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Shakey: Neil Young's Biography Hardcover – May 7, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679427724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679427728
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Cantankerous and secretive, Neil Young has banished authors from his inner sanctum--until now. In Shakey, Jimmy McDonough distills more than 300 interviews (including guarded yet revealing interrogations of Young himself) into the definitive biography: the skyrocket success, willful disasters, health horrors and triumphs, stunning comebacks, and highly colorful scuffles with equally impossible characters like Stephen Stills, David Crosby, and the incompetent yet brilliant musicians of Crazy Horse. Young is not quite the noble soul some thought--he's an astounding control freak. But he is never less than fascinating. "As ruthless as I may seem to be," Young tells McDonough, "you gotta do what ya gotta do. Just like a f-----' vampire. Heh heh heh." --Tim Appelo

From Library Journal

More than a biography, this work from journalist McDonough (Village Voice, Variety, Spin) is the re-creation of an era.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


More About the Author

Jimmy McDonough's biography of Neil Young, Shakey, was critically acclaimed The New York Times bestseller. He has also written biographies of Russ Meyer and Andy Milligan, and has written for publications including The Village Voice and Variety.

Customer Reviews

After reading this book, I became a bigger fan of Neil Young's music and a fan of Neil Young the man.
JBB1
As others point out, he DEFINITELY inserts himself into the story too much - this is supposed to be a bio of Neil Young, not Neil Young and Jimmy McDonough.
src50
Shakey is one of the best Rock and Roll bio's I've ever read, ranking equal with Nick Tosches Hellfire.
Johnny Piedmont

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Dan Ryan on June 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
For Neil Young fans only. Read with patience.
McDonough deserves credit for researching Neil Young's life, particularly his early days. His early days in Canada are particularly revealing, showing how Neil's hard-driven personality propelled into great success.
McDonough also deserves credit for getting the always obscure Neil to be about as open as he gets. The interviews are at their best when Neil is describing events in the past. Neil is at times very candid about his failings in his personal life (two divorces) and in his professional life (over-producing "Mr. Soul").
Unfortunately, the book suffers on a few fronts.
First of all, it is poorly edited. The length of the book could have easily been cut 200 pages without much loss. Several times the book will describe events, then have length quotes from Neil exactly describing the same event.
Second, McDonough's status as a hard-core Neil Young fan makes some of his prose rather silly. His exhaltations of "Tonight's the Night" just seem silly. For Pete's sake, Jimmy, it's just Rock and Roll, not the second coming of Jesus.
Finally, the last 100 pages or so are really regrettable. McDonough inserts himself into the biography. Suddenly, it's Jimmy teaching Neil about Nirvana, Jimmy trying to save Neil from the evils of being a Lionel Trains Tycoon. Most annoying is McDonough's whining about Neil giving lots of interviews. Oh, boo hoo, Jimmy's interviews with Niel aren't that exclusive.
But, for a Neil Young fan, this book is indispensible. After reading this book, I have a better understanding of the folks in Neil's sometime backup band, "Crazy Horse". I understand more what is involved with producing an album, and what impact producer David Briggs had on Neil's work.
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62 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on June 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge Neil Young fan, with over two dozen of his albums in my collection. But I'm not a fanatic, and as a result I found his biography, "Shakey" to be as stimulating, but as frustratingly erratic as the artist himself. One thing Neil Young could never be accused of is self-censorship, and author Jimmy McDonough writes about him in the same vein, telling in nearly 800 pages a stoory that could have been more succinctly and powerfully conveyed in about half that number. McDonough spent over ten years working on the book, however, and I guess he felt that his huge investment of time justifies the book's length.
The book is a rambling narrative of Young's life, mainly as seen through the eyes of his closest associates, but is told in the Hunter S. Thompson "gonzo" style of journalism as McDonough frequently inserts himself into the story. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this approach, in may have in fact been necessary, but it ends up padding the length. The main story is interspersed with a hundred or so pages of text from McDonough's various interviews with Young in which the artist is quoted verbaitim. It is a fascinating and unprecedented look into Young's mind, but again it starts to become wearing after awhile. Lengthy passages about such relatively uninteresting subjects as Young's passion for model trains slow things down even further.
Ultimately, "Shakey" is likely to be endured only by Young's most ardent fans and will not win the artist any new converts. But I get the feeling that Young would prefer it that way. As McDonough recounts, the quickest way to get Young to drop a song from an album is to tell him its going to be a surefire hit. He is that rare rock star who actually eschews popularity. Young remains a startlingly original talent after nearly four decades in the recording busines and for all of its flaws, "Shakey" manages to capture his essence.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By SteveR on June 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Although I did enjoy reading a lot of Shakey, I ended up disappointed. The early chapters which describe Neil's battles with polio, his parents divorce, and epileptic seizures I found extremely interesting. Unfortunately once you get to his professional music career, Jimmy McDonough spends more time trying to psychoanalyze what Neil's intentions were instead of just focusing on how things came about. He offers up his personal reviews of albums (many of which I disagree with) that seem like they were taken from his archives as a journalist for Spin magazine. He also picks apart lyrics describing his great interpretation of the heavy symbolism in the songs. Dude, "Homegrown" isn't about man's struggle with the universe, it's about pot! I also found his constant returning to the "Tonight's The Night" album as Neil's greatest accomplishment and the measurment of everything else he's ever done annoying. Also, according to McDonough, Neil Young must be the worst performer of all time since he spends so much time ripping every live performance to shreds describing how out of tune the band was, how much feedback there was, how they couldn't keep the beat, etc. The end of the book finds McDonough complaining to Neil about how much time he's been spending on TV, at the RnR Hall of Fame, at the Academy Awards. Yeah, one thing I hate as a fan is seeing too much of a performer I like! But most of all what I felt the book accomplished was showing Neil as a very unlikeable character. Someone who has temper tantrums, is impossible to work with, doesn't care about the quality of the work he puts out, fires band members on a whim only to call them back years later when he needs to use them, then dump them again, on and on. Well, if you're a Neil fan you may want to check this out, but be aware that at times you will be annoyed.
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