Reflections on the music business from a young Neil Young

The young Neil Young had a clear-eyed view about what he didn't like about the music business in 1969 -- though he stuck with it in the long run.

'It's too dirty, you know? It just doesn't have anything to do with art'

As a young man, Neil Young, seen here in an undated photo, told CBC Radio about his disgust with the music business being "too dirty." (Horst Ehricht / Library and Archives Canada / PA-184862)
The young Neil Young had a clear-eyed view about what he didn't like about the music business.

"It's too dirty, you know? It just doesn't have anything to do with art," Young, then in his early 20s, told CBC Radio, during a February 1969 interview.

"Really, art is probably the smallest thing involved in the music business ... it's gotten to be like the motion-picture industry."

In 1969 the 23-year-old musician explains why his band, Buffalo Springfield, broke up and how he made his debut solo album. 18:02
But despite his reservations with the business,Young, who turns 73 today, stuck with it — and it's fortunate for music fans that he did, given all the music he's made during the five decades that have passed.

A tough road

At the time of the CBC Radio interview, Young had already split from his band Buffalo Springfield. He got talking about his intent to pursue a solo career and the parts of his personality that would make that possible.

Neil Young, seen in a November 2015 photo, turns 73 today. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"I think I have a little more endurance than most ... it could be the only reason why I'm still doing it, you know, is because I'm convinced that nothing's going to stop me," said Young. 

"But there's a lot of people a lot better than I am that just can't cope with it."

Young said many people he'd played with or worked with ended up leaving the business because of its pressures.

"There's just too much dirt," said Young.

'It wasn't too good'

Young had left Buffalo Springfield the year before, and interviewer Robert Fulford wanted to know why the band had broken up.

Stephen Stills is seen playing alongside Neil Young at an Oakland, Calif., concert in 2011, decades after their early days in Buffalo Springfield. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

"It's just the normal story, a lot of things went wrong and we found it incredibly hard to exist together," said Young, adding that the group "didn't achieve anywhere near the success that we expected or wished to."

That frayed the relationship among the band members — "we got into some involved personality problems" — and eventually Young had had enough.

"We just figured, it wasn't too good any more. They wanted to keep on going a little longer, but I just couldn't do it. And I quit ... and then about two or three weeks later, the group broke up," Young explained.

While Young may have felt the band didn't reach the success it sought, it was a respected group in the end: Buffalo Springfield was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 (though Young did not attend the ceremony). That followed a separate induction for Young, two years earlier, as a solo artist.