Thrasher - Neil Young Lyrics Analysis

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Thrasher Lyrics

More Analysis of the Meaning of Thrasher Lyrics

Here's a response to the original post on meaning of the song Thrasher.

(Adapted from RUST@DEATH posts November 1993 and April 1994.)

OK, by now everybody's probably had enough of this, but here's more for
you Thrasher-heads.

In followups to the original posts, Welfare Mother/Charlene asked if
"Thrasher" has been performed since the '78 Rust Never Sleeps tour.  As
far as I'm aware, never again.

A couple of theories on why such an unbelievable tune has disappeared from
set lists.

One theory that has circulated is that Neil's buddies - Crosby, Stills and
Nash - were quiet upset by the obvious references to their artistic
demise.  Whether this is true, I don't know.  If it were true that
they were angered by Thrasher, would Neil have stopped playing

My theory on the Thrasher's absence is a little more whimisical.  Watch
closely the film Rust Never Sleeps.  During Thrasher, Neil stumbles
delivering the lines "Poisoned with protection/Park bench mutations".
It's like Neil is so into it he just goes blank.  Which is really  rare
for him onstage.

When I saw the RNS tour in Virginia - which was early in the tour - you
could hear a needle drop during Thrasher.  It was absolutley riveting and
mesmerizing.  So incredibly powerful.  The crowd was breathless.

And when you watch RNS, I'm really amazed that Neil left so obvious a
flaw in the film.  he could have said I screwed it up and let's cut it out.
But, thank God, he let it stay.  The RNS film was a one-take deal on
the last night of the tour in San Francisco and no other concerts were

So maybe the performance flaw is so indelibly seared in Neil's mind that
he's afraid to perform it again?  Or maybe the song's lyrical complexity
is too much to just throw in a set?
Kim, the Unknown Legend, and I were chatting about Thrasher
and she brings up the Biblical angle.   And I'm thinking, well I don't
believe Neil is religous in the traditional sense.  Would Neil actually
use the Bible as source material??

Unknown Legend cited a Bible parable in St. Matthew, Chapter 13, verses 24
to 30 and verses 36 to 43 as a possible link to Thrasher.

The specific verse is #30, here it is:
"Let both grow together until harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say
to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles
to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
It has also been mentioned that the melody of Thrasher is very similar to
the unreleased Evening Coconut.

Compare EC's chords and tunings in this passage:
"Have you seen the evening coconut lying on the bay, standing on the
water's edge of stone"

with Thrasher's:
"when I saw those thrashers rolling by looking more tha two lanes wide"
From Zain: L.A. Music Book:  "'Thrasher' was Young's condemnation of
dinosaurs...'poisoned with protection' in their 'crystal canyons' but
unable to avoid the thrashers of punk rock."

Sure, the Thrasher as a metaphor for Johnny Rotten & the Sex Pistols and
the whole punk scene is valid.

The line "the aimless blade of science chops the pearly gates" has the
following interpretation: It is a reference to "Occam's Razor" (sometimes
called the principle of parsimony as well). A "rule of thumb"
developed by the English philosopher William of Ockham (died 1349). It
states that "in explaining something, explanations must not be needlessly
multiplied".  That is, if there are two answers, one simple and the other
complicated, the simple one is the most likely to be correct. Ockham's
observation was one of the founding principles of science - why bother
with complicated explanations based on "magic" (alchemy, astrology,
religion etc.) when the testable physical laws of the universe will do
rather better.

How any of this relates to the rest of the song is anyone's guess. I
certainly go along with the general view that the song is about Neil
dumping CSN. I would argue that lines about "burning credit cards for
fuel" and "going were the pavement turns to sand" don't necessarily
directly follow from as a consequence of the abandonment of religion,
"chopping the pearly gates", in favour of rationalism. Science may
have given us the tools to wreck the planet but materialism and
ecological damage weren't inevitable.

Nigel Atkinson, Chem & Bio, University of Teesside, England

Through the timeless gorge of changes,

From Thrasher's Wheat Guestbook on Neil Young Comments by James Sheats: