Change Your Mind (1994)

Neil Young

Written by Neil Young
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Neil Young and crazy horseYou went to sleep in the middle of 1969 with “Cowgirl In The Sand” playing – an LP on a turntable.

You woke up 25 years later in the same room where someone happened to click on Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s “Change Your Mind” from the Sleep With Angels album. Hmmm, room looks the same and the music…that music…was it still “Cowgirl,” or…?

The first lead-guitar note is the same that you remember. You’d be forgiven for being confused. (Of course you would be: You’ve been asleep for a quarter century. Talk about a bad case of bed-head.)

“Change Your Mind” is a hauntingly successful come about to the heyday of the epic partnership between Neil and Crazy Horse. The opening strains of the song, the churning, growling, machine-burp guitars signal that we are back on the landscape the Rock-N-Roll world was once familiar with – and, truthfully, hadn’t had quite enough of on the landmark Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and in a slightly different feel, on After The Gold Rush.

“Change Your Mind”

You can choose either “Down By The River” or “Cowgirl” as the progenitor of “Change Your Mind.” Both fit the bill. The expressionistic lyrics work closely with the brooding, meditative grind of guitars and an even lower-down subterranean rhythm like a well-oiled transmission, shifting, gliding, wrenching to a stop, and starting again.

Poncho Sampedro on rhythm guitar – really a co-lead guitar with Neil – gives nothing up to the sound-dancer ghost of the departed and lamented Danny Whitten.

Sampedro brings a grungier sensibility to Crazy Horse, and in many ways, he opened up new vistas for the other band members who finally felt free to snarl right along with him. Although nothing can be taken away from Danny Whitten, his playing was far more delicate than Sampedro. Poncho also opened the door for Neil Young to fully develop as a superior, lead-guitar player, still one of the most under-appreciated in Rock history.

Poncho brings something else to the table that’s a bit harder to pinpoint. Since throwing in with Neil and Crazy Horse, he has been the whetstone for a sharp-honed technological proficiency in the group’s productions. While the sound in the work of the second incarnation of Crazy Horse grew denser and, well, “grungier,” and noisier, the production clarity of those elements grew sharper. They would have had to evolve that way in order to be successful.

Lyrically, gone are the uncertainties about love, about what it means or can’t mean.

Neil lays out a clear blueprint for what a relationship must be composed of, how the refuge of love functions to make another human being’s life better, calmer, yet still exciting, an aspect of the song that waits till the last verse. The opening verse sets it all up:

Sleep with angelsWhen you get weak
and you need to test your will
When life’s complete
but there’s something
missing still
Distracting you from this
must be the one you love
Must be the one whose magic touch
can change your mind
Don’t let another day go by
without the magic touch

Yet the nearly 15-minute extravaganza holds a sense of foreboding, warning the listener via the atmospherics that there is a price to be paid for ignoring sound, sane relationship advice.

Is this the same Neil Young we know from the following lines?

Down by the river
I shot my baby

Yes and no. The Neil Young of “Down By The River” lives on in the music, not the words of “Change Your Mind.” In the lyrics, he urges us to change our minds, to exhibit self-control in many aspects of our life but particularly when it comes to staying focused on our main relationships.

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  • Neil told the New York Times in 1995, “”No matter how much you need to do something, sometimes you just have to change your mind. And it’s O.K. to change your mind.” Hmmm.
  • In another interview he said: “My life is not a political campaign. I just write about what is on my mind. I just play whatever I feel like playing. Whatever is in my soul at the time is what I want to do.”

Also by Neil Young on

  • Cinnamon Girl“Cinnamon Girl” breaks out of the gate like a war horse trampling the high grass of the feverish doldrums Neil had been in.