In 1979 I was browsing the records in the library, trying to decide what to listen to. There was no T-Rex in and the Bowie had been heard. Prior to this trip to the library most of my musical education was through my cousin but he was not available.
There was an odd looking album called After the Goldrush, the sleeve was almost a negative of some hippy strolling past some railings passing an old lady who had almost become part of him., or was bursting out of his back. On the back was some patched jeans and inside a lounging stoner. Everything about the album said take me home.
My Dad was making those gestures that only parents can intimating that we should leave and knowing the ritual of checking an album out of the library I grabbed the album and prepared for the scrutiny.
Before you could take the album home you had to with the librarian examine every inch of the vinyl and record every scuff and scratch on a piece of card that was held at the library. The ritual would be repeated on the return and the librarian would compare the card you had drawn with him and the returning record. Any new scratches would be recorded and you would be fined or if it was minor damage chastised. You had to have a parent with you to check out records and they had to agree to replace the album if you ruined it.
This is the way my relationship with Neil Young’s music began. In a library with a fussy librarian examining a piece of black vinyl under a lamp and an admonishment not to damage the album.
Once I got home and heard the first notes of Tell Me Why I was hooked. There was incredible sadness in the album and anger. It spoke to the teenager listening probably as it had spoken to every teen and young adult who listened to it prior to that. Heart ships, broken hearts, desolation, anger at injustice, fear for the world, lust, hope, hopelessness and romanticism. Neil Young covers it all and in one album. Pastoral folk wimsyness and searing guitar workouts and harmonies. I am still convinced it is a perfect album with not a single bad track on it. It is a whole everything about the album makes sense and still sounds fresh.
I found a used copy the other day, it is not perfect, maybe very good plus in the discogs rating system. Some surface noise but funnily enough this is almost how I remember the album.
After that library album I bought my very own copy. That was in the days when you could walk into Woolworths and buy records. I played that album to death. There was one memorable night I played Oh Lonesome Me over and over after my then girlfriend explained how she really was looking for a more fulfilling relationship. There was another night I was convinced that Don’t Let It Bring You Down held the secrets to the universe, but there may have been several reasons for that, however I am still looking to find someone who is turning. I have likewise sat and marveled at the beauty of Birds.
It is an album that when you begin it you are committed to the whole experience not just one or two songs.
That fateful day in 1979 led me to borrow Decade next, then I discovered Live Rust and all was lost. However I always come back to After the Goldrush which is I am convinced one of the few perfect albums in the history of recorded music.