Book Review: The Ties That Bind
Rock & Roll books, bound but ungagged
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Dec. 7, 2012
Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dreamby Neil Young
Blue Rider Press, 512 pp., $30
Neil Young wrote Waging Heavy Peace after being immobilized by a broken toe. At the same time, he stopped drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. This messed with his songwriting muse, so he found another creative outlet. A revered composer does not make a compelling author however. This isn't so much an autobiography as an opportunity to wander around inside Young's head for 500 pages. And wander he does. The 67-year-old Canadian revisits his early days as a musician in Toronto and Winnipeg, discusses Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash, and maps his solo career – who he played and recorded with, how some songs came together, and what regard he holds them in now. That it's all offered in such a scattershot manner undercuts the whole endeavor. Trivialities, including going to Costco and buying a Sonicare toothbrush, entwine with his crusades to build a zero emissions roadster and develop a high definition music alternative to MP3 he's dubbed Pono. When someone asked Young if he was at war with iTunes, his response was, "No, I'm waging heavy peace." The disjointed nature of the narrative makes it slow going in spots, but fans will enjoy his recollections of working with Crazy Horse. "Don't spook the Horse," he advises in one particularly entertaining passage. Elsewhere, Young discusses his love for Lionel toy trains, his family and friends, and how he once escaped death on a trip to New York. Like the whole of his musical career, Waging Heavy Peace varies from enlightening to wildly frustrating. Almost authorized biography Shakey by Jimmy McDonough suffered the same traits, so one can only conclude that's simply Neil Young's humanity showing through.