Human Highway & Rust Never Sleeps Talk

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In anticipation of tonight’s double feature screening of Neil Young’s Human Highway and Rust Never Sleeps, Cameron spoke to the Huffington Post about those films and much more. Enjoy!

A Conversation with Cameron Crowe Mostly About Neil Young

Mike Ragogna: Cameron, on the surface, Human Highway can be a goofball comedy or a stoner flick. But I believe it’s really a pretty dark commentary on nuclear power, war, and the mistreatment of Indigenous Nations. It’s an amazing movie when you consider what it achieved.

Cameron Crowe: Very true. I loved being able to write about Neil Young for Rolling Stone, he was one of the artists I was able to follow through the years. He was often open to interviews, and always there to give me a peek behind the curtain on his many projects. I was invited to come and watch him direct Human Highway. He directed like he performed as a singer-songwriter: spontaneous but with a structure. It was so interesting to watch him translating that style into talking to and directing actors, some of them with storied careers in acting behind them. People like Russ Tamblyn and Dennis Hopper. They were all drawn into his directing spell, which was something of  a cross between “Cortez The Killer” and Howard Hawks. He was working with cinema, but still creating an atmosphere for intense creativity, not unlike what he does when he plays with Crazy Horse or any of his bands. He is a master of feel, and so it was on the set of Human Highway. He was at the peak of his post-Harvest powers.  Dennis Hopper was, I think, not at his zenith. Dennis was kind of on the ropes at the time–professionally and personally. I remember Neil Young had a checkbook around his neck, on a lanyard. I asked somebody, “Why does Neil have a checkbook around his neck?” and they said, “Because Dennis Hopper keeps asking him for money, and he said, ‘What, do you think I got a checkbook hanging around my neck?'” [laughs] Ultimately, he gave in and got one to prove a point to Dennis Hopper.

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Neil Young Movie Double Feature + Q&A with Cameron

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Neil Young will be hosting a one night only double feature screening of Human Highway and Rust Never Sleeps on Monday, February 29th. An Evening with Neil Young will include a Live Q & A moderated by Cameron that will be streamed in theaters across the country. Tickets are available over at Fathom Events’ Official Site.

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Top 10 Albums: Rock Critics Choice

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Cameron shared his Top 10 for this 1978 book and we thought you might like to take a look back with us…

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1.  After the Gold Rush – Neil Young

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Roadies Debuts June 26th

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It’s official! Roadies will debut on Showtime on Sunday, June 26th. Here’s the official trailer. Enjoy!

 

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James Taylor: Mr. Homebody

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We are pleased to share a new addition to the Journalism section today. Cameron did this interview with James Taylor for the L.A. Times circa August, 1976. We hope you like it!
James Taylor: Just a Homebody Who Finds No Warmth in the Spotlight

The young man edged closer and stared for a moment to make sure the lanky figure in the corner of the restaurant was indeed James Taylor. The man then tore a soiled bandage from his own forehead and began shrieking that Taylor had just miraculously healed him.Within seconds, the other customers in the restaurant were gawking at the shy singer-songwriter. Taylor sighed quietly and buried his head in his hands. All he had wanted was a burger.

 

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Glenn Frey Tribute

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Eagles (November, 1972) (L-R) Frey, Meisner, Henley & Leadon. Photo by Gary Elam.

Cameron shared his thoughts with Rolling Stone in a new tribute to late Glenn Frey. We will share an excerpt below, but please check out Rolling Stone for the entire story.

It was 1972, and “Take It Easy” was still on the charts. The Eagles came to San Diego, and I was working for a small local underground paper.   I grabbed my photographer buddy Gary from high-school and made a plan. We were going to sneak backstage and grab an interview with this new group. I loved their harmonies, and the confident style that charged their first hit-single.

Glenn Frey introduced the band. “We’re the Eagles from Southern California.”

They were explosive, right off the top, opening with their acapella rendition of “Seven Bridges Road.” Then, with utter confidence, this new band, filled with piss and vinegar, launched immediately into their hit.   There was nothing “laid-back,” about them.   No “saving the hit for last.” This was a band with confidence. They were a lean-and-mean American group, strong on vocals and stronger on attitude. Gary and I talked our way backstage with ease, found the band’s road-manager, and he threw us all into a small dressing room where drummer-singer Don Henley, bassist Randy Meisner, and guitarist Bernie Leadon took us through the story of the band.   Every other sentence began with “And then Glenn… “ Glenn Frey was the only guy not in the room.

After about a half-hour, the door whipped open and Frey walked in. He had a Detroit swagger, a memorable drawl and a patter like a baseball player who’d just been called up to the majors. He was part musician, part tactician and part stand-up comic. It was immediately obvious, Glenn had his eye on the big picture. He’d studied other bands, and how they broke up or went creatively dry. He had a plan laid out.   He even used that first interview to promote his friends – Jackson Browne, John David Souther , Ned Doheny and San Diego songwriter Jack Tempchin.   His laugh and demeanor was infectious. Immediately, you wanted to be in his club.   At the end of the interview, I asked them all to pose together. The photo is one of my favorites. It captures one of their earliest, happiest, freest moments… a band that would later brawl memorably, was giddy and happy that night, arms wrapped around each other. Glenn’s look is priceless – this is my band, and we’re on our way.

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David Bowie: Self Portrait ’76

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“Self Portrait ’76” — a treasured keepsake from David Bowie as he worked on Station To Station.

To a young journalist in the mid-70s, David Bowie was the ungettable interview.  He did not speak to the press.  Still, through some cajoling from Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones and Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, both of whom I’d previously profiled, David Bowie called me from a cross-country train trip.  “I’ve left my manager,” he said, “I’m traveling to LA.  I’ll call you when I arrive and we can do an interview.”   I followed him, with tape rolling, for 6 months as he transitioned from Young Americans to his next phase, The Thin White Duke/Station to Station period.  It was somewhat of a primal scream phase for him.  Careening through the Los Angeles underground, from studios to home galleries, he afforded me a front-row seat.  “Let me show you how I write a song now,” he told me one day, and then carefully demonstrated the cut-out method he’d adopted for that period.  He was on his knees on his floor, moving clipped single pieces of papers containing lines he’d just written.  Like a 3 card-monty street-corner magician, he shuffled together the words of a new song until it made just enough sense… and no more.  The rest would be left to the listener.

Bowie was the most generous and entertaining interview subject I’d ever met.  Nothing was off-limits.  When he asked to meet you, it was rarely casual.  You would be ushered into the room where he was waiting, and the artist would be perfectly positioned, his head cocked at the perfect angle to catch the light.  It was not an affectation.  He naturally staged himself, only to break out of such an iconic pose with a crackling smile and jaunty warmth.  He loved Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s “What’s the Worst Job You’ve Ever Had” routine, and knew it by heart, the same way he cherished a bootleg copy of the Jeff Beck Group at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom… Bowie’s creative process was both ferocious and meticulous, his love of music ran from Kraftwerk to The Spinners to hard jazz and classical, to a young fan, a songwriter who’d just finished his first album when he made a pilgrimage to Philadelphia just to meet him – Bruce Springsteen.  We saw each other a number of times since, and he always made a reference to those wild years in LA.  I was always tugging on his sleeve to act in something I’d written, too.  A hugely underrated presence in film, I’d even been crafting a part for him as recently as this weekend.

In our last conversation, I read him back some of his quotes from the “wild years in LA”  period.  Looking back was not his game, but he listened patiently.  Some of the quotes were spectacularly profound, but Bowie took no ownership. “It really represents the morbid and misdirected enthusiasm of a young man with too much time on his hands and too many grams of PCP, amphetamine or cocaine or maybe all three in my system, really.”  He explained he was happy he left Los Angeles, went to Germany for his next phase, and slowly saved his own life.  “That whole time is a blur topped with chronic anxiety… I could have easily died.”   He once doodled the accompanying drawing on a paper while I interviewed him.  He left the paper behind and I asked him to sign it.  “It’s a self-portrait,” he said, and applied his signature.  Over the years I’ve come to interpret the drawing as a tiny cry for help… a cry he answered himself with the subsequent trip to Berlin and an entire lifestyle change.  Bowie turned that dark period on it’s head, and went on to supply many more generations of fans with music and art and soul and inspiration.  He careened beautifully into the future… where he will always be.

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Jann Wenner – Happy Birthday!

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Twenty-year-old Jann S. Wenner in the original San Francisco office, 1967. Photograph by Baron Wolman. Courtesy of Jann’s website.

Jann Wenner turns 70 years young today. All of us here at The Uncool/Vinyl Films want to wish him the very best. Here’s the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame piece that Cameron wrote back when Jann was inducted in 2004.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nineteenth Annual Induction

There are some who say rock & roll, at its very core, is a temporary form. Even the earliest days of rock & roll, it was all folly, right? Passionate and cheeky melodies meant to be heard crackling over a car radio, a souvenir of a night spent dancing or making out. Every real musician or fan knew, though, that rock & roll was much deeper than that. Rock & roll was code, and just under the surface was the promise of rebellion, of a life beyond what your parents could understand. It was a secret world to smuggle into your home, shut your door and get lost in.

It took a fleet of guitarists and pianists to put that secret world together, but one man realized rock & roll needed a diary and a journal. In 1967, with borrowed money and the support of a veteran jazz journalist named Ralph J. Gleason, a twenty-year-old dropout from UC Berkeley put together a folded paper, a publication that lent a tiny bit of permanence to all that timelessly “disposable” art. And on that day, Jann Wenner took the first step on the famously long, strange trip that would lead him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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