Here’s an oddity for you oddballs: “Solo Trans,” a 1984 Neil Young concert-film-cum-sketch-show that was only ever released on LaserDisc, but has recently found its way onto YouTube.
In the mid-80s, Young was going through a wildly experimental phase, and in the space of four years released three utterly different albums, one, Trans (1982) full of synthetic electro, another, 1984’s Everybody’s Rockin’ featuring hardcore, high-speed rockabilly, and then, in 1985, Old Ways, a return to the kind of country-and-western that made Young famous in the first place. Somewhere in the middle of all this, Young decided to go on tour and, somehow, to come up with a live show that would make sense of all three albums at once, which he did by inventing a fake TV show called “Trans TV” that would allow him to project clips of himself during his performances, as well as any other skits and sketches that popped into his head. Then he got Hal Ashby (director of “Harold and Maude” and “Shampoo“) to make an episode of this fake TV show, as a concert movie, called it “Solo Trans,” and released it. Got that?
Not many people did get it, and not many people had LaserDisc players either (it was a format that even Betamax hipsters didn’t understand), so the flick was forgotten by all but the hardest of hardcore Neil Young fans. But here it is, bubbling up out of obscurity, at least until an overzealous copyright enforcer kills it off. Until then, watch and learn why, a little while later, Young’s own record label sued him for making “unrepresentative” (i.e. wildly bizarre) material. And after that, be sure to check out our Hal Ashby retrospective. [Dangerous Minds]