Acoustic gem from the archives fueled by weed, beer, and cocaine.
Neil Young has always been fairly prolific. But there was a time in the 70’s when he was writing songs and recording albums at a furious pace, only to shelve entire records or parse out songs to various other releases as he saw fit. The album titles are legion among Neil Young aficionados: Homegrown, Chrome Dreams, Oceanside-Countryside, Island In The Sun, Meadow Dusk, Times Square, and Toast.
And of course Hitchhiker.
In August of 1976, Young set up at Indigo Ranch Studios and laid down 10 acoustic songs and according to what he wrote in Special Deluxe, paused only for “weed, beer, and cocaine”.
Many have head these versions on various bootlegs over the years, for those who haven’t, you’re in for a treat. Embryonic versions of songs that in some cases would eventually get fleshed out with a band. Highlights include Pocahontas, Powderfinger, Human Highway, and a piano only, The Old Country Waltz.
The set is anchored by a pair of previously unreleased songs. Hawaii is a meditation, whose central character is a mysterious, vitamin popping stranger, with a longing for the Aloha State. Give Me Strength is a lovelorn ballad possibly about actress Carrie Snodgrass who had left Neil a couple of years prior.
The rest of the batch, in one form or another, eventually wound up on American ‘n’ Stars and Bars, Rust Never Sleeps, Hawks and Doves, Decade, and Le Noise.
Whether Young had an album in mind at the time or was just trying to get on tape his latest collections of songs before moving on…Hitchhiker is a fascinating and extremely enjoyable listen.