It always made me uncomfortable how the teeny bopper mags of the late ’60s tried to sell Neil as “Neil the Indian” when allegedly Neil has no native blood at all, a schtick, a pose, a sympathy at best. Magazines like Teen Screen and Teenset generally referred to him as “Neil the Indian”. In The Story of Buffalo Springfield, Neil was quoted by the authors John Einarson and Richie Furay as saying:
There I was making 120 bucks a week at the Whisky as a musician. … I’ve always liked fringe jackets. I went out and bought one right away with some pants and a turtleneck shirt. Oh yeah, I thought I was heavy. I wore them on some TV shows and whenever we worked. Then I went to this place on Santa Monica Boulevard near La Cienega. I saw this great Comanche war shirt, the best jacket I’ve ever seen. I had two more made. The group was Western, the name Buffalo Springfield came off a tractor, so it all fit. I was the Indian. That’s when it was cool to be an Indian.
Neil has no native blood at, yet continually plays on the native theme in his music and branding. His band Crazy Horse named after the Oglala Sioux hero. Cultural appropriation, however sensitively and well meant, is cultural appropriation. Heck, I’m the first one to slam the weeabos in their kimono, doing the Nauruto run shouting MOECHEE. It’s M-OTCH-CHEE guys, mochi. Short O. Neil always feels like a bit of a phoney, his lyrics twee and dull at best, yet I keep on coming back to his albums both the Buffalo Springfield and his later solo stuff, digging that reedy voice and that overdriven guitars, with his gold rush vibe and western movie feel. Neil might not be an Indian, but he sure can make good noise.
Which brings me to music to close out the day to. I was going to lay some Joni Mitchell, his Canadian countrywoman, on you, perhaps a little Hejira, but I turned on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and I just can’t turn it off. I usually head for CSNY or perhaps After the Goldrush, I hate Harvest with a passion, but rarely play his second solo album, and guess what, I’m missing out. He is lyrically still fresh, nothing seems forced or condescending, and that guitar is vital and chiming, the roots of the later grunge being laid by the talented and doomed Danny Whitten. It is Whitten that you hear in the vocals, it is his laid back country rock vibe and his experimental force that drives the album forwards. People, Whitten was robbed! On Cinnamon Girl it is Whitten’s voice you can hear, overdubbed with Neils, that whiny reedy falsetto is Whitten’s, the rhythm guitar is Whitten. The lazy, smashed liqor bottle, high wailing of a record is pure Whitten.
Richard Bosworth, who was there at the Stone Ballon, in New Haven, when Neil and Danny and the Crazy Horse boys debuted the material for EKTIN, he wrote:
Before the next song Neil introduced guitarist Danny Whitten, stating that he’d heard Danny writing a song and it was good so he felt he better get in on a good thing and co-write it. They tore into “Downtown,” then “Down by the River” with the three part harmony vocals on the chorus and Neil’s single-note, machine gun guitar riff, the extended solo sections. “The Losing End” was the penultimate song of the set
Yes, this is a great Danny Whitten album, and Neil knew he had to get in on it. During the Harvest recordings it became apparent to Neil that Danny’s drug addiction had gone too far for him to continue to be useful, and Young sent him away with $50. Danny had nowhere to go, and died that evening of an overdose.
So in this day of lost potential, sadness and nostalgia, maybe you will pay a thought to the late great Danny Whitten…hey…it’s ok…everybody knows this is…nowhere, right?