Mone in Holland
By: Jeroen Mol
Date: 12 November, 1995
"God spreads talent like butter on bread. Some parts get a real
thick chunk, others are on the thin end. I didn't get a lot, but at least I got
Just off the plane from L.A. Sonny Mone tunes his guitar in a radio studio
in the hart of
Holland. The five songs he record for the show later that evening are all done in one
take. After his short 'tour' in the Netherlands he said that this session was about the
best he did that particular week.
"That's the best way to do it. Without too much preparation or waiting
time. Too much time before a set makes me think of what can go wrong. Even though the
airplane food was killing me, the feeling was there where I needed it....."
The name Sonny Mone will not open every door. Being the former singer and songwriter of
Crazy Horse doesn't mean that there is a red carpet rolled out everywhere. Even if Crazy
Horse is the longtime 'accompany-band' of Neil Young.
Mone originally comes from the surroundings of Boston, where he as a teenager appeared on
the stage of local bars. Later on he formed a acoustic-duo with a friend and the two
played, not without success, covers of Crosby, Stills & Nash and Simon & Garfunkel.
They broke up because there was a lack of initiative to write their own songs.
Around the mid eighties Mone left the Boston area and moved with his girlfriend to a place
under the smog of L.A. The couple married a year later.
It was his sister-in-law who introduced him to Billy Talbot, who happens to live across
the street. The bass player of Crazy Horse invited Sonny to have a jam with the other
members of the Horse at Frank Sampedro's house. There he was put an old '62 Stratocaster
in his hands and he had to plug in right away. The song they played was Young's 'Cinnamon
Girl' and to this day on it's engraved in Mone's eardrums.
Together with Neil Young, Crazy Horse made the album 'Life' and went on touring. Meanwhile
Sonny wrote a couple of songs and again started to play in bars. After the 'Life-tour'
Billy came looking for Mone and listened to the new material. He was really
called Ralph Molina, the drummer of Crazy Horse, to come up and join them. The three found
a lead guitar-player in Matt Piucci (Rain Parade) and decided to do some gigs. This was a
success and the band recorded with simple means the album 'Left For Dead'. The title just
about shows the way Billy and Ralph felt after the tour with Neil Young. Neil wanted to
play blues and didn't need his 'former' rhythm section.
Sonny about this:
"Of course there was some friction. Neil said he never want to play with
them again and Billy as well as Ralph didn't want play with Neil again. At that time I was
songwriter of Crazy Horse and I put some of that friction into the songs. But really, it
'Left For Dead' became a totally different Crazy Horse-album than the ones before. Due to
the sudden available money of a new record-deal, the album was a bit overproduced.
"Left For Dead is just four guys having fun. Matt on his Gretsch, Billy on
the Precision, Ralph behind his kit and myself on my Les Paul. I would be the last to say
that it is a great album. But it was a great learning-experience....."
Between the recording and the final release of the album were almost two years. In those
two years Billy and Ralph got back together with Frank Sampedro and Neil
record 'Ragged Glory'. So both records were released at the same time. Needless to say
that 'Left For Dead' didn't stand a change against a commercially successful
In 1994 'Sleeps with Angels' was released, a Neil Young & Crazy Horse-album. Neil
decided not to tour, but instead he started to record with Pearl Jam. Billy and Ralph went
on together with Sonny and Matt, but it never came to serious recording.
If someone wants to know about the recent developments around Crazy Horse, he must pay
quit some attention, because it
is a bit confusing. Billy, Ralph and Frank are working on a Crazy Horse-album with Neil
Young. On some of the tracks Neil is playing bass and Billy guitar! They should even come
to Europe this summer ('95-JM) to do a small promotion tour. At the other hand Sonny is
working with Mike Hamilton (former producer of the Smithereens) and various musicians on a
With that new material Sonny arrived in Holland to be the special guest at the annual
Dutch Neil Young Fanclubday. He did a radio show and four other gigs. Mone's
set list contained an acoustic mix of 'Left for Dead'-songs, the new stuff and some covers by Neil
Young, Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne.
About Neil Young:
"Neil's collaboration with Crazy Horse has never really been in my
advantage. I still have to play good music to get in somewhere. Billy has been important
to me and in some ways he still is. He and Ralph were kinda teachers in that
nowadays I spend more time with Mike Hamilton who has got some real positive effect on me.
We seem to be getting along..."
Every show in Holland is taped by Sonny personally. Afterwards he listened carefully to
the reactions to the new songs and
seems to download every yell.
" The songs are still in their infancy and by listening to these tapes I
know which direction I should go to improve them. If you listen very carefully to an
audience responding, you can learn a lot....."
The last show is at the Stairway to Heaven-cafe (Utrecht) and Mone is doing two sets with
a Dutch band called Sugar Mountain. Because of the early hour the audience is very select,
but never the less enthusiastic enough to let Mone play for over two hours.
Later on, as a tired Sonny Mone finds his way to the bar, I remind him about the fight
Crazy Horse (SiouxIndian-chief) had with general Custer and I ask who in his opinion Crazy
Horse has to beat nowadays to regain control over Little Big Horn. A short while Mone is
lost in his thoughts, but then he answers:
"I think everyday life......."
© Jeroen Mol