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Neil Young Journeys (Part 1 of Sharry’s report)

Sharry writes:

I found myself in the middle of Neil childhood heaven while attending the premiere screening of “Neil Young Journeys.” That was definitely the theme of the evening. I felt very attached to everything that was going on. It was all so intimately familiar to me.

The concert footage which was excellent and compelling in its own right, was interspersed with footage from a road trip Neil took with his brother Bob and director Jonathan Demme. While visiting various sites in Omemee and Brock Road (Pickering), Neil reminisces about his childhood. His brother drove the lead car (an old Cadillac) and Neil and Demme followed. I’ve made numerous trips to Omemee over the past 5 years and was given a guided tour of Brock Road this past January. I’m familiar with all of the places and people that Neil mentioned. (Although I didn’t know about Bob guarding Neil’s chicken coop with a rifle after the famous chicken massacre of 1956. I took some notes.)

It was very cool to see Neil driving along Highway 401 West in his classic old car heading into Toronto with Massey Hall as the destination. He meant to take the Yonge Street exit but he got mixed up and took Bayview Avenue instead. Another driver honks at Neil as he maneuvers to quickly join the exit lane. (He also drove alongside a huge transport truck and it was really noisy.) I know that stretch of the highway where he took the wrong exit and it is really confusing at times.

As they approach Massey Hall Neil remarks, “It certainly doesn’t look like it did before. But I can smell it.” (In reference to Massey Hall). The camera then pans over the entire building from top to bottom where the triple red entry doors stand proudly.

When Neil was on-stage he made numerous comments about his childhood. He said that he was “reading a lot about his childhood lately.” He also mentioned that he attended many different schools and that during one particular year he had attended three different ones. (Neil was well acquainted with being the new kid in the class.)

Continuing with the “I Am A Child” theme, one of Neil’s ex-classmates from Grade 4 at an elementary school in Toronto was selected to speak during the Q&A session. Mary Ellen B. introduced herself and Neil’s face immediately lit up. He recognized her name right away. He said that Mary Ellen was his “first girlfriend.” I had interviewed Mary Ellen for “A Shakey Education” and she had called me earlier in the day to let me know that she planned to attend. (We were able to meet face to face — for the first time! — after the screening.)

Neil relayed an amusing story about winning a prize at a game at a community fair. He thought he had won a beautiful piece of jewellery. He had a bit of a crush on Mary Ellen so he decided to present her with a token of his affection. He went to her house but she wasn’t there. He gave the gift to Mary Ellen’s mother with instructions to give it to Mary Ellen. It turned out that the “golden necklace” was really a fancy dog collar choker chain. It was crafted in a chain-link fashion with little golden medallians hanging from it. Mary Ellen didn’t have the heart to tell Neil that his lovely gift ended up on the neck of their pet boxer.

Another classic Neil childhood heaven moment was when a large manila envelope was relayed to Neil from the audience. Neil’s old childhood pal from Omemee, Garfield “Goof” Whitney, wasn’t able to attend the screening but he sent along a memento to give to Neil. When Neil received it he jokingly remarked , “Oh, what does Goof want me to do now.”

During the road trip to Omemee Neil points out where his old friend Goof lives. (I had the opportunity to interview Goof this past April.) He reminisces about how his older friend would delight in taking advantage of his youthful naivete and general gullible nature. Goof told Neil that it was a good idea to eat tar from the road because after you chewed it for a while it would begin to taste like chocolate. Neil believed Goof and tested this out. Neil jokingly remarked that this was the beginning of his close relationship with cars.

Another member of the audience who spoke with Neil during the Q&A session had a photo with him that was taken at Kelvin High School’s 75th Anniversary Reunion in June 1987. Neil attended the event and was in the photo with some others. The reunion was held in conjunction with the Shakin’ All Over 1960s Winnipeg Bands Reunion. The audience member asked Neil if he was aware that Kelvin was celebrating its 100th anniversary next May and if so, did he plan to attend. Neil responded affirmatively.

Sharry (Up in T.O. keepin’ jive alive)

p.s. I’ll add some other highlights from the screening in the next day or two. There’s so much to report. I can’t do it all in one shot.

Reader Feedback

4 Responses to “Neil Young Journeys (Part 1 of Sharry’s report)”

  • bnbrainer says:

    @Sharry: thank you very much for this great post! Lot’s of interesting Neil trivia and of his childhood roots.

  • Lighthouse says:

    I also thank you Sharry.
    Neil seems to make a journey through his childhood. I wonder why now?
    Many greetings from Hülchrath Castle and also to Bob!

  • Sharry Wilson says:

    Thanks Rainer and Albert. It sounds like Neil is working on his memoirs, so his childhood period would obviously be right at the beginning.
    I also read that Jonathan Demme got the idea for the road trip through Ontario because Massey Hall (in Toronto)- where Neil played his two gigs in mid-May – was not that far from Omemee and Pickering, two places where his family lived when he was a young boy. Neil reminisces about his childhood as they’re driving around.
    A number of the questions during the Q&A session were related to his childhood in one way or another. I think this was natural given that Neil was born in Toronto and lived in Ontario until he moved to Winnipeg with his mother in his teens. (He returned to live in Toronto for a while after his hearse (“Mort”) broke down near Blind River, Ontario in June 1965.) He left T.O. in March 1966 in his second hearse to drive to LA.
    It’s been reported that Neil has already completed one book — a 105,000 word “epic” titled “Cars I Have Known.” He’s supposedly taking “a break from music” for the next year. (Or course this doesn’t include his forthcoming appearances at the Bridge School Benefit Concert.)
    I don’t know if I’ll be adding any more “Parts” to my review. I’m planning to work on a lengthy article about “Neil Young Journeys” to submit to “Broken Arrow,” so I need to focus on that right now. Thanks again for the kind comments.

  • bnbrainer says:

    another shot: “Lets cut to the chase… the documentary that followed was nothing less than fantastic. I don’t profess to be any kind of movie critic but I am an artist and have some idea about these things… Journeys was awesome…a sensitive and humorous look into the early life of Neil and Bob Young and their times in Omemee, Pickering Ontario, and beyond. For Neil fans, this is the dream film offering the viewer a candid snap shot of Neil’s childhood years…his special family years. Woven between takes of Neil and Bob’s early family haunts, the film forwards to amazing footage of Neil performing at Massey Hall back in May of this year. ”
    …continue reading: http://news.youngtownmuseum.com/2011/09/16/neil-young-journeys-tiff-part-1/comment-page-1

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