Now this is a tough choice: picking just one Neil Young song for my personal top 50. From at least 20 songs that I could have chosen, the yearning charm of “Winterlong” wins out as my favourite.
As with Nick Cave (my number 36 selection), it’s ridiculously hard to pick a stand-out song from Neil Young, the artist by whom I probably own more albums than any other. It’s difficult to think of another musician with such a rich catalogue of mainly great records, from his mid 60s Buffalo Springfield days up to the 2010s. Neil Young’s prolific output does however constantly veer all over the place thematically, from the hugely popular acoustic heavy “Harvest” to noise rockers like “Ragged Glory” and its accompanying “Arc/Weld” live album – which helped earn Neil his “godfather of grunge” title having taken Sonic Youth on tour as support – as well as curios such as the divisive early 80s synth affair “Trans” (which I confess to liking, many however do not…!).
As I did with Nick Cave, here’s another stream of consciousness list of Neil Young songs that I could have easily picked on a different day (some long, some short, some noisy, some not…): Like A Hurricane, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Cowgirl In The Sand, Don’t Cry No Tears, Powderfinger, Sedan Delivery, The Loner, Tonight’s The Night, Cinnamon Girl, Down By The River, Tired Eyes, Revolution Blues, Hey Hey My (Into The Black), After The Gold Rush, Love To Burn, Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown, Alabama, Cortez The Killer, Borrowed Tune, Ambulance Blues, Love And Only Love, On The Beach, Sail Away. I’ve also compiled all these tunes onto a handy Spotify playlist.
My choice “Winterlong” is a beautifully yearning song that epitomises much of what I love about Neil Young: great guitar lines, just a hint of country rock, the exquisite key change in the build to the chorus, Neil’s questing vocals, all topped off in just 3 minutes. “Winterlong” is therefore a pretty short Neil Young song unlike some of his epics that would be in my top 5 such as “Like A Hurricane” and “Cortez The Killer”, and Neil is that rare beast that I can listen to guitar solo for ever basically (shared with only the Young disciple J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr), always a rifftastic treat when he plays live.
“Winterlong” was first officially released on the fantastic compilation “Decade” in 1977, oddly not having made it onto any standard album but was apparently recorded the same day as “Walk On” from the masterful 1974 “On The Beach” LP. Finally, the song “Winterlong” is perhaps as famous for its Pixies cover version – originally part of a Neil Young tribute album and then a B-side to “Dig For Fire” in 1990, “Winterlong” has since become a Pixies live favourite usually included in their set. Somehow Pixies haven’t made it into my top 50, so it’s good to tip the hat at least to this brilliant band here; and “Gigantic” by Pixies does feature on my 379 Indie: O to Sm playlist.
VIDEOS AND OTHER STUFF
- “Winterlong” on YouTube (audio only)
- “Winterlong” live in Leipzig 2008
- Other great Neil Young songs that just missed out include: see the list above, all compiled on this “WinterYoung” playlist
- “Winterlong” is featured on my 379 to 50: 1 to 25 Spotify playlist
- Also featured on my 379: Rock Spotify playlist
2 thoughts on “379 to 50: #18 “Winterlong” by Neil Young”
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