Best of Fish & Bicycles: Video Fridays: Neil Young Covers

Originally Published: April 15, 2011


I’ve written several times about my love and appreciation for the art of interpretation, especially as it applies to cover songs.

Well, today I came across a video of my favorite band, Wilco, doing a cover of a somewhat obscure Neil Young chestnut, Broken Arrow, from Neil’s days in Buffalo Springfield.

And, as is often the case with YouTube videos, watching the one video led to watching another video and so on, and so on, inspiring me to dedicate today’s Video Fridays installment entirely to Neil Young.

I discovered this first one while reading on Pitchfork about an upcoming DVD of a concert tribute to Neil Young. That DVD, with performances by Wilco, Neko Case, Dave Matthews, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Ben Harper, and many other top-notch artists, will be a delight for cover song lovers like myself.

It’s a real treat to see/hear this version of Broken Arrow, since I’ve always theorized that this song was the primary influence for Wilco’s Pieholden Suite, from their 1999 album Summerteeth. Both songs, as the title of the Summerteeth track suggests, are in suite form, consisting of short pieces, with changes in tempo and melody, sewn together to make one longer composition.

Remember, when you start watching, don’t get fooled into thinking that it’s the wrong video just because the first thing you hear is another Buffalo Springfield song, Mr. Soul. That’s how Broken Arrow actually starts off. The song is autobiographical, after all, exploring the experiences, stresses, and conflicts that go along with being in a famous band…a band like, say, Buffalo Springfield.

Next up, another fairly obscure song, Don’t Cry No Tears, off of Neil’s 1975 album Zuma, performed here by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and Jay Farrar from Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt.

Not as much to say about this one, except that I really love Farrar’s harmony vocals here.

And finally, another song from Zuma, this time the better-known epic Cortez The Killer, performed here by the Dave Matthews Band, with guest, electric guitar master, Warren Haynes.

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