Archive | June, 2018

Certain Songs #1242: Neil Young – “Wonderin'”

Album: The Archives Vol. 1 – 1963–1972
Year: 1970

Recorded at Neil’s home in Topanga, March 15, 1970

“Wonderin'” has had one of the weirder lives of any of Neil Young’s songs. It was kicking around at lot in early 1970: not only was it one of the songs Neil recorded for After The Gold Rush, he thought enough of it to play it live with Crazy Horse during their concurrent shows at the Fillmore East — an honor not given to any of the other songs recorded for After The Goldrush — but it was over a decade before any recording of it surfaced on any album.

That would be, of course, 1983, when “Wonderin'” was by so far the best song on the otherwise execrable Everybody’s Rockin’, Neil’s outflanking of Geffen Records’ demand that he give them a “rock ‘n’ roll” album after the left turn of Trans.

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Certain Songs #1241: Neil Young – “Cripple Creek Ferry”

Album: After The Gold Rush
Year: 1970

Recorded in Neil’s home studio in Topanga, on March 17, 1970.

The last song on After The Gold Rush is an admittedly minor song, especially when compared to the title track (which I’ll write about when we get to Live Rust, I promise), or even songs like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance, I Can Really Love,” the two singles from the album.

And at 1:34, it’s one of the shortest songs in his entire canon, and one of the shortest songs I’m writing about by anybody, and really is more of a fragment than anything, almost a goof.

And yet, I totally love the melody line, free and easy, with Neil and Nils and Billy and Danny singing together for the last time on any record, a bit of lightness after the mostly dark After The Gold Rush.

Hey, hey
Cripple Creek ferry
Butting through
The overhanging trees
Make way
For the Cripple Creek ferry
The waters going down
It’s a mighty tight

Squeeze

My favorite part is the pause before “squeeze,” just enough of a vocal arrangement to make “Cripple Creek Ferry” slightly less than totally tossed off: someone somewhere — I’ll vote Neil, because of course — had to come up with that pause, and make sure everybody else followed suit, turning “Cripple Creek Ferry” into enough of a song to close one of his most epochal albums.

“Cripple Creek Ferry”

Every Certain Song Ever
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Certain Songs #1241: Neil Young – “Cripple Creek Ferry”

Album: After The Gold Rush
Year: 1970

Recorded in Neil’s home studio in Topanga, on March 17, 1970.

The last song on After The Gold Rush is an admittedly minor song, especially when compared to the title track (which I’ll write about when we get to Live Rust, I promise), or even songs like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance, I Can Really Love,” the two singles from the album.

And at 1:34, it’s one of the shortest songs in his entire canon, and one of the shortest songs I’m writing about by anybody, and really is more of a fragment than anything, almost a goof.

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Certain Songs #1240: Neil Young – “Don’t Let it Bring You Down”

Album: After The Gold Rush
Year: 1970

Recorded in Neil’s home studio in Topanga, on March 17, 1970.

Taking advantage of his ability to sound almost hard rock — and most certainly doomy — without any electric instruments, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” gets a big sound out of stripped-down instrumentation: Ralph Molina on drums, Greg Reeves on bass, Nils Lofgren on piano & Neil on acoustic guitar.

With Molina leading the way playing what I’ll call the “Neil Young beat” — kick-kick-SNARE-space, kick-kick-SNARE-space — the rhythm that artists appropriate when they want to show that he’s been an influence, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” is close-miked to the point of claustrophobia.

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Certain Songs #1240: Neil Young – “Don’t Let it Bring You Down”

Album: After The Gold Rush
Year: 1970

Recorded in Neil’s home studio in Topanga, on March 17, 1970.

Taking advantage of his ability to sound almost hard rock — and most certainly doomy — without any electric instruments, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” gets a big sound out of stripped-down instrumentation: Ralph Molina on drums, Greg Reeves on bass, Nils Lofgren on piano & Neil on acoustic guitar.

With Molina leading the way playing what I’ll call the “Neil Young beat” — kick-kick-SNARE-space, kick-kick-SNARE-space — the rhythm that artists appropriate when they want to show that he’s been an influence, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” is close-miked to the point of claustrophobia.

Old man lying by the side of the road
With the lorries rolling by
Blue moon sinking from the weight of the load
And the buildings scrape the sky

Cold wind ripping down the alley at dawn
And the morning paper flies
Dead man lying by the side of the road
With the daylight in his eyes

This, of course, was the scenario that Neil didn’t want to bring you down. And in the next verse, he sings of a blind man who ends up in the back of an ambulance, so it isn’t exactly any more uplifiting.

Near the end of the song, they switch it up; the whole song comes nearly to a complete halt, as Neil sings the chorus:

Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Find someone who’s turning
And you will come around

“Only” castles burning. That’s all. Nothing to see here. I mean beyond the full destruction of symbols of strength. Other than that, it’s all good.

Which of course was why Neil asking you to not to let it bring you down was almost a guarantee that it was definitely going to bring you down, which the song then acknowledges by simply ending, having brought you down sufficiently.

While never a single, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” has been covered a lot, by artists ranging from Annie Lennox to Victoria Williams to Seal to Guns N’ Roses, who even performed it with Neil at the Bridge School Benefit in 2012.

“Don’t Let It Bring You Down”

“Don’t Let it Bring You Down” live at Massey Hall, Toronto, 1971

“Don’t Let it Bring You Down” live at Farm Aid, 2004

“Don’t Let it Bring You Down” w/ Guns N’ Roses, live at Bridge School Benefit, 2012

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page