Flashback: Neil Young and Crazy Horse Play an Epic ‘Down by the River’ in 1976

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Neil Young - Credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images
Neil Young - Credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images

Neil Young and Crazy Horse rolled out their new single “Song of the Seasons” earlier this month. It will appear on their upcoming album, Barn, which is landing on December 10th. “We love this record and hope you do too,” Young wrote online. “Things are so different today with the way records are presented than when we started with our first LP Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere 50 years ago.”

Things have also changed a lot with Crazy Horse since that first record hit. Everybody Knows was their lone release with original guitarist Danny Whitten, who died from a drug overdose in 1972. He was replaced in 1975 by Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, and he stuck around all the way through his retirement in 2018. Nils Lofgren joined up with the band for their 2018 and 2019 theater shows, and he played on their 2019 LP Colorado and the upcoming Barn. This entire time, the group has been anchored by drummer Ralph Molina and bassist Billy Talbot.

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The brief Danny Whitten era was captured on the live album Live at the Fillmore East and a handful of bootlegs, but there’s no video footage of it. When the group hit the road in 1976 in support of Zuma, Young arranged for a film crew to capture their gigs in London at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and Budokan Hall in Tokyo. (The audio recordings became Odeon Budokan from Neil Young Archives Volume II: 1972–1976.) The footage somehow fell into the hands of bootleggers, and here’s video of an epic “Down by the River” from the London gig. The quality is less than perfect, but hopefully Young has pristine copies in his vault that he’ll share some day.

The Nils Lofgren lineup of Crazy Horse has now cut two records, but their live activity has been limited to five California theater gigs in May 2018 and two Winnipeg theater shows in February 2019. They were plotting a U.S. arena tour in early 2020, but the pandemic forced them to delay it. Young has indicated that it might happen in 2022 if he’s sure it’ll be safe for the audience. But Springsteen is also plotting a 2022 E Street Band tour, and Nils Lofgren cannot be in two places at once. Let’s hope they find a way to make the calendar work for him. Both tours are long overdue.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68pEr90jLhk?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent&w=640&h=360]

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