Neil Young: Harvest

This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.

September 7, New York: Harvest is such a beautiful album. “Old Man”, “Heart of Gold”, “The Needle and the Damage Done” are such incredible songs. They weren’t what initially attracted me to this album. My first obsession with this album came through the discovery of “A Man Needs a Maid”.

“My life is changing / in so many ways. / I don’t know who / to trust anymore. / There’s a shadow running / through my days / like a beggar going / from door to door.”

Symphonic and self-absorbed, “A Man Needs a Maid” soars with sadness. It glorifies the self-pity of a man alone. I think Young intended a slight bit of irony in that; indeed I heard it ironically as a thirty-three year old. But at eighteen I was in a real low spot and Neil Young was putting my misery on a pedestal and I loved it.

“I was thinking that / maybe I’d get a maid. / Find a place nearby / for her to stay. / Just someone / to keep my house clean / fix my meals and go away.”

There is a way to hear this whole album through this lens, particularly the first couple of tracks. Tracks 1 – 4 are basically all melancholy post-break-up songs if you want them to be. And I did. I dove headfirst deep into sadness at nineteen, and I cultivated it. I hesitate to call it depression because it seems today so much like an affectation, though an affectation that was sometimes nasty and difficult to break. I flaunted the albums and books that reflected my downcast emotions back to me. Through which I would continually resonate and intensify the feeling. This beautiful album was an unfortunate victim.

“A while ago somewhere / I don’t know when / I was watching / a movie with a friend. / I fell in love with the actress. / She was playing a part / that I could understand.”

Harvest is still beautiful and I still love to listen to it. It’s the only Neil Young album I know by heart. And though the next couple of Thirty-Three Project entries will trace other sadnesses, I’m glad to still have this one, whole and healthy in adulthood.

Don’t get a maid. Get this album.

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