In early 1972 I was a year and a half into second year at secondary school. My world was very simple; it was all about football. On Saturdays we’d watch it and every night in the park we’d play it. There was no Sky – only football focus and a weekly Magazine called Goal, which I saw as infinitely superior to the down-market Shoot. Oh, then there was Subbuteo. It was our FIFA 15 and every Xbox rolled into one.
Music was there but it was on in the background. So records and the radio were played as the Subbuteo pitch was going down on the bedroom carpet. The radio too was straightforward. By day Radio 1 then later the third preset button on our Bush transistor – 208 MW – Radio Luxembourg – when Radio One became Radio 2 and stopped playing the songs we wanted to hear.
This was the background to my two worlds coming together. In the early part of that year a song came on the radio that got inside my head. It was Heart of Gold by Neil Young. It never made me the Neil Young fan I am now, I never bought it and I didn’t buy the album it came from until three or four years later but it registered with me. Neil Young, in my book was a lanky centre forward for Manchester City who had memorably scored the winner in the FA Cup Final just before I had gone to secondary school……..What, he’s now a singer too?
It didn’t take long to sort out the confusion and my friends, and particularly my great friend Pete from Carnoustie would put me right by pointing out that this was the very same Young as formed the great Crosby,Stills,Nash and Young, and heck there was much more to him than this. It was that other stuff that intrigued me and in 1975 when I finally caught up with all of it Tonight’s The Night became my record. I was enthralled by it’s deep darkness, the tales of rock ‘n’ roll deaths and rolling mythology which involved tales of his visit to Scotland to play the record before anyone had ever heard it.
Why do I tell you this? Because on this week’s AC we pay tribute to Neil Young as he turns 70. For me that’s significant, as I pointed out to a rather bemused listener who questioned our reasoning, because without Neil I doubt whether I’d have the love of country I have today. It was th plaintive pedal steel on Tonight’s The Night that drew me in. I didn’t have to look far to find Helpless, that aching back roads lament or the bitter roots of For The Turntstiles, LA, Harvest itself to know I liked the sound that Neil harked back to. But more, if it wasn’t for Neil how would I know who Don Gibson was and would I ever have been drawn to the music of Bobby Bare had Neil not first let me hear Four Strong Winds? I doubt it.
So for two hours this week join us in a very country toast to the seventy year old Neil Young.
It all starts tonight, Tuesday, on BBC Radio Scotland from five past nine. Join if you can.