The tour for Time Fades Away
was marked by strife. Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten was supposed to play but was too far gone by that point. Young had to boot him from the project and gave him 50 bucks. Whitten died that very night, overdosed on drugs presumably purchased with the money Young gave him.
Young's roadies were demanding more money. Dysfunction ran within the band. Young was tired and blatantly confrontational towards the audience. Basically, things were a mess, and all of this coalesced in a series of angry, out-of-tune, ragged performances.
Nearly any artist would have buried the recordings, but Young elected to release them. He didn't hold their musical value high, but he felt it was an important marker in the story of his career and life. Here we have Young as self-mythologizer, something he's always been sneakily adept at (in the same way as Bob Dylan).
Looking at "Time Fades Away" in its full context, we "get" the junkies and the general despair in the song. This was also all happening while the reviled Richard Nixon still sat in office, a fact likely explaining the line about presidents looking out windows and waiting until the time was right. Young openly mentions Nixon in "Ohio