Waging Heavy Peace: a hippie dream
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By Neil Young
Publisher by Blue Rider Press.
One of the most endearing aspects of Neil Young’s new memoir, “Waging Heavy Peace,” is how badly written the book is. In his review in the Los Angeles Times, critic David L. Ulin described Young’s book as “...a mess - sprawling, improvisational, like a sloppy 40 minute jam of ‘Like a Hurricane.’” I found Neil’s simplicity moving at times, but there is one thing that really ruined Neil Young’s book for me.
My reason for feeling this way about the book is simple:
Neil Young’s shocking commercialism free-for-all - spending page after page incessantly promoting some sort of damned sound system called “PureTone.” (a system Neil has a substantial financial stake in). I don’t understand “PureTone” and I believe that no one in his right mind would ever want to buy whatever the hell it is. But Neil Young is nothing if not the consummate salesman:
Example: “Waging Heavy Peace” is 500 pages divided in to sixty-eight chapters, Some chapters as short one page. Some chapters have titles, like chapter twenty-two, “A Note About Ronald Reagan.” Chapter twelve is called, “And Now a Word from PureTone.” It’s pure commercial propaganda. And chapter thirty-seven is called “Another Word from PureTone.” It is about as self-serving as it gets. This is no joke. I am not lying.
The problem seems to be that Mr. Young, sixty-six years old next November, envisions himself as the hippy Steve Jobs of Rock and Roll. I invite you to examine the dust jacket of Walter Isaacson’s insanely popular biography called “Steve Jobs.” Now compare it to Mr. Young’s new book. Do you see what I mean? Do you believe that it’s a coincidence that both of these books look so much a like? That’s the last thing you’ll believe after you’ve read Neil Young’s “Waging Heavy Peace.”
Perhaps Neil’s current state of mind has something to do with the fact that he has stopped drinking alcohol and smoking weed for the first time in decades. He has not written a song since becoming clean and sober in January, 2011. He’s also very concerned about the onset of dementia (refereed to in the book as “The Secret”).
An illegal alien his first three years in Hollywood, Neil tried to keep his existence low-key while becoming a rock star in a band called the Buffalo Springfield. They were the house band at the Whiskey A Go Go. They made some popular records. Neil Young was only arrested once. He also contracting a couple of sexually transmitted diseases and treated them at the downtown “Free Clinic.” Neil Young was a genuine hippy.
This book is not for everyone. But for a fan, even at it’s worst, “Waging Heavy Peace” is like Neil Young writing a letter personally to you. Or maybe an email. The book is very intriguing at times. It is also strange and totally nonlinear. You can read every page in order or just pick a chapter, and start reading there. It really makes no difference. Don’t look back.
But there is a better book out there. It’s called “Shakey,” a biography of Neil Young by Jimmy McDonough. Published in 2002, “Shakey” contains almost all the stories in this memoir, and they are all told about a thousand times better. Neil didn’t like the biography when it was published, but he actually quotes from “Shakey” in this memoir. This is no joke. I am not lying.
And reading between the lines of “Waging Heavy Peace,” is really easy. Because of reading this book I now believe that Neil Young’s relationship with his wife, Pegi, is not so good. I now no longer believe that he is nearly as rich as people think he is. And I am especially disappointed that Neil Young ruined this book with the damned commercials. $hame on you. Now go write another book.