Candy-O Revisited

February 22nd, 2018

Jean and Jim Young owned The Juggler during the late 1960s in Woodstock, NY. It was an avant-garde bookstore that sold guitar strings and had a magazine rack featuring copies of Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines. In 2008 Jean participated in a panel discussion titled “Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival.” She recalled those days fondly: “And then of course the hippies came in . . . new thinking, anti-war sentiment . . . and then of course Michael Lang along with it. And I must say, when he came in to town and we were in our bookstore and he was looking for some place to rent for land . . . none of the real estate people in town took him very seriously. Like, he didn’t have any money. He wasn’t properly this or that. And so we thought, we’ll help him out, and my husband went around, looking for a place for the festival.”

Michael Young fell into the music business in a most natural way. His parents, Jean and Jim Young, rented a house on Zena Road to Tim Hardin. Every day after school, ten-year-old Michael headed over to Tim’s house to hang out. There he soaked up the vibe and met all the stars of the day, including Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. In those heady months after the Woodstock Festival it was an exciting time to be in town and Michael took full advantage of the scene. Soon Michael was playing music and gigging around town at places like the Sled Hill Café. When he was 16 it was time to head off to college. He got Rick Danko, the bassist for The Band, to write a letter of recommendation, and in 1972 Michael started his freshman year at the Berklee College of Music. The coursework must have been dull because within months he was back in Woodstock—though not for long. Soon he headed to London and Nashville, but returned later the same year with a personal mission to mix tapes of his band’s music.

Michael Young, on right, at the Mink Hollow Studio

He started as a glorified gopher at Todd Rungren’s Mink Hollow Studio. Todd must have observed a mature work ethic in his young protégé, because he left Michael in charge of his home while he went out on the road. Over a three-week period Michael had the run of the studio. There, by dint of ferocious focus, he mastered the studio equipment and mixed his songs on the 24-track recording system. Upon Todd’s return he promoted Michael to assistant engineer.

Calls came in daily about different record projects—and messages were left on the kitchen’s refrigerator. One day Michael noticed a message from Ric Ocasek, the leader of The Cars. Todd suggested that he follow up, so Michael did. Ric was looking for help recording Candy-O and he invited Michael up to Boston. Michael’s specialty is creating “a rounded and clean band sound.” In all, Michael engineered seven songs. Unfortunately none of them made the album. But recently Rhino released the Northern Studios versions on a 2017 augmented release of Candy-O. Michael got his well-deserved album credit and Pitchfork says of his tracks, “Listen closely, though, and Candy-O boasts bolder production that emphasizes the band’s heavy attack and gives plenty of space for guitarist Elliot Easton to spin out composed solos. It sounds not just like new wave—the umbrella term for any pop-oriented counterculture music that arose in the wake of punk—but album rock.” The timing couldn’t be better with The Cars being inducted into the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on April 14.

For more info on Michael’s career visit:

~ Weston Blelock

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