First Hit #1: March 25, 1972
As I said yesterday, Neil Young was a man who somehow got so huge that he spawned imitators, and those imitators had big hits of their own. Witness Horse with No Name by America, which actually usurped the original Young for a song that sounds much like something he would record, as sung by a man who sounds remarkably similar. You could be forgiven for thinking this and Heart of Gold came from the same album, though there are subtle cues which might lead you to discovering the different authors.
The song is about wandering around in a desert, possibly on a copious amount of drugs, but that’s not the subtle hint. Nope, that’s provided by the lyrics that are slightly less than polished. The most obvious example is the line “Plants and birds and rocks and things”, which is indicative of a someone who hasn’t quite finished a song rushing it out in order to capitalize on Neil Young Fever – it’s a clear placeholder. It’s also re-used later in the song. While I won’t suggest the real Neil Young always put out perfect records – see everything he released in the ’80s for evidence that he doesn’t – he had a tendency to flip out over perceived flaws – he’s got more unreleased albums than some bands put out over a career. I can see him stubbornly following his own muse even if it leads him to ruin, but I can’t see him settling for such a slapdash line. That’s what separates the original from the imitators.