Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Rust Never Sleeps on its 40th Anniversary, the Rickenbacker 12-String Guitar

Forty years later, Neil Young and Crazy Horse's masterpiece Rust Never Sleeps still captivates listeners and critics with its simple melodies, complex lyrics and punk-inspired sound. This week, Jim and Greg discuss the album's impact and how Young's blend of acoustic and electric made for an iconic musical experience. They'll also discuss the electric Rickenbacker 12-String guitar, an instrument that was featured prominently in songs by bands ranging from the Beatles to the Byrds.

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classic album dissection

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Rust Never Sleeps

40 years ago this summer, Neil Young, along with the band Crazy Horse, released the iconic album Rust Never Sleeps. The 1979 release was mostly recorded live during Young's 1978 tour, save some overdubs. As Jim and Greg discuss, it was in large part a response to the emerging punk music. How does a classic rocker from the '60s grow and evolve? This is how. As Young sings in "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)," "It's better to burn out, than to fade away."

That song bookends the album, with the middle tracks broken into an acoustic section and an electric one. Jim remarks how brave it was for Young to come out with nothing but an acoustic guitar. He particularly loves the song "Pocahontas," which makes reference to the Native American icon in addition to the Hollywood icon Marlon Brando. Greg chooses to highlight the hard-stomping electric "Powderfinger," which attempts to reconcile America's complicated identity.


Rickebacker 12-String Guitar


An instrument that is featured prominently in a number of '60s hits by bands like The Beatles and The Byrds, is the Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar. After the acoustic 12-string guitar was popularized by blues artists like Lead Belly and by the '60s folk revival, Rickenbacker began making an electrified version. After George Harrison used it on The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," a 12-string craze began. The most notable adopter of the instrument was Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, who used it to define the sound of The Byrds on tracks like "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" The Beatles and The Byrds set the template for countless bands in the ensuing decades who used 12-strings, from power pop acts like Raspberries and Big Star, to jangle pop bands like R.E.M. and The Bangles, to contemporary artists like Temples.

To help discuss and demonstrate the Rickenbacker electric 12-string, we're joined by Daniel Escauriza and Shelby Pollard of Chicago Music Exchange. Jim and Greg also offer their favorite examples of Rick-heavy songs: "Awaken" by Yes and XTC's "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)."

Featured Songs

  1. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, My My, Hey Hey (Into The Black), Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  2. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, My My, Hey Hey (Out of The Blue), Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  3. Devo, Jocko Homo, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, Corner, 1978
  4. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Sedan Delivery, Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  5. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Pocahontas, Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  6. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Welfare Mothers, Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  7. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Ride My Llama, Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  8. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Sail Away, Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  9. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Thrasher, Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  10. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Powderfinger, Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, 1979
  11. The Byrds, Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season), Turn! Turn! Turn!, Columbia, 1965
  12. The Beatles, If I Needed Someone, Rubber Soul, Parlophone, 1965
  13. Udi Hrant Kenkulian, Hicas Taksim, Udi Hrant, Traditional Crossroads, 1950
  14. Lead Belly, The Midnight Special, Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, Smithsonian Folkways, 1997
  15. Jimmy Bryant with Speedy West, Stratosphere Boogie, Deep Water (Single), Capitol, 1954
  16. The Rooftop Singers, Walk Right In, Walk Right In!, Vanguard, 1962
  17. The Beatles, All My Loving (Live on "The Ed Sullivan Show"), Anthology 1, Apple, 1964
  18. The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night, A Hard Day's Night, Parlophone, 1964
  19. The Who, I Can't Explain, I Can't Explain (Single), Brunswick, 1965
  20. The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man, Mr. Tambourine Man, Columbia, 1965
  21. The Searchers, Needles and Pins, It's The Searchers, Pye, 1964
  22. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Waiting, Hard Promises, Backstreet, 1981
  23. Raspberries, I Wanna Be With You, Fresh, Capitol, 1972
  24. The Plimsouls, A Million Miles Away, Everywhere at Once, Geffen, 1983
  25. The Byrds, Chimes of Freedom, Mr. Tambourine Man, Columbia, 1965
  26. DIno, Desi & Billy, I'm a Fool, I'm a Fool, Reprise, 1965
  27. Yes, Awaken, Going for the One, Atlantic, 1977
  28. XTC, All of a Sudden (It's Too Late), English Settlement, Virgin, 1982
  29. Marvin Gaye, What's Going On, What's Going On, Motown, 1971
  30. The Lawrence Arms, On With The Show, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Fat Wreck Chords, 2003
  31. Apex Manor, Asked Answered, Heartbreak City, Merge, 2019
  32. The Replacements, Valentine, Pleased To Meet Me, Sire, 1987
  33. The Doors, Break On Through (To The Other Side), The Doors, Elektra, 1967
  34. Alice In Chains, Rooster, MTV Unplugged, Columbia, 1996