As we do each and every Sunday night on The Strombo Show, we're celebrating those ground-breakers and music-makers that have come before us. Our nod to the gods tonight celebrates the great Neil Young as we travel back to his twenty-second studio album, the sixth album with Crazy Horse.
'Sleeps with Angels' was conceived as a conscious attempt to recapture some of the atmospheric experiments the band played around with during the 'After the Gold Rush' era. Its sound is dark, brooding and sober, reminiscent of 'Tonight's The Night'. But where 'Tonight's The Night' was loose, raw, edgy and over the top, 'Sleeps With Angels' is tightly wound, controlled and hypnotic.
Even though the majority of the album was recorded before the Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide, the title came afterwards. The final letter Kurt left his fans, friends and family infamously read: "It's better to burn out than to fade away" - referencing Young's lyrics from 'Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)'. This had a profound impact on The Godfather of Punk, who was shaken by Kurt's death. He dedicated 'Sleeps with Angels' to his memory.
During Young's induction speech at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on January 13, 1995, he choked up and concluded by thanking Cobain for "all of the inspiration".
In concerts, Young now emphasizes another line in 'Hey Hey My My': "once you've gone you can't come back." He has since revealed in his 'Waging Heavy Peace' autobiography that he had tried to get in touch with Cobain before his death, attempting to help him conquer his problems: "I, coincidentally, had been trying to reach him. I wanted to talk to him. Tell him only play when he felt like it."
Young has been rumoured to be coming to grips with his own playing, as his current tour with Crazy Horse could be their last. Guitarist Frank "Poncho" Sampedro said, that after nearly forty years of playing together, they may soon need to call it quits: "You can't fool time. My gut tells me this is really the last tour."
Young and Crazy Horse have been playing together on and off since 'Zuma' in 1975 and although their three-hour-long sets are as ferocious as ever, Young feels the strain too. Sampedro went on to reveal that Young's "wrist bugs him and he has to tape it when he plays."
For further musical musings, new and old, join the collective for The Strombo Show on CBC Radio 2, every Sunday night at 8PM. And if you'd like to catch up or re-listen, all of the episodes are archived on our Radio page.