Sunday Music – Old Man and Harvest

Posted on Sun 11/14/2010 by


Today’s music video is ‘Old Man’ from Neil Young.

This video was posted to You Tube by symptom1555

Having a favourite song is such a personal thing. You hear that song the first time and straight away, you are taken by it. Then it just stays with you forever. Everyone has a favourite song, and seldom do two people have the same song as their own favourite. It doesn’t have to be a huge hit song. In some cases the song was probably not even a hit at all. In some cases you buy an album for one song, and end up liking another song on the album even better than the one that prompted you to buy the album in the first place. Then, as you go through life, other songs also come along that you like, and after a number of years, you have a list of songs that you really like. That’s where it gets a little strange. You would think that over the years you’d tire of songs you once really liked, as those new ones came along. However, that’s not so. That one song stays with you, and every time you hear it, it takes you to a better place.

Such is the case with me, and that’s why I have featured two songs today from the one singer, and both of them are from the same album.

The singer is the Canadian, Neil Young. When I mention that he sings my favourite song, I sometimes get some odd looks. Neil’s voice is an acquired taste, and a lot of people think of his voice as somewhat ‘whiny’ in its nature, and when I tell them of my favourite song, they look at me oddly, as if thinking to themselves…..”How can you like that?”

The album these two songs come from is ‘Harvest’, Neil’s fourth studio album as a solo artist. Prior to this, he also was part of Buffalo Springfield, and also Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and while this was his fourth solo album, he was already part of 5 studio albums with those other bands, as well as 2 Best Of compilations, so he had been around for a while, six years in fact in all those entities.

For this album, released in early 1972, Neil moved away from the band he had been using for his backing, Crazy Horse, and gathered around him a group of new musicians to form a new band, The Stray Gators. He also utilised backing vocals from David, Stephen and Graham of CSNY, and also Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Jack Nitzsche arranged some of the tracks, and for two of the songs on the album, Neil recorded them with The London Symphony Orchestra. One song, the short and striking ‘Needle And The Damage Done’ was recorded at a live concert and included on the album also.

‘Harvest’ was, and still is, his biggest album, and in all he has been quite prolific, having 34 Solo albums, 7 live solo albums, 3 compilation solo albums, 5 Archives sets as a solo artist, 4 Soundtrack albums, and 13 albums with other bands along the way, and in all, 50 Singles. Only one of those singles made it to Number One, Heart of Gold’, also from this same album, ‘ Harvest’.

‘Heart Of Gold’ was also a hit here in Australia, but even while it received huge airplay, I hardly noticed it. As is sometimes the case with big albums, radio will play the big hit, and sometimes play other songs from the album.

That happened here with ‘Harvest’, and the first time I heard ‘Old Man’, I stopped what I was doing and listened closely. Even after some serious introspection, I still can’t put my finger on why it was that I liked the song. I just liked it. Each time after that, I again pricked up my ears and listened. A week or two later, I went out and purchased the album, in those days, vinyl long play records.

I sat down in private and played the album. Each song was a revelation, and that I can’t figure out either. You get an album, and like maybe one perhaps two songs on it. With this album, I loved them all, and in fact, my least favourite song on the album was in fact his only Number One hit, ‘Heart Of Gold’.

And yet, the minute I heard the second song on the album, ‘Harvest’, the same track name as for the title, this was the one song that ended up becoming my most favourite song. This is one hardly ever heard unless you have the album, and one also often glossed over by others. Again, it’s still something I can’t put my finger on as to why I like that one particular song so much that it is my favourite song.

One thing about it though. Because it is so obscure, it then becomes an intensely personal thing for me, one that I alone have to myself.

Because of that one song, I then went out and got a guitar, took lessons, practised hours a day, and finally got to the stage where I could string chords together. I went out and bought the sheet music book for the album, and worked hard at getting it right, changing the chord structure from D to C to suit my voice best so I could sing the song that was my favourite.

The song is a personal one for Neil as well. At the time he wrote ‘Harvest’, and the material for the album of the same name, he was with actress Carrie Snodgress, who had just finished making the movie ‘Diary Of A Mad Housewife’, and she was nominated for an Oscar for that movie. A couple of the songs, including ‘Harvest’, on this album from Neil are directly about her, and they moved in together onto Neil’s ranch. The song ‘Old Man’ is also from the same time, about an old guy who was caretaker of the ranch Neil now owned. The old guy was evidently a little irascible, when compared to Neil’s laid back ways at the time, indicative of most young people at that time, and Neil wrote this song ‘Old Man’ directly about him, and that’s in the song.

Old man look at my life, I’m a lot like you were.

Listen closely to the words of the song and it’s the story of a young man and an old man, and how they are comparing their lives.

There’s nothing deep and meaningful as to why I like the song. I just do.

The same applies with this song shown next, the title track, ‘Harvest’. It means something very special to Neil, and in his biography, ‘Shakey, written by Jimmy McDonough, he mentions that it is probably one of his most favourite songs also.

The reasons I like this song as my favourite are not as deep and meaningful as they are to Neil.

I just like this song, and with so much wonderful music out there, spread over the now 50 years I have been taking notice, this one song stands out for me as being my favourite. I have around 400 Long Play vinyls, and more than 100 CD’s and access to as much music as I can find, yet this one album, and this one song remain my favourites to this day. The album ‘Harvest’ has 10 tracks in all, and each one of them is some of the finest music there is. It is a truly wonderful album, and in my opinion, no collection is complete if it does not have this album in it. I have 16 other Neil Young albums, and a further 6 from his days with Buffalo Springfield, and CSNY, but this one album alone would have to be my sole ‘Desert Island Disk’, the one album I could not be without. That first copy I purchased in 1972 was played so many times, I wore it flat, so I had to go out and get a new copy.

See how having a favourite song is something intensely personal.

This video was posted to You Tube by Gianouno

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