Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
A quick look at Neil Young's 1969 album "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" !
As so many famous LA stories go, it all started on Sunset.
In 1966, Neil Young was merely a wide-eyed 21 year old Canuck who’d just joined The Mynah Birds. Things seemed to be happening for Young until Birds frontman Rick James got arrested for ditching the navy during the recording of the bands first album (this band never actually released that album surprisingly enough). With James in the doghouse, the band went their separate ways and Young and bassist Bruce Palmer did something that would change the course of their lives — they bought a hearse (Youngs second Hearse actually, his first hearse “Mort” died a few years before and this one was called “Mort 2”) . Pawning the instruments of the well disbanded Birds to buy the wheels, the pair drove their gloriously grim new hearse to LA to get a taste for the energy out west.
In the meantime, Stephen Stills and Richard Furay had just landed in California and were trying to break through into the folk scene in LA. The pair were driving in their white van one fateful day and the tedious traffic of Sunset Blvd brought together what would soon become Buffalo Springfield. Stills had met Young briefly in Canada when he was on a 6 week tour up North with his old band The Company and when he spotted a hearse in the middle of LA, he knew exactly who was in town. From this fateful meeting, Buffalo Springfield was born and they gave us their first self titled album that December. Not all magic meetings have magic ends however and the group disbanded for good shortly after in 1968 after their final album Last Time Around.
After the breakup of Buffalo Springfield, Young got back in touch with his old friend in the canyon, Joni Mitchell, and signed to her label Reprise Records. Under Reprise, he put out his very first solo album. Following his 1968 debut Neil Young, everyone's favorite Canadian lumberjack released the stellar Everybody Knows This is Nowhere in 1969 with backing band Crazy Horse.
I could just as easily call 72’s Harvest a perfect album (because duhhhh), but there's something about the purity of this 69’ work that gives it a special catch for me. The best parts of this album were literally and metaphorically written in a fever. Young penned four of the seven tracks on this release (the four most famous I might add) when he was struck with a 103 degree fever and flu in his Topanga Canyon home. These tracks stay burning hot almost 51 years later and serve as a stellar display of Young’s musical chops.
This album was better received than his first and the seven tracks displayed on Everybody Knows This is Nowhere served as a framework for the rest of Young’s discography. With this in mind, we see the same tuning used on album opener “Cinnamon Girl” on Young classics that would follow such as my personal favorite track of his “Cortez The Killer.” On the next track which also happens to be the title track, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” we get a cosmic song that leans towards a country aesthetic and tells of the troubles of LA Living. It’s basically a tell all of how in the pursuit of making a name for himself, Young ended up feeling like he had really gotten nowhere in getting what he wanted. This song was probably the most influence of Crazy Horse’s own sound we get on the album and the rough cut vocals are thanks to them being recorded directly onto tape to “cut out the bullshit” as Young called it. Moving onto side two, “On The Losing End” definitely makes this album for me. During these recording sessions, Young was married to Susan Acevedo and this song is said to be about their failing marriage as is the next “Running Dry”. When listening to the content of these two tracks, it's no surprise that about a year after this release, their marriage dissolved. “Cowgirl In The Sand” closes off the album in a ten minute track that proves to be one of Young's finest displays of songwriting in his discography. While on the surface it appears to be about a promiscuous woman, lyrics point out that this might be about Young himself. All in All this is a masterpiece of an album without a single flop on it. Cheers Mr. Young!