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Like A Hurricane


Neil Young

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song of intense desire has become one of Young's classics, and one he almost always plays at his shows. Rock critic Dave Marsh described the song as "an eight-minute tour de force of electric guitar feedback and extended metaphor (Smokey Robinson meets Jimi Hendrix on Bob Dylan's old block)." (thanks, Chris - Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom)
Young did write this tale of longing about a specific girl, but it wasn't nearly as serious as it sounds - he had already broken up with actress Carrie Snodgress and had yet to meet his wife Pegi Morton. The woman in question was a girl he came across in a bar.
In Neil Young's biography Shakey by Jimmy McDonough, it's revealed that during the summer of 1975, Young was recovering from surgery on his vocal cords and couldn't talk. This didn't stop him from going out and having a good time with his friends, including his neighbor Taylor Phelps, who said: "Neil, Jim Russell, David Cline and I went to Venturi's in La Honda. We were really f--ked up. Neil had this amazing intense attraction to this particular woman named Gail - it didn't happen, he didn't go home with her. We go back to the ranch and Neil started playing. Young was completely possessed, pacing around the room, hunched over a Stringman keyboard pounding out the song."
Young took the song to his band Crazy Horse with just two lines written on an envelope: "You are like a hurricane, there's calm in yer eye." The band struggled with it for 10 days on Young's ranch before a breakthrough. Crazy Horse guitarist Poncho Sampedro said: "We kept playing it two guitars, bass, drums, but it wasn't in the pocket. Neil didn't have enough room to solo. He didn't like the rhythm I was playing on guitar. One day we were done recording and the Stringman was sitting there. I started diddling with it, just playing the chords simply, and Neil said, 'Y'know, maybe that's the way to do it - let's try it.' If you listen to the take on the record, there's no beginning, no count-off, it just goes woom! They just turned on the machines when they heard us playing again, 'cause we were done for the day. Neil goes, 'Yeah, I think that's how it goes. Just like that.' And that was the take. That's the only time we ever played it that way."
Referring to his vocal performance, Young explained: "It was a sketch. I went in and I sang both harmony parts, the low one and the high one - and that's the way the record is. It's all me singing."
According to Young, there are similarities between this song and Del Shannon's "Runaway." Young explained in Shakey: "When 'Runaway' goes to 'I'm a walkin' in the rain,' those are the same chords in the bridge of 'Hurricane' - 'You are...' It opens up. So it's a minor descending thing that opens up - that's what they have in common. It's like 'Runaway' with the organ solo going on for 10 minutes."
It took almost 2 years from Young coming up with the idea for this song to it appearing on an album: American Stars 'N Bars was released in June, 1977. An edited version of this song was released as a single that September and failed to chart. Like "Layla," the edited version didn't get much traction but the album version became a classic - that's the version radio stations almost always play and is most widely available on compilation albums.
Young recorded a popular acoustic version for his 1993 MTV Unplugged appearance. His album from the show did very well, charting at #4 in the UK and #23 in the US, while helping introduce Young's classic songs to the MTV generation.
Since Young couldn't sing due to throat injuries at the time, he whistled his part in early takes. In an Uncut Magazine interview, he explained: "I wrote it when I couldn't sing. I was on voice rest. It was nuts - I was whistling it. I wrote a lot of songs when I couldn't talk."
Young recalled in his autobiography Waging Heavy Peace that he penned this song's lyrics "on a piece of newspaper in the back of (his friend) Taylor Phelps's 1950 DeSoto Suburban, a huge car that we all used to go to bars in."

He added: "As was our habit between bars, we had stopped at Skeggs Point Scenic lookout on Skyline Boulevard up on the mountain to do a few lines of coke; I wrote Hurricane right there in the back of that giant old car. Then when I got home, I played the chords on this old Univox Stringman mounted in an old ornate pump-organ body set up in the living room."

"I played that damn thing through the night," he concluded. "I finished the melody in five minutes, but I was so jacked I couldn't stop playing."
Neil Young
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Comments (5):

Great song. The live version on Weld is phenomenal. These days though, when he plays it lie the ending and distortion just seem to run on forever. Still a classic Neil young song that begs to be heard live.
- Greg, Harrington Park, NJ
"Talk fluent sailor..." Good one. I was in the USAF, but I can still swear for ten minutes and not repeat myself. But too much of it can lessen the effectiveness when it's really needed.
Neil did write a song with the "F-bomb" in it, so maybe he did say it a lot. (The title was spelled "F*!#in' Up" on the Ragged Glory and Weld albums, but in videos I've seen of him and Crazy Horse, it's definitely in the lyrics.)
The song does seriously rock.
- Doug, Bristol, ME
Neil Young has been a favorite of mine since I was 17 (I'm 64 now) so I've been a fan of his for many many years but I think that some of the stuff written on here is just made up. As Neil Young has many health issues, it would seem a bit much that he would be snorting coke at all. That's not to say he didn't, it just doesn't seem that he would. I have read parts of Shakey. Grant it I talk fluent sailor but every other word (supposedly) out of Neil's mouth was f--k. It got really tiresome reading that over and over and over and over. the book sits on a shelf...:/
- Valerie, Eureka, CA
Roxy Music did a killer version of this song on their 'Heart Still Beating' live collection.
- Terry, Colchester, VT
Isnt it funny, if it was in '75, or in '09, if your 18 or 50, just sit back with a real good friend, roll up some mother nature, and enjoy a masterpiece of listening enjoyment!
- Rob, Elmhurst, IL
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