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"Innaresting" Life & Times of the Great Rock Eccentric
on 18 June 2002
There has been no shortage of books on Neil Young in recent years, some of which have been very good, some of which have been lazy cut and paste jobs. What makes this one different is that, for the first time, a biographer has had some measure of co-operation from Young himself - not that he made it easy.
There is also a good deal of candid comment by members of Crazy Horse, manager Elliot Roberts and several others past and present from Young's circle, which I would guess will tell you as much as Young & Co will give away as long as Neil is with us (long may he run).
In many ways this is an extraordinary book. A study about an unusual person, the music world (or at least that part of the music world that Young has inhabited) and a host of extraordinary (or "innaresting") characters and casualties along the way.
At this point I should confess to be being a Neil fan - in as much as I've got all of his official recordings (yes, even the terrible ones) and, ahem, 1 or 2 unofficial ones - without, I hope, quite becoming the sort of obsessive no-life that posts inanities to some of the many Young-related web-sites. So even allowing for some potential bias, I feel, ultimately, Young emerges from this book with a good deal of credit, even though his extremely driven nature must sometimes test the patience of those who are nearest and dearest to him. Not everyone gets let off lightly and the book does provide some considerable insight into the unpleasant side of some musos, their management and their hangers-on.
There is, as one would expect from a study of someone with such an idiosyncratic sense of humour, some alarming, hilarious and tragic anecdotes too - real beyond Spinal Tap stuff.
There is the occasional factual stumble (such as mistaking BBC2 early 70s "In Concert" series for "The Old Grey Whistle Test") but that hardly distracts from the overall quality this biography -which is often presented in an unusally frank style. Like other Young fans who read this, I thought of questions about the music I would have like to have asked if I had been McDonough's position - and I think I have as much info as I really want, or have a right, to know about Neil's family - but that's probably inevitable for an artist that has released (and not released!) so much.
In short, a must-have for Neil fans, even those who are very familiar with key events in Young's musical odyssey. There is a lot of added value here. A major book on a major artist.