Neil Young, "On The Beach"
September 4, 2013 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Do you like Neil Young's 1974 album On The Beach? Can you recommend music similar to the songs on side 2 (i.e. the last three tracks on the CD)?

I particularly enjoy the three songs on side 2 of On The Beach - 'On The Beach', 'Motion Pictures' and 'Ambulance Blues'. What else has a similar vibe?

I'm not familiar with the rest of Neil Young's discography, so feel free to recommend his music, as well as music from similar artists.
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The albums right around that period, Zuma, Tonight's The Night, and Journey Through the Past.
posted by timsteil at 5:54 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

On the Beach is now referred to as part of the "Ditch Trilogy". The other two albums from this period are "Tonight's The Night" and "Time Fades Away" (which is a live recording). This nickname comes from Young's remark, "I found myself in the middle of the road (Harvest), so I headed for the ditch".

After the Goldrush is pretty wonderful. His songs based on dreams such as after the gold rush echo Ambulance Blues. Revolution Blues is similar, there's another on his first album called Neil Young that is based on a dream sequence which is quite long and surreal.

Take a look at Martin Scorsese's film on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home. Dylan's music and lyrics prefigure Young's, and greatly influenced Young's music.
posted by effluvia at 6:02 PM on September 4, 2013

Ambulance Blues reminds me a lot of Gillian Welch's I Dream A Highway, though the rest of her stuff isn't all that similar.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 6:11 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I see what you mean about 'I Dream A Highway'. Nice.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 6:22 PM on September 4, 2013

The above Neil Young recommendations are fantastic; Zuma and Tonight's the Night along with On The Beach are my favorite Neil Young albums.

It would also be worth checking out Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young with Déjà Vu (and on down that well to CSN, the Byrds, etc but that is getting further out there).

"Ambulance Blues" borrows from the Bert Jansch song "Needle of Death" from his fantastic debut album (which is more in the stark folk direction).

Townes Van Zandt had some country folk albums in the 60s and 70s that might have the feel you're looking for, his self-titled might be a good place to start.

Gary Higgins' Red Hash is maybe a bit more acid folk but it is amazing and wonderful. (Try "Thicker Than a Smokey")

Much more recent but still with that Laurel Canyon vibe would be Flying Canyon's gorgeously sad self-titled album from 2006. "Down to Summer" is my favorite.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:28 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

"Ambulance Blues" is a rework of Bert Jansch's "Needle of Death" so if you're into that check out his first album. I'd also check out John Fahey and Richard and Linda Thompson as well. The track "Walking on a Wire" is a good Richard and Linda Thompson starting point off of their masterpiece "Shoot Out the Lights".
posted by playertobenamedlater at 6:30 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pretty much all of the recently deceased Jason Molina's output fits the bill. Check this out for example. The bulk of his output was released as Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company. The stuff released as Jason Molina tends to be solo acoustic, and is well worth a listen.
posted by outfielder at 7:48 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Will To Love from American Stars + Bars is probably relevant
posted by philip-random at 7:50 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Great album. On the Beach and Motion Pictures are awesome 3AM songs. I know you didn't mention it, but Revolution Blues has some of my favorite lyrics of all time; incredible paranoid imagery. I've got nearly every Neil Young album (still need to get Eldorado and Arc EPs) and I recommend almost all of his 70s output, although the sprawling Journey Through the Past and Long May You Run are pretty forgettable. After the Gold Rush is a nice mix of Neil's electric and acoustic sides. As the other posters mentioned, the Ditch Trilogy is unstoppable. Definitely pick up Time Fades Away for cranky epics (Last Dance), groggy piano tunes (The Bridge), and apocalyptic rockers (LA). It's not available on CD, but it's so good you might as well go out an buy a turntable to hear it on wax :)

If you want a single collection, Decade is one of the best compilations ever, with well-known singles and album tracks, rare Buffalo Springfield tracks, a couple of CSNY favorites and unreleased solo tunes.

Most of Neil's 80s stuff were weird genre exercises, but Trans - a bizarre attempt at new wave - needs to be heard by everyone. He got back on track on Freedom, then released a number of good records in the 90s. His albums from the last decade are OK. I usually listen to them once or twice and then wait for the next one. He's still amazing live though.

Neil has influenced a lot of bands (he was dubbed the Grandfather of Grunge in the early 90s) but a couple recommendations off the top of my head would be Beachwood Sparks, Eleventh Dream Day, Jayhawks, older Wilco. I second Jason Molina's (RIP) work.

Allmusic has a list of artists who've been "influenced by" Neil Young:
posted by Allez at 8:36 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

awesome 3AM songs

Great description. That's what I'm after. I understand that Neil Young's heavier songs have their value, too, but what I'm really looking for are such "3AM songs" as are featured on side 2 of On The Beach.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 8:50 PM on September 4, 2013

Definitely pick up Tonight's the Night. Not many acoustic songs, but it's one of the rawest records I've ever heard. Beautiful and nightmarish at the same time.
posted by Allez at 8:59 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check out Skip Spence's brilliantly demented album, Oar.
posted by neroli at 9:17 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Young-esque melancholy = good.

Spence-esque dementia = not so good.

(I have Oar, and like it - it's just not what I'm after here.)
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 9:22 PM on September 4, 2013

Apropos of little, the Be Good Tanyas do a very nice cover of For the Turnstiles, which was originally off On the Beach.

As someone who saw the original Buffalo Springfield as an opening act, and had been a Neil Young fan until my recent recovery (his book left me convinced that he's just another asshole with a lot of talent), I found Tonight's the Night and On the Beach as rather dissolute efforts with a few jewels that made it worth it. In around 1984, Young came out with Freedom, which I heartily recommend as very strong all the way through.
posted by Danf at 10:06 PM on September 4, 2013

David Crosby "Laughing"
posted by mrmarley at 2:48 AM on September 5, 2013

Guelph, Ontario indie rockers Constantines have occasionally performed as a Neil Young tribute band called Horsey Craze. Some of the heavier stuff on their album Kensington Heights is reminiscent: Time Can Be Overcome, Trans Canada, and Million Star Hotel (sorry, crappy live video). Front man Bry Webb's solo album is also worth a listen and perhaps closer to being 3AM material.
posted by Lorin at 8:36 AM on September 5, 2013

I love the term '3AM Songs'. Perfect.

Some of these aren't as sparse as those tracks from On The Beach, but I think they have a similarly melancholy vibe:

Sparklehorse: Sea of Teeth (The entire 'It's a Wonderful Life' album is worth checking out)
Beck: Blackhole, See Water, Ramshackle, Nobody's Fault But My Own, The Golden Age, Guess I'm Doing Fine, End of the Day (Really, the entire 'Sea Change' album is a lonely 3AM affair.)
Wilco: Ashes of American Flags
Chris Thile: This is All Real
Chris Cornell: Seasons
Bob Mould: Eternally Fried
posted by usonian at 11:49 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The first side of Neil Young's Hawks & Doves (released 1980) is composed of songs that he recorded around the same period as On the Beach (1974), but didn't release for whatever reason. I've always thought of it as the great 70s Neil Young EP that almost nobody knows. Long, rambling acoustic workouts with terrific imagery and that signature string popping and wood tapping. H&D side two blows.

On Crosby's solo album "If I Could Only Remember My Name" there's a tune called "Music is Love" that supposedly got laid down in demo form by DC, and then Neil spirited the tapes off to his home studio, where he added vocals, hand drums, and some other touches before returning it to Crosby, who released the result pretty much as is. It's super druggy/hippie, which is how I think of OTB.

A lot of Richard Buckner's music has that 3:00 am vibe. nthing Gillian Welch, particularly Time the Revelator. There's a track on there called April the 14th Part 1 that's very Neil like, groggy and acoustic with dreamlike imagery discussing historical events. And bonus, there's a Part II later on the record, real similar to how Neil does Tonight's the Night parts 1 and 2.

If you can get past the quality, there's a 1973 bootleg of Neil debuting much of the On the Beach material, along with some other unreleased tracks, in front of a NYC club audience who'd come to see Ry Cooder. You get a lot of storytelling Neil on that one, only one of the songs he plays had been released, there's even a recipe he shares. (I tried it, you might as well just be eating the weed right out of the bag).
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:47 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

(...and another Gillian Welch song you might like, come to think of it. Not the Neil Young song by the same title, just a coincidence, but still worth a listen.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 1:52 PM on September 5, 2013

I'm trying to list in order of most to least relevant...

The Jayhawks' Tampa to Tulsa

Stevie Ray Vaughan's Little Wing

Bruce Springsteen's State Trooper

Jacob Dylan's Everybody's Hurting

The Barr Brothers' Let There Be Horses

Ryan Adams' Call Me On Your Way Back Home
Ryan Adams' Dear John

Mazzy Star's Fade Into You

Cat Power's Good Woman (which sounds nothing like her other stuff)
Cat Power's Sea of Love

First Aid Kit's Tangerine

Bon Iver's Re: Stacks

Wilco's full album, Yankee Fox Trot Hotel. It's a little grungier, but has that same feeling.

I think Soul Coughing has a take on this feel with True Dreams of Witchita, Janine, and maybe maybe even Screenwriter's Blues

Moving even farther away:
Miranda Lambert's Look at Miss Ohio (covered nicely by April Maze)
Arcade Fire's The Suburbs (continued)
Cold War Kids' God, Make Up Your Mind
posted by jander03 at 11:39 PM on September 9, 2013

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