A long interview with Neil Young guitarist Poncho Sampedro

"Most people turn a corner, Neil ricochets," says the Crazy Horse guitarist

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This so Neil…
It’s almost guaranteed that if you rehearse it and know it perfectly, you’ll never play it!

How may songs did you rehearse for this tour before Billy’s stroke?
The ones in Oakland? Besides some of our standard ones, which I don’t really count, but things that we were thinking of doing and maybe doing, there’s about 12 different songs that we had. Plus things like “Cinnamon Girl” and “Hey Hey, My My” and “…Hurricane” and all those we didn’t rehearse because we know them so well. I think we played a couple of them once, just to see, check the heartbeat. It was there. It was there. But then, it was crazy, when we got to Iceland, all that got thrown out the window ad we had a lot more new songs and as the tour progressed Neil got more and more into the activist part of it. The war in Israel was happening. We had to cancel our show there. From then on, all of a sudden we were playing a lot more politically minded and activist minded type songs. We had a whole group of new songs to learn again. During that tour, I think I counted them, we had about 25 songs from the beginning to the end that we played.

Why do you think the song choice became so political?
I just think the environment we were in. What was on on the news. It’s funny, here at home in the States, we don’t see as much of the small conflicts that are going on globally on our TV, on our news. I’m not really one to comment because I haven’t watched the news in 14 years. After working at NBC, I made a point never to watch it again. I realised how much of it is about ratings rather than actually educating people. So I just didn’t. But when you’re in Europe, you turn on the TV and flick through the channels, you see war, war, war, war. You see all these different little wars going on. I think that was a big part of it. And we were all really looking forward to going to Israel. Anyway, we played in Turkey right around that same time and just to get into our hotel you had to go through a screening process like at the airport getting on a plane. I think all those things added up to affecting Neil and wanting to say more.


Why did he decide to cancel it?
I know that when that went down, the promoter from Israel came to meet with Neil’s management. I heard buzzing round the camp that if we didn’t cancel it, he was going to cancel it anyway. Then the day we were supposed to play, was the day a big launch went out where they attacked everything. Like I say, I don’t really… I turned it on a couple of times and thought, I can’t take this. This is so…. It’s just people being affected by money and power.

When did you first hear “Who’s Gonna Stand Up”?
Oh, yeah. We played that in Oakland with Billy. I still think that’s the best recorded version that we have. It rocks so much harder than any other one.


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