Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps


Having been born in 1979, I love to jokingly tell people I was brought into the world to help put an end to disco. When I was a student of a local guitar genius from up the street, he introduced me to a record from 1979 which would become a major influence in my listening. My ears were familiar with some of Neil’s music.  There were certain songs that I would hear on the radio that were easily recognizable as Neil’s guitar riffs. At the time I first heard “Rust Never Sleeps”, Neil had just released “Sleeps With Angels”.  Sleeps has a fantastic piece of truthful satire in “Piece of Crap” which is a track I would highly recommend for the lyrical entertainment value alone.  The guitar player I was learning some things from was adapting an arrangement for his band to play live.  It was a fun song to listen to.

He brought out an electric guitar and started to play along to “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” He showed me the lines and I would play along with it and the chords.  It’s a great heavy riff that crunches with tons of authority.  On reflection, one could argue it as having a “grunge” sound long before the term was even coined by early members of Seattle’s famous music scene.  The electric songs that power one side of Rust Never Sleeps drift aimlessly over the musical medians.  They pick up elements of hard rock and early heavy metal with sounds akin to saws being pushed through concrete walls.

I remember my guitar teacher then flipping the record over to queue up
“Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”.  He would then pull out an acoustic and play what was the unplugged version of the first track I heard.  It seemed cool to me that here was this unique record put out three months after I was born that would have two slightly differentiating versions of the same song on it.

Those two songs always stuck with me for the longest time.  They were fixations so the remainder of the record was virtually ignored until I was living in my first place in Alberta.  The tape was regularly in my Walkman or in my stereo.  The CD found its’ way into my collection merely out of necessity of owning it in for that format.  To this day, I have yet to acquire it on vinyl.  It would be impossible for me to listen to it and stop.  It is one of those albums that should be heard from start to finish.  There were many great peaceful nights when I can remember sitting in one of my Calgary apartments, working along with the music.  The music and words from Rust inspired a great many pages of writing that still stick out of my older notebooks.  Hearing it today is a great reflection of time gone by and time into the present.  There were countless weekdays and weekends where I would have the tape on me at all times.  I remember coming back from Christmas dinner in 2000 with a wonderful family that I boarded with for a period between 99 and 2000 where I listened to the tape on the drive back in from Canmore to Calgary.  Christmas dinner was great fun and a great time.  There were a few solid days of people coming in through the house I was staying at.  Several walks around the town had me reunited with people I worked with and just people I could remember.  Some were faces with forgotten names from the local pubs and bars.  Others were faces and names forgotten too soon, or not soon enough.

When Christmas dinner wrapped up I was feeling the need to return to my apartment.  I remember a peaceful drive back in and listening to the tape on my car stereo, then transferring it back to the boom box in my apartment.  It turned into a blissfully peaceful evening of reading, connecting family and friends “back home”, and the music of Neil Young.



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