South coast, New South Wales, 2015

Crime In the City conjures images of shootings, drug lords, money laundering – or as Neil Young himself sees it: firemen putting out every fire in town – but what I see is:

  • a kitchen
  • a book that was slowly killing me
  • possibly the simplest riff in history
  • and, of course, a German clockmaker.

See, in the beginning I’d started writing this book called Bridge of Clay, and I knew it would be hard; I thought it would take three years. At last count it’s hit eleven. I’ve been married to it, divorced it, slapped it, killed it, went to a self-imposed jail for it – only for it to be my cellmate, mocking me from the top bunk – with all its filthy habits.

For whatever reason, I just couldn’t give it up, or actually, I do know the reason. People would say, “Just put it aside – write one of your other ideas…” But that was the thing. There were no other ideas – so I continued to slave away. I would take trips to the New South Wales south coast, and work in a little shack down there, and go through the usual routines.

Before work, I always listen to music, on headphones:

A song to take me up, a song to bring me in – to concentration…and then one day – I think it was afternoon, and the sun was hot on my back, from the window – I thought, ‘Oh, what the hell, I’ll finally listen to that song on Weld I’ve been ignoring’

Listening to Crime In the City was like sticking my head in the oven.

In the best imaginable way:

Neil Young blew the God damn roof off.

…So there I was.

The house was obliterated.

All around me was this rubble, the toaster was over the road – my book was blown to bits – but somehow the oven and my headphones were still intact, and Neil Young (ever the unfuckingkillable – the rock n roll cockroach if ever there was one), was STILL singing…and I still hadn’t got to the best bit – b