Nils Lofgren Reflects On Neil Young’s ‘After The Gold Rush’
After sneaking backstage at a Neil Young & Crazy Horse concert more than forty years ago, future E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren found himself playing on Neil’s landmark 1970 ‘After The Gold Rush’ album.
Lofgren tells the Associated Press that Young and his producer offered valuable guidance to the young guitarist, who got the ‘Gold Rush’ gig at a mere 18 years of age. Calling it a “huge learning experience and opportunity for anybody,” the album sessions pushed Lofgren to his creative limits. He even learned how to play piano during the sessions, although as he notes, it wasn’t his choice.
“I’ll play guitar and sing; I’m not a piano player” was the protest from Lofgren. Neil’s camp responded quite simply, “We want somebody who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doin’ to play simple. We want you to stay out of the way of Neil’s songs.” The results of the ‘Gold Rush’ sessions helped Lofgren to later become a talented piano player.
He returned to the stage last week after the recent passing of his friend and longtime bandmate Clarence Clemons and performed ‘Miss You Ray,’ a song on his upcoming album that was inspired by Ray Charles. For the night’s performance, he updated the lyrics to sing “I miss you, C.”
Like many Bruce Springsteen fans, Lofgren remembered his friend by revisiting the good times, watching Springsteen’s recent Hyde Park live DVD to see Clemons in better times, performing with the E Street Band. Lofgren was hit hard by the loss, perhaps because the funeral fell on the day of his own 60th birthday.
“I was just devastated, like everyone else, and ready to go to a dingy hotel, just sit there, watch bad TV … forget about my birthday.” But instead, his wife Amy gathered band members and friends to mark the milestone and the veteran guitarist says “it was really a beautiful respite from the sadness and sorrow of the day.”