Sparse, under produced, and at times downright dour, On the Beach was Neil Young's first studio album after Harvest had transformed him into a mainstream superstar two years before in 1972. It was a career move akin to "pissin' in the wind," as the artist himself describes life on one of the album's most famous lines.
Young had already recorded the harrowing Tonight's the Night, his indictment of '60s drug culture and the damage done, but his label rejected it as too abrasive. So the artist gave them this instead. Less mournful but still haunting, the album is basically Young's rejection of rock stardom and what had become of the counterculture, covering a range of subjects, including Richard Nixon and Patty Hearst (the epic "Ambulance Blues"), his affair with actress Carrie Snodgrass ("Motion Pictures"), and, most famously, years before it became "chic" to do so, Charles Manson (the rocking "Revolution Blues"). "Vampire Blues," meanwhile, seemed to be about all those topics, as well as Young himself.
Full of despair and little hope, On the Beach would nevertheless eventually come to be reappraised as a rock culture masterpiece.
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