Revolution Blues: When Neil Young Met Charles Manson

He’s A Barrel Of Laughs…With His Carbine On

Well, we live in a trailer at the edge of town. You never see us ’cause we don’t come around. We got twenty five rifles just to keep the population down.” the opening line of Neil Young‘s “Revolution Blues” is startling and honest. Recollecting and commenting on the times he met Charles Manson and his family before the violent crimes were committed, Young took no hesitation with his commentary on his pre and post experiences.

Young‘s 1974 release On The Beach has a depressive and pessimistic emotion that carries throughout the entirety of the album. Only glimpses of optimism peek through at points. Though the raw energy of “Revolution Blues” makes it a stand out track.

Young was familiar with Manson before the murders like many other famous musicians. Manson was an aspiring musician that caught the ears of the movers and shakers in the music business and shares songwriting credits with groups like The Beach Boys and Guns ‘n Roses. Many have even commented on the spontaneity of his songs as well as the ominous cloud that seemed to follow him. In a 1985 interview for NME, Young mentioned on how impressed he was with Manson‘s talents stating, “I can see these things in other people. You can see it and feel it. Manson would sing a song and just make it up as he went along, for three or four minutes, and he never would repeat one word, and it all made perfect sense and it shook you up to listen to it. It was so good that it scared you.”

However, with the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate, much of the world was frightened of the friendly hippies from the outskirts of California. The world was changing and Manson‘s beliefs were televised for all to see and hear. With race wars and homegrown armies, his world was a dark place filled with skepticism and violence. Young perfectly captured the feeling of uneasiness with visuals of “bloody fountains” and “10 million dune buggies coming down the mountain”.

The poignant track carries some star power with it as well featuring the talents of David Crosby on rythm guitar, Levon Helm on drums, Rick Danko on bass, and Ben Keith on the Wurlitzer. Crosby in fact was not a fan of the song at first telling him “don’t sing about that. It’s not funny,” but Young didn’t find it funny. He was in a dark place in his life and you can hear that through the depressing and angered songs throughout the album.

“Revolution Blues” snapshots a dismal point in American history and showcases the horrors of what one person can think and do. Take a listen to this iconic track below and share your thoughts on our Facebook or in the comments below!

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