Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Rust Never Sleeps on its 40th Anniversary, the Rickenbacker 12-String Guitar

Neil

Forty years later, Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s masterpiece Rust Never Sleeps still captivates listeners and critics with its simple melodies, complex lyrics and punk-inspired sound. This week, Jim and Greg discuss the album’s impact and how Young’s blend of acoustic and electric made for an iconic musical experience. They’ll also discuss the electric Rickenbacker 12-String guitar, an instrument that was featured prominently in songs by bands ranging from the Beatles to the Byrds.

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Rust Never Sleeps

40 years ago this summer, Neil Young, along with the band Crazy Horse, released the iconic album Rust Never Sleeps. The 1979 release was mostly recorded live during Young’s 1978 tour, save some overdubs. As Jim and Greg discuss, it was in large part a response to the emerging punk music. How does a classic rocker from the ‘60s grow and evolve? This is how. As Young sings in My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue), It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.

That song bookends the album, with the middle tracks broken into an acoustic section and an electric one. Jim remarks how brave it was for Young to come out with nothing but an acoustic guitar. He particularly loves the song Pocahontas, which makes reference to the Native American icon in addition to the Hollywood icon Marlon Brando. Greg chooses to highlight the hard-stomping electric Powderfinger, which attempts to reconcile America’s complicated identity.

Rickebacker 12-String Guitar

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An instrument that is featured prominently in a number of ‘60s hits by bands like The Beatles and The Byrds, is the Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar. After the acoustic 12-string guitar was popularized by blues artists like Lead Belly and by the ‘60s folk revival, Rickenbacker began making an electrified version. After George Harrison used it on The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, a 12-string craze began. The most notable adopter of the instrument was Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, who used it to define the sound of The Byrds on tracks like Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! The Beatles and The Byrds set the template for countless bands in the ensuing decades who used 12-strings, from power pop acts like Raspberries and Big Star, to jangle pop bands like R.E.M. and The Bangles, to contemporary artists like Temples.

To help discuss and demonstrate the Rickenbacker electric 12-string, we’re joined by Daniel Escauriza and Shelby Pollard of Chicago Music Exchange. Jim and Greg also offer their favorite examples of Rick-heavy songs: Awaken by Yes and XTC’s All of a Sudden (It’s Too Late).

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