Almanac Music: Neil Young



My sister was Australia’s pre-dominant rock photographer, with an insane work ethic and even bigger chip on her shoulder. A chip wedged fairly into the enormous heart she has for live shows, and the people who house them. Obsessed with the cracks, the grime, she produced a high end rock magazine, populating her pages with small local acts, forgoing bigger festivals, more mainstream bands.


Between bush work, chasing my arse around Australia doing my footy book, playing in the Tassie mountains, and Melbourne’s pub league, I’d do the odd piece for her. UV Race, Total Control, AD Skinner, 6ft Hick, bands that were third on a Wednesday night card in a small venue.


Anything, as long as I loved their music.


“Matie, got one for ya. Neil Young…” she announced, over the phone one day. “Pretty amazing, hu!”


It was good to hear someone so tough so happy. Neil transcended his hippy mantle to become something universal. A part of Western Civilisation’s modern history. Our culture. His songs were something calming, to be lost in, down to earth in. Loved by sub cultures, counter cultures and the mainstream. A beautiful, nasal, force of nature.


My tattoo-lined, chain smoking sister, raising kids by herself, selling her car, studio, working on road crews to pay for each month’s print run, living in a shithole suburb, was every song he and Patti Smith ever wrote, every character.


This opportunity was the rarest thing – one-on-one, genuine, personal access.


You should do it,” I told her.


“I can’t write for shit!” she laughed.


I thought about it for a day or two, while woodcutting. Neil Young was folklore, a part of some people. Their passion. The sweat that went into a wine obsessive, the shaking hands of a nervous teenager on a first date, the clammy mouth of the fetish-minded.


For me, Harvest Moon was okay, I liked Deadman. I couldn’t help thinking; what a waste, this could make someone’s millennium.


“Matie, ya gunna do it? I’ve got half-a-dozen people begging me,” my sister grumbled, when she next called.


“That’s my point,” I said.


“You won’t be overawed. He must be sick of people trying too hard.”


I briefly pictured Neil and I sharing tall tales over tall glasses, not saying much, just getting along. Becoming friends. That’s the secret of it. Research the fuck out of them, then put the notebook away. Give good, get good. Turn it into a conversation.


I heard where she was coming from, but couldn’t get over the waste of obsession.


“Just make sure you don’t give it to someone whose interest is ambition,” I told her.


Then went back to working in drizzle and mist, wondering if he’d write a song about me.


To this day I wonder about whom she gave the gig to. I’d love to write a small story about them. And their interview with Neil Young, obviously.



Matt’s sister, Zo Damage.



You can read more stories from Matt Zurbo Here.




We’ll do our best to publish two books in the lead-up to Christmas 2021. The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020  and the 2021 edition to celebrate the Dees’ magnificent premiership season(title is up for discussion at the moment!). These books will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers and Demons season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from these two Covid winters. Enquiries HERE


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  1. Amazing Matt. Just amazing. Neil Young is probably my favourite artist. Even though I’m a mood listener I always gravitate back to Neil. Anyone who can write Welfare Mothers, Rockin’ In The Free World, and Hey Hey My My, then also write Star of Bethlehem, Pocahontas, and When God Made Me is a genius.

    I’d give my left hand to interview old Neil. Asked him once (or his tour manager anyway) when he was in Australia and got rejected. I’ve seen him live about 6 times I reckon. He has an incredible ability to keep coming up with new stuff and improvisation. The song Bandit is a prime example. Hits a loose guitar string and makes a real “Neil” sound.
    Jeez, half the money’s gone
    and the month is still young.
    What’re you going to do now?

    Brilliant stuff.

    I wish you had have done the interview so I could read about it now.

  2. Malby Dangles says

    I would’ve enjoyed hearing about you talking with Neil, but I reckon you did the right thing. Would love to know whom you have interviewed (outside of past footballers of course!)

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