In 1974 Neil Young was at the tail end of his relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress. “Motion Pictures (for Carrie)” is just one song regarding their romance; more famous is “A Man Needs a Maid,” in which the last verse tells of falling in love with a woman on a screen playing a role the speaker can’t understand, a.k.a Snodgress in Diary of a Mad Housewife. They broke up not long after “Motion Pictures” was written, after Young discovered Snodgress was having [an] affair[s]. He didn’t know it at the time of this recording, however, that the love he was banking on had a faulty shot.
And yet doubt is present. His distrust creeps in, “I’m deep inside myself/ But I’ll get out somehow,” and his distaste for celebrity, “Well, all these people,/ They think they’ve got it made.” So why are you dating an actress, Neil? What did you think you could prove, having your first born with a woman you could not decipher, and maybe never planned on understanding? Your partner drifting in the celluloid crunch of seventies television, a dream. “I’ve got mine,” he asserts in the first verse, with more assurance than I could ever muster. His dream.
Or maybe it was something else, to not feel that distance, that in-between home away from home. I know that is my dream, Neil. Today I listened to this song in the cubicle of my first nine to five and my vision got blurry. With those last lines I didn’t stand a chance- the tears fell. Sweet ones, just a couple fast streaks, nothing serious. I just can’t believe he does that, create this set-up of restless re-assurance, his judgement that gives way to a self-determination, a sense of faith with a jagged-edged defense. And then…
He spits it out: “And I’ll stand before you/ And I’ll bring/ A smile to your eyes.” I could kiss you for that, Neil. Your dream to be so beautiful in front of another. After all, what is more worthy of dreaming? When he says, “I’ve got mine,” I’ve never heard a man more in love. With a partner, himself, music. I’ve got all three, but turbulence can warp sight. Home away from home/ Living in between. In truth I’ve never been so full of promise, never so flushed with potential. But I feel 16, so I went to get a beer (seltzer) just to prove I could. And to prove that time has kept creaking forward, even when I can’t feel it.
And I am writing about Neil Young because I never knew he was such a romantic. So gooey, staring, wanting. It’s the woman in you that makes you want to play this game. We don’t have to talk about that right now. I dream of standing in front of a loved one with enough worthiness to make their eyes leak, too, Neil. And to be so naked even when fully dressed. Motion pictures, or that precious thing called memory. A dose of salvation when distance rears its inevitable, stupid head. For what would desire be without it? Or dreams.