Neil Young – you either love him or hate him.
If you are in the latter camp, you will probably loathe Young’s, Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars, and dismiss it as the drug-addled meanderings of a past-his-prime rock star with bad taste in women. Check out his surgically-enhanced new squeeze, Daryl Hannah in the tabs. Ouch!
If you are a fan, it is more than likely you will try to read his new book in one or two sittings.
As long as Young is alive, it is unlikely there ever will be an authorized biography. Only Jimmy McDonough’s unauthorized Shakey (2002) is available and Young tried to halt its publication.
What we have now, instead, are two attempts at autobiography by the ubiquitous rock icon. The first one, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream, was his 2012 convoluted 504 page rambling stream of consciousness.
Special Deluxe is not a continuation of the first book. Rather, it is a “continuing exploration” of Young’s writing abilities, as he told disgraced former CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi (that’s another story!) during their recent interview.
Using cars he has owned over the years, Young offers a treasure trove of personal memories and reflections about his long and chequered career.
And it includes beautiful colour illustrations by the author of the cars he writes about.
Young begins in 1950 with his father’s 1948 Monarch Business Coupe when the family lived in Omemee, Ontario, population 750. He then proceeds to log thousands of miles and many pounds of CO2 on a variety of motor vehicles leading up to 2014 and his 1959 electric hybrid Lincoln Continental “LincVolt” on a trip to the Alberta Tar Sands with his then wife Pegi. That’s the trip which led to his vilification by the Harper Conservative government and its oil company supporters.
Some of his cars hold a special place in Young’s heart like “Mort,” the 1948 Buick hearse that he tooled around in from gig to gig in mid-‘60s Winnipeg. Indeed, “Mort” is immortalized in his song, “Long May You Run”:
We’ve been through some things together
With trunks of memories still to come
We found things to do in stormy weather
Long may you run.
Recently, Young has poured about a million dollars into converting his 1959 LincVolt into a prototype electric hybrid – no doubt attempting to jibe his environmental activism with his love of American gas-guzzling cars.
Ironically, the car is nicknamed “Miss Pegi” in honour of his long-time wife, whom he recently and unceremoniously dumped in favour of marginally younger actress and fellow environmental activist Daryl Hannah. Talk about adding insult to injury!
Other cars he has owned are not so lucky. Many are purchased on a whim and immediately put into storage and/or discarded like his ex-wives.
Readers are treated to a flood of memories about the songs Young has written, bands and musicians he has played with (Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Crazy Horse receive ample attention), and the women he has loved and married.
Young is well aware that he can be a bit of a prick and it’s an admission he makes several times in the book.
He recalls smashing one of his prized Gretsch guitars after a Buffalo Springfield show: “I had too much energy and didn’t know what the hell to do with it. Things like that may be why I got a reputation as being an angry guy, I don’t know. I could also be funny and lighthearted, but I was sure out of control at times.”
Special Deluxe will appeal to Young’s legion of fans who will no doubt eagerly await the publication of a third memoir.
If you are a fan, I highly recommend it; if not, you will probably want to take a pass.
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