Neil's First Tapes Found In Basement
by Peter North
Recordings from 1964
The Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - The earliest known recordings of Neil Young have been found in
an Edmonton basement.
CHQT morning man Bob Bradburn found himself staring at music history
recently when a reel of tape, containing two of the first recorded studio
performances of Young, popped out of a box that had been collecting dust for
more than 30 years.
In 1964, Bradburn was a staff disc jockey at CKRC in Winnipeg, where
singer/songwriter Young began his illustrious music career fronting a band
called The Squires.
Those were the days when local bands were aligned with, or sponsored by, radio
stations. It was a regular occurrence for Bradburn to act as the master of
ceremonies at dances featuring Young and his four-piece band. CKRC also
happened to own a two-track recording machine. On occasion, Bradburn would tape
Young and The Squires as they performed some of their original tunes.
"It was a time when Chad Allen and the Expressions, who became
The Guess Who, were really big and Neil was an up-and-comer," says
Bradburn. "At their peak, Neil and The Squires would be playing dances
for somewhere around 1,500 kids."
The master tape Bradburn came across includes an untitled instrumental, along
with a vocal track titled I Wonder, of which a lesser-quality dub already
exists. The tape boasts that unmistakable Neil Young guitar sound -- a twangy
tone and lots of single-note runs. As much as the untitled instrumental owes
much to the influences of the day, there are moments when a progression sounds
like the blueprint for what was to come a couple of years later on the first
Buffalo Springfield disc.
"This really reflects the sound of the period that was dominated by groups
like The Shadows," says Bradburn. "Neil was a great kid and he'd work
for hours on something. He and The Squires put the music first. I don't
think I ever saw Neil have even a beer. We'd just let them record at what would
be early evening sessions and they would end when the station engineer said it
was time to go home."
"I've admitted it before, I just didn't think Neil would make it as a singer;
I thought he'd find success as a writer and guitar player," Bradburn says.
So what happens with archival tapes like this? Young is on his reunion tour
with Crosby, Stills and Nash, but John Einarson, a Winnipeg-based
country-rock historian and Neil Young authority, feels the next chapter will
unfold as soon as Young gets off the road.
Einarson, who wrote the book Neil Young: Don't Be Denied (The Canadian
Years) in 1992, has contacted Young's archivist Joel Bernstein. There's
little doubt they will want the tape. "All they had of this tune up until now
was a very poor-quality copy of it. These are master tapes and they sound
marvellous. Neil is still working on his box-set of his entire career, which
is going to be between five and 10 discs, so maybe they'll use them."
Among the handful of people who've heard these tunes since they found their
way out of Bradburn's basement is Randy Bachman. When reached at his Salt
Spring Island studio last week, Bachman couldn't conceal his enthusiasm.
"The playing on the instrumental is incredible. Neil is playing a Hank
Marvin/Shadows type of lead, but what is so unique is that the drummer
is playing Ventures-style. It is such a cool capturing of that moment in time.
As soon as I heard it, I was reminded of the days when we had instrumental
bands with no vocalist. We'd play three 50-minute sets and run through material
like Walk Don't Run and Sleepwalk."
To this day, he maintains a strong friendship with Young.
Bradburn remembers those days vividly as well, and a few more memories have
surfaced with these tapes. For now, he's content to sit and wait for the phone
call from the Young camp to suggest what the next move will be with his version
of the basement tapes.
More info on this story....
Same story as above.
A Jam Showbiz story.
A short CBC story.
A Jam Music story that fills in some of the gaps,
including the name of the instrumental song: Mustang.
A SonicNet story.
A VH1 story (also features some Hendrix news).