Listen To This Eddie is a bi-weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
There are a lot of adjectives that can be used to describe Neil Young. Brilliant. Mercurial. Prolific. Spontaneous. Obsessive. Frustrating. Driven. Those same words can be used to describe Dylan, Springsteen, Bowie, Kanye, or Jay-Z, but the quality really that sets Neil apart from almost every single one of his peers is his ability to walk away. Walk away from anything. Bands. Cars. Personal and romantic relationships. Business ventures. Whole tours. And yes, albums.
While listeners the world over remained justifiably enthralled with Neil’s extensive official canon, filled out by classics like Harvest, Tonight’s The Night, On The Beach, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and After The Gold Rush to cite a few of the more prominent examples, there’s a smaller subset of fans that remains wholly consumed by what the wily Canadian has kept locked in the vaults. Their names are as mysterious as they are enticing: Homegrown, Chrome Dreams, and Oceanside-Countryside. Next month, after 40 years of collecting dust, Neil will mollify this hardest core of his constituency by bringing one of these jewels to light, a wholly acoustic record titled Hitchhiker.
Fueled by a pharmacy’s worth of narcotics, Hitchhiker was recorded in a single night at Indigo Studios in Malibu, California on August 11, 1976. There were only three people present that evening, Young, his longtime producer and collaborator David Briggs, along with the actor and director Dean Stockwell. Young detailed the sessions In his 2014 autobiography Super Deluxe.
“I spent the night there with David and recorded nine solo acoustic songs, completing a tape I called Hitchhiker. It was a complete piece, although I was pretty stony on it, and you can hear it in my performances. Dean Stockwell, my friend and a great actor who I later worked on Human Highway as a co-director, was with us that night, sitting in the room with me as I laid down all the songs in a row, pausing only for weed, beer, or coke. Briggs was in the control room, mixing live on his favorite console.”