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Neil Young Puts Santa Monica Back on the Cultural Map
By Jorge Casuso
January 29, 2018 -- For a mid-sized beach town, Santa Monica has plenty of ties to iconic rock stars -- from Jim Morrison, who is said to have first taken the stage in a small bar in the beach city, to David Bowie, who staged one of rock's most famous concerts at the Civic Auditorium.Its ties to major rock artists should receive another boost with the upcoming release of the latest installment in Neil Young's bootleg series, "Roxy -- Tonight's the Night Live."
"We really knew the Tonight’s the Night songs after playing them for a month, so we just played them again, the album, top to bottom, without the added songs, two sets a night for a few days. We had a great time.”
The Santa Monica Flyers was composed of Nils Lofgren on piano, Ben Keith on pedal steel guitar, Billy Talbot on bass and Ralph Molina on drums -- all members of Young's band Crazy Horse.
It is unclear why he named the same band the Santa Monica Flyers. The early original vinyl release of the sessions recorded in a practice space in Hollywood in 1973 contained the cryptic message, "I'm sorry. You don't know these people. This means nothing to you."
The songs, inspired by the drug-related deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry were among the most harrowing of Young's career.
A resurgence of interest in Santa Monica's ties to the music world was spurred by the 2008 CD release of Bowie’s legendary 1972 concert at the Civic Auditorium.
It was followed two years later by the home video release of the landmark 1964 T.A.M.I. Show at the Civic, starring James Brown and the Rolling Stones ("Residents Have Strong Ties to Santa Monica Civic's Past," June 6, 2013).
Legendary rock singer Jim Morrison is said to have first sang on stage at Turkey Joint West -- today's Ye Olde Kings Head in Downtown Santa Monica -- summoned from the audience to belt out a rowdy rendition of "Louie Louie" with the band that would become The Doors.
Olivia's, a greasy spoon on Main Street, which is now home to ZJ Boarding House, inspired the song "Soul Kitchen, while the city's Big Blue Bus made its was into the lyrics of the band's most enigmatic song, "The End."
Neil Young never lived in Santa Monica (he lived in Topanga Canyon during one of his most fertile periods in the 1970s), but he has been known to frequent the City to visit his manager's Downtown office.
One witness, quoted in a 2009 article, found the legendary artist lending support to the City's homeless.
“We see him, he’s a great guy," the witness said. "He stops and sits with the homeless and talks to them. Once he even brought this old woman crying about her tooth to the dentist.”
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