Shakey Book Review


Jimmy McDonough

Shakey book review, Neil Young's biography

Maybe more than any artist, over our near two year span, we have heaped piles upon piles of praise on Neil Young, landing on ten of our top ten lists, including the top spot for best fall albums (Harvest), best memorial song (“Needle and the Damage Done”), and even best solo career. We even dedicated a week to top ten Neil Young albums. So it’s probably no surprise, I spent the last four months reading the goliath biography Shakey, one of the most in-depth and thorough biographies I have ever taken on.

Jimmy McDonough, the book’s biographer, has a definite dog in the fight with Shakey: he is a long-time fan of Neil and doesn’t believe any other artist can reach the highs Neil Young can reach. But fortunately for the book, he also knows Young has created the lowest of lows, giving this book a very clear and balanced voice. Shakey was named after Young’s nickname among his closest peers, and McDonough writes as if he has been let in the inner circle, which with Neil, isn’t easy to do.

Shakey starts down the Young family tree and works its way all the way through to Young’s music in the late 90’s. McDonough points to his mother Rassy particularly as the reason for many of Young’s harsh and independent ways. The book points to this independent spirit and need to keep moving forward and changing as Young’s greatest asset and weakness: it’s the reason Young has never made a concession with his creative direction but also the reason he has left so many friends face down and bloodied in his path. Even with all the times he has turned his back on his closest friends, whether it the members of Crazy Horse, his manager Elliott Roberts, or producer David Briggs, he still works and keeps his closest friends near him on Broken Arrow Ranch in Santa Cruz.

I especially loved McDonough’s depiction of all the drama with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, from Young’s strange rivalry with Stephen Stills to his dismay with the prima donna ways of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Also, learning in depth about the weirdness of the Tonight’s the Night sessions and the real family reason behind Young’s 80’s career slump really speaks volumes about the human behind that brute façade.

What really separates Shakey is McDonough’s ongoing interview with Young that goes through the entire book, sort of like reading a book with DVD commentary from the protagonist. Young’s comments are honest, heartfelt, and often blunt, but that’s who Young is, and why we at LxL love him so much.

Top Ten Thursday: Super Supergroups

supergroup, super group, picture

In honor of the Divine Fits album dropping next week we decided to craft a list of the top 10 supergroups to form throughout the years.  What makes a supergroup is a little hard to define, so we decided to create just a few quick guidelines when discussing various groups eligibility for the list.  First, the group must consist of 3+ members, and those members must have had a previous notable project prior to the formation of the group.  This eliminates The Throne (Jay-Z and Kanye) and other notable duo collaborations.  In addition, the supergroup must have released a studio album, and not just performed together live and/or released solely live recordings.  We also eliminated outfits that might be termed more of a “collective” with a lot of rotating members (i.e. Broken Social Scene, New Pornographers), which made it ambiguous to determine the mindset of actually forming a cohesive group.  That is pretty much it.

With those guidelines, the stable of supergroups was a little thinner than we thought going into making this list.  Not many of the groups have even released more than one successful album.  Supergroups often burn hot but also burn very quickly.  Another issue we noticed is that when bringing together several ultra-influential members from disparate groups it appears difficult to gain a cohesive focus on the project at hand.  Often, the members seem either too overbearing when all combined, or sometimes too passive.  Either way, all the groups below have had some measure of success when combining their collective powers.  Enjoy, and as always let us know what we overlooked, missed, or overstepped our bounds.
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