Life at 33 1/3: Neil Young and the dawn of Reagan

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Various Artists: ‘Where The Buffalo Roam’ (Soundtrack) (Backstreet/MCA)

Oh what a movie!  Bill Murray doesn’t just act his part, he becomes Hunter S. Thompson, the hilarious inventor and guru of Gonzo-journalism – (the guy might even have invented himself).  And Peter Boyle!  Gasp!  His contribution is beyond art, he’s heading straight for the abyss, taking everyone with him.

“Where The Buffalo Roam” (1980) is a stunner.  If you haven’t seen it, hurry.  You’re gonna laugh yourself sick.  Of course it didn’t win any Academy awards.  Neither did the soundtrack album, which was just as eccentric as the movie.

You get the usual suspects of course, classic tracks by Jimi Hendrix, Temptations, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, Four Tops, and a wild take of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by Bill Murray himself.  But strange as it may sound, this is a Neil Young album.  They hired him to do the soundtrack.

Bet they didn’t expect what they got, coz he’s just doing one song, it’s not even his own song, but that old cowboy anthem “Home On The Range”.  And he does it seven times, only from different angles (and under different names as he is also calling the tune “Buffalo Stomp” and “Ode To Wild Bill” for some reason).  Six of them are instrumental doodlings, some with band and strings and there’s echo, space, sadness and loneliness, the guitar distorted, Hendrix-style.  And when he finally sings the tune (as side 1 closes), he does it without accompaniment as if sitting by a bonfire on the prairie, overwhelmed by the suspicion that he will never see his promised land again.

The record is a strange listening experience.  There’s six rock classics on it, but they never get a chance to take control of the proceedings as the Neil Young-snippets keep intercepting, bringing everything to an almost full stop.  It’s not a great album, but it’s a different album, and it mirrors something Neil Young must have had on his mind at the time.  The year of his yin-yang “Hawks & Doves” (which was released the day before Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States).

Released: 1980

Produced by: David Briggs

Side 1:

1. “Buffalo Stomp” – Neil Young with The Wild Bill Band Of Strings

2. “Ode To Wild Bill # 1” – Neil Young

3. “All Along The Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix Experience

4. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” – Bill Murray

5. “Ode To Wild Bill # 2” – Neil Young

6. “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” – Temptations

7. “Home Home On The Range” – Neil Young

Side 2:

1. “Straight Answers” (dialogue) – Bill Murray

2. “Highway 61” – Bob Dylan

3. “I Can’t Help Myself” – Four Tops

4. “Ode To Wild Bill # 3” – Neil Young

5. “Keep On Chooglin” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

6. “Ode To Wild Bill # 4” – Neil Young

7. “Purple Haze” – Jimi Hendrix Experience

8. “Buffalo Stomp Refrain” – Neil Young with The Wild Bill Band Of Strings