By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
More remarkable is the Live at the Riverboat disc, featuring Young in a Toronto club in 1969 on a return from Los Angeles. The week of sets was recorded. The dynamics are stunning. The highlight is “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong,” which he calls his “drug song.” But even more revealing is Young’s easygoing demeanor. He’s chatty and funny, totally open, telling the crowd stories between songs, affable at times, a bit testy at others, apologizing for being grumpy the night before. “I hope nobody minds I didn’t wash my hair today,” he jokes at one point.
Archives, Vol. 1is an expensive proposition, for sure, especially for the Neil Young completist. After all, to really get the most out of their past 23 years of collecting and compiling, you’re not only going to have to pony up the $300 for the 10-Blu-ray set, but, chances are, you’ll also pay another $300 for a decent Blu-ray player. That would be $600 for the full experience.
But to Young, it’s worth it. As he said in Jimmy McDonough’s biography, Shakey:
“I don’t give a shit whether anybody BUYS it or not. I just wanna do it. And there may only be 200 copies, signed by me. But it’s gonna fuckin’ exist. When it’s done, people can do whatever the fuck they want, make any fuckin’ order they want out of it. But they’re gonna have the whole fuckin’ thing to choose from. They’re not gonna get part of it. Everything — the good, the bad, the ugly.”
At least four more volumes of Archives will arrive in the coming years, Johnson promises, all sharing the design aesthetic of this first volume. They’ll come at a regular clip over the next five years, following a timeline started in Vol. 1 and continuing to the present. “When we’re done, the timeline will be a mile and a half long, and since we can update it all the time, it will continue to grow — and that’s the design.
“Neil’s already made his selections pretty much all the way up till now,” Johnson adds, “and he’s starting to write a more personal side of it, because what we’re really trying to do is give you a picture of him as an artist, and how he’s transformed through the years. I think he is going to be sharing more and more of that personally as we go through. That’s one of his goals on the content side, not just to make it like it’s a technical thing, this multimedia trip, but where you start to get an insight into what he was thinking and what was going on and have it be more personal.”
Johnson says that the work has sparked a lot of memories of a heady time working with the artist, but for a documentary director (he also worked on the original Woodstock film; Martin Scorcese’s documentary of The Band, The Last Waltz; and Bob Dylan’s Renaldo and Clara, among others), it comes with the territory. “It’s easier for me than it is for Neil,” Johnson says. “To get him to go back and live his life all over again and go over those moments, sometimes it’s so personal it’s kind of difficult.”
But the measure of Young’s artistry is that he constantly opens himself up for scrutiny. As he told McDonough in Shakey: “I want people to know how fuckin’ terrible I was. How scared I was and how great I was. The real picture — that’s what I’m looking for. Not a product. And I think that’s what the die-hard fans want — the whole fuckin’ thing.”
Start saving your money. It comes out on June 2 — the whole fuckin’ thing.