The Lefsetz Letter

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Greendale
By Bob Lefsetz

I'm on a MISSION to get everybody over the age of FIFTY to buy "Greendale".

Because this dude. This SINGULAR DIFFICULT DUDE. HAS STILL GOT IT!

Nobody's got it anymore. Rod Stewart sold out. Jimmy and Robert haven't done anything great in eons, together or apart. Everything we believed in...is dead. Exists on record only. The cherry on top has been lifted for use on classic rock radio. Otherwise, the sixties and seventies...are history.

I didn't tell anybody I was going to buy "After The Gold Rush" my first week of college. Nobody knew who Neil Young was. Middlebury was not a hip place.

I walked back from the Vermont Book Shop with that orange bag under my arm. I got up to Hepburn Hall, removed the shrinkwrap, and gently placed the vinyl disc on the Garrard turntable.

It was just me and Neil. On the third floor of a brick building in the middle of Vermont. He may have been living in California, but we were in the same place.

In time, not a long time, in fact, the rest of the dorm caught on. Neil came out of everybody's open door.

But those Johnny-come-latelies. They've given up. Rock and roll was a thing they did in the past. Their lives are now about promotions, leasing luxury cars, going to their kids' soccer games.

And the players changed too. It's about how you LOOK! The musicians of old wear designer duds, and get facelifts.

But not Neil Young.

Neil Young's on a journey. A never-ending drama. A thirty five year "Sopranos".

I realized this when I saw his guitar.

When I got home today, there was a "Greendale" package on the front stoop. I immediately ripped open the envelope and placed the DVD in my Mac's drive.

I went through the menus. I wanted to see Neil play "Double E".

There's Neil. He looks his age. Late fifties. His hairline has receded. There's more gray than black.

But he's still got the sideburns. And his OUTFIT! It's like it's still 1972! It's like the eighties and nineties didn't affect him. It's like he's wearing the same clothes he wears at home, when he goes to the hardware store. The same kind he wore back when he was a youth, when he still believed.

But what really struck me was his guitar.

If you were ever a player. And I bet you were. If you bought an acoustic guitar, what you wanted was...a Martin.

Oh, the fiberglass-backed Ovation took hold in the seventies. And now some people play Taylors. But, the blue chip back then was...Martin.

If you had enough dough, you bought a D-28.

Oh, there were two better models, the D-35 and D-45, but they were really more about ornamentation. Then again, they had three=pieced backs, but really, the D-28 was enough. If you could afford it. It was more expensive than the comparable models from ALL other brands.

If you could afford one...you treated it like a newborn. FOREVER! You cased it, shined it, TOOK CARE OF IT!

But this D-28 that Neil's playing...it's as old and weathered as he is.

Oh, not mistreated, just EXPERIENCED! The finish is worn off where it's been picked. It doesn't shine. But, oh does it SING!

Now this DVD is like a show. Neil gives long introductions. Tells the STORY.

And, honestly, it's slightly intolerable. He goes on for too long. You want to punch up to the tunes. Which I haven't found a way to do, other than to fast-forward.

But when Neil starts to PLAY!

Fuck, it's like it's the seventies all over again. He's moving his head, his legs, he's INTO IT! It's like he's POSSESSED! And you're RIVETED!

Now, honestly, not every track on "Greendale" is a killer.

But "Double E", "Leave The Driving" and "Carmichael" are vintage, better than that stuff on "Rust Never Sleeps", in the same pantheon holding the late sixties/early seventies stuff.

HOW CAN IT BE that this album isn't flying off the shelves??

Somehow, the audience hasn't been reached.

Jaded reviewers wrote only that the live show didn't deliver what the audience wanted. Record reviewers might have frothed, but if the target audience read them at all, they didn't know THIS was special, that this wasn't "Godfather III", but "Godfather I & II" REVISITED!

And on the inside? What have we heard?

Neil's got too rich a deal. He's been dropped.

Neil DID have too rich a deal. But to part with a Neil Young is like...trading a sports star who suddenly hits .300 after batting .200 for years.

Now maybe it's just a rumor. Maybe WB will re-up Neil.

Not that that really matters. It's really about...the music. And Neil doesn't need WB's money in order to make music.

Do yourself a favor, buy "Greendale". Even the PACKAGE isn't like other CDs.

There's that weathered paper of "Harvest" instead of the slick paper of the flashes in the pan. There are a ZILLION pages, as many as it takes to tell the story.

And there IS a story. Page by page. Of each track. In a typeface LARGE enough for the target demo to read without their glasses.

Play this record. Show yourself that you're not dead.

Then play it for your friends.

This is the only way "Greendale"'s gonna make it. Because radio ain't playing it. And the media has moved on, like they do today if you don't gain instant traction.

But instant traction isn't an accurate indicator that something is good. But short-sighted major labels have adjusted their business to the game. Not realizing this is death. Not realizing the game doesn't care about them. Not realizing that the only way out of this mess is to make real, vibrant music.

Neil Young has scored.

 


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

 






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