‘The Needle and the Damage Done’

I caught you knockin’ at my cellar door
I love you, baby, can I have some more?
Ooh, ooh, the damage done

I hit the city and I lost my band
I watched the needle take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done

I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
but every junkie’s like a settin’ sun…

– singer/songwriter: Neil Young

INDEED, this is all about drug use/addiction and the consequences that go with it, specifically the effect a drug addict imposes on friends and family.

We’re not talking locally here as this is all about heroin and the drug of choice in these islands is crystal meth or lovingly called by the users/addicts, pushers, and drug lords as shabu.

Besides, the epiphany that inspired singer/songwriter Neil Young happened in the 1970s long before the Philippines was “shabulized”.

However, the metaphor is there and the resemblance is uncanny.

From that free online encyclopedia a.k.a. the internet:

The Needle and the Damage Done is a song by Neil Young that describes the destruction caused by the heroin addiction of musicians he knew, including his friend and Crazy Horse bandmate Danny Whitten. It previews the theme of the ‘Tonight’s the Nightalbum that reflects Young’s grief over the heroin overdose and death of both Whitten and Bruce Berry, a roadie for Young and Crazy Horse.

The Needle and the Damage Done first appeared on the Harvest album in 1972. Rather than rerecording it, he selected a live version from January 1971 that had him singing and playing acoustic guitar. It appeared on the compilation albums ‘Decade and ‘Greatest Hits. On the handwritten liner notes included in ‘Decade’, Young had this to say about the song: “I am not a preacher, but drugs killed a lot of great men.”

The song was also featured on the 2007 album Live at Massey Hall 1971. The album captured Young’s introduction of his song thus:

Ever since I left Canada, about five years ago or so…and moved down south…found out a lot of things that I didn’t know when I left. Some of ‘em are good, and some of ‘em are bad. Got to see a lot of great musicians before they happened…before they became famous…y’know, when they were just gigging. Five and six sets a night…things like that. And I got to see a lot of, um, great musicians who nobody ever got to see. For one reason or another. But…strangely enough, the real good ones…that you never got to see was…’cause of, ahhm, heroin. An’ that started happening over an’ over. Then it happened to someone that everyone knew about. So I just wrote a little song.

If you’re expecting a somewhat humorous and romantic view of heroin addiction like that film “Trainspotting” with Ewan McGregor playing a young heroin addict getting high and having the time of his life running around Edinburgh in his Gola trainers, reality is the exact opposite.

From www.songfacts.com :

This song is about heroin use and what it will do to you in the end. Young wrote it about Danny Whitten, one of the original members of his band Crazy Horse. In 1971, Young went on tour and hired Crazy Horse and Nils Lofgren as backup. During rehearsals, Whitten was so high on heroin that he couldn’t even hold up his guitar. Young fired him, gave Whitten 50 bucks (for rehab) and a plane ticket back to Los Angeles. Upon reaching LA, Whitten overdosed on alcohol and Valium, which killed him.
Whitten was one of the founding members of Crazy Horse and was very influential on much of Young’s work preceding his heroin addiction. His influence is particularly noticeable on Young’s second album, 1969’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. Leading up to Whitten’s dismissal from the band and overdose, Young even attempted daily one-on-one lessons to try and rehabilitate his old friend.

It is common knowledge and an accepted reality that most artists/writers sometimes need to get off this world to be able to create and it comes in so many forms and the most convenient are drugs and alcohol ( when I say drugs, marijuana is not included as it is a plant and not some chemical manufactured in a laboratory).

If you’ve hit a blank wall or what is traditionally referred to as “writer’s block” Moi recommends: torrid sex, a bottle of chilled Chablis, a couple of marijuana joints preferably “Baguio Gold”, the music of Pink Floyd, of course not necessarily in that order./PN


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