Saturday, July 24, 2010

More on the Devo-Neil Young mutual admiration society

I previously mentioned how Devo admired Neil Young, and the feeling was mutual.

Wanna hear Booji Boy singing "Hey Hey My My"?

But what I didn't know now is that the album that contained the original version of this song (and the similarly named one) actually got its title from...well, it didn't come from John Lydon:

There are several urban legends revolving around the album title's origins. Rumor has it that the group Devo came up with the slogan as part of an advertising campaign for the product Rustoleum, a rust inhibitor. Neil has confirmed that he got the phrase "Rust Never Sleeps" from Devo but whether it was ever seriously created for an ad campaign is unknown.

Of course, the song is often tied to two other musicians - the aforementioned Lydon, who was mentioned (under his "Johnny Rotten" pseudonym) in the lyrics, and Kurt Cobain, who cited a phrase from the song in his suicide note. Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, put Cobain's interpretation of Young's line in the proper context:

[Cobain] "It's better to burn out than to fade away."

[Love] God! You asshole.

Young was as upset as Love over the whole affair.

"I read something and someone told me a few things that made me think he was in trouble that week," sighs Young. For the first time, he is not looking directly at me, but staring off across the table. He describes how he tried, over three or four days in the first week of April in 1994, to reach Cobain. "I even had my office look for him." By that Friday evening, Cobain had taken a life-threatening dose of heroin and shot himself....

Destroyed by grief, Young hit the studio and recorded his bleakest work, Sleeps With Angels. It was released with a moratorium on interviews. "I've never really spoken about why I made that album," Young told an interviewer in 1995. "I don't want to start now."

But today, he opens up. "I like to think that I possibly could have done something," he says, concentrating on finding the right words. "I was just trying to reach him. Trying to connect up with him." He pauses and thinks again. "It's just too bad I didn't get a shot. I had an impulse to connect. Only when he used my song in that suicide note was the connection made. Then, I felt it was really unfortunate that I didn't get through to him. I might've been able to make things a little lighter for him, that's all. Just lighten it up a little bit."

But how do Devo and Kurt Cobain fit together? Very well:

"Of all the bands who came from the underground and made it in the mainstream," declared Kurt Cobain, "Devo were the most challenging and subversive of all."

However, Devo and Young survived their brushes with fame. Cobain did not.

P.S. For other thoughts on Kurt Cobain, scroll to the bottom of this Empoprise-MU post on Steve Taylor and Jim Morrison.
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