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Sunday, 29 July 2012


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Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Each to their own, and all, but you have a top ten Neil Young list that DOESN'T have 'My My Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)' in it? It's the perfect hymn to rock and roll self-destruction. By the way, I hate people who moan about other peoples' lists of their favourite things. They're the worst kind of pedant.

Ohio, no doubt, though the "Live at Massey Hall" version is the real deal. Reminds me of who I am–and why.

It's an impossible task.

All I know is that any top ten Neil Young list has to include "Don't Be Denied", or it's not valid.

Oh No, not this too! You are a Neal Young fan? I cannot believe it. Hey Bro ;-)
What about Van Morrison?

10. Over and Over; Ragged Glory

If I could only add one song to this list, the three that I would add are Heart of Gold, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, and Like a Hurricane.

Pocahontas has got to be in there somewhere...


Can't disagree with the list (may have included Hitchhiker and Heart of Gold) but trying to put them in order would be too much of a challenge for me. I may rate Cinnamon Girl and Needle as 1= then everything else as 3= and leave at that....

And tomorrow I will probably change my mind....

I suggest that you go back to the album "American Dream" with C,S,& N, and listen to This Old House. It's a heartbreaker, and especially meaningful today. DW

I was never a tremendous fan but age seems to have mellowed me somewhat such that I am not so ready to dismiss anyone, or anything just because I don't like one aspect of what is otherwise a work or person of genius. I will derive much pleasure from working my way through your list Mike, and would like to add "Are You Ready For The Country?" which, given the fact I am not much of a fan, and have hugely enjoyed for many years, truly qualifies this song to be labeled... Totally Awesome!

For some reason, I never did hear much Neil Young growing up. A few years ago, a friend of mine gifted me with the Live at Massey Hall album. Brilliant!

Several songs on your list are unfamiliar to me. I anticipate the joy of discovering them for the first time.

To my mind, there's one in that list that seems out of character with the rest. Replace that one with Thrasher and add Bad Fog of Loneliness for #10 and you'd have what could pass as my top ten, at least for this evening. I didn't recall an electric guitar solo in Pardon My Heart (which is clearly in character with the list). I guess you're referring to the short part that is superimposed on the acoustic guitar. I don't think I would have ever thought of that as an electric guitar solo. Could it be that you're thinking about a version different from the one on Zuma?

10. Like a Hurricane

That's a very good list!
I've been going through an intense Neil Young everyday period for more than a year, he's one of the few musicians that I cannot get tired of listening to.
I would put Cowgirl in the sand and I'm the ocean somewhere in there.

Cripple creek ferry.

Got seriously into Neil in the mid '70s, who along with copious amounts of Reggae kept my sanity intact in that period of severe musical doldrums. Songs like Barstool Blues, Lookout Joe, I Believe In You, and of course, Old Laughing Lady...

Not sure what would be ejected, but Hitchhiker would have to make it on to my version of this list.

"I didn't recall an electric guitar solo in Pardon My Heart"

Whatever you want to call it, I love it...

Check out a song called "Seaweed" by the Fruit Bats, and listen to the banjo part. It has a similar quietly ravishing effect.


I'm not sure how this list could not include After the Gold Rush, but last night I heard someone sing Cortez the Killer so well that it made a pretty good case for that song having a place as well.

"Helpless" or "Heart of Gold" could probably make the list. I would like to see "On the way home", "Mr. Soul" or even "Birds" on the list as well.

Number 10 needs to be filled in with the #1 song. Hello Mr. Soul. Yes originally with the Buffalo Springfield but still his song.


Thanks for the list. Have you heard of Spotify? It's a music streaming service and it is totally free when you listen on your computer (charged if you want to use it on your mobile device). For a post like this you could create links to each of these songs on Spotify. Your readers could listen to every song on the list legally and free of charge. In fact, you could create a Spotify profile and share multiple playlists to share with your followers.

I've been a Spotify user for six months and I love it! I decided to pay for membership so I can listen on my iPhone. I don't think I'll buy a cd or pay for a download ever again.

I installed the Spotify player widget on my blog so I can share music with my readers (all seven of them) and not worry about copyright issues.

"It's possible to construct a NY 10 Best that has none of these songs on it, but these are some of my faves."

Weasel words, Mike ;)


Double weasel ! :D

My candidate for the blank spot is 'Helpless'. I know, I know, spirited debates can be had as to whether is can be genuinely counted as a Neil Young song, but the thing has Neil Young stamped all over it.

After The Gold Rush

Damn, Mike, don't mess with me..

You're walking on eggshells here and a duel might be in order, cabbages at 5 paces...

(in french) I will finish you off with a significant wedgy.

Old Man is the King of ALL Neil songs, and perhaps, most other songs, too, also.

Period..production, simplicity, message, groove (2 on the floor), classic build on the break..might be one of the most perfect songs of it's type ever thought of and then recorded.

You cannot include songs that were thought of and not recorded in this battle. So don't even try to make one up.

War of Man and Harvest Moon. Actually, I think Harvest Moon is underrated and is one of my favorites, right up there with Harvest. YMMV

"Expecting to Fly" (with Bufalo Springfield)

What's number ten??!

Cortez the Killer?
Harvest Moon?
A Man Needs a Maid?
Cowgirl in the Sand?
All of them . . . at the same time?

"Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown," from the Tonight's The Night album. Dark and rockin'.

While L.A is a great choice, given that the weekend is over I'd have to nominate "Last Dance" instead, if only for the opening line...

Time to go to work!

Harvest Moon


No "Rockin' in the Free World"??? or "My My Hey Hey" (as the acoustic version was known) in your list. We obviously have different taste in NY songs..... ain't diversity of opinion a great thing...

It seems clear from the comments that it is if not impossible, it is very difficult to restrict oneself to just ten songs...

But where is Powderfinger?

Growing up in Toronto in the 50s and 60s, I would read the hockey "novels" written by his father. Scott Young was a terrific sportswriter, and young Maple Leaf fans loved his books pitched at the younger set. He also wrote books for adults. A great hockey writer. His son did ok, too.

I can't believe no-one has mentioned "Don't Let it Bring You Down" off Four Way Street (CSN&Y)

Cortez and all of Greendale from a old timer. I went to the High Desert Test Site today http://www.highdeserttestsites.com/hdts and bought this in their little shop: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8155/7674906684_098acaf3f8_b.jpg .Good Timing.

strange how nobody even mentioned "Winterlong".

No "Cortez the Killer"? Blasphemy I tell you!

A lot times, you and I seem to have so much in common, and then, about once a month, you drive over a cliff. F*****' Neil Young? It's like a list of the ten best songs by 'Tap.

-Cortez The Killer
-My My, Hey Hey
-Cinnamon Girl
-The needle and the damage done
-Like a Hurricane

From "Times fade Away" that i have the good fortune of owning on vinyl i would point:
-Times Fade Away
-Don't be denied

From Tonight's the Night (one of his best records) i would also include:
-Tonight's the Night
-Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown

I just looked at my feed reader, and there were two articles whic were obviously[*] about Neil Young. I thought he'd died or something. Please don't do that!

[*] I know, in fact only one.

Cortez the Killer
At least until he started singing but you can say the same thing about all his songs |/flamewar|

I would have included Powderfinger, Cortez the Killer, Heart of Gold.

Rockin' in the Free World is my all-time #1 fave. Can't tell you how many jams I've played in and when someone starts in on that tune the whole vibe goes up several notches. [Neil has always been the best music for fledgling garage band bands to cut their teeth on. That's why Neil is considered the Godfather of Grunge.]

Several years ago I found a copy of Uncut Magazine that had "Like a Hurricane: A Tribute to Neil Young" tacked onto the cover as a bonus for buying the magazine. Probably the best $10 I've ever spent on music. k.d. lang's version of Helpless is worth it alone but when you add in Jay Farrar's version of Like a Hurricane and Carrie Rodriquez & Tom Easton's version of Cortez the Killer the value goes way beyond "10".

As I write this I realize that my listening tastes have run in this direction since hearing the soundtrack to I Am Sam that has all of these great interpretations of the Beatles songbook. The other tribute album that comes to mind is Stone Free where everyone from Buddy Guy to Jeff Beck & The Cure puts their stamp on Jimi's work. When its done well it really breathes new life into the experience of hearing some of these now "classic" works. The Cure's version of Purple Haze being a stellar example.

Down by the river!

Any NY list has to have Cowgirl in the Sand. I was able to see him in concert back in the 70's and he closed with Cowgirl!

"Ohio" was the most important. It was the avatar of our loss of innocence.

My my hey hey are my favorite two NY songs,

I remember at the time people were saying that Neal Young was going punk, and the punks were all "oh no, Neal Young invented the whole idea of punk, we're folowing him!"

Hmmph...I think I could have a different top 10 NY songs for each hour of the day, depending on my changing mood...grungy & hippy are my two preferred Neils...I first heard NY in the early 90s, so my first love was grungy (Freedom, Ragged Glory), while I'll always remember the first time I 'acquired' (it was before the CD re-release!) & heard On The Beach...love that album...And (possibly because it came so soon after I started listening to NY) Sleeps With Angels will always be a favourite of mine...

After the Gold Rush...

Thanks for this. For too long I've been an owner of only Harvest, Harvest Moon, and a desire to know more (without knowing where to start).

"He just churns out the records, great, good, indifferent, or inspiredly awful."

This describes Frank Zappa very well. Except that he knew what he doing and planned it that way. I miss that guy and his pigmy pony.

There are people who don't like Landing on Water? That makes me sad.

Hmm. Based on the comments, and on sales in general, I'm pretty sure I'm one of the very few people in the universe who's heard "Hawks & Doves" and liked it (enough to own it on LP, cassette, 8-track(!), and CD).

Oh you so called Neil Young fans, you have all missed one of his greats with some of the best guitar I have ever heard and a nice long song as well...."Down by the River" go and listen and rock on.

The thing that I admire so much about Neil Young's music is that he does what he's feeling in the moment with little to no concern for what others will think. To me, that's the mark of a great artist. That he can work in so many different styles and put out something magical within the framework of each of them speaks to his talents, but I think it also shows an artist who isn't content resting on past successes and would rather keep pushing the boundaries. I'd argue that you could say the same for many of the great photographers.

Mike - have you read "Shakey"? Really great biography of Neil Young. Recommended for any serious fan of his work.

My top ten, twelve actually, would have to be Tonight's the Night.


Down By the River
Cortez the Killer
Broken Arrow
Needle and the Damage Done
Welfare Mothers
After the Gold Rush
Cowgirl in the Sand

I saw Neil Young in the early '70s; I want to say '73, or '74. He wanted to do one set solo acoustic, and one electric, and he came out alone on stage with a guitar, but the crowd kept shouting out for stuff like "Southern Man". He yelled back a couple times, then said, "F- it, you get what you want," brought his band out and played the electric set, and left without an encore. I saw him another time, with Stephen Stills on the Long May You Run tour. Great show, even if the album was uneven.

It's gotta be "Whip Your Hair",

OK, I'm a big Neil fan. So are my daughters now. Just drove through some of Ontario and my youngest (soon to be 19) really felt the connection between the tunes and the land. So, I'm with you on Neil, big time.

But not this list. Serious omissions. And as has been stated above, his music is really resistant to such a list, anyway.

currently drivin cross country with my daughters, gettin ready to install my oldest (22, just out of Georgetown School of Foreign Service, proud dad, gotta brag...) with her boyfriend @ UC Davis. So, we're groovin on Neil. But you gotta love Pandora! yesterday, driving eastern MT and down to the Bighorns in WY, got it started with Woody Guthrie. Made my youngest cry for a while.

I can't believe no one has mentioned "Sugar Mountain." Fools! :-)

My list:

1. Pocahantas
2. Sugar Mountain
3. My my, hey hey
4. After the Gold Rush
5. Old Man
6. On the Beach (I agree -- maybe his best album)
7. The Needle and the Damage Done
8. Cinnamon Girl
9. Like a Hurricane
10. Rockin' in the Free World

Cortez the killer, or Tonight's the night would be on my list, then again, Cinnamon Girl, Down by the river, so many choices, to many choices. Like Patti Smith, a talent that has aged well.

Not sure how can Neil Young be discussed in such lengths without having a single mention of Dead Man soundtrack :)

Down by the River
Everybody Knows this is Nowhere
Tonight's the Night
and I would also have to include Cortez the Killer

One of my favorite Neil Young memories was a show at the Santa Cruz Civic in '83 or so. I got a lift to the show from a dorm preceptor who was driving a Lotus (good thing it was running that day!), and then ran into a girl I knew from Ren Faire while rushing the stage during "Sugar Mountain," which while not a great song certainly seemed to fit the mood of being a freshman at UCSC.

During that concert, which was just Neil and a whole lot of guitars, he intentionally screwed up the one song he did from "Trans," so I think he was mocking the whole idea with that album, which you can afford to do if you are Neil Young.

As for top 10's of NY, I'm not sure it can be done.

A Father's Day gift from my son - tix to see Neil in October. We're going together. What a guy!

Don't Let It Bring You Down

Sugar Mountain for reasons personal - and though not exactly a "song" in my opinion one has to nod to the sound track to Dead Man as being up there with the best of all his expressions . . . .

Agree with those who noted his NY's Buffalo Springfield songs- Expecting to Fly, Mr. Soul, Flying On The Ground all belong on his top 10.

I know it is trendy to look at top 10 lists with disdain, but I love them. I am also a huge NY fan. Probably more than the vast majority of artists, my favorites are in constant flux with him. Anyways, I will do my best.

1. Crime in the City
2. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
3. Helpless - the version from the Last Waltz
4. Change Your Mind
5. The Needle and the Damage Done
6. Like a Hurricane
7. Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black)
8. Borrowed Tune
9. Thrasher
10. Don't Let it Bring You Down

No coupe de ville nothing from this notes for you?

No love for the Mirror Ball album? I always loved Song X and I'm the Ocean...maybe I'd sneak one in my top ten.

I tend to really like Neil Young's music. But, only when the songs are performed by other people....

I do have to say..Rockin in the Free world is sort of a novelty Neil song for me but..the fact exists..that it was one THE best Saturday Night Live performances, if not the one and only best..With a strung together band, it was just amazing..


On the Beach, first album cover I remember as a child. I am 37 now.. but going thru my dad's vinyl was life changing. Not just for the music, but the artwork on the covers. I will admit, in the court of the crimson king scared the hell out of me.

Huge Neil fan, dylan and van morrison also.

and now I think its time for "massey hall 1971".

"Oh Susana" from his latest album

No "Rockin' in the Free World"??? or "My My Hey Hey" (as the acoustic version was known) in your list. We obviously have different taste in NY songs..... ain't diversity of opinion a great thing..."

number 10 is open for a reason! But I think it was for sugar mountain ;)

Last month, the BBC's Front Row broadcast a fantastic interview with the great man himself.


Anyone wanting to see Neil Young at his best and his worst all in one song should watch this video. I have no idea what he thinks he is doing at the end, but I feel sorry for the guitar.


"Fontainebleau" is from The Stills-Young Band, off of their 1976 "Long May You Run" album: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_May_You_Run

Additional favorites of mine include:
Cortez the Killer
A Man Needs a Maid
Out on the Weekend

I don't think I could narrow it down to only 10 Neil Young recordings. I don't disagree with any of Mike's choices. And normally I'm not one to default to hit songs. But Neil's are actually quite good and deserving of inclusion on any list of his best: Heart of Gold, Rockin' in the Free World, My My Hey Hey and Harvest Moon (which is also a fabulous album). I also humbly suggest that Wonderin' from Neil and the Shocking Pinks is an overlooked gem.

I can't believe that "Harvest Moon" is missing on that list! :-)

Honestly, the NY version of that song is not among my favorites - but the song itsself was interpreted so beautifully by various artists, that one must honor NY for writing that song.

My "all time favorite" interpretation was Scott Matthew performing it live on a festival I attended.

Best regards,

Harvest Moon is, for me, one of the greatest.

A great list, and I share almost all of it in my top ten, except Cowgirl in the Sand must must must be added.

I once saw Crazy Horse perform without Neil Young. Sad to say, that was a mistake.

It's not Neil Young's voice that gets to me in a wrong way, it's his guitar playing. Half the time it sounds to me like he's playing a guitar made of rubber. And he's just not the greatest soloist ever.

Of course, he comes from a time when the six-string bender competition was pretty fierce, what with Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page (among others) striding across the face of the Earth, wrenching mighty sounds out of Gibsons and Fenders....

If i were only allowed to listen to only one Neil Young song, it would be Cowgirl in the Sand. If allowed only two, I'd add Down by the River.

hello? "Danger Bird"!!!

"Long May You Run" in there somewhere; the genius of Neil Young is that it's really a song about a car.

"Harvest Moon" is pretty dang good too.

"It's not Neil Young's voice that gets to me in a wrong way, it's his guitar playing."

I've been consistently deriving deep satisfaction from his guitar playing for most of my life. Always interested in what he does with the instrument.


"I tend to really like Neil Young's music. But, only when the songs are performed by other people...."

But then they're not the same songs....


"Heart of Gold" is an obvious choice, and should be on the list. I'd include "I Believe In You" and "Rockin' in the Free World" (not sure what to remove, too many great choices to consider!)

1. Cowgirl in the Sand
2. Powderfinger
3. Like a Hurricane
4. Tonights the Night
5. After the Goldrush
6. Thrasher
7. Over and Over
8. Winterlong
9. Long May You Run
10. TransAm
11. Harvest Moon
12. Sedan Delivery
13. Cinnamon Girl
14. Look Out for My Love
15. The Loner

Not only can I not stick to one song, I can't stick to a best of list limited to 10 songs. And tomorrow I may have a completely different list.

RE Pardon my heart

Whatever you want to call it, I love it...

Check out a song called "Seaweed" by the Fruit Bats, and listen to the banjo part. It has a similar quietly ravishing effect.


Very nice.

For ravishing effect, how can no one have mentioned the violin or whatever it is on 'Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)'?

"For ravishing effect, how can no one have mentioned the violin or whatever it is on 'Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)'?"

That's Bobby Notkoff (formerly of the Rockets) on violin.


I am in the "other" group. my greatest Neil Young experience was in 1970 0r 71 he was playing in Boston and 4 of us piled in a car and headed down. I was not a fan but willing to attend. The concert was sold out so we picked up a local newspaper to see what else was going on and ended up seeing Thelonius Monk at the Jazz workshop, I think we ended up better than those that got in. I also think that "best of" is a copout, because best of doesn't require that it is good. I think the best thing Neil has done was introduce his fans to Bert Jansch on his 2010 tour.

My favorite radio show is runs every Saturday four hours (progressive, Chicago) and it always opens with of those feedback songs, the one where he goes "thank you Chuck." The host's name is Chuck. Great podcast too, if you like in-depth political interviews... see http://www.thisishell.net

"And there aint nothin' like a friend, who'll just tell ya, you're just..."

A nice list. But it's missing these great songs:
1) Comes a Time
2) Sugar Mountain
3) Over and Over (from the early 90s grunge-fest Ragged Glory)
4) Like a Hurricane (live)
5) Heart of Gold

My tips for newcomers to Neil Y are to see the brilliant concert film by Jonathan Demme - Heart of Gold; and to find on YouTube Neil jamming with Bruce Springsteen live, playing All Along the Watchtower in the style of Young fused with Hendrix fused with Dylan - mindblowing.

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