On the night of Saturday, 30 September 1989, I was watching SNL and getting sleepy. It was midway through the show, (I remember it not being a particularly funny episode) and Neil Young was the musical guest. I was watching for him really.
He was touring in support of his new LP, “Freedom”, and the hit off that record, “Keep On Rocking In The Free World”, was played first. An ‘encore’ post 12:30AM late segment was him doing “Needle And The Damage Done”. But the performance that shook my soul was his second performance, where he played another song off the new album, called “No More”.
The dozey, half asleep state I was in vanished as the opening chords played through my little CRT TV’s speaker. I sat up, covers thrown off, listening to this incredible song be masterfully performed by Neil and his band, mostly Crazy Horse members.
I can’t stress enough how much this one performance, on an SNL show no less, affected me. I had not yet started playing guitar, that was a few years off, but I played drums in the marching & jazz band at school and had my first drum set for about a year. The Beatles, CCR, Clapton and so many other bands and musicians I grew up on were already deeply rooted in me. The music my Dad turned me on to, constantly played around the house and in the car, was the soundtrack to my life, as cornball as it sounds. Music was omnipresent.
But this Neil song really touched a nerve. Along with the music I had sponged via osmosis all throughout my life, and then later with the Who (especially Quadrophenia) at 20 years old, this moment was key in my decision, and really my realization, that music was to be my life’s purpose.
I added a comment to the YouTube video that says some of this, just a quick paragraph, but I needed to get this down and in linking the video hopefully turn others on to this lost gem of Neil’s catalog. Big fans know of it of course, but it is virtually unknown to the general rock fan who knows him for “Heart of Gold”, “Old Man”, “Ohio” and maybe “Harvest Moon”.
I am glad I found it again. I had it, or another upload of it, on a favorites playlist but it erased or something when I changed some settings on the YouTube app a long time back. I always kept an eye out for it on Comedy Central SNL reruns and it was on some greatest music performance show they had years ago, that was the last time I saw it on TV.
Give it a listen and check out the studio version to compare. When looking up some of the stuff on the “Freedom” album last night I read where some critics have cited this version of “No More” as the definitive take on it. Mentions of Neil’s general concert performances from the period also site this song as a show highlight and how it showed Young at the top of his mid-career game. I agree, he was fierce in this era, when the then newly minted Bush Sr. was continuing Reagan’s pro-rich, pro-gun, anti-social program/fuck the poor elitist agenda.
The more things change…yep, the more they stay the same.
Check it out and be cool…