David Briggs Remembered

Neil Young's Producer

----- Original Message -----
From: "James P. McKelvey"
To: rust@flying.fish.com
Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 1996 7:22 PM
Subject: The real David Briggs RIP (fwd)

The passing of David Briggs, age 51, on November 26th, 1995, from lung cancer could have a similarly profound effect on Neil Young's recording career, just as the passing of Jerry Garcia did with the Grateful Dead's live performances. Things just won't be the same without both influential men in their respective bands. While this won't be the demise of Neil Young's recording career it certainly is the end of an era.

One thing is for sure, David Briggs enjoyed the anonymous nature of being a producer. There was almost a transparent feature to his production work that focused more on bringing out the best of what a particular "group" had to offer than any signature his production values might have imposed.

"In an age when records are put together with extreme artifice David's mission was to break through that," explained Joel Bernstein who is the Neil Young tape archivist, musician and photographer. "He not only tried to bring out the best performance out of the artist he also wanted to present the listener with a realistic true picture of music being played in a room. He went after that live in a room sound! There was no technical trick that he and Neil wouldn't do to get that live feel, however."

David Briggs the producer always preferred a very emotional "live" sound that he could capture best in living rooms, basements, big barns and rehearsal warehouses like Studio Instrumental Rentals .

Very little is known of the David Briggs that worked with Neil Young. Briggs was born on February 29th, 1944 in Douglas, Wyoming. He worked for a time as a staff producer for Bill Cosby's label, Tetragrammaton. David Briggs met Neil Young when he picked him up hitchhiking in Topanga Canyon. Shortly after that meeting Briggs produced several cuts on the debut solo album by Neil Young that was released after he left the Buffalo Springfield. It wasn't till their second album together, "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," that the live sound that he pursued with Neil Young came to the fore.

David Briggs was best known in rock circles as producer of Neil Young's most beloved works but he was also at the production helm for acts like Nils Lofgren and Grin, Spirit, Jerry Williams, Alice Cooper and more recently Virgin Records Royal Trux, Nick Cave, 13 Engines and the Sidewinders.

"There certainly weren't any recordings of Neil Young and Crazy Horse that David Briggs wasn't involved in," Joel Bernstein recalled.

David Briggs was often confused by fans and journalists alike as being the same session musician and producer who owns "House Of David" in Nashville. Since parts of the country album by Neil Young called, "Old Ways," was recorded at "House Of David" this only added to the confusion. The David Briggs who played keyboards for people like Elvis Presley, J.J. Cale, Arthur Alexander, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez was the "other" David Briggs and he lives in Nashville.

"They are both David Briggs, they both produced records, and they both always got miscredited," Bernstein insisted. "If you look in the "Record Producers File," that came out like twelve years ago in Scotland, they put under David Briggs name all the albums they both produced. Our David Briggs (who lived in California) always referred to him as the 'other' David Briggs."

"When not working, David Briggs enjoyed reading books, chasing beautiful women; driving fast cars; going to Las Vegas; insulting managers, lawyers and record executives; and a number of other endeavors ill-suited for publication," according to the "official" Neil Young biographer, Jimmy McDonough, in an obit in the Los Angeles Times.

Jimmy McDonough has been working on a Neil Young biography for over five years and has interviewed over three hundred people for the book. McDonough said over the phone that he has enough interviews with David Briggs alone to do a very interesting book. He laughed when he said it will be published right around the time the archives come out.

"When you make rock 'n roll, the more you think the more you stink--it's *this* attitude," said Briggs pausing to give the finger in an unpublished interview with Jimmy McDonough in 1991. "Rock 'n roll is not sedate. Is not safe. Has nothing to do with money. Rock 'n roll is elemental - it's like wind, rain, fire. Rock 'n roll is fire, man, *fire*. It has to do with how much you can thumb your nose at the world."

At the time of his death David Briggs had been heavily involved with Joel Bernstein with the "Neil Young Archives" project. This has been discussed for over five years in the press and could involve anywhere from three to twenty CDs worth of unreleased material.

"He was very passionate about his work," Joel Bernstein told the online Internet magazine ATN. "He never did anything halfheartedly. He was very direct, very opinionated, and told you to your face what he thought and expected you to do the same. He'll be sadly missed."

By Jim Mckelvey (c) 1995

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