Homegrown: The Lost Album
Neil Young’s memoir is out this week! I haven’t read it yet, but one thing I’m pretty sure of: Neil does not offer a definitive tracklisting for his legendary lost 70s masterpiece, Homegrown. What the hell is Homegrown, you ask? Let’s look at some firsthand accounts.
Neil Young: I already had another new album called Homegrown in the can. The cover was finished and everything, [laughs] Ah, but they’ll never hear that one … I had a playback party for Homegrown for me and about ten friends. We were out of our minds. We all listened to the album and Tonight’s the Night happened to be on the same reel. So we listened to that too, just for laughs. No comparison … Not because Homegrown wasn’t as good. A lot of people would probably say that it’s better … it was just a very down album. It was the darker side to Harvest. A lot of the songs had to do with me breaking up with my old lady. It was a little too personal…it scared me.
Elliot Mazer, producer: The theme of that record was basically the demise of his relationship with Carrie [Snodgress]. It was intense, like trying to make a record in the middle of Forty Second Street or Vietnam. It was an extraordinary time. If you’re a documentary fillmmaker and you’re gonna document a person, that’s when you’re gonna do it — at the most intense, emotional time of their lives.
Jimmy McDonough, Shakey author: It is hard to be enthusiastic enough about this period in Young’s work. The wordplay is magnificent, his singing never more impassioned. In terms of record-making Young was at the top of his game. Pain, it seems, brought out the best in him … to hear Homegrown in its entirety is to hear Neil Young at his best.
Neil Young: Pretty honest. Heh heh. It’s an honest album. Never came out, hardly any of it … I think I was on the edge makin’ Homegrown. Kinda lost. But at the same time, I had a lotta freedom to go wherever I wanted to go and do whatever I wanted to do.
OK! So even if a lot of this stuff never appeared, it should be easy to construct an imaginary Homegrown out of bootlegs, right? Wrong-o! Mysteries abound.
First of all, we don’t really know what Homegrown consisted of. Shakey offers clues about which tunes were recorded during the sessions, but not what was actually slated for the LP. This image appears on Wikipedia, but I’m not sure if I buy that it’s the actual album cover.
Second of all! Neil never played many of the Homegrown songs live. So there are a lot of missing pieces, songs like “Barefoot Floors,” “Frozen Man,” “Vacancy,” “Daughters,” “We Don’t Smoke It,” “Mexico,” and “Florida.” Maybe more! Neil also attempted to make a CSNY album at the time, which might’ve included “Pushed It Over The End,” “Human Highway,” “Hawaiian Sunrise,” and maybe others. Who knows? Until Neil actually puts out Homegrown — which he plans to do someday as part of a “Lost Albums” series — we’ve just got to get by on bits and pieces.
And bits and pieces are what I have for you here: a probably totally wrong version of Homegrown culled from performances stretching from 1973 to 2008, including such divergent bands as CSNY, the Ducks, Booker T & the MGs, Crazy Horse and the goddamned Blue Notes! As a whole, it’s problematic! But it’s the best I can do! There’s a bit of crossover song-wise with Sad Movies, if you’ve already downloaded that, but except for “Little Wing,” these are all different performances. Sound quality varies wildly, but it’s generally listenable. Without further ado:
1. Homegrown (1980) [See what I mean by “problematic”? Everyone quoted above talks about how intense this album is/was, but the title track is this goof about growing your own weed.]
2. Love Art Blues (w/ CSNY 1974)
3. Homefires (solo 1974)
4. Try (solo 2008)
5. Star of Bethelehem (solo 1974)
6. Little Wing (w/ the Ducks 1977)
7. Pardon My Heart / The Old Homestead (solo 1974)
8. Separate Ways (w/ Booker T & the MGs 1993)
9. White Line (w/ Crazy Horse 1975)
10. Give Me Strength (solo 1997)
11. Bad News (w/ the Blue Notes 1988)
12. Kansas (solo 1999)