My Top 1000 Songs #410: Revolution Blues

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Over the course of over half a century, Neil Young has produced music suiting every conceivable mood, from the beauty of "Birds" to the anger of "Ohio" to the howling furiosity of many of his Crazy Horse collaborations. But rarely has he sounded as downright menacing and frightening as on "Revolution Blues," off 1974's wonderfully varied On The Beach

Some of this comes down to the lyrical content, apparently inspired by Young's one-time sorta-neighbor Charles Manson and his band of murderous cultists. Hard not to shudder at lines like: "It's so good to be here, asleep on your lawn. Remember your guard dog? Well, I'm afraid that he's gone. It was such a drag to hear him whining all night long." Farewell, doggie.

But the menace of the lyrics is well-matched by the music. It's a relatively straightforward riff-rocker from Young, a Stonesy hook free from Crazy Horse's bombast, but it still wields a savage edge, courtesy of some all-star support. The staccato, piercing guitars sound like machine guns (aided by sometime CSNY bandmate and non-guitarist David Crosby); and the bass (courtesy of the Band's Rick Danko) is a pummeling weapon, as frenzied in the closing moments as Neil's parallel guitar soloing--all backed by some barely-contained drumming from Danko's Band-mate Levon Helm). Even without the lyrics, it just sounds like nasty chaos venturing into something downright evil.

Strangely, it was rarely part of the live repertoire, but here it is in 2016: