DOWNTOWN - The Danny Whitten Story
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The trappings of rock n roll took Young further away from real life. You can always rely on rock musicians to come up with novel and interesting ways to pass the time. Young and his band hired their own jet and built their own hookah pipe with an aquarium pump. There is a downside to filling an aeroplane with marijuana. There was also a mild concern the pilots might get stoned from the atmosphere, something the Civil Aviation Authority usually — on balance — tends to discourage. On the tour Young realised everything he had wanted, all the success, fame and fortune, had brought him unhappiness.
His backing group were bickering over money and he was playing huge, soulless venues such as the Oakland Coliseum. Young stopped right there and then, mid song, and walked off stage. Show over. The tour finished, and the album Time Fades Away was released that August.
The first in what would become The Ditch Trilogy. As a snapshot of the tour and of the songs Young wrote and recorded whilst dealing with fame however, it is remarkable. So one day, instead of going to the CSNY sessions, Young went to the house of David Briggs, his producer, knocked on the door and uttered the immortal words:. The band drank tequila, playing in the dark on the rehearsal stage and created an atmosphere in which to honour Berry and Whitten. They were performing as if onstage in a darkened room to a non-existent audience. Young waited until they were sufficiently drunk or stoned before recording, usually in the middle of the night when the vibe would hit them.
On the title track Young sings directly about Berry. Late at night when the people were gone, he used to pick up my guitar, and sing a song in a shaky voice that was real as the night was long. The recording was mostly one take, no fixes, with drunken raps in between. Five of the songs were recorded all in a row in one night without any break between them. By , the group took on brothers George and Leon Whitsell on additional guitars and vocals, as well as violinist Bobby Notkoff , the sextet calling themselves The Rockets. They signed with independent label White Whale Records , working with producer Barry Goldberg for the group's self-titled album in mid The album sold poorly.
Songwriter Neil Young, fresh from departing Buffalo Springfield , with one album of his own under his belt, began jamming with the Rockets and expressed interest in recording with Whitten, Molina and Talbot. The trio agreed, so long as they were allowed to simultaneously continue on with The Rockets. Young acquiesced initially, but imposed a rehearsal schedule that made that an impossibility. Although his role was that of support, Whitten sang the album's opening track " Cinnamon Girl " along with Young, and Whitten and Young shared lead guitar on " Down by the River " and " Cowgirl in the Sand ".
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These tracks would influence the grunge movement of the s, [ citation needed ] and all three songs remain part of Young's performance repertoire. During this period, Whitten began using heroin ; after finding that it mitigated his longstanding battle with rheumatoid arthritis , he quickly became addicted. Although he participated in the early stages of Young's next solo effort, After the Gold Rush , Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse were dismissed about halfway through the recording sessions, in part because of Whitten's heavy drug use.
Young wrote and recorded " The Needle and the Damage Done " during this time, with direct references to Whitten's addiction and its role in the destruction of his talent. Acquiring a recording contract and expanded to a quintet in , Crazy Horse recorded its first group-only album, released in early The debut album included five songs by Whitten, with two standout tracks being a song co-written by Young which would show up later on a Young album, " Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown", and Whitten's most famous composition, " I Don't Want To Talk About It ", a heartfelt ballad that would receive many cover versions and offer the promise of unfulfilled talent.
Whitten continued to drift, his personal life ruled almost totally by drugs. He was kicked out of Crazy Horse by Talbot and Molina, who used replacements on the band's two albums of In April of that year, after receiving a call from Young to play rhythm guitar on the upcoming tour behind Young's Harvest album, Whitten showed up for rehearsals at Young's home outside San Francisco. While the rest of the group hammered out arrangements, Whitten lagged behind, figuring out the rhythm parts, though never in sync with the rest of the group.
Young, who had more at stake after the success of After The Gold Rush and Harvest , fired him from the band on November 18, Later that night Whitten died from a fatal combination of diazepam , which he was taking for severe knee arthritis, and alcohol, which he was using to try to get over his heroin addiction. Neil Young recalled, "We were rehearsing with him and he just couldn't cut it. He couldn't remember anything.
It was a good coda. How did you cope with your first real blast of superstardom after that? The first thing I did was a long tour of small halls. Just me and a guitar. I loved it. It was real personal. Very much a one-on-one thing with the crowd. It was later, after Harvest , that I hid myself away. I tried to stay away from it all. I thought the record [ Harvest ] was good, but I also knew that something else was dying. I became very reclusive. Were you depressed? I think I was pretty happy. In spite of everything, I had my old lady and moved to the ranch.
A lot of it was my back. I was in and out of hospitals for the two years between After the Gold Rush and Harvest. I have one weak side and all the muscles slipped on me.
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My discs slipped. I wore a brace. I could only stand up four hours a day. I recorded most of Harvest in the brace. The doctors were starting to talk about wheelchairs and shit, so I had some discs removed. But for the most part, I spent two years flat on my back. I had a lot of time to think about what had happened to me. Have you ever been in analysis? You mean have I ever been to a psychiatrist? What do they ask? Well, I had some seizures. They used to ask me a lot of questions about how I felt, stuff like that. I told them all the thoughts I have and the images I see if I, you know, faint or fall down or something.
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Do you still have seizures? Yeah, I still do. I thought I had it licked. Is it a physical or mental. Epilepsy is something nobody knows much about. Sometimes something in my brain triggers it off. You slip into some other world. And that shocks you back into reality.
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The last time it happened, it took about an hour-and-a-half of just walking around the ranch with two of my friends to get it together. Has it ever happened onstage? Never has. I get too high or something. Was it a band effort? All the other ones were combinations, records that were more done by one person using the other people. It was a great live record, man. Everyone played and sang at once.
Stephen sang the shit out of it. The track was magic. Then, later on, they were in the studio for a long time and started nitpicking. They did a lot of things over again that I thought were more raw and vital sounding. They turned out really fine. You seem a bit defensive. Well, everybody always concentrates on this whole thing that we fight all the time among each other. And we love it, man. People make up so much shit, though. Ann Landers would blanch. It would surprise you. The music press writes the weirdest shit about us.
Sounds like something Neil Young might say. We had some recording sessions, you know, and we recorded a few things. We went down to the Record Plant in Sausalito, rented some studio time and left with two things in the can. What was that? We were really into something nice. But a lot of things were happening at the same time. Some of us wanted to rest for a while. Everybody has a different viewpoint and it just takes us a while to get them all together.
We really did accomplish some things at those sessions. And just because the sessions only lasted three days, people started building up bullshit stories. Looking back, we might have been wiser to do the album before the tour. While we were still building the energy. Atlantic still has CSNY. Whenever we record together, we do it for Ahmet, which I think is right. Ahmet Ertegun kept the Buffalo Springfield afloat for as long as it was. I love him. There may be a live album to come from the tour last summer too.
There was some good playing. Why did you travel totally separate from everyone else on that tour? I wanted to stay totally separate from everything, except the music. It worked well. I left right after every gig with my kid, my dog and two friends. Why did you make a movie? It was something that I wanted to do. The music, which has been and always will be my primary thing, just seemed to point that way.
I wanted to express a visual picture of what I was singing about. I just made a feeling. It does lay a lot of shit on people though. I made it for me. I never even had a script. Did the bad reviews surprise you at all? Of course not. What do they want with Journey Through the Past? No point. No stars. The next time.
I filmed a Hyatt House commercial not too long ago. What about a plot? No music. That was the only way I could get to do the first movie.
I wanted to be in a movie, so I did it. I sacrificed myself as a musician to do it. There was an unfortunate sequence of events surrounding Journey Through the Past. They took the thing [the soundtrack] and put it right out. I wanted to get it out there on its own.
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So they chickened out on the movie because they thought it was weird. But they took me for the album. Somebody really missed the boat on that one. They fucked me up for sure. We found another distributor. It paid for itself. Even though it got banned in England, you know. They thought it was immoral. Why did you leave the ranch? It just got to be too big of a trip. There was too much going on the last couple of years. None of it had anything to do with music.
They were parasites whether they intended to be or not. They lived off me, used my money to buy things, used my telephone to make their calls. General leeching. It hurt my feelings a lot when I reached that realization.