“Like a Hurricane” – Roxy Music


On the surface, this seems like a joke. Europe’s artiest rock band covering a song by America’s grungiest troubadour? Until you realize that this classic Neil Young song has all of the elements of Roxy Music’s best songs. The way Ferry and company cover this, it sounds like they could have written it themselves … even though Young’s version sounds quintessentially Young. Seriously, I’m hard pressed to say which one is better.

“Rockin’ in the Free World” – Neil Young


After a decade of odd musical diversions, Neil Young came back like a motherf–ker in 1989 with the positively brutal “Rockin’ in the Free World,” which laid waste to most of the heavy metal of the prior decade, as well as most of the punk. “Free World” sounded like it would have been at home on Husker Du’s “Zen Arcade.” Over 20 years later, it still packs a wallop.

“Lookout Joe” – The Bottle Rockets


Alt-country legends the Bottle Rockets do a slammin’, very heavy cover of Neil Young’s deep album cut from the bleak masterpiece “Tonight’s the Night.” All I can say is, “Damn!” And also, “Why haven’t the Rockets ever officially released a cover of this?”

“Out of the Blue” (1980) dir. Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper had an interesting, but extremely spotty career as a filmmaker.  His biggest hit was the 1969 cultural zeitgeist “Easy Rider.”  But in my opinion, the best film that Hopper had any involvement with (aside from “Blue Velvet,” “True Romance” and “Apocalypse Now”) was 1980s “Out of the Blue.”  Hopper was originally hired on just to act, but when the first-time director wasn’t delivering the goods during the first couple of weeks in production, Hopper rewrote the script and took over as director.

“Blue” is an ultra-bleak look at the collateral damage that alcoholism and drug abuse can have on a family.  The lead character CeBe, brilliantly played by Linda Manz, is a lonely 14-year old girl with a chip on her shoulder and an obsession with Elvis and punk rock.  Her father, played by Hopper, has been in prison for killing multiple children on a school bus in a drunk driving accident five years prior.  Her mother, played by Sharon Farrell, is a waitress and heroin addict.  Hopper’s character gets out of prison and for a brief moment, it looks like CeBe will finally have the normal life she has craved.  But it’s not to be and the film gets increasingly dark and bleak, leading to a really horrific ending.

Needless to say, “Out of the Blue” is not a film you’d want to watch in a foul or depressed mood.  It is THE definition of a “feel-bad” movie.  However, the movie is brilliantly directed by Hopper, who really conveys the desolation of these characters and the world they inhabit.  And the performances by Manz, Hopper, Farrell, and Don Gordon are all frighteningly real.  Especially Manz.  She plays a very angry character, an anger that masks a desperation for a normal family.  The hopeful look in her eyes when she thinks things are going to work out is heartbreaking.  “Blue” was in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival and Manz was talked about as a strong contender for the Best Actress prize that year (she lost to Anouk Aimee).

The trailer above gives a very strong flavor of what this movie is about. However, it’s definitely not safe for work given the subject matter.

“Lookout Joe” – Neil Young and Crazy Horse


From the legendary and incredibly dark “Tonight’s the Night” album, comes the very scary  “Lookout Joe.”  While it sounds a little peppier than many of the songs on the album, it’s actually the roller coaster going downhill into hell.