Neil Young – Rust never sleeps (1979)

It was that great Grand Canyon rescue episode

“Rust never sleeps” came out the last year of the seventies, the decade that gave us all those concept albums, and “Rust never sleeps” is Neil’s variant of a concept album, sort of. The first side of the album is all acoustic while the second side is all glory to electric boogie. This is an album that clearly can challenge to be Neil’s best album, or in the pantheon at least.

This is another album that I have listened to way too little the last couple of years. When the first acoustic guitar tones of the first track “My my, hey hey (Out of the blue)” ring out of my Focal speakers it is like coming home. Such warmth in my body, the music has almost a tactile component. I feel it touching me. It is a truly marvellous song and one of Neil’s top three or five most well-known. It belongs up there with “Heart of gold”. I love how Neil sings it rather slowly. The guitar is super crisp, the singing majestic and the harmonica is what it is. And I am struck with how young he sounds, that old Mr Young.

Regardless how great the first track is we soon forget it when the second track starts. Oh my god. “Thrasher” is up there among my favourite songs from Neil or from anyone. The little intro with the harmonica, I died. The guitar, the lyrics. This song is together with “Cowgirl” and “Powderfinger” the trio of songs with the most mysterious lyrics. Fans all over the world have debated the meaning of these songs for years and years, decades! This song is easily in my top 10, maybe top 5.

The third track is the least strong on side A. It is not weak, mind you, but not up there like the other four songs. What to say about this? It is broken in typical manner in the middle and I think it loses momentum.

“Pocahontas” is a lachrymose song about one of many horrific crimes the Europeans did when North America was “civilized”. I always feel sad listening to it. I still love it mind you. “Sail away” is a calming force in the end. Neil and Nicolette Larson are so nice together. I don’t know if Neil is singing about real sailing or if he only wants to get away in his mind. I love the idea of Neil among friends on a wooden ship on the waves in the south.

Please turn over the record and start it up. Do not forget to crank it up!

“Powderfinger”! Wow. Wow. Already on the same record we are treated to a challenger to “Thrasher” for best Neil song all time. Such a strong statement from Neil. The lyrics take me back to the civil war or even further. There is a small settlement by a large river. These are uncertain times. Violence is always close by, but we would have Big John to protect us if not the river took Emmy-Lou.

I have once in my life stood on a stage pretending to be a rock star. Me and my friend Sir Per sang four Neil songs at a party, backed up by a quite nice band. We did “This note’s for you”, “T-bone”, “Roll another number” and “Powderfinger”. Strange choices come to think of it. There were jelly shots and a cow bell for me to pound on. Sir Per played the fiddle with a microphone taped to it home made style. Those were the times.

Shelter me from the powder and the finger
Cover me with the thought that pulled the trigger
Think of me as one you’d never figured
Would fade away so young
With so much left undone
Remember me to my love
I know I’ll miss her

Wow. It is so beautiful.

But, then we have these two bastards of songs. I am not a friend of “Welfare mothers” and “Sedan delivery” if I am honest. Sure they are edgy and rough and I wouldn’t mind them live. On the record I think they stand out in a slightly negative way. The positives? You can hear that the band are enjoying themselves.

The final song of the album is the electric version to “My my, hey hey”. It is renamed “Hey hey, my my”. It is a great rock song, an anthem. Performed live it always brings the masses to their feet. There is sweat coming out of you! I love it.

This was the last LP from the seventies. The eighties were strange for us fans. Neil started to experiment with his music, he tried to communicate in unfamiliar ways. He wanted to reach his sons, the world, himself. In the end he produced some of the most interesting albums in his catalogue, but he also managed to get sued by his record company for uncharacteristic music. In the end of the decade his come-back album copied the trick from this album, to repeat the first acoustic song last in an electric version. But that is for another review.

My rating: 9/10

Side A:

  1. My my, hey hey (Out of the blue)
  2. Thrasher
  3. Ride my llama
  4. Pocahontas
  5. Sail away

Side B:

  1. Powderfinger
  2. Welfare mothers
  3. Sedan delivery
  4. Hey hey, my my (Into the black)

Best songs: “Thrasher”, “Powderfinger”, “My my, hey hey”, “Hey hey, my my”, “Pocahontas”

Released on June 22nd, 1979

Media: Reissued remastered, 2017, Official Release Series 11

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