The allure of decadence is pervasive. Of course to truly wallow in a lifestyle of dissipation and excess requires a lack of responsibility. For most of us we have a brief time from teen years to the realization that somehow we have to make it through life on our own two feet. Short of an ability to write a hit song, great work of literature or the luck of being a renowned journalist we are left with getting a job, or marrying into wealth.
Then the long slow decline to spreading waist bands and slower reaction times. It takes work to keep up with the drinking and smoking and roistering. Then it just takes work to stay in shape enough to get up the next day with aching ankles and creaky knees.
My friend Greg turned to me today as he reminisced about a good friend of his who had died recently. “We were gods and never knew it!” He shook his head and looked away his mind in the past of polyrhythms and jam sessions late into the night. There is hopefully for most of us a point when our youth and vitality and joy come together for a time that allows us to transcend the mundane and become more than we ever thought we could be.
This is why Neil Young’s recent release of the Roxy tapes of Tonights the Night are so important. It adds nothing to the Neil Young canon, the album sounds almost exactly like the original album with added applause, some banter between tracks and maybe the voices strains a little at times. As young admits the band had been playing the same nine songs twice a day for almost a month.
So how can I say it’s important? What it does for me is confirm the idea that at this point in time a bunch of young men were so wrapped up in their own shit to the exclusion of everything else that they transcended their own arrogance to produce something great. It’s the essence of art the single minded attention to the creation of a piece of work that will live on, some may hate it, some may love it and others will shake their heads and wonder why it was done. For a month the band had performed these songs for themselves, maybe it only became real when they did it for others.
It’s the distilled essence of navel gazing dissolution on three sides of vinyl.