Neil Young -Thrasher
April 25, 2009
I have started a triptych which is the final work in the (Im)possible series. The three canvasses exam Death, Mourning and Rebirth. I have also seen the three canvasses as reflecting on Good Friday. Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. The main painting will be the (im)possibility of Mourning( Holy Saturday). As I worked through this process I have been considering various forms of “Loss” .
Today I had conversation with a close friend regarding friendship and the loss of friendship and community. My friend mentioned that he was felt as if he was mourning past and lost friendships.
When Neil Young wrote “Thrasher”, in 1979, he was 34 years old, I first heard this in 1980 and I was 16 years old. It was the song that introduced me to Neil Young’s music and even though I have always love this song, I feel that a long journey of time is needed to fully appreciate this song.
Lyrics and brief notes:
They were hiding behind hay bales,
They were planting in the full moon
They had given all they had for something new
But the light of day was on them,
They could see the thrashers coming
And the water shone like diamonds in the dew.
And I was just getting up, hit the road before it’s light
Trying to catch an hour on the sun
When I saw those thrashers rolling by,
Looking more than two lanes wide
I was feelin’ like my day had just begun.
Where the eagle glides ascending
There’s an ancient river bending
Down the timeless gorge of changes
Where sleeplessness awaits
I searched out my companions,
Who were lost in crystal canyons
When the aimless blade of science
Slashed the pearly gates.
It was then I knew I’d had enough,
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one-way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends I still don’t understand.
They had the best selection,
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed,
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting, waiting.
So I got bored and left them there,
They were just deadweight to me
Better down the road without that load
Brings back the time when I was eight or nine
I was watchin’ my mama’s T.V.,
It was that great Grand Canyon rescue episode.
Where the vulture glides descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Thru libraries and museums, galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and bar.
But me I’m not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrashers comes, I’ll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I’ll know the time has come
To give what’s mine.
It is almost impossible to fully understand and interpret the lyrics of Neil Young as they work on various levels.
Some view “Thrasher” to be Neil’s lyrical magnum opus, however, in my opinion there are too many great songs to award this honour to one song.
My take on these lyrics is that Neil was writing mainly about the artistic and spiritual parting that had taken place between himself and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
The song is a lament to lost friendships.
A thrasher is a farming implement, also called a reaper, used to harvest grain, so there is the obvious metaphor to death.
I don’t want to say to much as I would rather allow for private and personal reflection, however for more analysis of the lyrics click here.