The truest observation one can make about Neil Young’s new memoir Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream is that it is a book by Neil Young. It is ornery and messy and irrepressibly enthusiastic, the book one might write if he was also the kind of person prone to, say, spending three million dollars to rent a Hollywood soundstage in order to make a bizarre comedy about nuclear destruction co-starring Dennis Hopper and Devo. Or develop a mid-life obsession with model trains and end up buying a major share of Lionel.
They are the same whims that have also borne the 66-year-old Young through a five-decade career, careening between mournful folk and silvery feedback sessions, and define the central mystery of his music. Using his 37 proper albums and endless bootlegs to try to reverse-engineer the person behind them, one might end with a somewhat reasonable idea of just who Neil Young is. But even that probably can’t adequately prepare a reader for the experience of spending nearly 500 pages inside Young’s head. For reasons having little to do with sex or drugs, Waging Heavy Peace might be the most authentically demystifying rock memoir yet ever penned.