Top critical review
5 of 5 people found this helpful
Marred by lack of organisation and editing
on 13 June 2014
I am a huge Neil Young fan and I enjoyed large parts of this book. I can see why its rambling nature might have a certain charm for some readers. It does create a feeling of intimacy and, unlike so many other books of this kind, one does not suspect that a ghost writer hovered over the author's shoulder. However, it delivers much less than it promises and there is a price to pay for its fragmented structure. In fact, I am not sure it is reasonable to talk of a 'structure' at all. It reads as though someone put the pages in a bag and shook them all up. While this saves us from the possible dullness of a straightforward chronology, it produces a lot of irritating repetition and baffling leaps backwards and forwards. For example, Neil recounts a number of uncomfortable encounters on the road with the police, all the more unsettling because for a long time he was an illegal alien when he first started touring the U.S. About halfway through the book he says what a relief it was when he was finally granted residency. Then, on page 424, close to the end we get 'I had my own car, but no license because I was still an illegal alien and had no Social Security card. Driving my car was nerve-racking for that reason.' Yes, we know, because you told us several times in the first three hundred pages! The last we heard you were a bona fide U.S. citizen! There is so much hopping around in time, without any real justification, that it is sometimes more like surfing the web to learn about Neil Young than reading a coherent autobiography. It's very hard to get a sense of his growing reputation and success when you are moving from the 1980s to the 1960s and back again in half a dozen pages.
I did not completely regret buying and reading, however - there is some gold. I would imagine people read this because they love the music and as such the details of recording sessions and making of albums will be the prime interest. There is a wonderful account of how he put down the track 'Will to Love' at the end of the book. For me, there was not enough of this direct discussion of the music. There is an awful lot about Neil's classic car collection, the buying and restoration of various American models. I haven't counted the pages, but it felt as though there was more about cars than there was about music. In any case, if you're not into American classic cars, large parts of the book may well bore you. Similarly, I couldn't get worked up about the chapters (yes, plural) concerning Neil's expensive train set. The overt tributes to people who have helped him or worked with him - 'so thank-you X' every few pages - are also a little cloying and could have been left to the dedications page.
Obviously, Neil Young is interested in a great deal more than music and I did emerge from the 500 pages feeling I knew more about him. However, if I had been publishing this book I would have been 'Waging Heavy Edit' and turning it into something much tighter, shorter and more sensibly organised.