Neil Young's 1983 version on his album Everybody's Rockin'
has an interesting story behind it. After all, there's never a short
story behind a Neil Young song!
Young came to cover "Mystery Train" by way of performing one of the most sarcastic take-that's in rock history. As told in Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History
, Young had tried to make up for the PR nightmare that was the Trans
album with an album even more countrified than Hawks & Doves
, which would become Old Ways
. However, Geffen's record executives rejected Young's new excursion, demanding that he make an album of "rock 'n' roll" songs instead.
Can you imagine someone with the audacity to think that they can tell Neil Young what to do? So, Young gave them exactly
what they asked for, with the same kind of acidulous derision with which Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground delivered Loaded
when Atlantic executives demanded an album "loaded with hits." Young put together an album of '50s-style rockabilly songs with a band he assembled and called "the Shocking Pinks." And what jukebox classics they all are!
Geffen's reaction was to slap Young with a $3.3 million dollar lawsuit alleging that his music had become "unrepresentative of his previous output." This is also why Everybody's Rockin'
is so short - Geffen literally pulled the plug on Young and the Shocking Pinks in mid-recording-session. Young responded in an interview with Musician
magazine: "To get sued for being noncommercial after 20 years of making records, I thought was better than a Grammy." He even told Q
magazine that he told Geffen to back off, or his threat was that he was going to play country music forever
. Is there a single Neil Young fan out there who doubts - for a fraction of a second - that just to go 'nyah!', he would have stuck to his guns and played nothing but country music to this day, had Geffen not backed down? Anyway, it's a nice little cover of "Mystery Train," isn't it?