Neil Young’s Fuddled Performance That Had To Be Edited For A Film

In the fall of 1976, the Band decided to retire for various reasons that spanned several years. But their departure would not be quiet. They were planning a huge farewell concert. They wanted to invite some acquaintances to this performance as well, including Bob Dylan, Ronnie Hawkins, and Neil Young. So, the farewell concert was really a big deal.

Neil Young’s day to perform came. However, his gig would not go as smoothly as planned. Let us tell you the story, including a concert movie scene that had to be recorded, a messy performance, a manager that refused to present his client that way in a movie, a pretty stoned face, and a remarkable talent still there in a high head. The event took place at the ‘Last Waltz’ concert in 1976. Our lead character is Neil Young, while the side character is cocaine.

There were some giants at the concert: Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Ron Wood, Bobby Charles, and Neil Diamond. The Band must have had a pretty good circle. The show was indeed a big hit on the day, but it was too good to be a unique and one-time experience, so one of the band members, Robbie Robertson, invited his friend to record the concert to render it into a film. Do you know who this ‘friend’ was? Martin Scorsese. What an acquaintance again!

So, everything was going on in all its glory, just until Neil Young’s turn came. Now, we have to say that Young had had a pretty busy week before that day. He performed with Crazy Horse for two lengthy performances in Boston in just one night. He then took a cross-country flight and skipped Thanksgiving to bid his buddies farewell properly. So, he was both tired and unable to take his vacation properly. He was just a man trying to be a good friend. So we shouldn’t blame him too much for needing some me-time.

When this me-time was accompanied by cocaine, things started to take a twisted turn. Backstage, there was a massive party, and by the time Young was ready to perform ‘Helpless’ on stage, he had consumed a ‘significant’ amount of cocaine. The Band drummer Levon Helm’s words in his book will help you picture this significant amount a little bit. Helm stated in his autobiography ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ that the man played with a good-sized rock of cocaine wedged in his nostril. Yep, it was the amount.

After Neil’s manager saw this, he was nearly losing it. There was no way that Neil Young would be part of a movie, no, not with that face and attitude. But the film was going to come out no matter what. Fortunately, they did their best with the technology they had at the time and could obscure that nose with a few special effects in the post-production. If you see the movie, you will see that ‘Helpless’ is also a part of it. So, it worked.