Category: Certain Songs

Certain Songs #1243: Neil Young – “Old Man”

Album: Harvest
Year: 1972

Recorded at Quadraphonic Sound Studios, Nashville, February 6, 1971

So in case you’re curious: when it comes to Neil Young’s biggest solo hits, I’ve always liked “Old Man,” and begrudgingly accepted that “Heart of Gold” is a fine song, and am glad that they both exist. It’s awesome that Neil Young had a #1 hit, regardless of my lack of enthusiasm for that hit. Besides, I think that Neil needed a taste of superstardom in order to realize that it was something that he didn’t really want.

And lets not forget that even before the so-called “Ditch Trilogy” that followed Harvest was Journey Through The Past, a combo of nearly unwatchable film — and yeah, I tried at a midnight movie at the Tower Theater back in the early 1980s — and tossed-off soundtrack that was clearly a direct challenge to the millions who came aboard at Harvest.

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Certain Songs #1242: Neil Young – “Wonderin'”

Album: The Archives Vol. 1 – 1963–1972
Year: 1970

Recorded at Neil’s home in Topanga, March 15, 1970

“Wonderin'” has had one of the weirder lives of any of Neil Young’s songs. It was kicking around at lot in early 1970: not only was it one of the songs Neil recorded for After The Gold Rush, he thought enough of it to play it live with Crazy Horse during their concurrent shows at the Fillmore East — an honor not given to any of the other songs recorded for After The Goldrush — but it was over a decade before any recording of it surfaced on any album.

That would be, of course, 1983, when “Wonderin'” was by so far the best song on the otherwise execrable Everybody’s Rockin’, Neil’s outflanking of Geffen Records’ demand that he give them a “rock ‘n’ roll” album after the left turn of Trans.

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Certain Songs #1241: Neil Young – “Cripple Creek Ferry”

Album: After The Gold Rush
Year: 1970

Recorded in Neil’s home studio in Topanga, on March 17, 1970.

The last song on After The Gold Rush is an admittedly minor song, especially when compared to the title track (which I’ll write about when we get to Live Rust, I promise), or even songs like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance, I Can Really Love,” the two singles from the album.

And at 1:34, it’s one of the shortest songs in his entire canon, and one of the shortest songs I’m writing about by anybody, and really is more of a fragment than anything, almost a goof.

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Certain Songs #1240: Neil Young – “Don’t Let it Bring You Down”

Album: After The Gold Rush
Year: 1970

Recorded in Neil’s home studio in Topanga, on March 17, 1970.

Taking advantage of his ability to sound almost hard rock — and most certainly doomy — without any electric instruments, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” gets a big sound out of stripped-down instrumentation: Ralph Molina on drums, Greg Reeves on bass, Nils Lofgren on piano & Neil on acoustic guitar.

With Molina leading the way playing what I’ll call the “Neil Young beat” — kick-kick-SNARE-space, kick-kick-SNARE-space — the rhythm that artists appropriate when they want to show that he’s been an influence, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” is close-miked to the point of claustrophobia.

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Certain Songs #1239: Neil Young – “Southern Man”

Album: After The Gold Rush
Year: 1970

Recorded in Neil’s home studio in Topanga, on March 19, 1970.

While Everybody Knows This is Nowhere was divided into obviously major songs and, er, not major songs, its follow-up, 1970’s After The Gold Rush, is one of the most consistent albums of Young’s entire career.

Consistent in terms of song quality, that is. Not so much sound, because while After The Gold Rush is mostly acoustic in nature, it’s not entirely acoustic, as Young stuck electric guitars on “When You Dance, I Can Really Love” and tossed out one of his greatest weird guitar solos at the end of “Southern Man.”

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