Everybody’s Rockin’

Everybody’s Rockin’
Neil Young
Geffen
(GEF 25590)

Produced by Neil Young and Elliot Mazer

Released 27 July 1983

Insert:

side oneside two
Betty Lou’s Got A New Pair of Shoes
(Bobby Freeman)
Jellyroll Man
(Neil Young)
Rainin’ In My Heart
(Slim Harpo, Jerry West)
Bright Lights, Big City
(Jimmy Reed)
Payola Blues
(Ben Keith, Neil Young)
Cry, Cry, Cry
(Neil Young)
Wonderin’
(Neil Young)
Mystery Train
(Junior Parker, Sam Phillips)
Kinda Fonda Wanda
(Tim Drummond, Neil Young)
Everybody’s Rocki’
(Neil Young)

MUSICIANS
Neil Young – vocal, piano, guitar, harmonica
The Shocking Pinks:
Larry Byrom – piano, backing vocal
Tim Drummond- upright bass
Ben Keith – lead guitar, saxophone
Karl Himmel- snare drum
Rick Palombi- backing vocal
Anthony Crawford – backing vocal

Being sued by your record label for producing uncommercial records is not a regular event. However, Geffen Records sued Neil Young for $3.3 million for releasing this one.

Neil Young had been one of David Geffen’s primary targets, but became a major embarrassment. Geffen had sold himself to Young and his manager, Elliot Roberts, as being concerned with love of music and artistic freedom. They had believed him.

I had contemplated a trilogy of Neil’s Geffen legal battle albums … Trans, Everybody’s Rockin’ and Old Ways. What happened was Neil had done Re-act-or for Reprise, then moved to Geffen, and produced Trans (which shouldn’t have been a surprise, following Re-act-or).

In Trans, he was singing incomprehensible lyrics through a Vocoder like Sparky’s Magic piano. Little Thing Called Love was the single. Young was desperately trying to treat his son’s cerebral palsy at the time with up to eighteen hours a day of strict patterning. Trans was his musical vision of his kid’s inability to communicate.

The follow up to Trans was to be a pure C&W album, Old Ways, loaded with twang and to be cut in Nashville. Geffen loathed it, and also knew that the label had no access to the established C&W sales network. He asked for something more rocking: .

Neil Young: Geffen wanted more rock ‘n’ roll. That was the key phrase: ‘Well, you want some fuckin’ rock ‘n’ roll, do ya? Okay, fine. I can do that. As a matter of fact, my uncle was a rocker, and I’ll be him.
Quoted by David Lifton, Classic Rock and Culture, 27 July 2013

So Young produced Everybody’s Rockin’ by Neil and The Shocking Pinks.
Five tracks a side. 13 minutes 5 seconds on side one, and 11 minutes 31 seconds on side two, making it shorter than a bad Elvis film tie-in.

Most works on the subject suggest that Neil Young went off and made the album. However Fred Goodman’s Mansion on The Hill has it differently:

(The album) had been intended to satisfy his obligation to Reprise. Geffen arranged to buy the album from Reprise for $500,000, with money from Young’s $1.25 million per album guarantee. The remaining $750,000 was to be paid directly to Neil Young. On paper it looked a good deal. Unfortunately the record wasn’t very good and sold poorly.
Fred Goodman The Mansion On The Hill, 1997

I noted that word ‘guarantee’. It is different from an ‘advance.’ An advance is a payment which will be offset against future royalties. It is non-returnable, but you don’t earn royalties until the advance has been repaid. I was approached by a US textbook publisher for a project. They explained they had this marvellous concept. A ‘guarantee.’ Whatever it sold, you’d get a minimum payment after three years. ‘Hang on,’ I said, ‘That’s an advance in other words. BUT you don’t get it in advance as normal … you get it three years later.’ I rejected it. Every other book talks about Young’s “advance” from Geffen. It sounds to me as if it wasn’t an advance in the normal sense, but rather a guarantee4.

Young was interested in experimenting with genres, but Geffen decided that Young was deliberately making albums that could not sell to spite him. Geffen was incensed and sued him for submitting albums which were “musically uncharacteristic of [his] previous recordings.” Neil Young counter-sued for $21 million for breach of contract, citing he had been promised complete artistic freedom. The suit did neither party any good before they both withdrew in 1985. Young says that Geffen lost REM because of the dispute.

Neil Young: To get sued for being uncommercial after twenty years of making records, I thought was better than a Grammy.
(To Bill Flanagan, 1985)

What was in Geffen’s mind? Wikipedia describes him as ‘reeling from the critical and commercial failure of Trans.’ When he ran Asylum, he had signed Bob Dylan for Planet Waves and Before The Flood. He understood that some artists are investments for the long term, because their catalogue will stay in print and continue to sell for years, decades, even if they don’t chart. Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen … and Neil Young. Asylum had produced The Eagles so he was not unaware of the profits of country rock. Yet he rejected Old Ways. It was indeed a step further into country than The Eagles, but so was The Byrds Sweetheart of The Rodeo, Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, and Ringo Starr’s Beaucoups of Blues, Those all managed to sell to a general audience. Was Old Ways really “too country?”

His new(ish) Geffen label had had spectacular success with John Lennon’s US triple platinum Double Fantasy, and in 1982 had a US quadruple platinum hit with Asia by Asia. Asia was followed by the stadium metal bands hard rock era.  Geffen had enormous sales with chart hits, LPs and 45, featuring Whitesnake, (in the USA only), Guns ‘n’ Roses, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Beck and Aerosmith (who are a ride at Disney World as well as a band fronted by an extreme cartoon version of Mick Jagger). He obviously wanted the hard rocking Neil Young, rather than the experimental Neil, or the hippie troubadour Neil. Trouble is, Neil Young was never manipulable.

(Geffen) felt that Neil could turn it around like that and was refusing to- “Neil’s giving me all these esoteric albums to fuck with me,’ said (Elliot) Roberts, “David took it personally.” David felt really betrayed by Neil. He stopped thinking of Neil as a friend – and started thinking of him as somebody who was actually trying to be injurious to him or mocking him.
Jimmy McDonough, Shaky. Neil Young’s Biography, 2002

Geffen justified his actions:

Geffen said of Young, “Because I love him, I would like him to have the success that good work brings. When you make records in four days, and want to put them out, it’s a ripoff … We spend more money on our records, I think, than any record company in the world. And when they’re not good, we give them more money to make them better. Some people don’t want to make them better, they want to spend as little as possible and keep the difference, and put it in their pocket, you know.”
As Young’s former manager, Geffen had to know that he frequently worked in a spontaneous and slapdash manner. Now, however, Geffen was footing the bill.
Fred Goodman. The Mansion On The Hill, 1997

It’s easy to cast Geffen as the villain. Neil Young had kept his problems with his son private, and Geffen was unaware of what he was going through.

When stellar sales did not materialize, Geffen popped, devastated by the amount of money he was losing. The truth was that Young’s deal made it difficult for Geffen Records to make money, and Geffen was unrealistic in thinking that Young could be his meal ticket. With the rare exception of a whopper such as ‘Harvest’, Young’s albums typically sold only between 600,000 and 700,000 domestically, far less than the three, four or five million a label hoped to sell when shelling out million dollar advances.
Tom King: David Geffen – A Biography of New Hollywood, 2000

I’d take issue with that assessment (additionally to the word “advances.”) Very, very few albums sell 3-5 million units. The record business, as with book publishing, assumes that only a small percentage of the output will make a profit, and a tiny, tiny percentage will make a mega profit.

Tom King may be right on Young’s historic sales figures. On The Beach from 1974 is a less successful album, and is hard to find in the original, but according to the Recording Industry Association of America, it sold 500,000 in the USA. Was Geffen really hoping for sales at CSNY’s Déjà vu levels? (7 x Platinum, or 7,000,000) or Hotel California (26 x Platinum in the USA) ? He knew the business well enough.

The irony is that the Geffen-rejected Old Ways is a really great album. I bought it when it came out. I also bought a CD. People who liked Harvest liked it.

Neil Young told Tom Hibbert that he had told Geffen to … Back off or I’m going to play country music forever. And then you won’t be able to sue me anymore because country music will be what I always do so it won’t be ‘uncharacteristic’ anymore. So stop telling me what to do or I’ll turn into George Jones.

Well said, though unlike George Jones, Neil Young’s voice is not everyone’s cup of tea. My wife compares it to nails screeching down a blackboard. She loves Powderfinger – in the Cowboy Junkies version, Helpless – in the k.d. lang version, and After The Gold Rush – in the Prelude version.

RE-ACT-OR and TRANS

Neil Young: We didn’t spend as much time recording Re-ac-tor as we should’ve. The life of both that record and the one after it – Trans – were sucked up by the regime we’d committed ourselves to. See, we were involved in this programme with my young son Ben for 18 months which consumed between 15 and 18 hours of every day we had. It was just all-encompassing and it had a direct effect on the music of Re-ac-tor and Trans. You see, my son is severely handicapped, and at that time was simply trying to find a way to talk, to communicate with other people. That’s what Trans is all about. And that’s why, on that record, you know I’m saying something but you can’t understand what it is. Well, that’s the exact same feeling I was getting from my son.
Interview by Nik Kent, December 1995

Rolling Stone gave Re-act-or (1981) two stars, and Trans (1982) one star. This may have influenced Geffen.

The revised The New Rolling Stone Record Guide appeared just before Everybody’s Rockin’. Dave Marsh comes across like a curmudgeonly and snotty teacher writing in one of my 1960s school reports:
Because he lacks the commitment or the focus to develop his ideas (or even select well among them), Young remains a minor artist – albeit one with major potential, if he should apply himself diligently enough to develop it.
Dave Marsh, The New Rolling Stone Record Guide, 1983

And Geffen has just advanced (or guaranteed) the guy $2.9 million. Then to cap it all, Neil Young started saying things that were interpreted as supporting Ronald Reagan.

Neil Young: I was one of those who felt that some ideas he had were good ideas. He had one point that he was stressing in the first six months of his job that he thought the people in the communities and neighbourhoods should pull together and try to do things on their own more than depending on government to do it for them. And I thought that was a hell of an idea and here’s this old guy and he’s kind of got this image, of this fatherly image, telling all these people in their neighbourhoods to pull together and get your own daycare centers happening, and get this and that happening
Interview on MTV, 1980s

Supporting a right-wing Republican president? Kiss of death. At that point in the 80s, Reagan was obstinately refusing to address the AIDs crisis in America. Reagan was quoted as saying in 1983 that ‘these people were breaking the law.’ Then at a meeting with representatives of the gay community, Reagan was quoted at having said, ‘You’re the first homosexuals I’ve ever met.’ For a Hollywood actor, Reagan must have been incredibly blinkered, blind or stupid if that was so. After all, Ronald and Nancy were said to be close friends with Rock Hudson. As David Geffen was a prominent gay man, one doubts that Young’s support of Reagan was found endearing.

Everybody’s Rockin’

RECORDING

The sleeve insert for Everybody’s Rockin’ announced that it was ‘Mastered digitally. Recorded and mixed digitally.’ The first major label popular music album was Bop til You Drop by Ry Cooder in 1979. It was still newish technology for initial recording.

It was ‘Digitube’ which combined digital recorders with an old Wally Heider tube console. Spooner Oldham described the system as “You take a $180,000 Sony machine and run it through a $39.95 board.” Artificial digital reverb was supposed to re-create the sound of mid-Fifties Sun recordings. It didn’t.

That reflects on Neil Young’s later impassioned railing against compact disc and digital formats. In his book Waging Heavy Peace he complained about digital audio quality (with iTunes a major target).

Neil Young: My goal is to try and rescue the art form that I’ve been practicing for the past 50 years

He founded Pono as a portable digital media player and music download service for high-resolution audio, starting in 2012. It was launched in 2015, and went belly-up in 2017.

I was surprised when I saw Everybody’s Rockin’was an early digital album then. Maybe it started his dislike for digital, though I believe it was the resulting consumer formats for digital he disliked. A musician friend has often said that Sony and Philips should have gone for something like SACD from the outset.

The sessions were bizarre. Tim Drummond played upright bass rather than bass guitar. Ben Keith was assigned lead guitar (rather than Neil Young) because he was known for avoiding lead guitar solos. He was also asked to play sax (studio and tour) which was not his instrument.

Ben Keith: Neil said, ‘I want somebody who sounds like they can’t play (lead solos). I said, ‘Well, I can’t play.’ He said, ‘Oh, good. We’ll use you.’

The drumming is credited as “snare.” Just the one then.

Karl Himmel: I had eighteen tom-toms, twenty-seven cymbals set up. Neil said, “All you need is a hi-hat, snare and a bass drum.

Karl Himmel was moved to tears the first time he heard his drums on digital playback. I was moved to tears too, because it sounds butt-ugly awful, like somebody throwing a wet rag against a wall.
Jimmy McDonough, Shaky: Neil Young’s biography, 2002

THE MISSING TRACKS

Young’s original offering to Geffen had been called Island In The Sun, which had two songs from Trans, They rejected it. They were OK with Trans because they saw it as techno-pop so to a degree, fashionable.

The Everybody’s Rockin’ album is so short because two intended tracks Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me and Get Gone were missing. Geffen denied Young the studio time to record them, and Young found the studio door in New York barred to him.

Neil Young: I was gonna record Don’t Take Your Love – I mean that was fresh and ready to go. I had the fuckin’ thing happening. I was in New York. I wanted to go in, just cut this one fuckin’ song. They wouldn’t give me the studio. They wouldn’t support me. That really blew my fuckin’ mind.
Quoted in: Jimmy McDonough, Shaky, Neil Young’s biography. 2002

Lucky Thirteen: Neil Young, CD Geffen 1993

Live versions of both Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me and Get Gone by Neil and The Shocking Pinks emerged in 1993 on Lucky Thirteen, an album of unreleased material from the Geffen era. Both were recorded in Dayton, Ohio on 18 September 1983. At 11 minutes 22 seconds between them, they’re as long as side two of the album.

Get Gone
Announced as the story of The Shocking Pinks, it’s a basic Bo Diddley beat. Think The Story of Bo Diddley or The Story of The Animals.

Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me
It sounds more typically Neil Young, but the rendition is ponderous.

They do not appear as bonus tracks on CD versions of Everybody’s Rockin’ which would be an obvious place to put them. As Neil Young continues to archive more and more of his huge recorded output, I wonder whether a live Shocking Pinks show will ever appear.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

It is one of Q magazine’s Fifty Worst Albums Of All Time (though it was only 49th worst).

The covers are redundant, or worse, as are all but two of the originals. I hope Neil realizes that for all the horrible truth of Payola Blues … nobody’s going to get this Top 40. C +
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Record Guide: The 80s

At least Neil Young has yet resisted rejoining Crosby, Stills and Nash, although this foray into rockabilly pastiche is hardly much less regressive than that.
New Musical Express 20 August 1983

No doubt great fun to make … but its failure to breathe any fire into its subject matter leaves it nearer to parody than to redefinition. For the first time Neil Young sounds middle-aged.
Adam Sweeting, Melody Maker, 20 August 1983

Nifty, if puzzling rockabilly.
Rolling Stone Album Guide, 1992

One audio magazine voted it the worst-sounding CD in the history of CDs – a bombastic claim, given that compact discs had only been around for a year.
Jimmy McDonough, Shaky. Neil Young’s Biography, 2002

Anyone who liked this kind of material had more than enough to choose from, sung and performed by people whose heart was in the genre, and who had taken the time and the trouble to make creative use of its limitations. Young, by contrast, seems trapped by them. Too many songs have a similar pace and feel and his voice doesn’t suit the style.
David Downing A Dreamer of Pictures: Neil Young The Man & His Music 1994

 …credited to “Neil & the Shocking Pinks,” represented the nadir of this attempted career suicide. Running less than 25 minutes, it found Young covering early rock evergreens like “Betty Lou’s Got a New Pair of Shoes” and writing a few songs in the same vein (“Kinda Fonda Wanda”). If he had presented this as a mini-album at a discount price, it would have been easier to enjoy the joke Young  seemed to intend. As it was, fans who already had their doubts about Young dropped off the radar screen; Everybody’s Rockin’ was his lowest-charting album since his 1969 solo debut, and he didn’t release another album for two years (his longest break ever between records).
William Ruhlman, All Music Com **

Too many of the songs sound like first takes and no one seems to have spent much time on the mix, overdubs, or sound production in general. Echo is a tricky thing to pull off convincingly and some of these songs sound like they were recorded in a school stairwell where the echo is echoing its own echo … Disappointing, sure; boring, no. This is Neil Young at his contrarian best. 
Toby Thompson, Daily Review 12 June 2020 (51 Disappointing Albums)

The problem is that none of the 10 songs on Everybody’s Rockin’ sound anything like a Neil Young record typically might. The songs are short and simple, and when it comes to the material that Young actually wrote, awfully silly. “Kinda Fonda Wanda” doesn’t really go much deeper than its goofball rhyming title. “Jellyroll Man” is essentially all surface, and the title track sounds like a parody of a ’50s rock ‘n’ roll song. Again, there’s nothing particularly wrong with any of these songs, but there’s also very little that’s memorable about them either. You’d have fun listening to them, but once the record’s over, there’s little left to hang onto. … It’s only really a bad album when measured in the contexts of trolling his label and abandoning his more serious songwriting. These are certainly shallow songs, some of them pretty disposable, and by Neil Young standards, Everybody’s Rockin’ absolutely ranks in the bottom half. But sometimes, there’s also nothing wrong with letting go of any artistic pretense and having a little fun
Jeff Trench, Treble 23 July 2014

Several American reviewers call it ‘rockabilly.’ Really? It’s described as a rockabilly foray, but Bobby Freeman, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo and Junior Parker covers suggest R&B to a British listener.

NEIL YOUNG

Neil Young: Well that was as good as Tonight’s The Night as far as I’m concerned. The character was strong, the story was great but unfortunately, the story never got to appear on the album. Before I got a chance to finish it – I got stopped from recording. Geffen cancelled a couple of sessions where I was going to do two songs – Get Gone and Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me – that would’ve given a lot more depth to The Shocking Pinks. But if you didn’t see the shows you wouldn’t be able to get into it fully. Of course, it wasn’t anywhere near as intense as Tonight’s The Night. There was very little depth to the material obviously. They were all ‘surface’ songs. But see, there was a time when music was like that, when all pop stars were like that. (Ardently) And it was good music, really good music. See, when I made albums like Everybody’s Rockin’ and everyone takes the shit out of ’em…l knew they could do that. What am l? Stupid? Did people really think I put that out thinking it was the greatest fuckin’ thing I’d ever recorded? Obviously I’m aware it’s not. Plus it was a way of further destroying what I’d already set up. Without doing that, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now. If I build something up, I have to systematically tear it right down before people decide, *Oh that’s how we can define him*.
Interview by Nick Kent, Mojo December 1995

Neil Young: There was some sort of problem with Everybody’s Rockin’ – I think they only pressed a few of them and out in the field nobody paid attention to it. It wasn’t worked to the radio stations. It wasn’t pushed. They didn’t wanna do that.
Quoted in: Jimmy McDonough, Shaky, Neil Young’s biography 2002

SIDE ONE

Betty Lou’s Got A New Pair Of Shoes

Pedantry time. Neil Young has added an apostrophe to Bobby Freeman’s 1958 title. It’s debatable … Betty Lou’s got … indicates current possession. Betty Lou got (the original)indicates a past purchase (which she may or may not still own). Maybe the pedant was at Geffen records, because he clearly sings Betty Lou got …

Bobby Freeman is better known for Do You Wanna Dance and C’mon and Swim. The original’s a terrific rock performance. The song straddles two popular late 50s rock genres … songs with girls’ names, and songs about clothes (often girls’ clothes). It’s a good song, worth reviving. The original’s way better than Neil’s cover. That’s not a given … I tremble to say it, but I think Cliff Richard improved Do You Wanna Dance. Or rather The Shadows guitars did.

Rainin’ In My Heart

Slim Harpo Sings Rainin’ In My Heart: US Excello LP, 1961

This is the Slim Harpo song (NOT the Buddy Holly song). The original was US #17 R&B / US #34 pop chart in 1961. Hank Williams Jnr had covered it in 1971, which was a US Country #3 hit (Pop #108). The Slim Harpo album, Rainin’ In My Heart also contained I’m A King Bee, covered by The Rolling Stones.

Keening harmonica from Neil Young dominates with cooing chorus. It’s done in Fats Domino style.

Payola Blues

It was a B-side to Wonderin’ and given the content would have been a dubious side to promote heavily to radio stations.

Neil was predicting what would happen to the album:

Listen to me Mr. D.J., hear what I’ve got to say
If a man is making music, they ought to let his record play.

and

No matter where I go
I never hear my record on the radio.

and

I got a brand new record company, new manager too.
Got a great new record, I can’t get through to you.

All true. There are all sorts of connections between tracks. The song cites Alan Freed, once known as Moondog (see Moondog Matinee by The Band with Mystery Train which is also on this album). Then Alan Freed’s first wife was called Betty Lou, though did she have a new pair of shoes? Maybe Neil Young was free associating.

Wonderin’

The song dates back to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Woodstock Festival set as I’m Wonderin’. It’s on the Woodstock Definitive Collection … on CD 33 (out of 38 CDs). It’s a nice acoustic version with the added voices chiming in behind him. It’s my favourite version of the four I’ve heard, with a delightfully loose feel. It’s surprising that it was never considered for a CSNY studio version … it’s not an outtake on the De Luxe edition of Deja Vu. Neil Young & Crazy Horse featured it on their early tour.

It could have appeared solo during the After The Goldrush era , or on Harvest, but didn’t. It appears on the 50th Anniversary CD of After The Goldrush in 2020 in two versions. In the vinyl box set from 2021, they’re on both sides of a 45. They’re both from the original sessions, one from March 1970 (which appeared on Archive Vol 1) and another from August 1969 .

50th Anniversary vinyl edition, March 2021 with 45 of Wonderin’

The single release, Wonderin’ produced Neil Young’s first music video, directed by Tim Pope. MTV was in its infancy but is credited with assisting the massive success of both the Asia album with the Heat of The Moment video and Michael Jackson’s Thriller the year before.

Wonderin’ video: screen shot. Neil Young with “The Redways” as the backing singers were called on tour

Kinda Fonda Wanda

A riotous roll-call of love interest from various jukebox classics. Bridged by skinny sax and a pumping piano solo, Young gleefully sings of knocking about with Mary Lou, Barbara Ann, Long Tall Sally and the rest, even bragging of screwing Runaround Sue. Though nothing tops Wanda, cause she always ;wanna, wanna, wanna.’ The smartest thing about it truth be told, is the title. You suspect Young knows this too, but he’s enjoying himself too much to give a damn.
Rob Hughes, Everybody’s Rockin’ in Uncut’s Ultimate Music Guide: Neil Young, Updated Edition 2021

Add Donna (the Prima Donna?), Jenny (Take A Ride?), Skinny Minnie, Short Fat Fanny, Miss Ann, Mary Anne, Betty Lou (from track one). I was sorry Miss Anne wasn’t Miss Annie (or Miss Fanny) from The Weight.

I’d place with along with Wonderin’ as the favoured tracks. Nice lyric. It’s funny (though not as funny as Ian Dury’s Plaistow Patricia.)

SIDE TWO

Jellroll Man

An original in the backing and chorus style of an Elvis movie song of the more forgettable type except they never had sexy words. The interest is the raunchy lyric sung with such a light voice against a standard 50s backing.

Bright lights Big City

Jimmy Reed with a 12 bar blues from 1961. It had been a US #58 popular hit, though #3 R&B. Then Sonny James got a country #1 with his cover in 1971.

In the early 60s, Jimmy Reed was a favourite blues singer to cover for UK bands especially Big Boss Man, Honest I Do, and Bright Lights Big City . It’s most familiar to me from The Animals’ version, on Animal Tracks in 1965 (which gets very messy in the middle). Neil Young’s voice is pleasant. There’s a harmonica solo and the backing chorus. Good club white version R&B with a nice feel to it. Jimmy Reed or Eric Burdon for the vocal though!

Cry Cry Cry

Single in the US and Canada only. Promos were mono for AM radio one side, stereo for FM radio the other. Sell-through copies had Payola Blues on the B-side. Strong intro guitar and precise short and crisp guitar solo, and doo-wop backing. A fun cliché drum break.

Old Man River keeps on rollin’, rolling down the line

Cry, Cry, Cry: US 45 release, Geffen 1983

Mystery Train

A bold choice. Junior Parker (1953), Elvis Presley (1955), The Band on Moondog Matinee, (1973) plus Neil Young participated in The Last Waltz where The Band had performed it live with Paul Butterfield. One of the Neil Young biographies considers him the best version. No way, it’s easily the slightest of the four mentioned here, and having the chorus of singers didn’t work. He’s placing his voice against our memory of Elvis Presley or Levon Helm singing it. There is no contest.

They get the rhythm going nicely, echoing the Sun sound as far as they can. Well-played. I quite like the old-style chorus. A bit of Elvis stutter. Splashing around on the drums. You’d love it live. But absolutely nothing to add to the song.

Everybody’s Rockin’

An original. The pastiche here sounds like Bill Haley & The Comets.

He’s back with the Reagans, a connection which had caused him enough trouble, surely:

When Ronnie and Nancy do the bop on the lawn
They’re rockin’ in the White House all night long …

The tour

To finish it off, Neil went on tour in the persona of Neil & The Shocking Pinks, got into it and had a lot of fun. The tour included wives as The Pinkettes (with Inez Drummond and Pegi Young) who got a dressing room and two bottles of (pink) champagne per show. It became more elaborate, adding trumpet and baritone sax, everyone dressed up for their parts (significantly 1957 was projected at the start) and it was theatrical, ending with film of them boarding a pink Cadillac.

The act seems like Big Daddy or Run C&W, but the two tracks released on Lucky Thirteen definitely don’t have the lightness of touch or feel of authentic late 50s rock.

Overall

It’s by no means Neil Young’s worst album … that’s Arc, a twenty minute collage of distorted noise, but that’s so incredibly dreadful that you can only regard it with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.

I’d compare it with The Mothers of Invention as Ruben and The Jets or Chris Rea’s album and tour as The Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes (which I saw and it was great fun).

It is samey and very short. None of the covers eclipse the originals. There are certainly better other covers of these songs too. None of them find a new angle.

It is a weak album. I have some sympathy with David Geffen on this one. I bought the vinyl new, and played it in disbelief, particularly the ultra short side two.

** is about right.

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