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Music

Why Neil Young's 'On The Beach' is worth its weight in gold

When Neil Young made the decision to remove his catalogue of songs from the streaming platform Spotify in protest of their consistent decision to afford Joe Rogan a platform for his ill-informed rhetoric, he not only made an admirable move but also separated himself from the pack. As Kate Bush and Metallica can attest to, having your music as accessible bite-size chunks on such a platform offers an opportunity for would-be fans to fall in love with your work as it takes pride of place on their shuffle algorithm. In removing his music from the world’s most frequently visited streaming platform, Neil Young laid down a challenge: how much do you really want to listen to these albums?

Thankfully, for Neil Young, such is the giant weight of his incredible catalogue that he has seen a huge increase in subscribers to his own platform, the Neil Young Archives and has also seen a bump in vinyl sales of his old records too. If you’ve liked a few Neil Young songs and always wanted to dip your toe into the icy cool waters of his stunning catalogue, then there’s no better place for a dip than On The Beach.

To have spent over five decades at the top of the rock world is a feat not many artists can achieve. Neil Young has done it not with gimmicks or pop prowess but by continuously writing songs which are deliberate, artistic and authentic. There are few artists that feel as genuine as Neil Young. Not plagued by ego or individualism, Young hasn’t just been one of the starring songwriters of his five decades in the limelight, but he’s also been just as happy to take a back seat and let the band take the praise.

“I don’t like to be labelled, to be anything. I’ve made the mistake before myself of labelling my music, but it’s counter-productive,” Young once said in a quote which typifies his approach to music. “The thing about my music is, there really is no point,” he added nonchalantly. “I just do what I do. I like to make music.” And he sure did make a lot of it.

As part of the Ditch Trilogy — a collection of records that Young wrote while struggling with his own personal and professional issues — you can naturally expect On the Beach to be a bleak affair, despite the apparent sunny setting of the LP. The album is largely thought of as one of the most despairing albums ever made and sometimes seen as Young waving goodbye to despair, having been recorded after but released before Tonight’s The Night.

There are some grand moments on the album, and while ‘Ambulance Blues’ is certainly one of Young’s best songs, it’s hard to see past the titular track. ‘On the Beach’ is a stoned and superior view on the sunnier side of life, no matter how melancholy the melody may be. It’s a triumph of an album and certainly deserves revisiting. Chances are it will confirm everything you’ve been told about the talent of Neil Young.

This is the point worth illustrating time and time again. Without wishing to sound like too much of an angry old man yelling at a cloud of modernity, there’s a reward in chancing your arm on a brand new record. In today’s musical landscape, artists not only gear themselves up for releasing singles that will be collated in playlists and sell the album on their own but they’re encouraged to make an array of different sounding singles to achieve more placements in such playlists. Young simply wrote from the heart and banded his songs together in a collection.

Furthermore, while the ‘cut and paste’ technique of music listening is now more prevalent than ever, buying an album outright, without too much knowledge of how it will turn out, provides the same excitement and intrigue as going to the cinema. The simple act of buying the album ensures you’re committed to listening to it, likely more than once, before making an opinion. Investing your money means you will invest your time in the art and that’s surely beneficial for everybody involved?

If you fancy giving yourself such an opportunity to connect with an album on a more intense level, then head for Neil Young’s On The Beach and it’ll stick with you longer than the sand stays between your toes.

On The Beach – Neil Young