- 01 Feb 23
51 years ago today, Neil Young released his iconic fourth studio album, Harvest, on Reprise Records. Featuring special guests David Crosby, Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt, the London Symphony Orchestra, and more, the chart-topping album has since earned a coveted spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
With the split of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young following the live Four Way Street album in 1971, Neil Young was free to make a commercial-sounding album. This platinum blockbuster contained the number one hit ‘Heart Of Gold’ which sat neatly alongside such other fragile classics.
It's a great album, with such standouts as 'The Needle And The Damage Done' and 'A Man Needs A Maid' (which used the London Philharmonic Orchestra and is Bob Dylan's favourite Young song).
It also contained the poignant 'Old Man'. Scott Young, Neil's father, was quietly proud though when he heard the words to 'Old Man', which began: "Old man, look at my life/I'm a lot like you were..."
"People would come up to me and mention it as if I were a sort of co- proprietor of the song," he told Hot Press' Colm O'Hare in the early '90s. "So I would just nod and smile. Never question a compliment, I thought."
However, a few months after he'd first heard the song, Neil was visiting him in Canada, and during a walk in the woods his son explained that the lyrics of 'Old Man' were not about his father but about his farm manager – an old guy who looked after his cattle and fed the buffaloes!
Scott, a writer, said he shouldn't have taken those lyrics so literally at the time: "I should know better than to identify myself with any of Neil's songs. The creative process doesn't work that way – it comes a little bit here, a little bit there. I do it myself in fiction and so does just about everyone!"
Harvest made Young rich and he used the money to buy a ranch in California. He would work this ranch himself and use it as his escape from the pressures of stardom. For the lonesome traveller and dreamer of songs like 'On The Way Home', 'Helpless', 'Birds', 'Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere', 'Sugar Mountain' and 'Fuckin' Up', it would give him a vital sense of roots and security. On 1990's Ragged Glory, he would pay homage to his ranch in 'Country Home': "I'm thankful for my country home/Gives me peace of mind/Somewhere I can walk alone/And leave myself behind."
Listen to Harvest below: