Neil Young Nation

Neil Young is one of the most consistently popular musicians of our time. A craggy, cavern-browed hippie in a buckskin jacket, his electric guitar chugging along like a steam engine, Young is a figure who straddles divisions: he's Canadian and American, folkie and rocker, an old guy who's relevant enough to be quoted in the suicide note of a younger musician like Kurt Cobain. Young's brilliant, gnomic, lyrical music has earned him fans of all ages and persuasions: ivory tower intellectuals and guys in trucker hats; punk rockers and hippies; yuppies and farmers; ironic young folks and their earnest elders. Novelist Kevin Chong counts himself among them. Neil Young turned 60 in 2005. Kevin Chong turned 30. To celebrate these two milestones, Chong sets off on a road trip in search of his boyhood hero. Crisscrossing the continent, he visits Winnipeg (where Young formed his first band, the Squires); Omemee (Young's childhood home and the 'town in North Ontario' in the song 'Helpless'); Blind River (where Mort, Young's 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse, broke down, occasioning the song 'Long May You Run'), Toronto (where Young was a Yorkville folkie); and Los Angeles (where Young became a rock star with Buffalo Springfield). He engages with rabid Neil fans (aka Rusties). He talks to people who knew Young as a kid. He puzzles over Young's strange, sometimes contradictory pronouncements on such topics as digital music, the environment, AIDS and Ronal Reagan. And he ends up in Seattle at a Farm Aid benefit concert, where he finally gets to see Neil on stage. Neil Young Nation is an entertaining account of Chong's journey. But it is much more than a conventional travelogue. Instead, it's an idiosyncratic, irreverent, free-wheeling pastiche that incorporates elements of biography, mock hagiography, cultural criticism, humour, Canadiana and personal essay. His brief vacation from adulthood teaches him something about rock and roll, contrarianism, the allure of the road, being cool and aging gracefully: staying Young.

Love this? Share it around!






23cm x 15cm




Art and Photography


Hardie Grant Books


01 May 2006


Kevin Chong