This started out as a Facebook post. Then it got long. Then it turned into a story that I thought was better shared here. If you enjoy it, awesome. If you don’t, I get it. It’s long, but not as long as my wait for a song.
Here’s one of many tales of being a nerd in the days before the internet. I’ll peg this around 1989 – 1990-ish.
So, a few days ago I posted a Neil Young song and let everyone who didn’t already know, how much of a fan I have always been. One thing that is a secret to no one who knows me or has read my posts here is how big of a nerd I have always been, so I’m OBVIOUSLY a DeVo fan. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure that out.
Anyhoos…many, many years ago, I was sitting in my bedroom, watching “Night Flight”. They played a DeVo video for a song I’d never heard. The song was called “Worried Man”, and the video was from a movie that Neil Young had made. I had never heard that song and became obsessed with it. The only copy I had for YEARS was one I had made by waiting for that episode of Night Flight to re-air (at this point I had been in the practice of recording it almost every time it aired), then running the audio cable from the out on my VCR to the in on my stereo, and recording it to tape. (This was also how I made many of my soundtrack tapes. Like Rock & Rule for example).
Allow me to pause for clarification; For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, maybe because it was on too late, maybe you’re too young or too old, maybe it just flew beyond your radar, Night Flight was this weird variety show that had started sometime around the mid-80s. It leaned towards cult-favorite genre movies and music, as well as a lot of stoner humor. I first remember seeing it on USA, which I enjoyed because they showed a lot of the crappy b-movies I loved. It was late and my parents were either not home or didn’t care that I was up at some ungodly hour like usual, watching the Late, Late Movie or catching those couple of episodes of Star Trek or The Honeymooners that would air on our local channel 11 WPIX (now the CW). I was flipping through the channels (clicking through channels actually, if you’re old enough to remember the old cable boxes, you know what I mean) and I saw this weird, dark, moody cartoon. The animation was rough and there were cartoon boobies. I was maybe 10, and that was enough to make me stop in my tracks (let’s be honest, still is). The cartoon ended, “Stick around, more Night Flight to come!”. I did and I was hooked. I discovered so many movies, bands, cult favorites…I learned a lot from Night Flight. It was definitely one of the more formative shows I watched.
So….as I got a little older, I started to head out of my little town into the surrounding areas and since I no longer had to put the limiter on, “Mom, can you buy me _____” where blank always had to be something safe, I started asking questions. After bugging enough video store and record shop owners, I learned that I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for here. I had to head into the (then still pretty dangerous) New York City. But I had names, and I had directions, the older guys, I suppose, saw the determination and didn’t want me getting hurt. I was to take the train to Hoboken, then the path to 9th St. From there, I could go to Bleecker Bob’s Records and Kim’s Video easily enough.
Bleecker Bob’s gave me every random punk, alternative, or just weird band I could want, they had posters and t-shirts to make me the coolest uncool kid in school (there were 60 people in my graduating class. I went to a very small school, so being different wasn’t hard, and boy was I different). They had some Devo albums, most of which I owned, none of which had It Takes A Worried Man on it, they did carry some cool imports and a copy of “And Now It Can Be Told” which I hadn’t known about but the guy working said was pretty good for a live album. I put it down, not knowing then what I know now and I then walked down to Kim’s Underground…
It was my mecca.
They had everything. All the things. I stood, frozen for a moment, trying to take it all in. I remember a particularly messy looking fellow with a stack of tapes in his arms halting, taking a step back and asking, “Hey little man, you need something?” (I should mention that I hit my growth spurt around 91/92, late bloomer and all), I stammered a moment and blurted out, “Neil Young made a movie and Devo was in it. I’m looking for that!”
Kim’s was a special place. Kim’s was the video store that every movie nerd wanted to work at. You had to have some SERIOUS knowledge to work there. Kim’s Video would become my proving ground as a cult film connoisseur. They had everything a REAL cinefile could want…alas…
“Wow, didn’t expect that..” the guy said. He thought I was going to ask for some anime or other “younger” fare. “It’s called Human Highway. It’s pretty obscure. They never released it nationally or on video. I heard about a bootleg making the rounds, but I haven’t seen it.”
My heart sunk.
“Is there a soundtrack?” He went to go check. As far as he could figure, nothing. No film release. No soundtrack. Nothing. “You guys carry music too?”
He called around for me, The Hunt as I used to call it, had taken him as well. Nothing. That song did not exist outside of that movie. That movie did not exist outside of a few prints making the art-house rounds since 82, maybe sitting somewhere collecting dust by this point… “How was it on Night Flight?” I’d hit a wall. But it wouldn’t end there.
Human Highway finally came out on VHS sometime around 1995 which was a weird time for me as my life was in a bit of an unstable sort of flux. I had long abandoned my hunt for it and it came in small numbers and went into moratorium before I even realized. In 2000, Devo had released a snarkily titled anthology, The Pioneers Who Got Scalped. The title of which further stating their disdain for the corporate record industry and their treatment by them. This compilation finally gave me a clean, extended copy of the song. But I still wanted the movie….
The strange thing about the internet is, you can find almost anything if there’s an interest. Not enough of the internet generation are all that interested in Neil Young. That is until very recently.
Jimmy Fallon has blown up in popularity since taking over The Tonight Show. He’s also a Neil Young fan and does a very, very good impersonation. So good, that Neil himself has come on the show several times to sit and do a few numbers with him. My favorite of which is “Two Neil Youngs On A Tree Stump”.
This interest, I believe, is what finally got someone off their tuchus to release a wonderful, clean version of Human Highway on blu-ray. It’s been over a quarter of a decade since I began my search, but I finally have it. The funny thing is, I had to make time to really sit down and watch it. As an adult, that time is kind of at a premium.
I finally got around to it. It Takes a Worried Man is no longer the song I’m obsessed with.
In the movie, Neil Young performs his quintessential masterpiece, My My, Hey Hey with Devo. Mark Mothersbaugh is performing as Booji Boy…who sings (Booji Boy’s voice is…interesting).
It is magic. With this video, my story is over for now. Enjoy.