A Very Viper Kneel to Neil Retrospective – Pt. 2: Love the One You’re Occasionally With

Pt. 2 of 3. For pt. 1, go here. For pt. 3, try this.

Previously, on A Very Viper Kneel to Neil Retrospective…

  • Synth-pop with a heart
  • Sez-you schlockabilly
  • Blues with the blues hammer down

And now, November 4, 2013

At our first Kneel to Neil in 2011, we explored some of the odder and less loved avenues within the Neil Young multiverse. Some of that unlove we brought back for 2013. But for new material, we turned toward Young’s collaborations with other musicians, most especially with the guy who played on more hit songs from the 1960s than any of us could possibly realize, Booker T. Jones from Stax Records’ Booker T and the MGs.

At least I think that’s what we did. I don’t have any video, or audio, or anything approximating a set list from that night, so I’m kind of faking it here. But I think this is basically how it went down.

“Pound It Out”

This is probably my favorite thing we ever did with Neil Young’s music, and it’s going to be a centerpiece — if we every get around to finishing it — of our EP of Neil Young material we plan to title Hello, Young Lovers. Technically, it’s not Neil Young song. Instead, it’s a piece that Booker T. wrote and to which Neil Young contributed some pretty distinctive guitar work for the 2009 album Potato Hole by Booker T. Jones and the Drive-By Truckers.

I wish we had some audio to show you how we took this Hammond-and-guitar rave-up and made it into a revivally piece for trombone, stylophone, and banjo ukulele. Failing that, I’ll just direct you to the original

“Pound It Out”

“Transformer Man”

We brought this Trans song back from our 2011 set, as described in the previous post. But it’s the prettiest song I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, and I’d do a whole set of 15 back-to-back performances of it if you’d let me.

We did record ukulele and bass backing tracks for this, as produced by John Peacock. So here’s what I’d like you to do. Find the song, learn to sing it, come back here, and sing it along with the track below. Good luck! And tell me how it turns out.

“Dirt”

Not a Neil Young song. But when we played on Nov. 4, 2013, the song’s writer, Lou Reed, had just recently passed away. Aside from a shared love/hate relationship with pop songcraft and a shared dialectic understanding of the interrelationships among terms normally understood as binary oppositions —  pretty/ugly, sweet/sour, noise/music — the two performers didn’t have much of a direct connection with one another (though Young played along on a Velvet Underground song at his own Bridge School benefit concert that week!).

Following the lead of another performer earlier in the evening, who did a whole VU medley, I pulled this one out for solo banjo ukulele, in part because the unexpected absence of our regular suitcase player, Edward Burch, had left a whole in the set where one’s heart should be. “Dirt” (as in “you’re just cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap uptown dirt”) is one of the songs on 1978’s Street Hassle that isn’t “Street Hassle.”

I don’t have any video or audio footage of this song, but here’s the instrument I played it on!

TheViper-KidTested

“Two Old Friends”

This is an awesome song, from the Are You Passionate? album that Neil Young did in 2012 with Booker T. Jones and Duck Dunn from Booker T and the MGs. It’s kind of an uneven album, with this song a real stand-out, in which a preacher dies and goes to meet God, tells him “I’m dreaming of a time when love and music / Is everywhere,” asks “Can you see that time coming?” and God, seeing all the evil and hate of our time, tells him, “No, my son, that time has gone,” and the two agree to have an amicable parting of ways.

Neil Young’s version is a soulful slow rocker that we re-imagined as a country waltz in the “Farther Along” vein. Riley played fiddle! And now you can, too! Play along!

Two Old Friends (violin part). Play with a slight swing and snap.
Two Old Friends (violin part). Play with a slight swing and snap, using open string drones where possible or desirable.

“Vampire Blues”

Back from the dead from our 2011 set, and I’ll invite you to sing along with this one too.

For that purpose, here’s some video that Riley Broach surreptitiously captured while we recording the banjo uke and washtub bass backing tracks for this one, again produced by John Peacock, who you’ll see sitting in the lower right corner of this video, NOT playing along with wire brushes on the washtub. He’ll dub that in later (you can see him air-drumming on the washtub at the three-minute mark). But you can dub your vocals now. The lyrics are below the video (guess which verses we made up ourselves!). You’ll start singing after an 8-bar intro in 2/4.

“Vampire Blues (backing track)”

I’m a vampire, baby: sucking blood from the earth
I’m a vampire, baby: sucking blood from the earth
I’m a vampire, baby: I’ll sell you twenty barrels worth

I’m a black bat, honey: knocking on your window pane
I’m a black bat, honey: knocking on your window pane
I’m a black bat, honey: I need my high octane

[Yodel chorus]

I’m a nodding donkey, with a five-mile boom
I’m a pump jack, mama, with a five-mile boom
I can drink your milkshake, from across the fracking room

I’m a coffin kitten, mama: and I play for Edward’s team
From Alberta down to Texas, laying pipe while you dream
And if you’ll invite me in, I’ll lick your tar sands clean

[Drummer solos on washtub]

Good times are coming: you hear it everywhere you go
Good times are coming: you hear it everywhere you go
Good times are coming, but they sure come slow

I’m a vampire, baby (I’m a vampire, baby)
I’m a vampire, baby (I’m a vampire, baby)
I’m a vampire, baby (I’m a vampire, baby)
I’m a vampire, baby (I’m a vampire, baby)
I’m a vampire, baby: I’ll sell you twenty barrels worth

And that’s our show! Thanks for coming out. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

END OF PART 2

Next time, on A Very Viper Kneel to Neil Retrospective…

  • Hangmen, careless brothers, sultans, and global environmental collapse
  • Archer Daniels Midland, with and without the farm
  • The death rattle of Rock and Roll!