On June 22, 1979, "Rust Never Sleeps", one of Neil Young's biggest and most influential albums, was released. Neil is accompanied here by his backup band "Crazy Horse".
It's an album that defined the sound of rock music and the guitar sound of future generations, an album that was responsible for quite a bit of how alternative and grunge bands will sound in the 1990s, an album that earned Neil Young the title "Godfather of the Grunge".
So true, the roots of the rough sound and the dirty distortion sounds are not new for Young. They were planted 10 years earlier, in the album "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" released by Neil Young in 1969. At the same time, what was small touches a decade earlier, has already become Young's trademark here, which aims to educate the younger generation And show them what a powerful, rooted, and real "rock" is.
It should be remembered that in those years Neil Young's career was not at its peak. Albums like "American Stars' N Bars" (1977) and "Comes a Time" (1978) did not succeed. It was a time when the disco was at high, rock was fading and punk was raising its head. Those same punk bands disliked everything artists such as Neil Young and his friends represented, and were not afraid to express their opinions in public, even in the songs they wrote. For example, in the "Clash" song "1977" the lyrics include the phrase: "No Elvis, Beatles, or The Rolling Stones" - a blatant and direct statement that expresses the mindset of the punk generation who believe that dinosaurs on which rock music is based on are no longer relevant and even extinct. That statement even intensified after Elvis Presley, one of Neil Young's idols, passed away that same year. This was enough for Young who decided to teach the younger generation a lesson while reminding the older generation, who may have forgotten, how to make rock.
Although the album includes new songs, it is not considered a studio album in Young's catalog, but rather a live album. A particularly strange statement because the production did everything possible to erase any signs of live performance. Audience voices were almost completely erased, production tricks were performed on the recordings, fade-in and out manipulations were performed on the songs, and space was inserted between the tracks, to give the audience the feeling that this is a studio album for.
Interesting that two of the album's songs were not recorded at all during the shows that make the album. The song "Pocahontas" was recorded in the mid-seventies as part of the sessions for the planned unreleased album "Chrome Dreams" and the song "Sail Away" is an outtake from the previous album "Comes a Time".
The first half of the album is acoustic, while the second half is electric and rough. Just like the tour that preceded the release of the album and was named after the it - "Rust Never Sleeps".
The idea for the album and the tour came from Mark Mothersbaugh, singer of the electro-punk band "Devo". In 1977 Young invited the band members to participate in the comedy film "Human Highway", which he directed. As they go through the recorded material for the project, Young encounters the phrase "Rust Never Sleeps" which Mark Mothersbaugh and the band used. He called them to find out what the sentence meant and they noted that it came from a slogan of a product called Rust-Oleum. This was enough for Young, the sentence stuck in his head and became the name of one of the most remembered and talked about tours in the history of rock 'n' roll and later it was also the name of the album. Young saw the sentence as describing the rust that had caught in his faltering career.
The album opens with a streak of three songs recorded at the Boarding House in San Francisco.
The opening track "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" is simply an acoustic atom bomb. The guitar line played on the bass strings of the acoustic guitar is so simple yet so ingenious! The credit for writing the song along with Young goes to Jeff Blackburn from "The Ducks" - the band formed by Neil Young in 1977 and whose song was written during his friendship in which the song addresses exactly the feelings that accompanied Young before the album was recorded - dealing with his and his friends' declining popularity, passing fame and relevance. The falls in the age of punk and disco.
The lyrics include an explicit reference to Elvis Presley and the Sex Pistols in the sentence: "The king is gone but he's not forgotten / This is the story of a Johnny Rotten". This song also features one of rock's most iconic lines ever written: "it's better to burn out than to fade away" - a sentence that signed Kurt Cobain's suicide note from 1994, set Neil Young's title as the grunge godfather in concrete, and sent Him writing an entire album in Cobain's memory - "Sleeps With Angels".
This is the quiet version of the electric, the dirty, and rough track "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" that seals the album. The initial performance of this electric version can be found in Young's 12 - minute duet with the Devo band appearing in the movie "Human Highway".
"Thrasher" mimics the conceptual line of the first song and also talks about the decline and death of rock 'n' roll. The "dinosaurs" mentioned in the song, according to Young, are Crosby, Stills & Nash who "died" and were forgotten. The song also opens with Young's harmonica exhale reminding us of the opening with the same harmonica sound in the song "Southbound Train" from Crosby & Nash's excellent debut album. A classic folk song that is more focused on recitation and lyrics than on a melody very similar to Bob Dylan.
"Ride My Llama" is a short melodic and delicate piece. A ballad that takes us back in time to the "Zuma" days of the mid-1970s.
"Pocahontas" reflects Young's preoccupation with Native American culture in America while combining a time travel to the present and an encounter with characters like Marlon Brando. This is a dark fuller song recorded on August 11, 1976, in what was supposed to be the album "Chrome Dreams". The recording of the original version was released only in 2017 as part of the album "Hitchhiker".
"Sail Away" ends the acoustic side of the album with a section on the country border which was written and recorded as part of the sessions for Young's previous album - "Comes a Time". The song features Nicolette Larson's wonderfully harmonious and delicate background sounds and it could no doubt have fit perfectly as an excerpt from CSNY's album.
We are flipping the vinyl's side, and the music and sound just change from end to end. The acoustic becomes electric, clean and clear becomes noisy and dirty, and we are introduced to "Powderfinger" Which tells the story of a young man trying to protect his family from rioters (apparently during the American Civil War). He realizes that all the older men are unavailable, leaving him to "do the work." After some hesitation, he decides to act, but is eventually killed. The song combines immature riffs with the harmonious background vocals of the Crazy Horse members, and how beautiful the combination of Frank Sampedro and Neil Young is in the harmonic solos. Young initially offered the song to "Lynyrd Skynyrd", but they were not interested. This song was also first recorded in August 1976 and was probably intended to be part of the album "Zuma".
The riffs in the song "Welfare Mothers" sound like they were influenced by hard rock, while the song "Sedan Delivery" corresponds with punk a bit. This song was also written and recorded for the first time during the recordings of the album "Zuma" and it was also originally intended for "Lynyrd Skynyrd", but this time Lynyrd preferred not to take the song.
The album "Rust Never Sleeps" was acclaimed and also commercially successful. It entered "Rolling Stone" Magazines of the top 500 Albums of All Time and even Colin Larkin's Top 100 Albums List. Needless to say, the album won a maximum rating of 5 stars in almost every possible music magazine.
Later in 1979 Neil Young and the Crazy Horse will release the complementary live album "Live Rust" and at the same time a live video of the album under the same title, which perhaps proves that the current album was supposed to be a studio album, otherwise why the duplication on another live album immediately afterward. Along the way, with the start of the next decade, Young will continue to experiment and take new and extreme musical twists, which will include a techno album, an electronic album, and a rockabilly album. About this in the following reviews ...