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Neil Young Goes Record Shopping, Finds Bootleg Crosby Stills Nash & Young

Neil Young goes record shopping in a US record store. Image: YouTube / Savethevinyl.org

The days of browsing records stores for the latest music are long gone. That’s not to say people don’t visit record stores these days. They do. But it’s with the explicit knowledge that they’re tapping into a more nostalgic way of doing things.

And that nostalgia is in full force in this video featuring a bird-nest-style, scruffy haired Neil Young from 1972. The scene, uploaded to YouTube, is, according to the video’s description, taken from an “autobiographical film Neil made in 1972.” Most likely it was footage Young was shooting for the doc/experimental film he released in 1974 called Journey Through the Past which featured concert and backstage footage mixed with more abstract, experimental visuals.

In the scene Neil Young is going record store shopping and at the beginning is seen browsing through the many LPs in the store. In the background The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour EP is playing. It’s while browsing that Young happens upon a Bob Dylan record, noting that he’s not come across it before and asking the clerk if it’s new.

Neil Young performing onstage with Crosby, Nash, Stills & Young at Wembley Stadium in 1974. © Mick Gold

It turns out to be Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II which was released in 1971. But you get the feeling Young is hinting at something more. And exactly what that is is revealed when he finds a Crosby Stills Nash and Young album. Except it’s one he’s never seen before either, which is strange considering he was in the band. Turns out it’s a live record of a concert, which was never released as a live LP and is in fact a bootleg.

The fun then really begins when Young starts questioning the clerk on what he thinks about it all. “I...just couldn’t tell ya.” the clerk replies. “The boss buys them, I dunno where he buys them.” All the while he’s shifting somewhat uncomfortably in his seat.

And this is before he even knows he’s speaking to one of the musicians who made the record. Young then hands the clerk a note with a number on, asking if he can pass it to his boss who can reach him there so they can discuss the bootleg further. Then Young says he’s going to take the bootleg record without paying and off he goes.

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Graham Nash onstage at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1970. © Ray Stevenson

The clerk follows after and the two have a chat in the street, the clerk saying he’s going to get in trouble if Young just walks off with it. So Young heads back into the store with the understanding that he can talk with the boss on the phone. Which he does, and ends up walking away with two free records.

Although obviously Neil Young is somewhat perturbed by finding illegal recordings of music he wrote and performed on sale, the whole exchange comes across as endearing and just, well, nice. There are no raised voices, it’s not threatening, it’s just a recording artist debating with a store clerk over some bootlegs records, the type of old school piracy that seems, and is, world’s away from today’s mass torrenting subculture.

But piracy isn’t something that seems to bother Young much these days. At the D: Dive into Media conference on digital music back in 2012 he told the audience. “It doesn’t affect me because I look at the internet as the new radio. I look at the radio as gone. […] Piracy is the new radio. That’s how music gets around. […] That’s the radio. If you really want to hear it, let’s make it available, let them hear it, let them hear the 95 percent of it.”

The record store clerk and Neil Young on the phone to the clerk's boss. Image: YouTube / Savethevinyl.org

Something that he seems far more concerned with is the quality of digital music. Back in 2015 he launched a high-end portable, music media player called Pono. Initially launched on Kickstarter you could then buy it for $399. In an age of multi-function devices it seemed like it was always going to appeal to a niche, Neil Young-fan market even if the audio quality was a lot better.

Still, although that didn’t really take off, last year Young spoke to Rolling Stone and said he had ambitions to morph the brand into a music-streaming service too. “We're setting up right now partnerships for a Pono hi-res streaming service, and when we get our streaming service up we're gonna re-emerge as a streaming service and a hi-res download offer.” Young said on the magazine’s podcast. “That's what we do, that's our service: we provide the best that's available, full-resolution music, great-sounding music, and we're pushing towards getting our presence in phones and being able to be part of large partnerships that will enable us to be able to share the sound of hi-res and have people experience the sound of hi-res in music, like they have in television."

At the moment, as Rolling Stone noted, iPhones are only equipped to deal with CD-level audio so we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out.

For now, check out the highly entertaining bootleg record store video below.

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer iconic Neil Young images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.