by Richard Lewis


My title comes from Jimmy McDonough’s spelling of what seems to be Neil Young’s favourite word. It crops up again and again in the long ongoing interview that binds McDonough’s Neil Young biography “Shakey” together. Even without the bibliography, source notes and index it is a massive 740 pages long. But well worth it. I used to think that it must be hard working for Dylan but I’m sure he is easy compared to Young. 

Neil Young "Shakey"  

Dylan makes a number of appearances in the book. He is obviously one of the few artists that Young has respect and admiration for. In 1991 Dylan went to all 6 shows that Young gave at the Beacon Theatre in New York and afterwards could be seen in Neil’s tour bus. Young has no illusions about where he stands. “I’m, like, a B student of this fuckin’ guy – he’s the real thing.”

 Elliot Roberts has managed both Dylan and Young. “They’re both very flighty. They have the exact same road habits, they prepare the same way. They’re very, very similar in what satisfies them – good shows, bad shows. There’s some huge dissimilarities. Bob likes to have his families in place and go to them. He’s on the move, doesn’t like to stay in one place long. Neil will stay in one place forever, given the opportunity. 

“Neil’s eccentric with a purpose – Bob’s eccentric with a purpose, but I’m not quite sure what that purpose is, and the only person who knows what that purpose is may be Bob,” said tour manager Richard Fernandez, who’s worked for both of them. “Everybody else is speculating.”  

Telling his biographer when he first heard Dylan, Young says it was back in Winnipeg. “I liked Bob’s voice when I first heard it. I just said, ‘Hey, there’s a guy who sounds different doin’ this thing, too – I really like this guy. I can write songs’. 

To find out more about his early days Young suggested that McDonough should talk to Ray Dee, “a local legend in Thunder Bay”. For a while Young and his band the Squires lived on Spam and crackers in Thunder Bay’s Sea View Motel. When Ray Dee spoke to McDonough he claimed, “We threw Bob Dylan out of the radio station. He walked over the border, guitar on his back, wanted to sing on the radio. Producer told him, ‘We don’t do that here.’”  

There’s plenty more Dylan in the book as well as an illuminating account of some of what Neil Young is all about. Buy it or borrow it and your time will be repaid. I’ll leave the last word to Young, “Dylan’s so funny. In Europe the first time we shared a concert bill, not a benefit. He’d just done a great fuckin’ set. They just slammed. Bob came over and whispered – ‘Well I warmed them up for ya …..Oh God, I like him. He’s brutally honest guy. He loves to tell the truth, heh heh. He even enjoys it!”