ragged story and glory

by Art Chantry ( art@artchantry.com)

this is a tour poster/advert from the october 5th, 1978, issue of Rolling Stone magazine. it is an odd advert becasue neil young was in one of his many transitions between his various disguises in his career. this tour was to promote his new major label record “comes a time” (a critical and commercial flop) that was released only a few days before this ad appeared.

the reason i cut this out and saved it all those years ago was that i liked how ‘punk rock’ it was. the sex pistols had broken up (blown apart, more accurately) just a few scant months prior and this was the moment when neil young not only realized how much he missed that raw electric trashy sound of that sort of basic rock, he also realized that he had been influencing punk all along with his own trashed-out guitar sound for years. i see this moment as an epiphany in his self-definition.

--- i wonder if he didn't do the whole ad. who knows?---AC

everything about this ad speaks to the influence of the english punk scene on his thinking. remember this was 1978. ‘star wars’ and ‘saturday night fever’ were released only the year before and were still playing in the local movie houses. disco chrome and arena rock were the dominant music on the charts and even oldies stations weren’t available throughout most of the country yet. neil had been going through a great deal of personal trauma with his children and various divorces and a few recording contractual nightmares. he even had surgery on his vocal chords, if i remember correctly. the combination of all these personal disasters in his life lead him to search for a new meaning and direction in his life, i assume. his answer at this point was return to basics and he re-tooled by working with his favorite supporting band, crazy horse.

this image is all DIY and found imagery (very very weird for a 1978 major label american release). the wheel (symbolizing touring and travel and change (“on the road”) seems to be some sort of old image maybe found in an old advert or even perhaps a novelty postcard. the reproduction is a crude b&w copy. the typography is all hand written (stylish but bad, just the same) or IBM selectric typewriter type (the punk rock typeseting of choice at that point – it was free). the title type is the distressed crummy lettering from his ‘country folk’ album cover just releaed (cut and pasted in directly onto he image – even the ‘carrier’ paper edges become part of the design ‘concept’) and so is that silly photo of neil looking like a country bumpkin. even the ‘graphic design’ looks like it was done by a totally novice stark amateur ‘paste-up’ person – perhaps a secretary or maybe even some entry-level guy attempting to look punky (“fake punk” or “corporate punk”). it’s extremely crude for 1978 major record label.

neil young at this point was reaching back to his own independent DIY rocknroll music roots and trying to capture the essence of what he loved about the music. he plainly saw what was happening around him and in england. this year was a big moment of transition in american rock music as this was the year that american punk rock (originally from detroit and new york and few other select scenes) began to copycat what was happening in england and re-defining it all back again as “american” punk. crazy new scenes all over the country exploded into existence – san francisco, los angeles, athens, chicago, seattle, even places like idaho and minneapolis. it all seemed to happen all at once – like a nuke going off.

neil young wanted to be feel alive and viable again. he was the first major league mainstream american rocker to re-adopt the punk DIY ethic and go after it with a venegence. this advert points out how dramatically he rejected the slick professional look of his 1970′s era and rammed his thinking into gutbucket DIY trash of the new pop reality. however, even the great neil young couldn’t quite properly adopt the youth scene style of that era. at best he managed to introduce a sort of hippie-esque ‘country punk’ ethos and carve his own path toward rock and roll redemption.

one of the truths about the early punk scene that it was a YOUTH movement. and neil was too much of an old successful hippie to ever be a ‘real’ punk. apple and oranges.

Related Posts

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Marketing/Advertising/Media and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>