Friday, February 1, 2008

The Losing End (When You're On), Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1969)

Most people associate Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (one of the best titles ever) with the title song and with Cinnamon Girl, Down By the River and Cowgirl in the Sand. In terms of sheer tonnage, that's understandable. And I will go on record as saying I love the whole album - if I had to pick just a handful of LPs that automatically remind me of that time of my life when I was transitioning from wide-eyed high schooler to college malcontent, this would unquestionably be one of them.

In Young's maiden collaboration with Crazy Horse - members of a band known as the Rockets whom he met while making his first LP - he and Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina created a musical gem of blazing musicality that still gives me thrills and chills.

But from the standpoint of a song that gets in there and gets the job done in about 4 minutes, it doesn't get much better than The Losing End. Today, I love this song about how pathetic unrequited love can make you feel as much, if not more, than I did then. It packs such a punch! "It's so hard for me now / But I'll make it somehow / Though I know I'll never be the same / Won't you ever change your ways? / It's so hard to make love pay / When you're on the losing end / And I feel that way again ... " The combination of mournful country-style lyrics and blistering guitar licks - and let's face it, Young's singular vocals - can't be improved upon.

To my mind, the symbiotic relationship between Young and Crazy Horse has produced some of his greatest work. He'd been sitting in with them from time to time after leaving Buffalo Springfield, and once they got together, they recorded the whole album in two weeks. It does have the feel of a jam session.

Although Danny Whitten died in 1972 of a heroin overdose (the heartbreaking Needle and the Damage Done was, in part, inspired by him), decades later Talbot and Molina were still in the picture, touring with him as recently as 2001; Ralph Molina plays drums on last year's Chrome Dreams II and will tour with him in 2008. When the long-awaited Archives project comes out - only on DVD and Blu-ray - I fervently hope we'll see some footage of these guys giving it their all.


Chris Thompson said...

Can it be better than the Heart of Gold DVD? The finest music DVD ever. If there was a way to make it loop on my TV 24-7, I would.

cornbread hell said...

wendy your reviews just keep on getting better.
i agree with you about young and crazy horse being such a good fit.

i recently ran across an interesting interview of young in a magazine called *uncut.* i think you might enjoy reading it and especially a related critique of the author's favorite neil young covers in the same magazine.