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Shakey: Neil Young's Biography Paperback – May 13, 2003
A Little Thing Called Life
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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.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
But it's hard to ignore the shift in the tone of the book when the story gets to the point where McDonough entered the picture (late '80s). While earlier in the book the author revealed his opinions on the music, CSNY, Neil's treatment of people in his life, etc., he kept the narrative moving in a relatively objective way. But that gets thrown out the window later, making the book read like two different manuscripts merged awkwardly. The latter part of the book isn't necessarily bad (though I could live without some of the author's more ignorant rants, like saying Pearl Jam is Jethro Tull without the flute), and it's often fun to read his attempts to antagonize Neil by playing devil's advocate, but the more objective biographical account of the first three-quarters of the book is better.
As for Neil the human being--he's an artist, not necessarily a nice person. We already knew that, but this book captures it in much more detail. I came away thinking no less of him (but also no more), but understanding his artistry better.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found this book in a used store for only $1. I'm glad I didn't pay the full price since the book is clearly hero worship of a weird guy. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I am struggling to finish this book. It becomes more discouraging the more pages I read, because I feel like I have to sort through the excess opinions and descriptions, and I... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Nancy M.
Excellent accounts of Neil Young history and personal life.Published 5 months ago by James Denis Dickinson
Drones on interminably with a foul & vulgar portrait of the musical geniusPublished 6 months ago by D. Hughes
No doubt it is the Neil Young book, and has a fair amount of great details from Buffalo Springfield to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Read morePublished 8 months ago by David Smith
Required reading for the serious student of Mr. Young! When reaching the end of the book, I was wishing for another 700 pages.Published 9 months ago by David Keller