Certain Songs #1279: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Welfare Mothers (Landover, MD 02-27-1991)”

Album: Arc-Weld
Year: 1991

Recorded at the Capitol Center, Landover, on February 27, 1991

Sure, the version of “Welfare Mothers” that was on Rust Never Sleeps was great — and its placement on side two between “Powderfinger” and “Sedan Delivery” was a great way to lighten the otherwise heavy mood created by the former and set up the noisy surrealism of the latter — but it wasn’t quite deranged enough.

I mean, sure, screaming “welfare mothers make better lovers” over and over again is already setting a high bar of derangement from the get-go, which is why it’s impressive they were able to go right over the top on the Smell The Horse tour.

People, pick up on what I’m putting down now
(Welfare mothers make better lovers!)
Down at every laundromat in town now
(Welfare mothers make better lovers!)
While they’re washing, you can hear this sound now
(Welfare mothers make better lovers!)
DI-VOR-CEEE!

With Neil and Poncho’s guitars singing the beyond fuzzy riff along with backing vocalists Billy Talbot & Ralph Molina, “Welfare Mothers” has a gritty, crumbling grandeur, which Neil even recognizes as he calls out “aw beautiful!” after the third verse, before launching into another brain-melting guitar solo.

But that’s all only set up: the true genius of the Weld version of “Welfare Mothers” happens after the last joyous full-band “DI-VOR-CEE!” after which we get to hear the satiric stylings of Messers Young and Talbot while the song falls apart around them:

NEIL: “Daycare!”
BILLY: “No more pain! No more pain!”
NEIL: “Where’s the check, Billy?”
BILLY: “Check’s in the mail. No! No!”
NEIL: “Put those kids in the station wagon you mother-”
BILLY: “I’m hungry! I’m hungry, mom! Hey Mom! Hey Mom! Hey Mom! I’m hungry!
NEIL: “Tell those kids to shut up!”
BILLY: “Hey Mom!”
NEIL: “Is the laundry done yet? Where’s that check?”

And as the song seemingly crashes to its end, Neil and Billy chant “Welfare mothers make better lovers” over and over and over an over, as Neil tries and fails to hold it all together with a flurry of guitar notes, and then miracle of miracles, as Ralph Molina circles them with his drums, Billy screams “The check is here!!!!” and “Welfare Mothers” ends in a flurry of unstructured noise.

Like I said, a truly deranged and utterly hilarious performance.

“Welfare Mothers” live at Landover, MD 02-27-1991 (Audio only)

“Welfare Mothers” from RUST NEVER SLEEPS (the film)

“Welfare Mothers” live at Nassau Coliseum, 02-22-1991

“Welfare Mothers” live in Rio, 2001

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