of their time, a mirror through which you can see American culture.”

Neil Young’s Special Deluxe might have been called Long May You Run: Cars, Drives and Life. While his earlier memoir, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream, was an excellent work recalling Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, this is a weak collection of slight, random memories. These are stories you might have heard from Young during his drinking days.

In theory, this is a look back at the cars Young has owned. “In theory” because there’s not much detail about any of them, they’re simply stepping off platforms for him to write about his personal relationships, musical experiences, etc. And his dogs, for which – by his admission, he was not necessarily the most responsible pet owner.

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It quickly becomes tiring to read about old, rusted out, gas guzzling monsters. The one exception is when he comes into possession of the very first Buick Skylark – a convertible, built back in 1953. (And he later tours the ancient, decaying plant where it was manufactured.)

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When it comes to music, Young revisits some ground he covered in Peace, while taking a slap at the “blown-out drug fueled” Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Pono sound system? Yawn.

Young seeks redemption by transforming himself in these pages, from a person who has zero interest in and respect for the environment, to one who is seemingly now a courageous fighter against global warming. It’s not entirely convincing. However, it does explain how he happened to meet Darryl Hannah. References to his former wife and “best friend” Pegi come off as awkward.

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While Young professes to be “thankful to be alive…,” he sounds old, tired and cranky in these pages. (You half expect him to yell at you to get off of his lawn!) The charm of Waging Heavy Peace is nowhere to be found. Apparently, the days of hippie dreams have come to an end.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Reflections of My Life

Young nowWaging Heavy PeaceWaging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young (Blue Rider Press, $30.00, 497 pages)

“I think I will have to use my time wisely and keep my thoughts straight if I am to succeed and deliver the cargo I so carefully have carried this far… Not that it’s my only job or task. I have others, too. Sacred things I need to protect from pain and hardship, like careless remarks on an open mind.”

Joan Didion has said that we tell stories in order to live. In Neil Young’s memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, he tells stories to document the things he has accomplished in his life, to admit his failings as a fallible human being, and to remind himself that there’s still a lot he wants to accomplish before he departs this world. It’s far from a hippie dream, as Young uses cold, calm and thoughtful Didion-like language – the lines above are a splendid example – in the re-examination of a life. At times, surprisingly, I was reminded of Didion’s Where I Was From, a look back at the early years of her life spent in Sacramento; and an acceptance of the fact that – at least in Didion’s case – one cannot go back home again.

When Young refers to the cargo he has carried in his life, I presume it’s a reference to his musical talent. But here he comes to the realization that he’s inherited some writing abilities from his famous Canadian sportswriter father:

“I am beginning to see that the rest of my life could conceivably be spent as an author, churning out books one after another, to the endless interest of, say, fourteen people with Kindles. Seriously, though, this is a great way to live. No wonder my dad did this… Writing could be just the ticket to a more relaxed life with fewer pressures and more time to enjoy my family and friends – and paddle-boarding.”

Yes, Young equates the precious time he spends with his beloved wife and children with the sport of paddle-boarding, which he learned in Hawaii. It’s a reminder of his honesty, and more documentation of a statement I happened to read in an article in The New York Post: “Everything in life is big and small in equal proportions.” Indeed.

One of the charming things about Heavy Peace is that it comes across as an unscripted conversation with the artist. There’s no agenda, no script – Neil simply tells his stories as they come to mind. This is what happens when we meet an old friend or classmate for lunch, say, or for libations (alcoholic or not) at a tavern. Some readers may be troubled by the fact that the true tales about Young’s career in music are told in non-chronological order. To which my response is, “So what? He’s still given us some inside information on his times with Buffalo Springfield; CSN&Y; and on his solo career and work with, and without, the members of Crazy Horse.”

If there’s one thing about the account that becomes a bit tiring, it’s his often-repeated rants about the poor audio quality of today’s music…“I am a pain in the ass now… I can’t go anywhere without the annoying sound of MP3s… This used to be my life, music. So I need to find or create a solution. Let everyone live, including those who crave quality. Mostly so I can stop ranting about it.”

(With music CDs) “…audio quality took a dive, with a maximum of fifteen percent of the sound of a master (recording).”

What’s strange for me is that when I listen to the recent releases of Young’s work that are supposed to be vastly improved audio editions of his earlier works, I don’t hear the improvement. In fact, some of the “new and improved” reworkings – as with the song “Cinammon Girl” – sound a bit dead when compared to the original, energetic recordings. But let’s not be a pain in the behind over it.

Conclusion

When Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One was released, the world was pleased to find a new and distinctive voice on the printed page. The same is true, no doubt, with the release of Waging Heavy Peace. Young’s voice is as seemingly unique on the page as it is in the recording studio.

Let’s hope that Young continues to write, for his own sake and for ours. His reflections on the successes and failures of his life are valuable reminders of the need to reflect on our own back pages every now and then; yes, to re-examine where we came from in order to see where we might be headed.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Coming Up Next…

A very Young

We take another look at Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young.

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Waging Heavy Peace (an excerpt)

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Click here to read an excerpt from Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young:

http://www.neilyoung.com/NeilYoungWagingHeavyPeaceExcerpt.pdf

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Coming Up Next…

Waging Heavy Peace (audio)

A review of Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young.

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