Neil Young Was Always a Hack
What Was He Even Protesting in the First Place?
I thought he really had something crazy, something great. He was like a living poet.
-Neil Young on Charles Manson
One of the great revelations that comes from reading Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon by Dave McGowan is that Buffalo Springfield’s most famous anthem, far from concerning anti war demonstrations, really lamented a curfew imposed on the spoiled teenage club brats who haunted the Sunset Strip. Neil Young’s image as an anti establishment folk hero is simply unearned. He has always been a shill for military and corporate power and for this reason his stance against COVID skepticism should come as no surprise. He and all the other musical talent that accrued in Los Angeles in the late sixties should be viewed with due suspicion.
Neil Young said it best when he told an interviewer that he couldn’t really say why he headed out to LA circa 1966; he and others “were just going like Lemmings.”
-Dave McGowan, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon
Why indeed did all the hippie prodigies run to Hollywood to mount their resistance against the man? Was Jim Morrison lashing out against his daddy, who commanded the U.S. fleet in the false flag Gulf of Tonkin incident that had justified more involvement in Vietnam? And what about Young? According to legend, Neil Young felt a disturbance in the force and left the Toronto music scene to search out Stephen Stills in Los Angeles, where he arrived on April 1, 1966. McGowan says that Young, unable to locate Stills, was about to continue his manhunt in San Francisco, when Stills serendipitously spotted Young in a traffic jam, in the hearse he had driven down from Detroit. Such is the magic of rock ‘n’ roll history.
None of that, however, explains the meteoric rise of Buffalo Springfield. On April 11, 1966, just five days after the quartet had purportedly first met and just two days after they had added a drummer and acquired instruments, the band played its first club date at one of Hollywood’s most prestigious venues, the Troubadour. Four days later, on April 15, they played the first of six dates around the southland opening for the Byrds, the hottest band on the Strip. That mini-tour was followed almost immediately by a six week stand at the hottest club in town, the Whisky-a-Go-Go.
A month later, on July 25, the band landed the opening spot on the most anticipated concert of the year—The Rolling Stones show at the Hollywood Bowl.
-Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon
Now, does providence have a raging hard on for Neil Young, or was his way prepared in advance? McGowan makes a strong argument that Hollywood is just a subsidiary of the military industrial complex, and that the popular music scene is just a subsidiary of Hollywood. According to McGowan, pop culture since the assassination of John F. Kennedy has been one massive exercise in controlled opposition.
Columbia Records, the corporate entity that signed the Byrds, was also born in the nation’s capitol. The name is derived from the District of Columbia, where the label was founded and first headquartered some 125 years ago. It would appear then that the two record labels that signed and launched Laurel Canyon’s first two folk-rock bands were not only major record labels but also happened to be corporate entities that had deep ties to the nation’s center of power. With Laurel Canyon’s other bands as well, it was the major record labels, not upstart independents, that signed the new artists. It was the major labels that provided them with instruments and amplifiers. It was the major labels that provided them with studio time and session musicians. It was the major labels that recorded, mixed, and arranged their albums. And it was the major labels that released and then heavily promoted those albums.
-Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon
Which explains why “For What it’s Worth” was a song about club closure and not, you know, the draft. Neil Young is a sellout and you should not expect anything other than an advertisement to fall out of his mouth.
Remember when Neil Young attempted to reinvent industrial design with his proprietary “Pono” music player? Profit is obviously very near to his heart.