I've been listening to a lot of Neil Young lately, can't get enough it seems. Neil is the real deal. I read an article in Rolling Stone recently about Young, and it got me thinking about how I first started listening to his music. My first introduction was in 1989, when I stumbled across Young's album "Freedom" quite by accident. I was a senior in high school and I was mainly listening to The Cure, Concrete Blond, and anything else that I thought the cute, artsy girl in my creative writing class would think was cool. That didn't work out, but it was also during this time that my friend Roger asked his older brother to buy him Young M.C.'s "Stone Cold Rhymin" for his birthday. Turns out Roger's brother was stoned when he went to the mall, and couldn't remember the name of the tape. All he could remember was it was "Young something", so he came home with Neil Young's "Freedom", which must have been on the "Just Released" rack. My buddy opened the cassette tape on his birthday, and having never heard of Neil Young announced he was going to throw it away. I had heard some CSNY tunes before and had recently seen Neil on SNL (performing "Rocking in the Free World", with a fury I had never seen before) so I asked Rog if I could listen to it before he tossed it. Long story short, I ended up with it and will never forget sitting in my bedroom that night, alone, listening to the entire album. "Rocking in the Free World" opens the album, and I remember thinking that I was on to something that none of my friends at the time would understand. By the time "Crime In The City" came on, with it's epic story of gangs, drugs, and corrupt cops, I was hooked. I knew I was on to something big, and I had to get more.
It was also during this time that I started buying CD's, and most of my tapes went into a shoebox. I went on to buy most of Neil Young's CD's, and especially dig the stuff Neil did with Crazy Horse. In college I dated this woman who also loved Neil Young, and we were driving to southern Utah for spring break that year, and since I didn't have a CD player in my car, I packed the few cassettes I still owned. We must have listened to "Freedom" a hundred times that week. Whenever I hear the songs "Eldorado" or "Wrecking Ball" today, it always brings me back to that trip to the desert.
I have never replaced my original "Freedom" cassette with a CD, I really should. It is still in my car after all these years, in fact, it is the only tape I still own from high school. The sound quality isn't what it was, but I can't get rid of it. Like "Freedom", I am sure we all have albums that defined moments in our lives and forever burned memories into our minds. Phish's "Rift" comes to mind, I'll never forget where I was when I first heard it, as do albums by The Grateful Dead, Son Volt, and Ben Harper, just to name a few, but "Freedom" was the first.