Hear Neil Young Tell a Poignant Story About the Making of His “Lost” Album Hitchhiker
Next week, Neil Young will release Hitchhiker, an acoustic album he recorded in 1976 and kept on the shelf for the next 41 years. (It’s also currently streaming as an NPR First Listen.) The legend of the record, as laid out in Young’s memoir Special Deluxe, is that he holed up in the studio for one drug-fueled night with his engineer David Briggs and his friend the actor Dean Stockwell, knocking all the tunes out in one quick session with an acoustic guitar. Many of the songs would end up on later albums like Rust Never Sleeps and Hawks and Doves.
Young hasn’t done much press around the release. But this week, as Stereogum notes, he appeared on the Colorado community radio station KOTO to read a pre-written story about the night he made it. Luckily for non-Colorado fans, he also uploaded a cell phone video of himself reading it in the KOTO studio to Facebook. Young has an amazing recall for details: he remembers driving past the house of the Band multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson on his way to the studio that night, in an old Cadillac convertible he and his cohort dubbed “Nanu the Lovesick Moose.” He also gave some insight into the history of the songs themselves. Many of them were first recorded for Zuma, the 1975 album he recorded with Crazy Horse, but left off that record because he was unsatisfied with the versions they’d cut to tape. He added that Hitchhiker was never released because label executives felt like it represented a “collection of demos,” not an actual album.
Adding to the lore of debauchery around Hitchhiker and other Young albums from this era, he also details the trio’s substance intake over the course of the night, and says that the performance of the title track is where “you may be able to hear the drugs kicking in.” Watch the video below, and hear “Hitchhiker” after that.