Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Tom West – Neil Young, ‘After The Gold Rush’ (1970)
There’s a handful of music that I’d say I have proto-memories of, stuff I was listening to before I even knew I was listening to music: sleeping on the couch as a kid, sitting in the back of the car while my parents drove somewhere, dinner parties after my bedtime. Some of the strongest of those is the Thomas The Tank Engine theme song, or the music when Gumby went to the moon, and the music of Neil Young.
I started work on an album at the start of last year and when Tom from Anti-Fragile mentioned that he was appreciating the retro folk-pop feel of what we had shown him, it seemed like a good idea to go back to the source of some of my earliest musical inspiration. It’s pretty much impossible to pick a favourite Neil Young record from that era, they’re all so great. For me, After The Gold Rush feels like the moment where Neil had settled into his “solo” groove and you can see how Harvest, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night and Zuma (another of my very favourites) built on and developed the style set out in Goldrush.
The album is melody-driven, but the imagery and lyrics aren’t compromised. I like how the songs work at face value: ‘After The Gold Rush’ (the song) is a bit trippy – “I dreamed I saw the silver spaceships flying” – but it is really? The songs equally let you ponder on them if you feel like it. The album is political, and strangely enough equally relevant today, only 50 years later. That’s insane. There’s even romance. Musically, the intensity ebbs and flows, it’s guitar orientated but the keys plod along to keep things interesting. It’s a little adventure to listen to.
I tried to hold on to some of these ideas and concepts as a bit of a compass while making my own record.