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On The Beach lyrics by Neil Young
[Note: This is one of a series of articles which provide an explanation of the meaning of Neil Young's classic album "On The Beach". While the interpretation of lyrics presented here is composed of several viewpoints, there is little consensus on the exact meaning of Neil's songs. The themes and symbolism of Young's songwriting provide a rich tapestry on which to project various meanings and analysis. ]
"On The Beach" has long been hailed as a masterpiece. The album's infamous "blues trilogy" comprising of "Revolution Blues", "Vampire Blues", and "Ambulance Blues" have provided rich fodder for analysis and commentary. The "blues trilogy" is considered by many fans some of Neil's richest and most metaphorical work.
From Ian MacDonald's outstanding and definitive analysis in New Musical Express "You're All Just Pissing In the Wind" :
Thus, that an album as bleak and miserable-sounding as On The Beach has been preceded by no less than six other albums almost all equally bleak and miserable-sounding can easily obscure the fact that the record represents a departure. Indeed, even if people were to credit Young with doing something vaguely new in On The Beach, a lot of them would be fairly justified in dismissing his 'new' bleakness as a bleaker version of the one they... er, already knew and loved. And that's the catch, really. "
From Ian MacDonald's OTB review: "You're All Just Pissing In the Wind" commenting on 'Ambulance Blues':
From uncut62 on Ian MacDonald's analysis :
And while MacDonald correctly identifies some of the major players in the songs - Manson, especially, and the revolutionary Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), then waging an undeclared war against the American government that ended in a ferocious gun-battle with the FBI in LA that left most of them dead, shot to pieces or burned alive - he wouldn't necessarily have known that the 'Isabella' mentioned in 'Ambulance Blues' is a street in Toronto where Young used to hang out in his early days there, and that the Riverboat was the name of a folk club where he used to play.
Nor did he pick up on the fact that the kidnapping mentioned in the song is a reference to the abduction of heiress Patty Hearst by the SLA. He also interprets the final verse - 'I never knew a man could tell so many lies' - as something confessional by Young about himself, which is intriguing, although Young meant it as a parting shot in the direction of the disgraced and venal Richard Nixon. "
From A City Waiting for the Sunrise - Toronto in Song and Sound:
The song "Motion Pictures" was dedicated to Neil's girlfriend Carrie Snodgress who was an Oscar nominated actress. The liner notes of "On The Beach" for "Motion Pictures" say: "For Carrie".
Lyrics of "Motion Pictures" clearly reference Carrie and Young's love for her:
(More on Carrie Snodgress and the songs Neil wrote about her and their film appearance together in "Journey Through The Past".)
On the lyrics of REVOLUTION BLUES , John Blakeney writes:
Does he REALLY want to kill the inhabitants of Laurel Canyon or is he wondering out loud about the inner thoughts of Charlie Manson and the human schism between LA trailer trash and Hollywood?
Well, we live in a trailer at the edge of town
You never see us 'cause we don't come around.
We got twenty five rifles just to keep the population down.
But we need you now, and that's why I'm hangin' 'round.
So you be good to me and I'll be good to you,
And in this land of conditions I'm not above suspicion
I won't attack you, but I won't back you.
Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars,
But I hate them worse than lepers and
I'll kill them in their cars
Its scary just reading the words, played live as it was in 25/01/83 San Francisco, where he dedicated the song to Charles Manson, it takes on a frightening life of its own.
Dylan said that his Masters of War lyric was the only song where he wished people dead, Revolution Blues was Neil's. Dylan meant what he sang............But Did Neil ???
On The Beach lyrics by Neil Young
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