Rusted Moon's Featured Blogposts in English Language




April 2, 2016
Neil Young's World - Mapped Song Lyrics


Open Map in a new window

Neil Young's song lyrics are mainly fictional. But there is much left to localize on the map: He is singing about real countries, ral cities, ral states and ral rivers. Even real streets or historical sites such as the battlefield at Little Big Horn can be found in Neil Young's song lyrics.

With a little help from the international Rustie community Rusted Moon did a deep reseach on song lyrics to localize mentioned sites in order to put it on a map called "Neil Young's World" - and here it is. Get detailed information about more than 150 sites and the related songs, lyrics and albums by clicking on the icons. 

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  2. Neil Young's "Harvest" - Backbiting During Toilet Stop
  3. Neil Young and his 12-String Guitars




October 21, 2015
Infographic: All about Leg #2 of the Rebel Content Tour 2015




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  3. Unearthed: 50 Years ago Neil Young bought Hearse 'Mort' via this Newspaper Ad - Exact Date and Seller





July 31, 2015
Infographic: All about the Rebel Content Tour 2015




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  3. Unearthed: 50 Years ago Neil Young bought Hearse 'Mort' via this Newspaper Ad - Exact Date and Seller





December 12, 2014
Neil Young's "Harvest" - Backbiting During Toilet Stop

Glyn Johns - Sound ManNeil Young's current album "Storytone" wasn't his first album recorded with a grand orchestra. In 1971, Young had booked the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) to play on two songs of his album Harvest. Back then, Jack Nitzsche had written the arrangements. Nitzsche actually had planned to conduct these famous classic musicians. But finally on the album's liner notes a man named David Meecham was credited as the conductor.

The British producer and engineer Glyn Johns, who has engineered the Harvest session, and who has worked with many other famous artists and bands over the last five decades, now revealed some very interesting details of this session at London Barking Town Hall. On November 13, Glyn Johns has released his autobiography Glyn Johns - Sound Man, published by "Blue Rider Press" - the same publisher who has released Neil Young's two memoir books. In his book Glyn Johns describes, why finally Jack Nitzsche did not conduct the two songs A Man Needs a Maid and There's A World, but the then unknown violinist David  Meecham from the second fiddles of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Here's an excerpt of "Sound Man", also unveiling an interesting toilet stop chatter:

Jack Nitzsche
Jack Nitzsche
"I enjoyed working with Graham, being really impressed by his solo efforts and getting to know him much better over the three days it took to mix his album, and it was by complete coincidence that I went to barking Town Hall in London the next day to record "A Man Needs A Maid" and "There's a World" with Neil Young and the London Symphony Orchestra for what became the Harvest album.

We used the Stones' mobile recording unit, or the Stones Truck as it became know. This is one of the few occasions I got to record a symphony orchestra, having witnessed it on many occasions when I was training. I am not quite sure what the orchestra made of the disheveled, somewhat unkempt character that sat down at the piano at ten a.m. that morning, although on a visit to the men's room during the first union break, I did overhear some disparaging remarks from two members of the orchestra while standing at the urinal.

Glyn Johns
Glyn Johns at the console
Jack Nitzsche, the American producer, arranger, musician, and songwriter, had done the arrangements, and during the fist run-through of "A Man Needs a Maid," it became apparent that conducting a symphony orchestra was not one of his many talents. It was a mess, Jack's method was entirely out of sync with these classical guys, and as the last chord died away, the room was filled with an ominous, somewhat disgruntlet murmuring, from the orchstra. A male violonist in the second fiddles put his hand up and asked Jack politely if he could approach.

I jumped out of the truck and ran into the hall, getting to the conductor's podium just as the man arrived, thinking I could arbitrated should that become necessary. The man was charming a politely whispered to Jack, that it was apparent that he did not have any experience conducting a symphony orchestra, and offered to take over, as he was a conductor. Jack readily agreed, and with much relief stepped down, giving his baton to the violonist. From then on, the session went like a dream, the result being there for all to hear. It was a fabulous experience, made all the better by it being with Neil and the two wondefull songs he wrote."


Link: Glyn Johns - "Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton, The Faces . . ." 


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August 14, 2014
Unearthed: 50 Years ago Neil Young bought Hearse 'Mort' via this Newspaper Ad - Exact Date and Seller

Neil Young - hearse and ad
Hearse and Ad (Click to enlarge)
1964 was a landmark year in the history of music: The Beatles had toured through the US causing the famous "Beatlesmania" and reaching simultaniously number 1 to 5 of the American singles chart. The Rolling Stones had released their first album. Even for a then 18-year-old Canadian teenager in Winnipeg named Neil Young 1964 was a turning point in life: he had his first girlfriend, he decided to quit High School in favor of a professional career in music - and he bought his famous large, black hearse. This all happened in August 1964.

in German
Neil Young's first girlfriend was Pam Smith, the school he quit was the Kelvin High School and the purchased hearse was christianed "Mortimer Hearsebug", or short "Mort". In his memoirs "Waging Heavy Peace", published September 2012, Neil Young told us why he had bought the hearse:
"I had seen an advertisement in the paper for the hearse and went to a place where several hearses were parked. I thought a hearse would be an ideal band vehicle, something that could finally replace Rassy's car."
This newspaper advertisement mentioned by Neil Young has now been unearthed by "Rusted Moon". Until now, the exact date of Neil Young's purchase wasn't exactly clear. It was loosely dated August or September. The ad was published on August 14, 1964 - today, exactly 50 years ago - in the local newspaper "The Winnipeg Press". It was a Friday edition and the ads for used cars filled whole pages. Neil Young must have systematically scoured the pages - he couldn't have found the four-liner on the bottom left side of page 29 purely by chance.

Newspaper Ad, August 14, 1964
Original ad (Click to enlarge)
-------------------------------------------
'53 PONTIAC HEARSE NEARLY NEW
Tires exc. cond, 2 - '48 Buick Hearses.
Make ideal camping or hunting cars.
(Phone number illegible)
-------------------------------------------

Three hearses to sell at once! The then 18-year-old bandleader Neil Young must have been thrilled. Since early August, when he saw the Winnipeg based band "The Crescendos" and their Volkswagen bus during a camping vacation with friends playing a gig at Falcon Lake, just east of Winnipeg, the idea of owning a band wagon was haunting him. With an own car he and the Squires would transport the band's equipment to gigs even far from their home base Winnipeg - just like the Crescendos. It would have been an important step for becoming professional musicians. As a professional band the Squires could no longer travel with mom's little car as they have done since the band was founded - bandmembers, amps, and instruments packed in mother Rassy's little blue British "Standard Ensign".

Of course, a big hearse would offer much more space. That's why the newspaper ad was speaking of camping and hunting. But those vehicles even had far more benefits for a band like the Squires: There were rollers for easily loading the coffins into the hearse. This would also help loading heavy amps and speakers into the car. Hearses usually only had run a few miles and they were pretty cheap compared to other used cars. Actually, not all buyers prefer vehicles once used for such a very special purpose.


The Blue Velvet Hearse

Page 29, Winnipeg Free Press, Aug 14, '64
Page 29, Winnipeg Free Press, Aug 14, '64
(Click to enlarge)
Well, Neil Young was thinking more practical. And so he decided to buy one of the offered hearses. The 1953 Pontiac Hearse mentioned in the ad was either sold or wasn't the right choice. This hearse was five years younger than the two 1948 Buicks. The ad said "excellent condition" and "nearly new tires". That means the Pontiac therefore must have been more expensive than the two Buicks.

However, the newspaper ad selling two Buick hearses AND the 1953 Pontiac Hearse definitely is a sensation: In March 1966 in Toronto Neil Young bought exactly that specific 1953 Pontiac hearse model in order to travel from Canada to California and to found "Buffalo Springfield". We now know: Neil Young saw his later bought hearse model, known as "Mort II", one and a half years earlier in Winnipeg - side by side with "Mort I". Both known hearse models from Neil Young's early career in one newspaper ad - sounds like a medley of "Long May You Run" and "Buffalo Springfield Again". Neil Young's father Scott wrote in his book "Neil and Me" that in 1966 in Toronto his son has scanned the newspaper ads for used cars. After finding an ad selling a 1953 Pontiac hearse he bought the car immidiately. No wonder - he saw this type of car already in Winnipeg.

However, 1964 in Winnipeg Neil Young decided to buy the older and cheaper Buick hearse instead. He drove to the seller, a local obituary in Winnipeg. There he had to make a decision:
"When I arrived at the place where the hearse was supposed to be, behind a wire fence, there was a great area where two identical hearses were parked. The only real difference between the two was that one had a blue interior and the other had a burgundy interior. (...) The name Flxible was on the side of the front fender. Two 1948 Buick Roadmasters that had been custom-built as hearses! I loved them.(...) I made a choice. The blue interior was the best, so I took that one. Rassy paid the bill. Thank you, Mom!"
Neil Young's mother paid $ 125 for her sons's first car. Short time before, she already had given money for a new amp - an expensive Fender Tremolux. In August 1964, mother Rassy's love for her son was quite expensive. Neil Young's father by the way, refused to give the money though Neil Young wrote him a letter begging for the $ 600 he needed to buy the amp. Scott Young wanted his son to finish school. The new amp was needed because Neil Young blew his first real Gituaramp - an Ampeg Echo Twin - at one of the gigs in early summer 1964. Back then the Ampeg also was paid by Neil Young's mother.


The Band's Pride

Later, the Squires bass player and band-treasurer Ken Koblun told in a newspaper interview that he had paid for the hearse with money from the band's account. Whoever financed the hearse, Neil Young was very proud of his new car he found via the newspaper ad from August 14. In his memoirs, he recalls:
"At the first gig with Mort, I felt like the Squires had a new identity. The hearse was an amazing attention-catcher, and that is what being in a band needs. When you get to a gig, you got to be cool. We were the coolest thing in town with Mort. No one else had anything like that. Nothing they had could touch it."
This first gig, when Neil Young and The Squires proudly presented the band's hearse in town must have been the one from August 23, 1964. According to Ken Koblun's list of gigs published in the Archives book and in "Waging Heavy Peace" the gig was at Winnipeg's "Fourth Dimension Coffee House". Besides the car also half of the band members were new: Jeff Wuckert and Bill Edmundson had replaced Allan Bates and Ken Smyth. Bates, one of the founding members of the Squires, and Smyth who later joined the band as a drummer were fired in August 1964 without further ado, because they did not want to travel to Falcon Lake. Neil Young had called them to come there, after he managed a gig at a hotel. So Neil's move to become a professional musician and the purchase of the new band wagon had been joined with unpleasant personnel decision of the young bandleader. As said above: In August 1964, Neil Young really grew up ...


Who Sold the Hease?

The seller of Neil Young's hearse
Probably the seller of the hearse
One question still remains: Who in Winnipeg had sold three hearses at a time? This is yet unknown. But the phone number printed in the newspaper ad is a clue. Although difficult to decipher, this phone number started with "CA 2 - ....". According to Neil Young's memoir the seller was a local funeral home. In 1964 little more than a dozen funeral homes were known in Winnipeg. All of them offered their services via ads in the daily newspaper. Rusted Moon painstakingly searched through the classification named "Funeral Directors" in the 1964 issues of the Winnipeg Free Press. The result: there was only one whose telephone number started with "CA 2 - ...." - the TRANSCONA FUNERAL CHAPEL . 

This Funeral Chapel resided in the Transcona district, just east of the center of Winnipeg on the right bank of the Red River at Kern Drive. This road had been renamed in 1963. The previous name was Crescent Road. Therefore this old street name is printed in brackets. Even today there is a mortician in this area of Winnipeg and there even is a "Transcona Funeral Chapel". But it's now located at a street with a different name. Of course the district changed over the last 50 years. Today, the funeral home is called "Wheeler Funeral Home" - what an appropriate name for the successor of the man who once sold a hearse to Neil Young ...


A Brief History of the Buick/Flxible Hearse

Company logo
Neil Young's hearse was only formally a Buick Roadmaster. In fact those hearses had been designed and built by a company named "Flxible". From 1913 until its bankruptcy in 1996, Flxible (without the "e") resided in Loudonville, Ohio. Founded under the name "Flexible Sidecar Company" they first produced motorcycles with sidecars before they started to build hearses and city buses. In WWII the company built parts for US Army tanks. After WWII, the company focused on overland buses and special vehicles for medical and funeral transport. For these cars Flxible used the chassis and parts from regular vehicles of other American manufacturers such as Buick, Studebaker or Cadillac. Flxible cut the chassis apart, reinforced and extended them. They used the original grilles, fenders, engines and gearboxes of the regular models.

The Buick/Flxible was sold in countless variations: First, the car was available in two lines based on two different Buick lines - the "Super" and the "Roadmaster". In addition the models of both lines had been available either as an ambulance or as a hearse. The ambulance had blue beacons and a siren. The hearse was available with a rear door only or as a version with rear door and two additional side doors.

Another popular option was the so-called "combination car". This special version could be used as an ambulance as well as a hearse. "Combination Cars" were very popular in smaller American communities, which couldn't afford two separate special vehicles.

It isn't exactly known, which version of the Flxible hearses Neil Young owned. There is a photo from 1965 showing the Squires in Fort William or in their way to. You can see a small part of a side door, so that hearse most likely was one of the models with rear door and side doors. In his memoir Neil Young wrote that he got an identical hearse owned by his friend Taylor Phelps who past away in 1995. This hearse can be seen in the official video for the Song Big Time. This Roadmaster also has side doors.


Buick Manual Transmission Made Neil Young Famous

1948 Dynaflow manual
1948 Dynaflow manual
Neil Young's 1948 Buick/Flxible was one of the last models which was equipped with the manual 3-speed gearbox. Buick had launched its first automatic transmission on the market during the production year 1948. In that year the so called "Dynaflow" automatic transmission was available as an extra equipment for all Buick Roadmaster customers. The manual transmission still remained standard equipment in 1948. For vehicles that were manufactured by Flxible is was vice versa: The automatic transmission was standard and the manual gearbox had to be orderd as a specific extra.

Buick's Dynaflow transmission was a 2-speed automatic transmission which originally was developed for the M18 tanks of the U.S. Army. Most of the nearly 650 Buick Roadmasters built in 1948 had been ordered with this comfortable automatic transmission. In the next production year 1949 the car was offered with automatic transmission only. The production of the manual transmission was stopped by Buick in 1949.

The first generation of Buick's Dynaflow automatic transmission in 1948 had a good reputation for gently shifting the gears. In result the Roadmaster was a comfortable car - but with extremely slow acceleration. Therefore those Roadmaster models equipped with a Dynaflow automatic transmission got 10 more horse powers compared to the cars with manual transmission to compensate the lack of acceleration. But they still were so sluggish that the "Dynaflow" soon got the nickname "Dynaslush". An improved second generation came on market in 1953, a third generation followed in 1958.

Dynaflow ad
Dynaflow ad
The uncommon manual transmission of Neil Young's hearse should probably be one of the reasons why Neil Young had to wait (without success) several days for a replacement gearbox after his Buick hearse broke down near Blind River, Canada in June 1965. At that time the manual transmission was out of production for nearly 17 years. While the Dynaflow automatic transmission was on the market in its third generation already. It would have been a real miracle to find a 1948 manual Buick transmission in this small town in Ontario.

Finally, the lack of this spare part helped to push Neil Young's career. Who knows what the then young musician would have done, if his repaired hearse would have made it to Sudbur, Ontario as planned. Thanks God - and thanks Buick Dynaflow - there was a change of plan...

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October 1, 2012
Revealed: The Secret Plans of Shakey Shakespeare


"Writing a book allows me to do what I want the way I want to do it,” Neil Young recently told the "New York Times". He doesn’t think he is going to be able to continue being a musician forever, he added.

In "Waging Heavy Peace" Neil Young announces to write more books. One of those upcoming books is titled "Cars and Dogs". He also states that the 500 pages of his recently published memoir aren’t enough for all the stories about all the people he met during his career.

It seems that Neil Young slowly begins to transform – the musician becomes a writer. But what sort of books is he going to write? Does Neil Young write fiction, nonfiction, or even poems? "Under the Rusted Moon" reveals the secret plans of "Shakey Shakespeare":


Neil Young certainly knows how to decorate barns. Where other people dry their hay, Neil Young installs recording studios, huge model train layouts and cosy living rooms. 

Now, Neil Young wants to share his profound expertise on decorating barns. A magnificent coffee table book full of ‘More Barns’!

Publishing date: October 2013










As a child, Neil Young ran a small chicken farm. Later, he wanted to become a chicken farmer. Now, Neil Young's son Ben runs the "Coastside farm" and is selling eggs.

A once retired Neil Young might revive his old childhood passion. Beside feeding the ducks chicken farming is very popular among spry seniors. Why not using the huge experience of the Young family’s chicken farmers for writing a good guide book?


Publishing date: March 2014







Many of Broken Arrow’s fences were built by Neil Young himself. He still suffers from back pain caused by the work on the ranch.

The coming lonly writer years are perfect for renewing those old fences. Of course, Neil Young's inexhaustible creativity would surely produce some very special fences. He’s planning to share his best ones in a new book.

Publishing date: October 2014








LincVolt, the 1959 Continental ethanol hybride car, was just the beginning. Neil Young is planning to transform other old vehicles and old equipment. "LincVolting" is Neil Young's term for pushing his vintage stuff into a new century of clean technology.

To help ordinary people to follow him on his green path Neil Young is planning to present some more projects in a series of book series. He starts with how to convert a lawn mower.

Scheduled for Spring 2015







There’s a very special relationship between Neil Young and peaches. He really loves them and strongly recommends other people to eat peaches. So why not to publish a book with delicious peach recipes? Stephen Still will order a signed copy…

Release date: still unknown


















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    September 15, 2012
    Family Business - The Many Books of the Young Family


    Books Scott, Neil and Astrid Young
    Books by Scott, Neil and Astrid Young
    On September 25, Neil Young’s memoir "Waging Heavy Peace" (German title "A Hippie Dream") will be released. For Neil Young the release date also means continuing an old family tradition.

    The book – self written by Neil Young – is beside "Neil and Me" by his father Scott Young and "Being Young" by his half-sister Astrid Young – the third part of a "family trilogy" about the musician’s life. It will be interesting to compare how certain chapters of Neil Young's life are described from the very different perspectives of these three close relatives.

    In addition to the books written by his father and his sister, there is quite more evidence that the publishing industry is a real Young/Ragland family business: Neil Young’s uncle Neil Hoogstraten, husband of a sister of Neil Young's mother Rassy, has been a well known artist in Winnipeg. Besides painting landscapes, Neil Hoogstraten has also illustrated books. "Uncle Neil" even has given his name to Neil Young.

    Scott Young - The Flood
    Cover of the first edition
    For the first edition of Scott Young's first novel "The Flood" Neil Hoogstran has done the artwork for the book’s cover. "The Flood" is therefore also a real Young/Ragland family production. Too bad that Neil Young didn’t ask his daughter Amber Jean Young to design the coverart of his own memoir "Waging Heavy Peace". As an artist Amber Jean is following in her great-uncle's footsteps. This way "Waging Heavy Peace" could have been a real family production too.

    Scott Young's novel, "The Flood" is about the great Winnipeg flood caused by the Red River in the spring of 1950. Then eight dikes were broken around the city. The entire city of Winnipeg was flooded. The dramatic events in which 100,000 people were evacuated form the historic background of the novel. Neil Young's father covered the flood as a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press before he wrote down his memories as a novel. "The Flood" was published in 1956 by the Canadian publisher McClelland & Stewart.

    Cover art by Neil Hoogstraten
    Credits for the brother-in-law
    As a citizen of Winnipeg even Neil Young's uncle Neil Hoogstraten kept fighting against the flood – and showed one of the experienced dramatic moments on his artwork on the book’s cover: While outside the men were trying to protect their property using sandbags, there’s a desperate woman in the top-lit window.

    Neil Hoogstraten was a painter and illustrator and also ran a professional art business in Winnipeg. For many years he was president of the "Winnipeg Sketch Club", a local artists' association, and from 1966 to 1969 president of the regional "Manitoba Society of Artists". He died in 2003 at the age of 93. On the first edition's front flap Scott Young included credits for the cover design by his brother-in-law Neil Hoogstraten. The book he dedicated to his wife Rassy. There can’t be more family …

    Incidentally, Neil Young's mother Rassy and her sisters - Neil Young's aunts – also have been very creative personalities. Rassy Ragland Young worked as a panel member on the TV show "Twenty Questions". As did the father’s branch, also the Raglands, Neil Young’s maternal family branch, enriched the book and newspaper market with some delightful work.

    The Ragland sisters announce
    their weddings (click to enlarge)
    The two Ragland sisters started their writing career with beeing subject of an article about a double weeding. On June 15, 1936 the "Winnipeg Free Press" headlined "Sisters Are Brides-to-Be". The article featured Virginia and Lavinia Ragland. The two sisters officially announced their weddings for July 18. Virginia married Mr. "Brandt" Ridgway and Lavinia married the artist Mr. Neil Hoogstraten. Later, the two sisters followed similar paths into their professional lifes:

    Neil Young's Aunt Lavinia "Vinia" Hoogstraten - called "Aunt Toots" - has written for magazines and broadcast. She also has coverd the flood of 1950 as reporter. For her work she received the "Womans Canadian Press Club Award". She later was teaching creative writing in some villages around Winnipeg. She temporarily was President of the "Canadian Authors Association".

    Virginia Ragland Ridgway - After Tomorrow
    Book by Aunt Virginia
    Neil Young's Aunt Virginia Ragland Ridgway ("Aunt Snooky"), the other sister of Rassy, still lives aged 97 and has worked as a writer and publicist in Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1998 – living already in a retirement home - she published the book "After Tomorrow - life, love and laughter in the retirement world". A humorous novel about life in retirement.

    "Aunt Snooky" wrote about four elder ladies with a sense of adventure, fighting against the corrupt CEO of their retirement home, falling in love and trying to escape in an old bus. Sounds like the perfect bestseller for aging Rusties.

    Her famous nephew Neil Young - should he ever retire after getting 67 years old in a few weeks - would get some practical advice by his aunt Virginia. Just real "family business"...


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    September 21, 2012
    "Please Take My Advice" - Writing Tips By Aunt Toots


    Vintage female writer
    Although Neil Young has written already hundreds of songs - as a writer of books he is an absolute beginner. And beginners without a little help by a ghost writer will face some real challenges. Some are lucky enough to have an experienced aunt who can provide some helpful tips and wise advice.

    Neil Young's Aunt Lavinia "Vinia" Hoogstraten has been such a helpful person. "Aunt Toots" as the sister of Neil Young's mother Rassy was named in the family has given classes in creative writing. As a writer for newspapers and broadcast she was also president of the "Canadian Authors Association" (CAA) from 1966 to 1969.

    On July 9, 1966 the "Winnipeg Free Press", a local newspaper in Vinia Hoogstraten's hometown, featured the new elected president of the CAA with an article titled “Writing Is Work”. The article contained some amazing 1960ies old school quotes about women’s attitude towards writing - but also offered some useful tips for the later apprentice writer Neil Young. Unfortunately he couldn’t ask aunt "Toots" himself for some writing help. She passed away in 2003, long before her famous nephew began to write his memoirs "Waging Heavy Peace".

    (Click to enlarge)
    "Writing is work," Neil Young's aunt got it to point. Especially the beginners among the writers are facing a lot of problems. “These usually depend on the type of writing he is doing,” said Vinia Hoogstraten. "Excess verbiage - it takes too long to get to the point - is one of the worst," "Aunt Toots" continued.

    Other problems were “difficulties with viewpoints, how to approach a subject, and what markets would take the finished product”. So her advice for the beginner is therefore, “to get in touch with established authors who can give invaluable aid.”

    Whether Neil Young followed the advice of his aunt while writing his memoir isn’t yet known. But “Excess verbiage" without coming to the point seems not to be one of Neil Youngs main problems. He also wouldn’t aim to the wrong market - his agents and managers already checked that for him. And there is even no problem with the viewpoint when writing a memoir. Anything other than Neil Young's own view would be pretty surprising.

    Surprising are also some of the other quotes by Neil Young's aunt in the article of the Winnipeg Free Press. Especially her tips for female authors seem just a little out of fashion: "Starting with a work is the worst part," said Vinia Hoogstraten. She would often rather scrub the floor instead. (sic). "But when the work is begun it becomes a compulsion."

    The former President of the "Canadian Authors Association" also commented on the difficulties typical for her country. Its enormous size is a big problem for authors who are isolated as groups or individuals. As president she wanted the CAA to bring the authors closer together. In addition, she wanted to struggle for better copyright laws. Vinia Hoogstraten about their colleagues on this issue: "Writers are generally a naive group, they don’t realize they’re being taken advantage of until it’s too late."

    It seems that “Aunt Toots “ also gave some business lessons to her nephew Neil Young …
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    April 27, 2012
    Neil Young and his 12-String Guitars


    What could be called Neil Young's “orange period” was dominated by his Gretsch 6120 “Chet Atkins” which he had purchased in September 1963 and which he used extensively in The Squires.  This period came to an end in Toronto in the fall of 1965 when he switched to acoustic guitar.

    Neil Young together with Terry Erickson arrived back at his Toronto birthplace and the residence of his father Scott at the end of June 1965. The other members of his band The Squires – bass player Ken Koblun and drummer Bob Clark – followed soon after.  After only a few weeks Clark quit and went back to Winnipeg and Erickson went to try his luck in Liverpool.  Only Ken Koblun remained in what was the now renamed “Four To Go”, the line-up being completed with two new members as replacements.  But despite the efforts of manager Martin Onrot to promote them Four To Go were unsuccessful and failed to conquer the Toronto music scene.


    Back in the old folky days

    Frustrated by his lack of success and influenced by his new acquaintances in the Canadian folk scene, Young decided to try and make it as solo artist.  For this next stage of his career the orange coloured Gretsch electric was rather out of place.  All the folk-oriented singer-songwriters that he liked at the time, including Phil Ochs and fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot, played only acoustic guitars.  Neil also admired Bob Dylan – who had famously switched to electric guitar at that year’s Newport Folk Festival – because of his acoustic playing.

    Riverboat Coffee house
    So Neil decided to sell his beloved Gretsch.  Although not confirmed, this was probably in November 1965 at a local shop in Toronto.  For this new chapter in his career as a folk musician Neil Young would change to acoustic strings on his guitar.  A lot of what happened around this period still remains in the dark.  Did Neil switch immediately to a 12-string guitar or to any of the common six-string acoustic guitars?  Or did he use both six and 12-strings at the same time?  All that’s known for sure is that Neil sold his Gretsch 6120 sometime in the fall of 1965.

    Maybe it was because of money problems.  John Einarson wrote in Don’t Be Denied  that Neil Young, on the one hand, needed the money to pay back a 400-dollar loan signed by his father.  On the other hand, he had to invest in a new guitar for his new folk career. For this reason, Neil Young even took a job for five weeks working in a bookstore.  It’s probable that the sale of the Gretsch was a few weeks later than September.  Ken Koblun, Neil Young's loyal bassist in these early years, recalls in Jimmy McDonough’s Shakey that he saw Neil in early November still playing his unamplified Gretsch at a Hootenanny at Bernie Fiedler’s Riverboat Coffee House.  Koblun worked there as a gaffer after Young had broken up “Four To Go”.


    First 12-String

    DeArmond Pickup
    Despite research it remains unclear exactly where Neil sold the Gretsch and what he purchased instead.  He has given different answers at different times.  In "Don’t Be Denied" he is quoted as saying he sold the Gretsch to buy an acoustic 12-string.  He added later in "Shakey" that he played with this 12-string guitar at “a bunch of gigs alone.  The 12-string gave me the opportunity to do that.”  Also in "Shakey" Comrie Smith, classmate and childhood friend in Toronto before Neil’s move to Winnipeg, mentioned this 12-string guitar, which he described as a Gibson with a DeArmond pickup, the body of which Neil had stuffed with newspapers to avoid feedback. By this time Neil was already playing in the Mynah Birds and this same story was also reported in the press by other witnesses of this period.

    This new band, with Neil playing his 12-string acoustic, went to Detroit in February 1966 to record an album at Motown. The album, unfortunately, never appeared after singer Ricky James was arrested.  According to Nick Warburton – author of a ‘Rock 'N Roll Case Study’ on the Mynah Birds – Rickman Mason clearly remembers one of the first Mynah Birds’ live shows where Neil ended up playing an unamplified solo on his 12-string, because he had accidentally pulled out his lead cable when jumping about on the stage.  Neil Young himself has told this same anecdote on several occasions.  (Incidentally Neil later got a 6-string Rickenbacker electric guitar from John Craig Eaton, the wealthy financier of the band and a member of the Canadian department store dynasty.)

    Craig Allen und David Rea
    The existence of the Gibson 12-string, confirmed by several sources, is therefore indisputable.  However, it remains possible that it wasn’t bought in the same shop where he sold the Gretsch. Dad Scott Young wrote in Neil and Me that it was a guitar shop on Yonge Street, and there are indications that it was at the first location of “Long & McQuade,” a Toronto based musical store that later expanded across Canada.

    But in a subsequent interview with Richard Bienstock in Acoustic Guitar World in 2005 Young claimed that he didn’t buy this 12-string Gibson at all, but borrowed it from musician David Rea.  Rea was a guitar player with the Allen-Ward Trio, and had played alongside Ian & Sylvia (Tyson) and Gordon Lightfoot as well as performing solo.  In 1967 Rea also played at The Mariposa Folk Festival accompanying Joni Mitchell.  Young admired Rea and his finger-picking style. In Rea’s apartment Neil and Craig Allen – the ‘Allen’ in the Allen-Ward Trio – made their first acquaintance with hash, which Neil later described in the autobiographical “Hitchhiker”.

    Unfortunately for us there are no known photos showing the 12-string Gibson from this time in Canada.  However Neil does seem to have taken this guitar with him on his hasty departure from Toronto to California in March 1966.  Together with bass player Bruce Palmer he sold all the instruments and amplifiers belonging to The Mynah Birds – including his own Rickenbacker – in order to get the money to buy an old hearse that they intended to use as the vehicle for the trip to the U.S.  But as it turns out the acoustic 12-string was not among the items sold.

    Neil Young mit Gibson B-25-12
    Foto (c) Jini Dellaccio
    Although once in California Neil no longer used the guitar you can still see it in a photo taken by legendary photographer Jini Dellaccio in 1967, shot during a Neil Young photo session.  Dellaccio’s photo clearly shows a Gibson B-25-12 with a trapeze tailpiece.  Craig Allen immediately remembered this guitar when he saw the photo.  He confirmed that it was this guitar which David Rea had in Toronto and that Neil had used it before he switched to a Martin.

    Also John Einsarson, Author of „Don't Be Denied“ and a book about band history of "Buffallo Springfield" has told on an internet forum that Neil Young had taken the die Gibson 12-string with him when moving from Toronto to California. David Rea, probably the pre-owner of this 12-string Gibson B-25-12 sadly passed away in October 2011 after a long illness – shortly before he could answer a submitted request about Jill Delacios’s photo and the pictured guitar.

    The reason Young didn’t use the 12-string Gibson in California with the Buffalo Springfield was because he switched to lead guitar and an electric Gretsch 6120 again.  In any case, the 12-string part in Buffalo Springfield was already covered by Richie Furay and his electric 12-string Gibson ES-335-12.   Later at CSNY, David Crosby played a 12-string - Good reasons why the small Gibson B-25-12 in Dellacios’s photo was left to gather dust in a dark corner after its short time in Toronto.


    The Gibson B-25-12

    Old Gibson catalog:
    B-25-12 (l.) und B-45-12 (r.)
    Jini Dellacio’s photo  shows a Gibson B-25-12 in a sunburst finish with a trapeze tailpiece.  Gibson had this guitar in its program from 1962.  The B-25-12 is the little sister of the B-45-12, but had a smaller body and was missing the mother of pearl inlays on the headstock.  Both series had a body made of mahogany and spruce.  The B-25-12 was offered in ‘cherry sunburst’or ‘natural’ finish.  Neil's model was in cherry sunburst and because of the broad ‘belly up’ bridge – which was adjustable – and the trapeze tailpiece it can be fairly accurately dated to the period around 1964/65.  The very early models of this type had a narrow ‘belly down’ bridge and  a trapeze tailpiece.

    A short time later, Gibson changed to the wider, so-called ‘belly up’, bridge with string pins instead of a trapeze tailpiece.  ‘Belly up’ means that the narrower part of the bridge showed up. This made Gibson’s bridges different from other manufacturers who used the narrow part of the bridge showing downward (‘belly down’).

    Die vier Steg-Varianten:
    Trapez schmal, "belly up",
    Trapez dick, "belly down"
    The string pin belly up bridge without a trapeze tailpiece and with a thin bracing under the top helped to create a superb tone that made this model popular amongst acoustic players.  But although the sound was good the guitar had some disadvantages.  A major one was that because of the thin bracing and the force of the 12 strings the bridge was often ripped off from the top of the guitar!  So in late 1964 Gibson changed the design again.  The wide ‘belly up’ bridge was still used, but the strings were no longer held by bridge pins, but by a trapeze tailpiece again. In addition, the bracing was reinforced.

    Following these changes there were no more broken bridges, but it was clear that the sound wasn’t as good as before. By 1966 Gibson had made further changes; the strings went back to being held only by pins in the dock, the trapeze holder disappeared and the bridge, now standard with other manufacturers, changed to a traditional ‘belly down’ type.  The stronger bracing was retained. Despite these changes the tone never returned to the level of the early years. In 1977 the B-series was discontinued.

    Lightfoot's B-45-12
    So Neil Young's Gibson B-25-12, with its wide belly up bridge, without string pins and with the reinstalled trapeze tailpiece, was a model from this 1964/65 transition period.  Maybe it was the poor sound of this infamous transition model which prompted David Rea to pass on this guitar to his friend Neil Young.  It appears Neil wasn’t too interested in the guitar’s acoustic tone anyway, as he used it amplified with a pickup and stuffed it with newspapers.

    At this time, David Rea played with Gordon Lightfoot who was famous as an endorser of the bigger Gibson B-45 12-string. This model with belly up bridge without trapeze tailpiece became a Lightfoot signature model. So David Rea should have known the different in sound.


    The Martin D-18

    Everything should have been clear by now; the Gibson 12-string followed the Squires’ Gretsch.  But it was Neil Young who added confusion when interviewed many years later.  Asked in the December 2005 issue of Guitar World Acoustic about the guitar he bought after the orange Gretsch he told Richard Bienstockt that he had purchased a Martin D-18 as a replacement.  This was certainly news!
    The Martin D-18 – the entry level model in Martin's Dreadnought series – was certainly very popular in the folk scene back then and was played by many famous musicians.  With its mahogany body, a simple brown or black binding and the rosewood fingerboard the D-18 was fairly basic and much cheaper than Martin’s more sophisticated models.  The D-28 for example came with rosewood body, ebony fingerboard, multiple binding, and mother of pearl inlays.

    The simplicity of the D-18 had been offered almost unchanged by Martin since 1931, and this led to a large number of both available and affordable second-hand models. The boom in vintage guitars – which now makes old Martins almost unaffordable – was not yet that pronounced in the early sixties.  Back then the Martin D-18 was to the acoustic sector what the Fender Telecaster was to the electric guitar sector; a popular workhorse – simple, solid, unspectacular.  The original price of a D-18 in 1965 was about $230, used copies could be bought for around half of that.  As a comparison Neil Young's Gretsch 6120 at that time had a new price of around 480 dollars, more than twice as expensive as the D-18.


    Optical evidence for a D-18

    Early Neil Young and D-18
    Whether Neil Young, in the fall of 1965 in Toronto, played a Martin D-18 as a successor to his Gretsch 6120 remains unclear.  Apart from that 2005 interview this guitar has never been mentioned by any other commentators or witnesses, whilst the Gibson 12-string was confirmed by many witnesses.  Unfortunately, like the 12-string, there are again no photos of Neil Young with the Martin D-18 in Toronto.  This period actually seems quite ‘photo-less’.

    Compared to the early years of Neil Young's music career in Winnipeg and Fort William – where a good number of photos were taken, and also the first years in California – which have been documented extensively by professional photographers, you can count on the fingers of one hand photos from Neil’s nine months in Toronto.  It seems that Neil Young's failure to succeed in the town of his birth is confirmed by the lack of pictures!

    New sweater, same D-18
    But, as with the Gibson 12-string, it’s possible to use photos from the early days of Buffalo Springfield as indirect evidence for the existence of a Martin D-18 in Toronto.  Assuming that Neil Young only (or firstly) bought a new Gretsch 6120 in order to play with Buffalo Springfield, where did the Martin D-18 come from which Neil can often be seen with in early Springfield photos? There are various possibilities.  He might well have brought this guitar with him from Toronto inside the hearse, as he did with the Gibson 12-string in the Jini Dellaccio photo.

    When Young and Bruce Palmer sold all the Mynah Birds’ equipment in March 1966 in Toronto to finance the trip to California, it is now clear that they only sold the band's own instruments and amps, which had been paid for by their sponsor John Craig Eaton (and who Neil paid back some years later).  It would appear that they didn’t sell their own instruments, which almost certainly included the Gibson and the Martin D-18.  According to Shakey the list of luggage for the trip from Toronto to Los Angeles included instruments and amplifiers, even if it’s not made clear which of these were assigned to the six passengers.  But it’s inconceivable that a full-blooded musician like Neil Young would have gone on this trip to the USA without a single instrument , a trip that was intended to explicitly further  the development of his musical career.


    Acoustic Evidence for a D-18

    So to date we cannot prove the ‘12-string or 6-string’ question with optical evidence.  It is also difficult to use acoustic analysis to solve the riddle. However, there are at least two Neil Young recording sessions during this period which would have had to be played with at least with one of those instruments.


    On one hand there are the tapes of the demos that Neil Young recorded in November 1965 in the Elektra record company studios in New York.  On the other hand we have Neil Young on guitar on the Mynah Birds’ Motown recordings made in February 1966 in Detroit.  Both recording sessions are available as bootlegs, and both are also documented in Volume 1 of the Neil Young Archives.


    Listening back to the tapes of the Elektra demos (made by Neil going into a library room full of archival tapes and recording himself using an amplifier and a tape recorder) it is hard to recognize anywhere the sound of a 12-string guitar.  Although the Gibson B-25-12 – with its small body and the trapeze tailpiece – was no ‘wonder’ guitar in terms of volume and sustain, it should still be easy to hear its typical ringing, chorus-like 12-string sound.  Neil's nervous tuning can clearly be heard on the demo tapes at the beginning of some tracks, and there is no aural evidence of a 12-string guitar.  In fact it’s quite the opposite; you can clearly hear a characteristic 6-string guitar sound on most of the songs, the bluesy “I Ain't Got The Blues” being a good example.

    There are many convincing acoustic reasons for the assumption that the Elektra recording was made either with the Martin D-18 or even with the Gretsch 6120 which was to shortly disappear into a store in Toronto.  Perhaps the Elektra session in early November 1965 was held before he traded the Gretsch? This would fit Ken Koblun’s statement that he saw Neil playing the Gretsch at the Riverboat in November.

    The Mynah Birds’ Motown recording on the other hand provides many indications of the use of the 12-string Gibson.  Firstly, we have a report from drummer Rickman Mason, who said that Neil Young mainly used his Gibson 12-string for the  recording.  Secondly, on the tracks you can clearly hear the distinctive ringing tone of Neil's 12-string guitar playing.  This is especially so on “It's My Time”, where the typical jingle-jangle 12-string sound shines through.  Around this time – the spring of 1966 –12-string riffs (especially from The Beatles or The Byrds) weren’t as unusual as some Mynah Birds’ chroniclers retrospectively reported (see some more on this in the history of the 12-string below).  In fact, the sound of a 12-string guitar as heard on the Mynah Birds’ tracks was becoming almost mainstream in those days.

    So there is some evidence that Neil Young traded his electric Gretsch 6120 from the Squires’ days for a more typical acoustic folk guitar and in total strummed ‘18’ strings on two guitars; a Martin D-18 replaced the Gretsch and the Gibson B-25-12 was borrowed from David Rea.  He probably used both instruments during his time as a folk soloist and as a member of the Mynah Birds and he presumably took both them both to Los Angeles.  “Yeah, I still have every guitar I ever played, except for the one I traded for something else to Stills,” Neil Young said in March 1992 in an interview with Jas Obrecht in Guitar Player Magazine.  This also helps to clarify that he took the guitars with him from Toronto to LA and also suggest that David Rea never got back the Gibson B-25-12 that he lent to Neil...


    Where are they now?

    D-18 live at the Riverboat
    “Yeah, I still have every guitar I ever played, except for the one I traded for something else to Stills…”   Wow, what an astonishing statement!  Can this really be true?   What about just the two guitars we’re discussing?   Does Neil still have those?

    From our point of view the 12-string Gibson disappeared into complete obscurity.  There has been no further trace of this guitar since those far-off days.  Perhaps it has been in Neil’s possession all these years and has been living in peaceful retirement in the guitar barn?  But we know a bit more about the D-18, mainly because it was used for some time in California.  Neil can often seen with it in early Buffalo Springfield photos and the same Martin D-18 is also documented in sight and sound on the Live at Canterbury House 1968 and Live At The Riverboat 1969 recordings.

    Up to and into 1970, lots of photos still show this basic Martin being used by Neil Young in addition to those more expensive (‘luxury’) Martins that he was able to afford as a result of his rising success as a solo musician and in CSNY.  For example you can see him in the early days of CSNY with a pre-war D-28 with the famous herringbone binding.  The luxuriously decorated mother of pearl Martin D-45 is another one.  This guitar was a gift from Stephen Stills in 1969 to all four members of the band and Neil used it in early 1971 to record the Harvest album.  According to guitar guru Larry Cragg, who joined Neil in 1973, Neil Young now also owns several pre-war D-18s, whilst Neil claims that another Martin D-18 was stolen from the office of his manager Elliot Roberts.

    It is even possible that the D-18 from Toronto was eventually passed to Nils Lofgren.  Nils states that Neil gave him a Martin D-18 as a reward for his participation in the After The Gold Rush sessions. Those recordings took place in the spring of 1970 in Neil’s house in Topanga Canyon.  He also claimed that this guitar can be seen on the photo inside the cover of After The Gold Rush.  Nils still owns this D-18 and used it in 2008 to record his acoustic Neil Young tribute album The Loner - Nils Sings Neil.  On the album cover is a photo of Nils with this guitar.

    Now it’s hard to believe that Neil Young would pass a valuable pre-war Martin model to Nils, whose part on After The Gold Rush was important but perhaps wasn’t that significant to justify giving him such a treasure.  But it’s certainly more believable that Neil gifted Nils a ‘basic’, and at that time not nearly so valuable, D-18 model.  The D-18 from Toronto, which he bought in 1965 when selling his Gretsch, might well have been this guitar.  Perhaps by the time of the Gold Rush album Neil had acquired a better quality D-18 and was happy to pass over its less expensive predecessor to Nils.  Certainly at that time Neil Young was almost exclusively playing his Martin D-45.

    But that’s not to decry this Martin.  Nils Lofgren possibly became the owner of the guitar that Neil Young had strummed during CSNY’s  legendary Woodstock festival appearance.  The unofficial video in circulation from this performance that features Neil – at his own request he didn’t appear in the official movie – shows Stephen Stills and Neil Young, jamming on an acoustic version of “Mr. Soul” and Neil playing a Martin D-18… Would Neil Young really have handed over such a piece of musical history?


    A Brief Potted History of the 12-string guitar

    "Lead Belly" and 12-string
    The 12-string guitar enjoyed its first boom in the early Twentieth Century, when it was discovered by blues playing black musicians.  The most famous among them was Huddie William Ledbetter, better known as “Lead Belly”.  He was born in 1888 and spent many years in U.S. prisons, where he was recorded by a musicologist.  This resulted in his pardon and subsequent musical success.  Other blues musicians such as Blind Willie McTell also played 12-string guitars.  McTell was featured in a really great 1983 song by Bob Dylan – “Blind Willie McTell” – which was eventually released in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3.  The obligatory 12-string guitar part on this recording was played by no less a figure than Mark Knopfler.

    The best-known manufacturer back then was the Harmony company, whose “Stella” flat-top series contained a 12-string model.  These guitars were sold under their own brand but also under other brand names, mainly through mail order.

    Pete Seeger's 12-string
    Lead Belly subsequently influenced many white folk musicians like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, who was a member of The Weavers.  In the '50s they recorded Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene” and made it into a number one hit in the USA.  Seeger played a legendary 12-string guitar made by English luthier Stan Francis which had a triangular sound hole.  With the “J12SO Sing Out" a replica of this famous guitar was built by Martin guitars in 2010.

    During the boom in the folk movement in the late 50s and early 60s, the 12-string guitar moved sharply back into focus.  Above all, Bob Gibson popularized the 12-string guitar and influenced other musicians with his playing.  Most of the guitar manufacturers brought new 12-string models into their range or produced 12-string versions of their regular 6-string guitars.  Interestingly enough Martin – then the market leader in folk and acoustic guitars – was one of the last manufacturers to follow this trend.  Even in 1965 David Crosby still had to convert his own Martin D-18 from 6 to 12 strings.  Only then did Martin build the D-12 as a regular 12-string model, much later than the other manufacturers.

    Ian & Sylivia Tyson
    with 12-string
    For Neil Young, many Canadian folk musicians who influenced him during his time in Winnipeg and Toronto played 12-string models.  Ian Tyson, who performed with his wife as Ian & Sylvia and wrote and performed Neil's favourite “Four Strong Winds”, played a 12-string Gibson B-45 in their live act.  That same guitar was also a trademark of Gordon Lightfoot – perhaps Canada’s best-known singer / songwriter after Young.

    Lenny Breau's 12-string 
    Even the brilliant Canadian jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, who Neil Young and Randy Bachman admired in Winnipeg (to the extent that they both bought his orange Gretsch) played a 12-string, appearing in 1968 at Toronto's Riverboat Coffee House with a Framus guitar from Germany.  Only a matter of weeks before Neil Young’s own appearance there Breau played the Riverboat using his Framus 5/296 which had a sunburst finish and a pickup in the sound hole.  Young’s appearance has of course been documented on the archives release Live at The Riverboat 1969.

    John Lennon could be seen in the 1965 Beatles’ film A Hard Day's Night with another German Framus acoustic 12-string – in this instance a model called a “Hootnanny”.  John performed  “You've Got To Hide Your Love Away” for the cameras.  And it was to be the Beatles, along with the Byrds, who were to greatly increase the popularity of the 12-string guitar as an electric instrument.

    John Lennon's 12-string
    George Harrison used his new electric 12-string ‘360 Deluxe’ Rickenbacker for many of his parts on A Hard Day's Night, including the memorable fade-out on the title track, which is itself said to have been highly influential on The Byrds and their 12-string pioneer Jim “Roger” McGuinn.   They recorded Dylan's “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 1965 and the “jingle-jangle morning” lyric has since become synonymous with the sound of the 12-string guitar played in pop music.

    Nude singer and 12-string
    Incidentally, near the end of 1967, the ‘Mynah Bird’ Coffee House in Toronto presented “the first-topless-folk singer in the world”.  A photo of this epochal event in folk music history shows one of the topless singer guitarists playing exactly the same model – the Gibson B-25-12 – which Neil Young borrowed from David Rea two years earlier.

    By the time 12-string guitar reached the “grubby corner” of folk, the big boom was over.  There was a brief revival in the 70s, with guitar players such as Leo Kottke introducing a new, artistic finger picking style into the acoustic scene.  Despite this the 12-string guitar never again reached again the heights of its brief golden era in the 60s.


    Neil Young's other 12-string

    Neil Young's Guild 12-string
    Neil waited until the late 1970s before using a 12-string guitar again.  He initially used Guild 12-string models, and there are photos from 1975 showing him with a Guild GAD-G212.  The G212 was only produced between 1974 and 1989, so Neil clearly bought an early model.

    Young's Taylor 12-string
    The guitar that followed – Neil's famous Taylor 855 12-string – was first played during the 1978 Rust Never Sleeps tour and can be seen in the 1979 concert film.  This model was developed by Bob Taylor and was built specifically for Neil Young – it never came on to the market in this format.  In 2005 Larry Cragg told Guitar World Acoustic magazine that Neil sent him to Bob Taylor a short time later to buy a second copy.  Neil still occasionally plays both Taylor 12-strings live in concert.

    Other photos have shown Neil with an exotic 12-string Gibson J200, which he played in July 1992 at the “American Music Festival” in Colorado, where he performed two songs with fellow songwriter Warren Zevon – “Comes A Time” and Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation”.   On other shows Young was seen even with a 12-string Martin.or a Japanes Martin copy. In 1982 Neil played two acoustic Takamine guitars on the European leg of the Trans tour. One of them was a F400 Takamine 12-string. This Martin copy – distinguishable only by the logo on the head plate – is now shown as a memorabilia at Hard Rock Café in Berlin, which was the last venue of the 1982 Trans tour. It seems that there’s no important 12-string models that he hasn’t played!

    Neil Young's Takamine 12-string
    Neil Young 's Gibson J200 12-string
    (with Warren Zevon)















    Video: Neil Young's 12-string guitar Gibson B-25-12:



    (English translation by Scott Sandy for "Broken Arrow Magazine May 2012)


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    September 3, 2011
    Shakey's Arc - A Zoolocal Review


    Shakey's Arc - Neil Young's animals
    Shakey's Arc - click to enlarge
    True fans always knew: Neil Young's songs teem with life literally: In total, 91 song lyrics have animal references. In some songs even more. The biodiversity is amazing: mammals, fish, reptiles, birds - all there. Even dinosaurs in the song "Thrasher"!

    With a total of 58 mentions, mammals clearly have the edge. Birds and poultry follow with 38 citations. Fishes and reptiles can be found 3 times, insects 2 time. If you chart the species Neil Young's feathered friends are in the lead with 37 mentions.

    Dogs are on second place with 14 citations. There are 9 songs featuring at all 14 horses, 4 songs with Buffalos/Bisons and fishes are mentioned 3 times. In Neil Young's songs you can even find 4 cats and 2 foxes - the same amount of songs with elephants, bulls and bears. Among the animals mentioned only once, you can find a monkey, a lion and a llama. Sometimes it’s hard to determine the exact number of the animals: there are songs with swarms, flocks and herds of birds, pigs, geese or fire flies. 

    First one: a bull
    The putative first song with an animal is the widely unknown “I Ain’t Got The Blues" which Neil Young wrote during his unsuccessful Toronto period. He taped the song in November 1965 as a demo for Elektra. The song mentioned a bull. 

    Last one: a bear
    One of the most astonishing animals you can find in a Neil Young song is a polar bear in "Peaceful Valley Boulevard" of his 2010 album "Le Noise". The bear on an ice float as is an animalic metaphor for global warming.

    The album "Americana" also features some animals. Obviously there is a "High Flying' Bird". In "Jesus Chariot" 1 red rooster and 6 white horses are mentioned. Because Neil Young & Crazy Horse are performing traditional folk songs not written by Neil Young himself those animals are so called invasive species inside of Neil Young's work. Though Shakey's arc is big enough, the new animals are therefore put into a dinghy to keep them seperate.

    In the same year 2012 "Psychedelic Pill" was released. This album by Crazy Horse has some epic songs lasting up to 30 minutes - but almost no animals. Only "Born In Ontario" - a song about Neil Young's childhood in Canada - mentions black flies. Billions of thoses nasty insects are living at the lakes of Ontario.

    UPDATED:  The most recent album "Storytone" adds 8 new animals to Shakey's zoo. Four of them are mentioned in the song "When I Watch You Sleeping": A kitten, a lion, crows and blackbirds. In "All Those Dreams" there are honkers - a Canadian term for ghoose - and two whitle elks. While in "Tumbleweed" simply an "animal" is mentioned.

    There are 49 years stretching between the bull of 1965 and the white elks of 2014. During these 49 years Neil Young put at least 100 other animals into his songs and albums. There’s no other artist with a lyrical zoo like that. 

    The names of many bands Neil Young joined in his long career also refer to animals: The Mynah Birds, Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse, The Ducks. And in his album title “Hawks and Doves" you can find even two animals in one single line. 

    Spotting animals in Neil Young’s lyrics has always been a favorite sport for Rusties: Here is a complete list - in descending order – of all songs and all animals:


    38 Songs with feathered creatures, birds and poultry:
    Alone and Forsaken, Ambulance Blues, Are You Passionate, Be The Rain, Beautiful Bluebird, Birds, Boxcar, Computer Age, Cryin' Eyes, Dangerbird, Expecting To Fly, Falling From Above, Far From Home, Gateway Of Love, Hawks & Doves, Helpless, Inca Queen, It's A Dream, I've Loved Her So Long, Let's Roll, Like An Inca, Little Wing, Motion Pictures, No Wonder, On The Beach, Revolution Blues, Shots, Sun Green, The Believer, The Old Homestead, Thrasher, War Of Man, Jesus Chariot, High Flyin' Bird, UPDATED: All Those Dreams

    14 Songs with dogs:
    Alone and Forsaken, American Dream, Bound For Glory, Bubble Gum, Daddy Went Walkin', Dog House, Don't Spook The Horse, Everything Is Broken, Grey Riders, Old King, On Broadway, Ordinary People, Revolution Blues, Without Rings

    9 Songs with horses:
    Broken Arrow, Campaigner, Don't Spook The Horse, Saddle Up The Palomino, Sixty To Zero, Tell Me Why, The Great Divide, The Old Homestead, UPDATED: Jesus Chariot,

    4 Songs with buffalos/bisons:
    Crime in the City, Pocahontas, Far From Home, Peaceful Valley Boulevard

    3 Songs with fish:
    Be The Rain, Stupid Girl, Will To Love

    3 Songs with cats:
    Grandpa's Interview, Daddy Went Walkin', UPDATED: While I Watch You Sleeping


    2 Songs with foxes:
    The Loner, Interstate

    2 Songs with caribous:
    Be The Rain, No Wonder

    2 Songs with snakes:
    Boxcar, Spirit Road

    2 Songs with elephants:
    Inca Queen, Misfits

    2 Songs with bears:
    Peaceful Valley Boulevard, Will To Love

    2 Songs with coyotes:
    Computer Cowboy, Where Is The Highway Tonight?

    2 Songs with cattle:
    Are There Any More Real Cowboys? Computer Cowboy

    2 Songs with bulls:
    El Dorado, I Ain't Got The Blues

    1 Song with a llama:
    Ride My Llama

    1 Song with turtles:
    Deep Forbidden Lake

    1 Song with a lamb:
    Lost In Space

    1 Song with hogs:
    Here We Are In The Years

    1 Song with deer:
    Sixty to Zero, UPDATED: While I Watch You Sleeping

    1 Song with a monkey:
    Coupe De Ville

    1 Song with a vampire:
    Vampire Blues

    1 Song with fire flies:
    Bound For Glory

    1 Song with dinosaurs:
    Thrasher

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    August 4, 2011
    Children at play: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell & the Stellas

    Translated from the original German by Marian Russell for jonimitchell.com

    Neil Young shares more in common with Joni Mitchell than with practically any other artist: Both grew up in a Canadian province and moved around several times - Neil as the son of a journalist, and Joni as the daughter of an officer of the Canadian Air Force. Both were sick with polio in childhood, both discovered early their passion for music, and both made their first notes with a ukulele, and even in the same year- 1958. 

    Their paths crossed for the first time in October 1965 in Winnipeg, as Joni Mitchell and husband, Chuck, appeared at the local 4D Coffee House. Previously, Joni had been a guest on Oscar Brand's hootenanny folk show "Let's Sing Out", two episodes of which were recorded in Winnipeg by the Canadian television station CJay TV. 

    Neil Young by that time had already moved to Toronto, where he was trying to make it as a folk soloist after a failed experiment as a member of the group "The Squires". The meeting with Joni Mitchell came about almost by accident when Neil Young went to Winnipeg for a few days to visit his mother. 

    Legend has it that Neil Young played "Sugar Mountain" for Joni Mitchell after her appearance with Chuck at the 4D in Winnipeg. He had written this song about the end of childhood and the problems of growing up just about a year before his 19th birthday in Fort William, and it was part of his repertoire which he wanted to play in Toronto's folk clubs. Joni Mitchell was allegedly so moved by the song that she wrote "The Circle Game" in response, a song which refers to "Sugar Mountain." 

    In actuality, Joni Mitchell was probably already familiar with the song by way of Vicky Taylor, a folk singer in Toronto, in whose apartment both Joni Mitchell and Neil Young had stayed several times, independently of one another. Author Sheila Weller quotes Vicky Taylor in her 2008 book Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon - And the Journey of a Generation, as having said that her friend Joni Mitchell had wanted to play the song for her as early as the summer of 1965. 

    Joni and Neil with student guitars
    Photo by James Brown (misdated)
    No matter when Joni Mitchell first heard the song, it is sure that she had both Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain" and her response "The Cicle Game" in her repertoire in her earliest years. Whenever she announced the songs on stage, she always mentioned Neil Young. In a radio interview in 1966, she even expressed her hope that "Buffalo Springfield" would record the song. It is known that Neil Young finally released "Sugar Mountain" only in 1977 on the album "Decade", even though he had often been playing it live since 1968. Similarly, Joni Mitchell didn't release "The Cicle Game" until 1970 on her third album "Ladies of the Canyon". 

    Joni Mitchell and Neil Young also played these two songs plus Young's "Helpless" together on stage. The occasion was a surprise appearance by Neil Young at the end of a show by Joni Mitchell on 18 January 1976 in the Elliott Hall of Music at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. 

    It was the second stop of her 1976 Tour of the United States with the LA Express as a backing band that featured Robben Ford on guitar. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell apparently had so much fun doing their respective key songs about the end of their teenage years, that they played very special guitars which can be seen in the following photos: 

    Photos of this gig - acoustic recordings unfortunately did not survive - show Neil Young and Joni Mitchell with cheap Stella student guitars made by the company Harmony. To make the gag complete, Neil Young played the H6134 model advertised in the "Harmony" catalog as designed for little boys, and Joni Mitchell can be seen with model H6128 advertised as designed for little girls. 

    guitar for little girls
     Both guitars were manufactured from 1972 to 1975 from inexpensive wood. The guitar for boys had a top made of birch plywood with a finish called "simulated Pine." The body of the guitar for girls was made of wood from a fruit tree (but the type of fruit was not mentioned). The other parts of the guitar were made from very cheap materials - the bridge appears to have been plastic, the fingerboard an "ebony-like" material, a fake soundhole rosette - so it is no wonder that these instruments were priced at about about $60. 

    guitar for little boys
    The sound of these cheap instruments was miles away from the noble sound of the expensive Martin acoustic guitars with which both artists normally performed, but it was a fitting inspiration to present these two songs about the departure from childhood with guitars for children. It is not known if someone presented these guitars to them as a surprise, or if they planned together beforehand to use these guitars. Likely, it was the latter case, as the penchant for dry humor is a further commonality between the two kindred Canadians. 

    Neither Neil Young nor Joni Mitchell were ever before or since seen with "Stella" guitars. Although Neil Young started with an inexpensive "Harmony" archtop guitar after he had tired of the four strings of his ukulele, he abandoned it for electric guitars after only one year. "Sugar Mountain" was written in 1964, therefore, not on an acoustic guitar, but on an electric Gretsch 6120 'Chet Atkins'. 

    Detail: a screwed pick guard
    By the way, guitars branded "Stella" were not always such cheap ones made of fruitwood and faux fir as those played by Neil Young and Joni Mitchell in 1976. "Stella" was originally one of several brands of the Oscar Schmidt Company of New Jersey. Since 1899, Oscar Schmidt, a native of Germany, had been making mid-priced acoustic guitars, banjos and mandolins under brand names such as "Stella ,"Sovereign" and "La Scala".

    Oscar Schmidt became known for his trademark "Stella", and especially for 12-string instruments which, among others, were played by legends like the blues musician "Leadbelly". During the economic crisis in the late 1930s, the "Harmony" group, which had been manufacturing and distributing low-cost instruments through department stores and mail order catalogs, bought the brand name "Oscar Schmidt Company." Harmony then began using the name "Stella" for its cheap Western and folk guitars for students and beginners. 


    Joni Mitchell (as Joni Anderson) in Oscar Brand's TV show, recorded October 4, 1965 in Winnipeg:




    Recording of Joni Mitchell's version of "Sugar Mountain" and an interviews on stage of  "The 2nd Fret",  Philadelphia in November 1966:




    Joni Mitchell singing "The Cicle Game" 1967:




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