Neil Young News
Crazy Horse's roots reach back to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, when Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot sang in a vocal group with Danny Whitten called Danny & the Memories. "We were one of the slickest acts around," says Talbot, "really into arranging the harmonies, the whole trip." Eventually, Molina took up the drums (having previously played them in a high school marching band), Whitten began concentrating on guitar, and Talbot learned bass and piano; this preceded the group's evolution into a rhythm and rock outfit called The Rockets (also including guitarists George and Leon Whitsell and electric violinist Bobby Notkoff). Playing The Whisky and other L.A. clubs in '67 and '68, the band attracted a following and recorded one self-titled album which sold "about 5,000 copies," Talbot recalls. One of those copies landed in the hands of Neil Young.
"We first met Neil and jammed with him a little in Laurel Canyon when he was in the Buffalo Springfield and The Rockets were just coming together," says Talbot. "Later, Neil heard our album, really liked it, and he sat in with us at The Whisky. Then he wanted to record this song, 'Cinnamon Girl,' with Danny, Ralph and me. S we went up to Neil's studio in Topanga Canyon to work on that one song."
The March 1969 session went so well that Young invited the musicians back to record "Cowgirl In the Sand," "Down By the River" and the rest of the songs that would fill Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere o the first album by Neil Young and Crazy Horse (the new name Young had bestowed upon Molina, Talbot and Whitten).
Several live shows were sandwiched around the making of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, with Young and Crazy Horse performing primarily on the East Coast. There was talk of reviving The Rockets at some point, but it never happened.
Young and Crazy Horse (with Jack Nitzsche on keyboards) played a series of U.S. concert dates during the first quarter of 1970. And in addition to contributing to Young's 1970 album, After the Gold Rush, Crazy Horse also landed a separate deal with Reprise, recording a self-titled album that was released in 1971. The band was augmented by guitarist/vocalist Nils Lofgren and keyboardist/producer Jack Nitzsche for this album, which included such songs as "Gone Dead Train," "Beggar's Day" and "I Don't Want to Talk About It," which was covered by Rod Stewart a few years later.
Since mid-1970, Danny Whitten's worsening heroin habit had driven a wedge between Young and Crazy Horse. By 1971, Talbot and Molina had seen enough as well. "Danny was a surfer-type guy o really mellow, straight," Molina says. "To see him go to that extreme just blew my mind." Talbot adds: "Danny never straightened out We didn't want to become junkies, too, so we fired him."
Determined to keep Crazy Horse rolling, Talbot and Molina recruited other musicians and recorded two albums, Loose and Crazy Horse At Crooked Lake, that were both released in 1972. Whitten was asked to join Young's post-Harvest touring band, but he was too far gone to keep it together during rehearsals. Sent home to L.A. Whitten died of a heroin overdose in November of 1972.
In the wake of the drug-induced deaths of Whitten and CSNY roadie Bruce Berry, Molina and Talbot contributed to Young's 1973 Tonight's the Night recording sessions and a tour with The Santa Monica Flyers.
Crazy Horse did not begin to reemerge as a band until Frank Sampedro arrived on the scene in late 1973. Having played guitar in some high school rock bands in Detroit, Sampedro moved to L.A., where he met Talbot, then Molina. The trio soon forged a musical alliance, writing songs and jamming regularly throughout most of 1974 in the basement of Talbot's Silver Lake home. That's where Neil Young first heard "the new Crazy Horse." Sampedro remembers: "There was some magical energy happening."
Beginning with the 1975 album, Zuma, a series of unannounced shows at Northern California coastal bars and the 1976 tours of Japan, Europe, then America, Neil Young and Crazy Horse re-established a deep brotherhood. Over the next 20 plus years, there would be many Horse highlights, including: "Like A Hurricane," a center ece song live and on the 1977 album, American Stars 'N Bars; the acclaimed 1978 Rust Never Sleeps tour, chronicled on record and film; Crazy Moon (a Crazy Horse album released in 1978, featuring songs and lead vocals by Sampedro, Molina and Talbot, with Young playing guitar on several tracks); 1981's explosive re*ac*tor album; 1986's In A Rusted Out Garage/3rd Best Garage Band In the World Tour; 1990's Ragged Glory, which many felt revived the spirit of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere; 1991's Don't Spook the Horse Tour, Arc/Weld album and longform video; 1994's Sleeps With Angels album, which reached #9 on the Billboard 200 chart; and 1996's Broken Arrow album and Year of the Horse tour.
The Year of the Horse concept came from longtime Neil Young and Crazy Horse producer David Briggs o "Probably more the fifth member of Crazy Horse than anybody could ever be," says Sampedro. Shortly before his death in November of 1995, Briggs was looking ahead to the coming year and told Young, "This is the Year of the Hor ." According to Young, Briggs also told him: "All you have to do now is get closer to the source. Keep getting purer and purer."
Year of the Horse is 100 percent pure Crazy Horse.
All of the quotes that appear in the preceding Crazy Horse bio were drawn from two sources:
* The film, Year of The Horse, directed by Jim Jarmusch, set for release in 1997
* The article, Crazy Horse In Full Gallop, by Dave Zimmer, published in BAM Magazine (January 19, 1979)
Transmitted: 5/29/97 8:25 PM EDT (neilbio_)Reprise Records
Also, see another interview with Crazy Horse's "Poncho" Frank Sampedro from "Year of the Horse" tour.
Also, see interview with Crazy Horse's bass guitar player Billy Talbot.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Thrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young and Crazy Horse Archive