Friday, July 22, 2011


"Down By The River" is one arresting song, isn't it? That you probably knew, right? The length of it, the pace, the lyrics, and that guitar all add up to make a song that could easily be Neil Young at his most Neil Youngest. Released in 1969 as part of the LP Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere, recorded with Crazy Horse, it clocked in at over 9 minutes. It's that length that's needed to convey sound of someone defeated, forlorn, and exhausted. Young wrote it when he had a fever, with a temperature of 103 °F (39 °C), and it sounds like it.

I revisited the song after my friend Ray posted the video below of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (a band I'm usually not too nuts about) on Facebook. (Ray always posts good stuff. Doesn't everybody have a friend that always finds the coolest shit on YouTube?) The video is CSN & Y live, on the David Steinberg TV show. All are playing electric (none of them folk singer specials).

About the links, there is of course the original (Note to Neil Young's people: I didn't upload the music). Then there's a version by reggae singer Ken Boothe, a great song, once it kicks in. (Though I could do without the mouth guitar, ala Frampton Comes Alive). The Undisputed Truth's version is pretty way out. They worked a lot with producer Norman Whitfield, so it could be his work. It reminds me of one of Issac Hayes' epic covers. There's a link to another video of CSN & Y doing it live, in Big Sur in 1969. (Part of the draw to that video is to witness some of the worst dancing ever caught on film. Really, these people make Deadheads look like ballet dancers.) Down at the bottom is link to a transcription of Young's introduction to the song, (from a New Orleans show, in 1984), explaining what the hell the song is about.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Down By the River mp3 at I Am Fuel, You Are Friends
Ken Boothe - Down By the River mp3 at Pop Culture
The Undisputed Truth - Down By the River mp3 at Cool In The Pool
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Down By the River (Live, Big Sur, CA 1969) at YouTube
"Down By the River" entry at Wikipedia
Neil Young's intro to the song (transcribed, from a show in New Orleans, 1984) at Thrashers Wheat


raybrandes said...

Coincidentally, the photo that appears on the single above was taken in San Diego in 1970 at the soundcheck for the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert at Balboa Stadium.

Tom G. said...

That's nuts. (Even though that's a fake single sleeve that I threw together, I had no idea.) Hey, thanks for originally posting it.