"CAPTAIN BILLY’S MAGIC 8 BALL" - A New Series Created By William Mesnik, The Mind Behind “Mesmerized”- EPISODE #1: AFTER THE GOLD RUSH, by Neil Young, (Reprise, 1970)

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Several years ago, I wrote a time-travel film treatment called “Song Trippers” about a quartet of lonely, damaged people who found solace through music. Each lost soul connects to a song that transports them back in time to the place in their youth when they were the happiest. Of course, we all know that music has magic power. There are songs that can trip my memory far from the here and now to earlier states of joyful wonderment, and sadness, too, if that’s what’s called for. It’s strong medicine.

For each episode in this series, I’ll take an 8 Track down from the shelf and share it with you, along with some special memories, bonded by that spiritual epoxy that has forged the framework of my life’s scaffold.

EPISODE #1: AFTER THE GOLD RUSH, by Neil Young, (Reprise, 1970)

This allusive, abstract ballad, inspired by a screenplay by fellow Topanga resident, Dean Stockwell, was lambasted by critics, and loved by the record buying public, making the album of the same name Neil’s second biggest seller. Few people care to parse out the thorny meaning of the lyrics, which take us from a knight’s festival, to a squalid junkie’s basement, to an alien spaceship coming to herald a new world.

Maybe it was all the acid I was consuming, but the thing made perfect sense to me – I simply flowed with the imagery, and bathed in the keening vocalism of the protagonist, an acquired taste to be sure. I also fucking loved that flugelhorn!

If you’re a fan you might prefer Heart of Gold, Cinnamon Girl, Old Man, The Needle and the Damage Done, or many of his other myriad time trips. All good, all good. All I know is that I love Neil dearly, and I’m glad he’s been with us all this time. Through it all, he has remained Neil. He has always demonstrated a stubborn independence, and made his own way against a sea of antagonistic forces and voices, corporate and artistic – a level of integrity which I so admire, and, from which I often fall so short.

For years, Tell Me Why, and Only Love Can Break Your Heart were on my set list. One reviewer covering my act wrote that when I sang high I was an ersatz Neil Young, and when I sang low I was a bargain basement Cat Stevens. Of course I did; I was finding my voice, asshole!

By Rich Buckland 02/28/2021 03:25 PM

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