The first time I heard the lyrics to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ I thought, ‘That’s my dad’s voice’.
I had never heard Neil Young.
He was my favourite singer growing up and my favourite artist growing up.
But I didn’t really know much about Neil Young until I heard him in his first major studio album, The Beatles, in 1965.
Then, it all happened.
In the UK, Neil and I would meet for drinks in the pub in Llandudno, West Wales, and he would talk about his childhood, his family and what he wanted to be.
We’d become friends, and we’d spend lots of time together in the studio.
He’d come back from tour and we would talk and he’d talk about a lot of things, and I’d have these ideas, and then he’d have this experience.
I thought: ‘This is a guy who’s a big musician.
He’s very passionate about music.
He talks about his life, and his music, and what it means to him.’
So I said to him: ‘Neil, if you want to do this, you should go to my studio.
If you want this, I can make a record with you.
I’ll record you.’
And he did.
The two of us made the first two records together.
I went to see Neil in New York.
It was a good place for a first experience with him, because he’d been living in New Zealand for most of the previous two years.
He just got back, and it was like: ‘OK, I’m going to be back in New England, and you’re going to do a record.’
I thought it was brilliant.
I’d done a few records with my band in New Mexico.
I had a couple of records with them, and Neil was like, ‘OK.’
So I went out to New York to meet him, and that was the first time we met.
We went to his studio in his loft in West Wales.
He had a huge studio in there.
He started with some acoustic stuff, then he started playing guitar.
He didn’t have a bass, he had a piano.
And then, he played a little drum kit, which was fantastic.
He brought in a guitar player and played drums on one side of the room, and on the other side he had this big, big, huge amp and the guitar player, who I think is called Phil.
We got a lot more of a studio vibe than you’d get from a recording studio, because of the amp.
I think the studio was a lot like the bandroom in that it was huge.
The first thing that happened was Neil got into a little bit of trouble in New Jersey.
He took the guitar and smashed it into a building, and the police came.
He went to the police station and told them that he’d smashed the guitar, and they told him to come back in two hours and they’d take him away.
They did, but they didn’t take him.
So, we went out and met him, took him to the station, and started talking about the problems.
I said, ‘Neil!
You’re in the middle of this, where you’re getting into trouble.’
And Neil just said, “I don’t want to go out.
I don’t know why I’m in this mess.”
And he just sat there and didn’t say a word, because the police didn’t do anything.
So I just started to talk about what was going on.
And I said: ‘There’s no reason for you to be in this situation.
You’re not in the wrong place.
I just want you to talk to me about what’s happening.
And you’ve got a great voice.
I know you’re passionate about this stuff, and, you know, it’s your life.’
And then he just started talking, and at that point I said OK, and said, OK, Neil, I’ve got to go.
So he went back to his room, but he said: “You’re in a bad place.
You’ve got the guitar in the garage.
I’ve already broken it.”
And so, he was in jail for three weeks.
And he’s still in jail, because New Jersey’s a bad state for people like him.
And they lock him up for two weeks and he’s locked up for four months, and there’s no way you can get him out of there.
I remember sitting with Neil, sitting on the phone with him in jail.
And it was really nice.
He would call and he wanted me to take him to his apartment.
He said, Neil: ‘I’m going on a trip to New Jersey with my brother, and my brother’s going to get a job at the bar.’
And I thought he was a real nice guy.
I knew he was trying to help.
I was really surprised when he went and found a job, because there