He had a mega-hit record (and it was a vinyl record) in 1974 with Harvest, followed by a string of other huge sellers, and he is considered one of the biggest influences on contemporary music… ever.
In the 70′s and 80′s no party was complete without Neil Young. No joint went un-smoked when Neil was telling us about ‘The needle and the damage done”.
As the years rolled by he went out of favour, but continued to drift back into the mainstream with innovative, fresh music that took on the tone of the times, often with strong political or social content.
Indeed you can listen to a country song from Neil Young, and you can hear him punk it out with the best of them. He can rock your socks off, and he can kill a ballad in his weird wavering voice, that sometimes has you questioning whether the guy can actually sing at all!
In the early 90′s he roared back into prominence with ‘Rocking in the Free World’, an album with overtly political and social justice overtones.
His ‘Rust never sleeps’ album foreshadowed the rise of ‘grunge’ music. The rising stars of the genre, including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, frequently cited Young as a major influence.
Every now and again he brings his band ‘Crazy Horse’ together and they hit the road as they have done for 5 decades. Yes that is right, Neil Young may be closer to 70 than 60.
And so it was I found my way to The Sydney Entertainment Centre, along with 13,000 others and I think, like them I was looking forward to a nostalgic night hearing all his old hits.
And man the crowd love this guy. Many there were Neil’s age, but a whole new generation in their 20s and 30s were there too, screaming for ‘Heart of Gold’, ‘Southern Man’ and all the rest of his mega-hits
And Nell came out and played and played and played… all new stuff.
He played almost his entire new album ‘Psychedelic Pill’ (which is superb IMO) and he played stuff I had never heard, and nor had the crowd. At times I think the band were just jamming!
And after an hour Neil threw the crowd a bone and played a whimsical, acoustic version of ‘Heart of Gold’, his biggest ever hit. But he played precious else from his back catalogue.
But the music was so good, so fresh, so ‘now’, that soon the crowd stopped calling out for the ‘hits’, and were on their feet rocking along with whatever Neil threw at them from his uber-creative mind and fluent fingers.
In the end the whole throng was on their feet, screaming for more, and even three encores could not satisfy them.
I have seldom been to a gig where the crowd was so energised as they left.
And so what has it got to do with recruitment?
The clue can be found in this quote from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website.
“Young has consistently demonstrated the unbridled passion of an artist who understands that self-renewal is the only way to avoid burning out. For this reason, he has remained one of the most significant artists of the rock and roll era.”
Rock and Roll and Recruitment? Well, it’s to do with evolving. It’s to do with learning new skills. Adding to the repertoire. Not taking the safe route. It’s about knowing that what was great before, is stale now. It’s about courage to be yourself and explore fresh innovative ways of doing what you have always done.
It’s about remaining relevant to your customers of today. Maybe changing even before they ask you to.
Plenty of old ‘rock stars’ tour the world playing their vintage stuff to expectant crowds, living on long past glories, but not Neil Young. He is still doing what he loves and doing it superbly. But on his terms, and in a way that gels with the era we are in NOW.
Are you doing your job that way? Or are you dragging out all your old stuff from bygone eras and hoping it will fly in the new age?