Though his voice may sound off key at times and his solos sometimes shaky, Neil Young is a consummate perfectionist. So much so that, as the story goes, he once paid over $200,000 to recall an initial pressing of his 1978 album Comes a Time when he discovered some higher frequencies missing from the master. Just to make sure the sub-standard versions would never be heard again, he personally shot each copy with a rifle.
As such, it’s no surprise that when he heard an American woman’s voice had been added to his and The Sadies all Canadian male cover of “This Wheel’s on Fire,” his contribution to the just released Garth Hudson Presents a Canadian Celebration of the Band, Young simply could not stand idly by – even if that American was Neko Case.
According to the album’s compiler and Band keyboardist Garth Hudson, when Young heard the vocals that Case – who was born in Virginia but went to university and lived in Vancouver for four years and still plays in Vancouver collective The New Pornographers – had recorded, he refused to have her contribution appear on the track at all.
“Neko was playing at a church in Toronto [where the album was recorded] and we’d just done ‘Wheel’s on Fire,’” Hudson tells AUX of the experience. “It was recommended that she come down and sing a part. Now, she’s American so I knew we’d have to not mention her name being used on the track when we brought the CD out, but I didn’t see anything wrong with that and she would be in agreement I think.”
“So I played with a couple songs with her at the show and the next afternoon she came in and sang her part on it,” he continues. “But when Neil heard it, I think he knew that we had recorded Neko, and he said he didn’t think it was right having a girl’s voice on the track. That was how we kept it all Canadian.”
Luckily the album had yet to be mastered and Case’s vocals were erased, sparing her the same fate as those unfortunate Comes a Time pressings.