Part 11: Los Angeles Singer, Robin Lane
PART 11: ROBIN LANE
LA singer and musician. Lived with Young for a few weeks in 1966 and sang on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
UNCUT: When did you first meet Neil?
LANE: I was friends with these guys that had a house in Laurel Canyon, who had a band called the Rockets. Danny Whitten was a really good friend of mine. One night Neil just showed up.
What were your first impressions of Neil?
He was very tall, kind of gangly, and after he heard me sing a song and play my guitar, he said: “D’you wanna go for a ride in my hearse?” I liked his songs, but he was just another musician. There were a lot hanging round there at the Rockets’ house. They sold weed, and so Gram Parsons, Three Dog Night, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, a million people would be there.
Did Neil’s reputation precede him?
No. But I’d heard the Buffalo Springfield. He wasn’t too forthcoming with anything.
What kind of guy did he turn out to be, when you knew him a bit better?
Well I stayed in his cabin up on Laurel Canyon for a while. He was, at that time, closed off, emotionally. But so were we all. People were doing a lot of drugs, and hiding behind drugs. I don’t think he was doing drugs then. He was obsessed with his music, and writing songs. He wanted to be a success in the music business.
Was he obsessed with that to the extent that everything else was secondary?
We were all really young, and you can’t really get into someone’s psyche at that age. Then I was just a waif of a girl, maybe still in high school. What I observed was that he wrote songs, which I’d learn and go round playing them when I auditioned at record company offices. I didn’t think about business or success. But the men did. Neil said to me, “You’re like all the other women I know who play music. They don’t see it as a career. They just do it.”
Can you describe Neil’s cabin?
It was up a hill, at the end of a cul de sac. You had to walk up a major flight of stairs outside, and then there was a nice little patio around the garden. And all I can remember is one room, with a bed, and you sat on the bed when people came over to play music. It was brown, might have been made out of logs. This was around ’66, ’67.
If you think back and picture being at Neil’s cabin, who might be there, and what would be happening?
Well, one time he got in a big fight with Stephen Stills, because Neil was ducking out on rehearsals. And Stephen Stills came up yelling that Neil was ruining his [Stephen’s] career. Musicians would come by and play.
Would there be eating, drinking, smoking?
I remember eating a lot of cream and wheat with him. It wasn’t like now, when people go to restaurants. Food wasn’t a priority for anyone I knew. Neil never cooked anything. I don’t know if there was a kitchen in his cabin. I don’t remember Neil smoking pot. In fact one time I was sitting in his hearse, and he got mad at me for smoking pot in it.
Who else might have been passing by, at Neil’s cabin?
Stephen Stills, Bruce Palmer, really sweet person. Bob Lind, who sang “The Elusive Butterfly of Love”, which was really, really corny, but it was a big hit then. And Buffalo Springfield’s managers were around.
When socialising was going on, how did Neil fit into that? Did he sit in the corner - not really doing too much?
No, he had a personality. He just had that laugh, like he knows something that you don’t. Our relationship was like the Dead Sea Scrolls - like there’d be something profound happening, but you don’t know what it is.
Referring directly to Archives, what do you remember of the seesions for “Round and Round (It Won’t Be Long)”
When I sang “Round And Round” with him and Danny [Whitten], Danny brought me into the studio. Neil listened to some of my songs, and was really sweet. And then we went into the studio and cut the song in one or two takes. There was a platform that you could sit on, and the three of us sat around, maybe with just the one mic. We all played guitar. I was just making it up as I went along - not the lyrics, but the “ooh oohs”. We did it once or twice, then Neil said, “Okay, that’s it!” and I was really amazed. We’d done the song before together. When I first met him, he taught me the song, and then we’d play it together up at the Rocket house, with other musicians that came up there. The Rocket house was full of pot-smoke. My impression of singing that song with him then was of darkness. I didn’t notice the sun. There was a lot that went on there that helped define me. I don’t know that it defined Neil. He came already knowing what he was doing.
Did he seem above what was going on around him - the socialising?
He was in his own world. Oh, yeah. And it was an unusual world for me. I admired all those musicians so much, so I was pretty shy and awkward around them, and just watched. But a lot of people were a lot friendlier than Neil. Neil was friendly, but he was just weird. Meaning he was different than other people. I think his personality’s the same even now - he’s droll. And kind of trollish, then. A gentle troll. Someone who was dancing to his own music. There were other people who you could just be normal with. I never felt like you could be normal with Neil. He always seemed to have something going on in his head. I couldn’t tell you what. There weren’t many conversations. I would listen to him, and he’d tell me stuff about his songs. One time, his grandmother had died, and I felt really bad for him. He was crying, and I was feeling sad. And he got mad at me for feeling sad with him: “She’s not your grandmother!” That’s kind of a funny thing…He probably thought I was a phoney. But he was really young.
Did he come across as superior?
Yeah. But he didn’t mean to be. He was kind of a colourful guy. Like someone who was in the CIA. He just had something going, and you didn’t know what it was. He seemed very self-sufficient. And he was wry and droll, and quick and snappy. After I moved out of his cabin, I still saw Buffalo Springfield, but only saw Neil casually. When I played my songs for him, that time I went in to sing on “Round and Round”, he was really encouraging. He told me I was talented.
When you sang with Neil, did he take real pleasure in singing?
He liked singing his songs. Barbra Streisand or someone would take pleasure in their singing. I think he liked the whole deal that he had - he wrote these songs, and he sang them in that voice that was Neil Young.
INTERVIEW: NICK HASTED