This week on the Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend podcast, Neil Young sits down for a special conversation with Conan about the songs that inspired him.
LISTEN NOW: Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend: Neil Young
Sitting down with Neil Young amid the release of his latest album with Crazy Horse, World Record, Conan, joined by music producer Jim Pitt, took the opportunity to speak with the prolific songwriter and one of his personal heroes about his storied career, artistic intentions, and more.
During the chat, Neil discussed some of the artists and songs that have truly inspired his own musical journey, naming specifically “Four Strong Winds” by folk duo Ian & Sylvia; “The Wayward Wind” by Philadelphia singer Gogi Grant; “Baby, What You Want Me to Do” by Blues songwriter Jimmy Reed; “Ballad of a Teenage Queen" by the ‘Man in Black,’ Johnny Cash; and finally, “Bop-A-Lena” by Rockabilly singer Ronnie Self.
Traveling down memory lane, Neil remembers loving Ian & Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds" so much as a kid in Winnipeg that he would continuously put nickels and dimes into the jukebox to play it on repeat. "I'd just stand there in front of it and listen to it. It's a beautiful song," he shares. "For some reason, it really, really got to me and I could feel the magic of the music." Gogi Grant's “The Wayward Wind” also comes from his childhood, "I think it was grade four," he says. "I heard this song and for some reason, I associate it with the school and the highway, and the railroad tracks going behind the school... It's something I heard on the radio, I never had a record of it or anything. You'd just wait for it to come around and play and you'd hear it."
The great Johnny Cash's “Ballad of a Teenage Queen" arrived much earlier in his life, when he was around two years old, but still stands strong for him today -- especially the original recording, compared to re-pressings. "For me it's the feeling of the mix," he says, "the feeling of the song, the more immediate it was, the closer to the original one... and then you feel the song and the essence of it." The simplicity and realness of Jimmy Reed's “Baby, What You Want Me to Do” has always stuck with Neil, as well as numerous contemporaries who have chosen to cover the song. "It's honest and it is what it is; he's not trying to impress anybody. That's not there," Young shares. "It's a great song."
“Bop-A-Lena” by Ronnie Self, Neil's final pick, he remembers hearing as a kid late at night transmitting from WLS in Chicago to his bedroom in Pickering, close to Toronto, where he was living at the time. "This one, I couldn't believe," he says. "I could pick it up, but they seemed to play it at the same time every night. So, I would be in bed and I had my little transistor radio tuned into this and I'd hear this thing. I go, 'God that is insane! This guy's nuts!'" Conan adds that he can't imagine hearing the song and then trying to go to sleep. "I know, especially the last verse of this, it's insanely great! You can tell he's totally got it."
Listen to the full chat with Conan and Neil, and be sure to check out the tracks above.
After 25 years at the Late Night desk, Conan O'Brien realized that the only people at his holiday party are the men and women who work for him. Over the years and despite thousands of interviews, Conan has never made a real and lasting friendship with any of his celebrity guests. So, he started a podcast to do just that. Deeper, unboundedly playful, and free from FCC regulations, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend is a weekly opportunity for Conan to hang out with the people he enjoys most and perhaps find some real friendship along the way. Listen on the free Audacy app.
Browse and follow more of Audacy's all-new stations like Neil Young Radio, 80s Guitar, Rock N’ Road, Freedom Rock, The Canyon, Arena Rock, Wake Up and Rock, and The Roots of Rock for those who crave the early days.
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