- Paperback: 786 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Anchor Books edition (May 13, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679750967
- ISBN-13: 978-0679750963
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 180 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Shakey: Neil Young's Biography Paperback – May 13, 2003
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Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart. Learn more
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“Jimmy McDonough’s fat, teeming, obsessive, and revelatory biography of Young is a pure shot of all-access pleasure. . . . Hugely original.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Just as unmanageable, hard-headed, overzealous, and ultimately endearing as Young himself . . . A maddening, beguiling portrait of an elusive maverick . . . A glorious mess.” —San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
“An exhilarating match-up of author and subject makes Shakey a great, gripping read. . . . A must-read for anyone who cares about Neil Young.” —Rolling Stone
“Staggeringly thorough . . . McDonough gets it all: the chaos, the grandeur, the good times and dreary deaths, the alcohol- and drug-besotted recording sessions, the broken hearts, and the sheer unfettered joy of a seriously gifted artist.” —Salon
“The definitive book on the subject.” —The Washington Post
“Exhaustive, quarrelsome, and sometimes maddening . . . there are revelations in abundance.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Where the average rock-star biography is a tepid, toothless thing, McDonough has approached his task like a literary Terminator, steaming ahead with lethal thoroughness. One of the most penetrative studies of a rock icon ever written.” —Times (London)
“A mammoth portrait of the artist and lively exhumation of rock n roll history. . . . [McDonough] traces a rich turbulent career in vivid detail.” —The New York Times
“Imaginatively written...not only is Shakey an extraordinary literary feat of research and affection and endurance, it's an insight into the art of biography itself.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Delves further into the life and motives of one of music's most private individuals than anything previously released. . . surprisingly comprehensive and thoroughly enjoyable. . . .The most detailed portrait of this shrouded artist to date.” —San Jose Mercury News
“Exhaustively researched, impressively detailed. . . The long passages in which McDonough steps aside to let Young talk are the most revealing. ‘One day I'm a jerk,’ Young says, ‘the next day I'm a genius.’ This book argues artfully for the latter.”—People
“Like meeting Brando's Kurtz in a cave at the end of Apocalypse Now. . . . Young comes across as a Jekyll-and-Hyde loner whose life has unfolded like a reckless chemistry experiment -- a control freak on an endless quest for the uncontrolled moment.” —Macleans (Canada)
“McDonough is an avid fan, music critic and impartial journalist all in one. . . . [He] deftly weaves Young's life, actions and art together. . . . What was known of Young's life before was akin to a series of rough demos. In Shakey, McDonough delivers a full double-album.” —Rocky Mountain News
“Does what most rock bios don’t: It fails to fawn, it delivers the juice, it subjects the hero to the scrutiny and disappointment of a fan. . . A page-turning good read..”—Houston Chronicle
“Fascinating reading. . . McDonough gives us as good a look at [Young’s] cards as we’re likely to get.” —The Tampa Tribune
“[Shakey's] unprecedented access makes for an entertaining read: McDonough, more than any music journalist since Peter Guralnick in his authoritative Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, has succeeded in stripping a star of his iconography.”—The Observer (London)
“Crammed with razor-sharp insights and mind-boggling detail, Shakey is a rock-solid literary triumph, as inspired and inspiring as the eccentric figure it evokes with such frustrated devotion.” — The Guardian (London)
“McDonough . . . pores through Young’s life with vivid prose and blunt detail, and he is unashamed to insert some stinging opinions. In his probing conversations with Young, . . . he challenges the formidable artist in ways that few others would dare.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to better this book. . . It has what Young values above all else. . . passion.”—Evening Standard (London)
From the Inside Flap
Neil Young is one of rock and roll's most important and enigmatic figures, a legend from the sixties who is still hugely influential today. He has never granted a writer access to his inner life - until now. Based on six years of interviews with more than three hundred of Young's associates, and on more than fifty hours of interviews with Young himself, Shakey is a fascinating, prodigious account of the singer's life and career. Jimmy McDonough follows Young from his childhood in Canada to his cofounding of Buffalo Springfield to the huge success of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to his comeback in the nineties. Filled with never-before-published words directly from the artist himself, Shakey is an essential addition to the top shelf of rock biographies.
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Jimmy McDonough is pretty clearly a near-superfan of Young, and that's where many of the less than stellar reviews of this book come into play. Yes, Jimmy often inserts himself into the story in ways that many would argue a biographer should not. And yes, Jimmy is sometimes willing to gloss over the train wrecks Neil left behind him at the urging of "the muse" or whatever fleeting feeling he had at a given moment, sometimes ignoring that his actions did indeed have consequences for people other than himself.
The thing is this: McDonough's book is so painstakingly detailed and researched that attempting to write anything coming close to it for sheer completeness would be folly. McDonough also manages to scrape together a pretty cohesive timeline of "the ditch years" from '73 to '75, a time Neil has more and more smoothed over as a good 'ol boys-being-boys adventure with a lot of drugs, booze, and bad decisions. McDonough paints a much less pretty picture, with a lot more gritty detail and emotion - this was a time of sadness, anger, and desperation in Neil's career, and I think Jimmy hits it right on the head when he says no one really knew if Neil was going to make it out. They were dicey times because of his lifestyle, as dicey as they ever got. There's stuff in there that Neil just won't talk about today because, as he says in his own autobiographies, he could be a really angry, irrational guy. There's a reason Jimmy and Neil were so on-again off-again while he was writing this book - Jimmy was poking around in history where Neil wasn't comfortable. Hell, Neil threatened to sue him if he published for a while there in the 90s.
Could the book be shorter? Absolutely. I can't even get into Neil's toy train obsession - it's tedious stuff. And the latter years portions of the book are a little tainted by McDonough's self-involvement in Neil's life. Granted, doing a biography on Neil Young probably put 5 extra years on Jimmy's face, so I think he gets a pass on some of it. This cannot have been an easy book to finish.
It's not perfect, but it's as close as we'll get. If you want a book that doesn't ignore the ugly parts of Neil's career, even relishes in them at times, this is one of a kind, and always will be.
Much of it is THE BEST biography ever! A wonderful format intertwined with "innaresting" conversations with Neil. At the same time it pauses way to frequently to paint portraits of each character. Four pages of comments from artist about Elliot!? That's a real who cares picture that could paint itself through time.
It also struck me JmcD was not much of a fan which works well on one level but ends up interjecting negative opinions on recordings. Key thing is NY's market much of the time was high school long hair, flannel wearing, Red Wing boot, stoner males. WE LOVED 4 Way Street! WE LOVED the extended loose jams! Heck at the time before I understood guitar I considered NY one of THE best guitarist EVER! Hendrix like! On one level this is true as he get right to it with very little extra. But of course he's an average picker who took mediocre guitar abilities to the top of the heap!
Has great in depth stories about each album especially the Ditch Trilogy and pulls no punches on sensitive topics like Witten and Berry with NY chiming in on each.
NY steps up each time and while he'd take long breaks and who know what's not included or refused by NY there are plenty of personal opinions and truths to really make for some unsettling real reading.
It's a long book and can be intense. I had to take a break after Tonights the Night to digest it all!
Not perfect but a daring unique biography!
As far as NY's comments on his music, I'm disappointed to find that some of it is meaningless. At least the songs were somewhat "mysterious" before. Now I know some of his songs are just BS. On the positive side though, his one-take recording style with few overdubs has been very effective and I have gone back and listened close to the songs specifically mentioned in the book. However, that could turn out to be BS also.
As for the author, the guy has no business writing a biography, and probably nothing else either. The book was monotonous and I left off reading it probably six times out of irritation and boredom. McDonough's attitude is like NY is God and all other musicians are garbage, their songs are "odious" and overly commercial pop music. "Shakey" has done more harm to NY than good. At one point near the end Neil considers buying back the book contract. He should have done it.