Certain Songs #1276: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “F*!#in’ Up”

Album: Ragged Glory
Year: 1990

Recorded at Plywood Digital, Broken Arrow Ranch on April 27, 1990

First off, while I am going to respect the original spelling of the song in the title, please let the affiliates know that, for the rest of the post, I am going to refer to this song as “Fuckin’ Up,” and not “F*!#in’ Up.”

Obviously, “Fuckin’ Up” wasn’t the single from Ragged Glory — that would be “Mansion on the Hill,” — but there was no question that it was the key track on the album, and we almost instantly learned it in the reconstituted Sedan Delivery, as the central question was one that we all could relate to.

Mindless drifter on the road (Why do I?)
Carry such an easy load (Why do I?)
It’s how you look and how you feel (Why do I?)
You must have a heart of steel (Why do I?)

Why do I keep fucking up?

In a lot of ways, “Fuckin’ Up” is the quintessential Neil Young & Crazy Horse song. Centered around one of the biggest and dumbest riffs possibly imaginable, played in unison by Neil, Poncho, Ralph & Billy, and possibly even inspired by something somebody said in rehearsal, or even in concert.

In any event, if the verses were impressionistic, the chorus was right there on target every single time.

I can see you on a hill (Why do I?)
Comatose but walking still (Why do I?)
Curves beneath your flowing gown (Why do I?)
Only I could bring you down (Why do I?)

Why do I keep fucking up?

I do remember this: while just three years prior Bono’s admission that he still hadn’t found what he was looking for filled me with dread — if Bono hadn’t found what he was looking for, what hope did I have? — Neil’s gleeful admission that he was just a fuck-up filled me with happiness.

As did the first guitar solo, which kinda floated away from the rest of the song for a few bars, an instrumental bridge with Poncho jangling in one speaker and Neil distorting in the other speaker until they all slammed together on the big dumb riff for one last verse.

The thing I love about “Fuckin’ Up” is that it’s almost fucking joyous: Neil and Crazy Horse are having one helluva time on this song and it’s absolutely contagious from the opening riff to the closing feedback drone.

Which was how we tried to play it in Sedan Delivery, and one time — opening for the Miss Alans just a few days before Christmas — we played “Fucking Up” so crazily we actually caused it to snow in Fresno for the first time in years and years. Or at least that’s how I’m now telling the story.

What I do remember was that it was a night where the heater had conked out at the Blue, and it was already cold enough that evening to snow, and we’d just finished playing “Fuckin’ Up” when Nate ran in through the side door and announced that it was snowing, which Doc then repeated from the stage, which of course had the effect of the entire club emptying out — in the middle of our set — to see the snow. Including Doc, leaving me onstage simultaneously freezing and sweating.

We eventually finished the set, but the “Snow Gig” became legendary to a very small group of people.

“Fuckin’ Up”

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