Waging Heavy Peace

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Overview

Neil Young—reflective, introspective, insightful, brutally honest—discusses his life and career. From his youth in Canada (where his father was a well-known journalist) to his first band's travels across the U.S. seeking fame (and girls), to his forming of the Buffalo Springfield, his massively successful solo career highlighted by After the Gold Rush, to his joining with Crosby, Stills & Nash, to his roll as one of the last uncompromised (and uncompromising) survivors of rock 'n' roll—this is Neil's tale. ...

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Overview

Neil Young—reflective, introspective, insightful, brutally honest—discusses his life and career. From his youth in Canada (where his father was a well-known journalist) to his first band's travels across the U.S. seeking fame (and girls), to his forming of the Buffalo Springfield, his massively successful solo career highlighted by After the Gold Rush, to his joining with Crosby, Stills & Nash, to his roll as one of the last uncompromised (and uncompromising) survivors of rock 'n' roll—this is Neil's tale. Told episodically, with great detail, and intermingling his current obsessions with musical sound quality and the environment with his recollections of the way things were, this is a memoir that will stand beside those of Bob Dylan and Keith Richards as exemplar of the genre.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Rolling Stone once paid homage to "Neil Young's blazing guitar and bruised wonder of a voice." We have been immersing ourselves in both since the Buffalo Springfield days of the mid-sixties and there is no sense of ending: Just last year, the Canadian-born performer released his first Crazy Horse album since 2004 and toured in support of his second album of the year. With the directness and candor that has marked his career, Waging Heavy Peace takes us from his Lionel train Ontario childhood through gigs with Crosby, Stills & Nash, and beyond. The sixties and seventies, but so much more. Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

The New York Times
…as charismatically off the wall as Mr. Young's records, and the…concert films so imaginatively directed by Jonathan Demme. And however privately calculating it may be, it seems completely free of guile…[Stephen King's] writing is recalled by Mr. Young's frankness, small-town backbone and comfortable familiarity with ghosts…The personal stories about Mr. Young's children and their mothers, about friends and band mates lost to ill health and drugs, can be as eerie as any of Mr. King's daydreams. But Waging Heavy Peace has an affirmative spirit that is one of its most poignant qualities.
—Janet Maslin
Publishers Weekly
In his lively, rollicking, high-spirited, and reflective memoir, Young, the hugely influential Canadian singer-songwriter invites readers to sit down on his porch for comfortable conversations about his guitars, his bands, his cars, his inventions, his trains (he owns a small share in Lionel), and his family. Musically, he ruminates, he may or may not have peaked because "other things continue to grow and develop long afterward, enriching and growing the spirit and the soul." Young openly shares intimate moments of life with his sons, Zeke and Ben, who suffer from cerebral palsy, and his artist daughter, Amber, devoting entire chapters to the ways they have changed his life, as well as to his beloved wife, Pegi, and their life together. Like one of his long, inventive jams, Young weaves crystalline lyrics and notes about friends Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, and Bruce Springsteen, former band mates Stephen Stills, and the late great pedal steel player Ben Keith of the Stray Gators, with reflections on the enduring beauty of nature, and the lasting power and influence of music. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Young has successfully explored so many different musical styles in his solo and collaborative work that his career could serve as a map of rock music in the last 50 years. Not every musician could have moved so silkily from the gentler sounds of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, & Nash to the hard-driving rock of Crazy Horse to experimentation that has led to Young's being dubbed the godfather of grunge. A noncompromiser and active environmentalist, too; here's his story.
Library Journal - Audio
Canadian singer/songwriter Young presents brief conversational/blog-type entries that culminate in a lengthy narrative in which he ruminates on his life as well as offers heavy doses of his passions—collecting vintage cars/model trains—and his attempts to develop "Pono," a high-quality digital music system. Along the way, he discusses his wife and children and the musicians with whom he has worked. Narrator Keith Carradine competently conveys Young's passion and energy. VERDICT Young's breezy memoir is not particularly revelatory as a biography or a career analysis, but his many fans will enjoy the digressions of this iconic rock star. ["Essential reading for all fans of Young, who, in his typical idiosyncratic, improvisational, and charmingly long-winded style, fills in the gaps of Jimmy McDonough's flawed Shakey: Neil Young's Biography," read the review of the New York Times best-selling Blue Rider: Penguin hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 10/19/12.—Ed.]—Phillip Oliver, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence
Kirkus Reviews
The long-awaited memoir from the legendary rocker. Readers will learn few of the secrets of Young's art of songwriting, save that "Ohio" came in a flash in response to the bad news from Kent State, and he didn't play a note on "Teach Your Children." Neither, apart from a visit to the clinic here and there, will they learn much about musicians' hedonistic ways. Instead, Young writes of electric trains. He loves them so much that he bought a stake in Lionel, and he has barns and rooms on his rambling California ranch full of them. "I saw David [Crosby] looking at one of my train rooms full of rolling stock and stealing a glance at Graham [Nash] that said, This guy is cuckoo. He's gone nuts. Look at this obsession. I shrugged it off. I need it. For me it is a road back," he writes. Trains return often in the narrative, as do dusty roads, old cars and tractors. But Young, author of "Trans" and other weird outings that once got him sued by his own record label for delivering music "uncharacteristic of Neil Young," is also a technogeek extraordinaire, particularly when it comes to sound; he often mentions the digital format that he's been tinkering with in his mad-scientist lab. He asserts that because it preserves so little--5 percent, by his reckoning--of the actual sound of a recording, "[i]t is not offensive to me that the MP3-quality sound is traded around." Along the way, Young discusses guitars and bands, revealing a now-improbable wish to reconvene Buffalo Springfield, which never lived up to its promise, and Crazy Horse. Sometimes he's even a little jokey about music in general (on America's song "A Horse with No Name": "Hey, wait a minute! Was that me? Okay. Fine. I am back now. That was close!"). Not the revelation that was Keith Richards' Life, but an entertaining and mostly well-written journey into the past, if light on rock 'n' roll.
The Barnes & Noble Review

What does rock 'n' roll do to a person, long-term? Decibels, overload, and the ravening Id; chemical attrition, abuse of the higher faculties; near-limitless scope for bad behavior... After decades of these, what effects? Well, the specimens are walking, or shambling, among us — and more than that, they are writing up their own case histories. On the microscope slide of memoir they are offering us slivers of old rocker brain. Keith Richards did it in 2010 ? in his book Life — with the help of co-author James Fox. Now Neil Young and Pete Townshend have done it, each in his own way, no co-authors involved. "Writing is very convenient, has a low expense, and is a great way to pass the time," declares Young in Waging Heavy Peace. "I highly recommend it to any old rocker who is out of cash and doesn't know what to do next. You could hire someone to write it for you if you can't write it yourself.... Just don't hire some sweaty hack who asks you questions for years and twists them into his own vision of what is right or wrong." Townshend, most Townshend-ianly, concludes Who I Am with a letter to his eight year-old self: "You have a brilliant mind. Unfortunately you are not going to exercise it quite as much as you should."

These are two very different books by two very different men. Who I Am is literate, self-aware, painstakingly chronological, and written in a spirit of lacerating candor. "I was still experiencing manic-depressive anxiety attacks, hearing voices and music, seeing visions. The only medication that helped was alcohol." Waging Heavy Peace is candid, too, but hazier and more graciously self-forgiving. The book ambles back and forth on a woozy narrative spiral — now he's talking about his latest car, now his broken toe, now his first band — and reads for the most part like it came curling off the top of Young's magnificent head. "So we are getting into this now. There may have to be more than one book. I read up on this sort of thing, and the worst thing you can have is a book that is too long." A couple of points of commonality, though, between Neil Young and Pete Townshend: they are both geniuses, and they have both largely expressed themselves with electricity, using amplified guitars.

Townshend's classic sound is a near-celestial ringing and whooshing, his solos a matter not so much of individual notes as of the huge choral combinations at that moment forcing their way through his built-to-order high-tensile noise-conducting neurotic Englishman's frame and hands. As a boy, we learn from Who I Am, he was subject to mysterious sonic overwhelmings, often triggered by rivers or the sea: "I began to hear the most extraordinary music, sparked by the whine of the outboard motor and the burbling sound of water against the hull. I heard violins, cellos, horns, harps and voices, which increased in number until I could hear countless threads of an angelic choir." When, as a man, he channeled this "alpha-state music" through his guitar, it would emerge stamped unmistakably with Townshend-ness — what Gerard Manley Hopkins, writing of the composer Henry Purcell (also a favorite of the young Townshend), called "the forg'd feature": "...it is the rehearsal / Of own, of abrupt self there so thrusts on, so throngs the ear."

Neil Young's sound — when he's really going — is heavier, weirder and more searing, with the glimmering immaterial weight of an epileptic aura. (Young himself has suffered from seizures, rushes, strange buzzings and gusts of "cosmic wind".) In Waging Heavy Peace he recounts the moment when he first delivered himself to it, surrendered to it, dangerously — the full current of his musical being. The occasion is a show by his pre–Buffalo Springfield band the Squires, at the Flamingo Club in Fort William, Ontario, where having played a solo "like I was out of my mind" Young is approached after the set by a well-respected local guitarist, a real shredder and proponent of "the Toronto sound." As Young records it, the man is agog. "What the fuck was that?! What the hell were you doing? I have never heard anything like that in my life! It was fucking great, man! Shit!" (That last exclamation capturing beautifully the enraptured, covetous sense of affront that is the truest tribute one artist can pay to another.)

Both Neil Young and Pete Townshend are also, in the best and most constructive sense of the term, cranks. Parts of Waging Heavy Peace double as a product pitch for Lincvolt, Young's vision of a fuel-efficient, sort-of-green classic car ("Lincvolt will be powerful, clean and sexy. This has to happen. It is going to.") and PureTone, his attempt to rescue recorded music, and the ears of its listeners, from the plague of the MP3. Throughout the book he is building, designing, inventing, fiddling with wires, giving up, starting again; he is a lifelong model train buff, with a "small share" in the collectibles company Lionel; reworking the interior of Broken Arrow Ranch (where he wrote "Old Man") he makes connoisseurial trips to the lumberyard, going through "stacks and stacks of twelve-inch-wide planks of rough-sawn A-grade redwood, choosing the ones with the most beautiful sap and grain. Maybe I took one out of every twelve."

He is a glorious gearhead: his relationship with his cars, with his guitars, is true intimacy. Ragged Glory, he tells us (rumbling with ecstasy) was mainly written in his "car barn," surrounded by "all of my best shit": "My Fender Deluxe with a Fender Reverb, my whizzer attached to it, my Magnatone feeding from that, and my Baldwin Exterminator feeding off of it, too." He has also adored dogs and people — especially people who, like good cars, do their jobs properly and with a bit of style: his formidable manager/confrere David "Be Great or Be Gone" Briggs is eulogized, in bursts, throughout Waging Heavy Peace, as are the likes of sideman Ben Keith ("a wonderful man, gentle as the rain") whose steel guitar playing on "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold" is the very definition of the word plangent.

The crankiness of Pete Townshend is more, shall we say, abstract. True, his breakthrough work with synthesizers around the time of Who's Next was quite Young-esque in its balance of inspiration and hands-on monomania. (Why is he not acknowledged as a pioneer of electronic music? Oh, that's right: because his greatest innovations are buried under the power chords of "Baba O'Riley.") The real action, however, was upstairs, in the throbbing Townshend brain.

There vague intuitions and intimations — about the power of Rock, about the coming of virtual reality, about the one true note from which all music springs, about a sad boy in a bubble — congealed into concepts, "high-flown congregational notions", few of which he was able to get across. "My excitement was greatest," he writes, "when I was exploring the terrain between the spiritual magic of music and the march of physics. Unfortunately I wasn't having much success communicating in the language I was using — one part science fiction, one part mystical waffle, one part visionary glimpses of the role computers could play in the future of electronic music." As he himself had prophesied in an early Who hit, he couldn't explain. His ego would rise in indignation. "It's like trying to explain atomic energy to a group of cavemen," he complained to his wife Karen in 1970, having failed to put his bandmates in the picture with regard to his Lifehouse project.

But the point about Lifehouse was that nobody understood it — not the Who, not their management, certainly not the kids who gathered at London's Young Vic theatre, in early 1971, in nebulous expectation of a futuristic Who/audience mash-up. ("We did manage to perform some songs to a pre-recorded backing track," relates Townshend in Who I Am, "but no new music was produced; the assembled audience wasn't given access to electronic instruments, or even tambourines to bang.")

We should be grateful, I suppose, that Townshend the electro-druid has opted to tell his story straight, in sequential black-and-white, rather than in whirring cyber-splinters on some unusable new social media platform. But telling it straight is important to him now, particularly with respect to the child pornography scandal that enveloped him in 2003. (Who I Am will reassure you that he meant no harm.) As for the reasons or purposes behind Waging Heavy Peace, they seem to be twofold: first, to check that Neil Young's brain is still working, and second, because no songs are coming to him at the moment. On the former point he is disarmingly straightforward: "I am always getting scared that I will be in the middle of some long-winded story and forget what I'm talking about and my secret that I am slowly losing my mind will be out. It is a real fear. Everyone will know! But that is not new. That is not a recent development. I have always been like that. That is what makes detecting the onset of early stages of dementia in me so difficult."

On the latter he is shrewd and artistic: "Songs are like rabbits and they like to come out of their holes when you're not looking.... So I feel like am standing over a song hole. That will never result in success." Childlike, senescent, wise, and wonderfully foolish, Young in Waging Heavy Peace hands down his lessons — the most fundamental of them, perhaps, being one to which the Townshend of Who I Am would readily assent. And it goes like this: "Don't be greedy. Be ready."

James Parker is the author of Turned On: A Biography of Henry Rollins (Cooper Square Press), and a correspondent for The Atlantic.

Reviewer: James Parker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101579459
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/8/2012
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

Neil Young’s music and songwriting—which span forty years and thirty-four studio albums of rock and roll, folk, and country, with shadings of blues, techno, and other styles—are among the most enduring and popular in modern times. From his early days with Buffalo Springfield through his solo career and collaborations with Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crazy Horse, and dozens of other notable musicians and groups, Young is acclaimed for both his musical talents and his artistic integrity. With a major hit in every decade since the sixties, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice (as a solo artist in 1995 and as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997). A well-known political activist, environmentalist, and philanthropist, Young has been involved in several causes, notably cofounding Farm Aid and The Bridge School, which assists children with physical impairments and communication needs.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 30, 2012

    Cool.

    Like a listen of On the Beach I have left on repeat for hours with no intention of changing for fear of interrupting the vibe, I have not been able to put this book down. Coincidentally I am a Neil Young fan, so while that probably results in a biased review, I can't imagine anyone else reading this book if they aren't also a fan of the man. Mostly, I think Young realizes this, too, and I especially love the moments he speaks directly to the reader - checking to see that we are still listening, most likely, because it does get a bit lengthy and rambling....but that's possibly exactly the intoxicating authenticity that appeals to me so much about this work. This book is uncomplicated. It is conversational. It is honest. It has moments of humility and moments of indulgence. Don't we all. The most enjoyable thing about it for me is its tendency to ruminate...I read portions out loud to my husband as we drove in the car for hours and no matter where I left off before or how much he missed in between, I could always just pick up where I was currently at because there is no "order." Like a good Neil Young listen, you can drop in when you feel like it and come back to it later and feel as if nothing passed between you, yet can still discover something new to appreciate. At the end of the day, it's always a good time.

    41 out of 43 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2012

    The spirit of the 60s and 70s revisited, and very much alive today.

    I first loved Neil Young when I was in college in the early 70s, and this book feels like a long lost conversation with friends back in that era. The way in which his values and his love for music have formed his life is admirable. He is profound and, at times, profoundly funny in telling his story. Thanks for sharing all of your great gifts with us, Neil.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2013

    He did a splendid job on this book,as he is who he is. neil writ

    He did a splendid job on this book,as he is who he is. neil writes this autobiography as he wrote and lived his life.anyone looking for a ghost written book can look elsewhere for the gossip-here,you will find blatant honesty and(admittedly,but gladly)all you ever needed to know about why he is so strong a person and writer,his true explanation of why the springfeild ceases in a time he wished it never had to,and finally his "journey through the past  and present"a title he perhaps should use. his blurbs for his lossless music files belief grows from annoying to loving once you get him as a person of exellence.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2012

    Disappointing given the life he's lead

    Neil Young's autobiography reads like a diary or a Facebook history. I had hoped for so much more. The rambling nature might appeal to others, though. He seems to be making peace with lovers, friends and colleagues more than telling a life story that I wanted to read. Much of it reminded me of conversations I've been subjected to with long-term drug addicts. I do highly recommend the DELUXE EDITION on the tablet that includes recordings and video clips.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 10, 2012

    Only is you are a huge fan

    If you are a fan of Neil Young and you will accept his unabashed self promotion of his current non-musical projects than this may be a good read. But if you want to know more facts about his life and musical projects than this is not the most informative.

    You are given a tour of his very creative mind through the many chapters that discuss what ever he was thinking as he wrote the book. A linear trip this is not! I was disappointed in that I had hoped to learn more about Neil's processes of writing, maybe a bit of a "discumentary" into a long and amazing number of true iconic tunes.

    Not to be.

    He mentions many iconic names in the music business, not just Canadian talent as he has really become a world citizen with his music and that's all well and good. But once again, I would have preferred more depth.

    Having just taken in his recent concert with Crazy Horse, I realize he performs what is currently important to Neil. Maybe that is why he has such acceptance. You get what is truly in Neil not what he hopes his audience wants. His book is just that.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2012

    Enjoyable read and highly recommended for Neil Young fans

    You can't help increasing your respect for Neil Young after this approximately 500 page jewel. He comes across as an excellent family man whose love for his wife is consistent throughout the book. Leave it to Young to be your atypical rock star! I onlly recommend good reads and this is one. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2012

    Excellent reading

    The book skips around a bit, but over all I really enjoyed it! I would think a follow up will come in the future. Its hard to get it all in one book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2013

    I thought the book was ging to be about his musical career but i

    I thought the book was ging to be about his musical career but it wasn't. It focused on his electric car, PureSound abd several other things I didn't care about. I read about halfthe book and that was enough. I would not recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013

    Great

    5 stars neil

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

    Would recommend as a gift for a Neil Young fan.

    I purchased this book as a gift. The recipient was pleased.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2012

    Imagine sitting by a fireplace in a cozy chair on a nippy night

    Imagine sitting by a fireplace in a cozy chair on a nippy night chatting with your friend Neil... this book is a true joy.

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  • Posted November 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Dragged ON and ON

    I am sure he has had and will continue to have an exciting life but iit is just not delivered in this book. I like him and there were a few interesting facts but way too long..........nice book paper.........EFM

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 5, 2013

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    Posted September 27, 2012

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