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Today’s post is on the final release of Neil Young’s Ditch Trilogy – On the Beach.
As you may recall, the first two albums in the trilogy dealt with the heroin overdose deaths of bandmate Danny Whitten and roadie/friend Bruce Berry. But despite preparing for highly anticipated tour with CSNY in 1974 (documented in a boxed set released in mid-2014) things still weren’t looking up in Young’s personal life.
He separated from his wife, actress Carrie Snodgrass, and learned that their son had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He escaped to Malibu and began work on the paranoid sounding On the Beach. He was quoted as describing the album as “probably one of the most depressing records I’ve ever made.” Now that’s saying something, coming from “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” Neil.
For this album, Young asked some friends to help out. Rick Danko and Levon Helm, of The Band, contributed; as did Graham Nash and David Crosby. The album was recorded at LA’s Sunset Sound studio and was fueled by “honey slides” – a concoction of hash cakes soaked in honey. Young’s manager, Elliott Roberts, was quoted as saying honey slides were “way worse than heroin.”
It’s this druggy environment that produced today’s SotW, “Revolution Blues.”
On this track Young is at his most vicious, taking his suspicions of the LA star system he was retreating from to a terrifyingly scary place.
Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars,
But I hate them worse than lepers and I’ll kill them in their cars.
Danko and Helm hold down the rhythm on this one, giving the song a little more funk than most of Young’s work.
In a 1975 interview with Rolling Stone’s Cameron Crowe, Young said “You got to keep changing. Shirts, old ladies, whatever. I’d rather keep changing and lose a lot of people along the way. If that’s the price, I’ll pay it. I don’t give a shit if my audience is a hundred or a hundred million. What sells and what I do are two completely different things.”
That just about summarizes his approach to the albums that make up the Ditch Trilogy. Confounding to fans upon their release, but regarded in the highest esteem with the benefit of 40 years hindsight.
Enjoy… until next week.