In January, the musician Neil Young revealed a device called the PonoPlayer, a portable high-fidelity music player that looks like a Toblerone. His obsession with sound quality stretches back over two decades, when he lost part of his hearing while recording the 1991 album Weld. In Young’s worldview, analog recorded music is unequivocally the best, and the shift from records to CDs to compressed audio files has led to inferior sound fidelity. And he certainly wasn’t shy when it came to speaking his mind about the iPod and iTunes.
These criticisms did not sit well with the man who played a key role in the popularization of digital music—Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who took Young’s complaints to heart. In the book Becoming Steve Jobs by Fast Company executive Rick Tetzeli and longtime technology reporter Brent Schlender, it’s revealed that Young tried to quash the beef by offering him a set of remastered vinyl editions of every album in his catalog. It was an “[attempt] to smoke the peace pipe,” writes Schlender:
I knew that Steve enjoyed listening to records on vinyl from time to time, so I agreed to call him to see if he’d like to get the LPs. Steve answered the phone on the second ring, and I explained what I was calling about. We had talked about Neil’s criticisms a year or so before, and I thought this might soften his grudge.
Fat chance. “Fuck Neil Young,” he snapped, “and fuck his records. You keep them.” End of conversation.
Becoming Steve Jobs charts the growth of the Apple founder over his life and career, and paints him as a complex, multidimensional person. But if “personal evolution is the long process of making more of our strengths and learning to moderate our weaknesses,” writes Schlender, “Steve can be said to have succeeded brilliantly at the first, but not always so well at the latter.”