Rhinofy-After The Gold Rush

I really didn’t know who Neil Young was until he joined Crosby, Stills & Nash. Oh, when he did I recognized his visage from the Buffalo Springfield, and I remembered he released a solo record…like anybody cared? But at the time, Stephen Stills was considered the star.

And I love “Country Girl” from “Deja Vu.”

And hate “Helpless.”

But sometime that spring I bought “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” so I could own “Down By The River”…so simple, yet so intense. At this point, the only track that’s played from Neil Young’s second solo is “Cinnamon Girl”…and that’s great, especially the guitar explosion so often excised on terrestrial radio, but I prefer “Down By The River,” and the second side closer, “Cowgirl In The Sand.” Nine and ten minutes long respectively. Enough time to sink your teeth and let your mind drift.

And I can make a strong case that the first solo album is the best. Which was pulled and remixed shortly after being released, but it took me a while to save up the cash for that one, I bought the third solo album first, “After The Gold Rush.”

History has been rewritten. It is said that “Harvest” broke Neil Young through, made him a superstar. That’s incorrect. It was “After The Gold Rush.” Sure, “Heart Of Gold” brought aboard some stragglers, but there wasn’t a baby boomer alive who wasn’t exposed to “After The Gold Rush,” it was a dorm room staple. It was the first record released in my freshman year of college.

It was totally different back then. Physical ruled. You didn’t steal your music before it was released or go online at midnight to download it from iTunes. Instead, you went to the store. And in 1970, indie retail was still nascent. Most albums were bought at the big box. But in Middlebury, Vermont, there was only one outlet, the Vermont Book Shop. A relic of a prior era, when books and music collided, yup, a purveyor of literature would have an inventory of classical music and a few overpriced pop records. No self-respecting young music fan would buy anything there.

But I had no choice.

I bought “After The Gold Rush” at the Vermont Book Shop. And only a couple of more albums there before I swore off. I had my mother buy my records and ship them from Connecticut thereafter, because of the price. When you’re a heavy consumer, every dollar makes a difference.

And eventually, with access to a car, this was long before everyone who turned sixteen got an automobile, I didn’t get my hand-me-down Chevy until I was a senior, I discovered the distributor in Burlington where I became a regular customer. I believe their best. Because I was addicted.

And I became addicted to “After The Gold Rush.” I was the first person in Hepburn Hall to own it.

And there was no radio to speak of. Only the college station, which I only listened to when I was on. Ha! So I broke the shrinkwrap and the album unfolded brand new, imprinted itself on my brain fresh. That used to be part of the ritual. Before the concept of the advance single, never mind the before street date leak, whether intentional or not. You had such anticipation, you couldn’t wait to hear the music. It was an experience that today’s kids know nothing about. You dropped the needle and let the whole side play through. Then you flipped the record and played the other side. There was no cherry-picking the hits. Hell, we didn’t know what the hits were! They came after we bought the album.

And if I told you I loved “Tell Me Why” right away, I’d be lying. I didn’t hate it, I loved its acoustic jauntiness, but it didn’t stick with me, it was just the lead-in to…

“After The Gold Rush.” It was all about that line…

Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970’s

I can barely believe it’s the twenty first century. But it’s much easier to comprehend than the 1970’s. The 60’s were an era of tumult. I can distantly remember going to first grade in 1959, but really, the transition to the 60’s slid by without much notice. But the change to the 70’s was monumental. Kent State. Altamont had followed Woodstock at the end of ’69 and left a bad taste in our mouths. Everything was up for grabs, and the first person talking about it was Neil Young.

And yes, the first side contains “Southern Man,” four years before Lynyrd Skynyrd’s answer song, “Sweet Home Alabama”…and purists won’t like it, but “Sweet Home Alabama” is even better. What a riff! And intelligent lyrics. But when have both the inspiration and the answer song been this monumental?


But my favorite song on the first side, initially, was the last one, “Till The Morning Comes.” It was only 1:16 long, but its brevity and simplicity, its lightness following the heaviness of “Southern Man,” endeared itself to me. I learned to play it on my guitar. My roommate, a music major, accompanied me on his trombone.

That was about the only time we bonded.

He didn’t like my lifestyle or my irreverence. He took college seriously, I took it with a grain of salt.

And I also loved the brief second side closer, “Cripple Creek Ferry.”

But the song that enraptured me, that hooked me, that had me dropping the needle to hear it again and again once it emerged from the album, was “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.”

This was the quintessential Neil Young song. The one people made fun of. With the nasal vocal.

That’s what inspired me to write this. I heard “Don’t Let It Bring Me Down” forty two years later on the satellite, and it sounded just as good!

It truly starts with the intro, the downstroke on the guitar, pregnant with meaning… This is an important story Neil Young is gonna tell…

Old man lying by the side of the road…

This is like the Torah to baby boomers. A religious text that roots us. To hear “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” is not only to connect you to what once was, but it makes you believe you’re a winner…you were there, when this music first came out, when musicians were the towering paragons of greatness and adulation, not bankers, when music ruled and changed the world.

Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Just find someone who’s turning
And you will come around

PERFECT! What Neil was saying was to hunker down, don’t get lost in 60’s hangover, you can make it if you really try, by bonding with your brethren. Not everybody, just somebody.

And there’s no version of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” I’m not interested in. Every live take moves me. Kinda like every live take of “Carolina In My Mind” is worth hearing.

But there’s another masterpiece on side two… “When You Dance, I Can Really Love.”

We’re wired to be reticent. We must make an effort to move. And one thing that stimulates us to take action is watching another person dance. They’re free. They’re totally themselves. They draw us to them, oftentimes without even realizing it.

And “When You Dance, I Can Really Love” truly rocks, especially on vinyl, it’ll shake your whole house if you turn it up. Neil was earning a reputation with wimpy records, but he was not going to be pigeonholed, he was not going to stifle his liberated, rocking side. He could be sensitive and boisterous. He could only be himself.

And that’s why we loved him. His authenticity. And the songs. And the instrumentation.

On paper, it didn’t work. These were not ditties. Neil had an imperfect voice at best. But the total package was undeniable. Undeniably different and great.

And anything I write will pale in comparison to the music.

Because music, when done right, is the artistic zenith.

“After The Gold Rush” was done right.

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