Watch remarkable footage of Neil Young busking on the streets of Glasgow back in 1976
Neil Young has always been a man of the people, despite spending the majority of his career on a stage looking down on his audience, truthfully, he’d prefer to be right in there with them. In April 1976, after flying to Glasgow, Scotland, with his Crazy Horse band for a gig at The Apollo, Young headed out into the streets to meet the locals to prove it. He did so, as he did almost every other aspect of his life, with a smile on his face, a song in his heart and a guitar in his hands.
Upon arriving at the airport, director Murray Grigor, cinematographer David Peat and a local film crew who had been hired by Young waited to begin documenting the major headline show. It was the perfect moment to capture a piece of Glaswegian history. The city may well be known for its unique hospitality, but when one of the world’s biggest rock stars took to the streets, he was met with pure joy.
“The irony,” Peat told Open Culture, “Is that neither Murray or myself were particularly knowledgeable about the rock world, and we knew little of this guy Neil Young. So we turned up at the airport in sports jackets and ties to meet him.” Clearly, the duo didn’t get the memo, Young and his band were not a hoighty-toighty affair and, instead, left the two videographers feeling a little bit embarrassed.
After missing a couple of his scheduled flights from London to Glasgow, Young finally arrived and reportedly told the film crew: “Just give me some funky shit footage,” and so the filmmakers duly obliged. Young was still in the prime of his rock ‘n’ roll life, and he wasn’t about to land in Glasgow and have a quiet night, or day, inside a poxy hotel. He was determined to get the grime of Glasgow under his fingernails.
“Our filming got off to a tricky start,” director Grigor explained. “When Neil and the band finally made it to their lunch in the Albany Hotel’s penthouse, one of them set fire to the paper table decorations, which we filmed. ‘Just like Nam,’ another one said as he warmed his hands over the small inferno lapping up towards the inflammable ceiling.”
He added: “Neil and the band were all stoned out of their skulls.” While we can’t confirm or deny that, we’d imagine Young always kept himself entertained while on tour and judging by many of his other escapades; this could be a more than likely scenario.
Despite some issues, the filmmakers and band managed to get the trip back on track and, with Young feeling a little more down to earth, he headed out on to the streets of Glasgow and routinely asked: “Excuse me, could you tell me where the Bank of Scotland is?” before settling down by the railway station.
“It was entirely Neil’s idea,” Grigor continued to explain. “To flop down at the entrance to Glasgow’s Central Station and then wait and see who would recognise him.”
Below, enjoy a sample of the footage which results in Young performing a rendition of ‘The Old Laughing Lady‘ for some unsuspecting Glaswegians, and it is simply sublime.