Monday, April 12, 2010

Neil Young "The Needle And The Damage Done"

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Guest Blogger (and Dad) Bill Eville, former mvyradio employee, freelancer writer and Vineyard resident fills in.

PJ asked me to be his guest blogger this week as he becomes a father twice-over. Years ago, PJ and I worked together at the station. At the time we were both leading a carefree, childless existence. We could talk all day about music and go see a show on a moment’s notice. PJ still gets to see live acts. It is his job, after all. I must make do with a different kind of interaction with the musicians I enjoy. I rent concert videos and watch them with my five-year old son, Hardy.

Those long ago shows of old, The Kinks at Madison Square Garden when I was just thirteen and much too full of Jack Daniels to remember much, following the Dead up and down the east coast, and catching Springsteen all over New Jersey, even at the Stone Pony, when he surprised us all by jumping onstage, out of nowhere, to sit in with Warren Zevon, were filled with beautiful moments. I must admit, though, to feeling an even deeper connection to the music and it’s relevance while tucked away with my boy in our basement; our own man and man-cub’s cave.

Last night Hardy and I rented "Heart Of Gold," the 2005 Neil Young concert video directed by Jonathan Demme. We were playing Lego’s at the time and at first I wasn’t sure how Hardy felt about Neil. But he was very quiet, not going on about how The Battle of Endor space station was way cooler than the Death Star. I took this as a good sign.

At the end of the concert, there is a clip from Neil’s younger days, when he appeared on the Johnny Cash show. Neil is much thinner and shaggier. While singing "The Needle and the Damage Done" he gazes intensely into the camera. After the song finished, Hardy looked down and studied his toy Chewbacca for a long time. “That was cool,” he finally said. “That song. But what was he talking about? That needle thing?”

I paused before answering. Difficult subjects with my son are new terrain for me. I realize these will only get more complex as he grows older so I try to set the right tone now.

“Well,” I began. “You know how Daddy enjoys a glass of beer or wine at dinner. Well, sometimes people can’t just stop at one. They keep drinking and it gets bad for them. The needle thing Neil is singing about is like that, only worse.”

Hardy nodded and went back to playing, apparently satisfied with my answer. As I looked on, though, I understood that in the future I would need to revisit this conversation and tell him about the days when Daddy couldn’t stop at just one. Hopefully, this conversation is still many years away.

The Live At Masssey Hall version:


  1. I could not stop at just one. I discovered how true that was around May 25, 1987 and haven't had ONE since. And I work at it every day.

  2. There is something majical about a lot of Neil's songs. Some of his songs are raw in a brilliant way...a bit like the beatles, but without all the bells and whistles.

    Malcolm P. MacPherson