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A Hippie Dream

by Neil Young

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15946-6
Publisher: Blue Rider Press

The long-awaited memoir from the legendary rocker.

Readers will learn few of the secrets of Young’s art of songwriting, save that “Ohio” came in a flash in response to the bad news from Kent State, and he didn’t play a note on “Teach Your Children.” Neither, apart from a visit to the clinic here and there, will they learn much about musicians’ hedonistic ways. Instead, Young writes of electric trains. He loves them so much that he bought a stake in Lionel, and he has barns and rooms on his rambling California ranch full of them. “I saw David [Crosby] looking at one of my train rooms full of rolling stock and stealing a glance at Graham [Nash] that said, This guy is cuckoo. He’s gone nuts. Look at this obsession. I shrugged it off. I need it. For me it is a road back,” he writes. Trains return often in the narrative, as do dusty roads, old cars and tractors. But Young, author of "Trans" and other weird outings that once got him sued by his own record label for delivering music “uncharacteristic of Neil Young,” is also a technogeek extraordinaire, particularly when it comes to sound; he often mentions the digital format that he’s been tinkering with in his mad-scientist lab. He asserts that because it preserves so little—5 percent, by his reckoning—of the actual sound of a recording, “[i]t is not offensive to me that the MP3-quality sound is traded around.” Along the way, Young discusses guitars and bands, revealing a now-improbable wish to reconvene Buffalo Springfield, which never lived up to its promise, and Crazy Horse. Sometimes he’s even a little jokey about music in general (on America’s song “A Horse with No Name”: “Hey, wait a minute! Was that me? Okay. Fine. I am back now. That was close!”).

Not the revelation that was Keith Richards’ Life, but an entertaining and mostly well-written journey into the past, if light on rock ’n’ roll.