Sometimes growing up and listening to so many amazing records from before I was of age I wondered what it was like to actually be alive when an album comes out that is timeless so when it happened I was pinching myself. Me, Jim, Maureen and Billy were blown to smithereens by Rust Never Sleeps while working at a summer camp in Lake Of The Woods in 1979.
I thought the title song was about creativity (it’s better to burn out than to fade away), thought he meant to stop if it isn’t working, no regrets, better to be true to yourself than to keep coasting on auto-pilot. He sure got flack for it over the years from John Lennon (below) to Kurt Cobain’s suicide note (also below).
PLAYBOY: You disagree with Neil Young’s lyric in “Rust Never Sleeps” — “It’s better to burn out than to fade away….”
LENNON: I hate it. It’s better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out. I don’t appreciate worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or of dead John Wayne. It’s the same thing. Making Sid Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison — it’s garbage to me. I worship the people who survive. Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo. They’re saying John Wayne conquered cancer — he whipped it like a man. You know, I’m sorry that he died and all that — I’m sorry for his family — but he didn’t whip cancer. It whipped him. I don’t want Sean worshiping John Wayne or Sid Vicious. What do they teach you? Nothing. Death. Sid Vicious died for what? So that we might rock? I mean, it’s garbage, you know. If Neil Young admires that sentiment so much, why doesn’t he do it? Because he sure as hell faded away and came back many times, like all of us. No, thank you. I’ll take the living and the healthy.
(this is the part near the bottom)
Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the past years. I’m too much of an erratic, moody baby! I don’t have the passion anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.
Peace, love, empathy.
But the worst is surely Don “easy listening” Henley from the Eagles – longstanding champions of what Kyp Harness calls a “snoozefest”. It must hurt when Don Henley lectures Neil Young about Neil’s poetry. It was what stood out for me when I tried to watch the documentary about the Eagles, stood out for surrealism.
So many layers of wrong.
Layer#1 boring songwriter snubbing the one who takes risks.
Layer#2 misunderstanding the metaphor (assuming I didn’t).
Layer#3 Henley is all about being on auto pilot.
Layer#4 Cheap dramatic end of the film remark by Henley-as-philosopher.