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After The Goldrush by Neil Young

Album: After The GoldrushReleased: 1970
  • After The Goldrush is an acoustic album that led to many other confessional singer/songwriter works in the early '70s (James Taylor, Carole King, etc.). Young had injured his back lifting a slab of polished walnut and standing up to play his electric guitar was impossible. In addition, he had dropped Crazy Horse as his backing band so he prepared an album of acoustic songs.
  • In his extensive biography on Mr. Young, author Jimmy McDonough reveals that After the Goldrush was an album loosely conceptualized around a screenplay of the same named written by child star, and Neil Young neighbor, Dean Stockwell. Apparently the only two songs on the album that are based on the as-yet-unproduced screenplay are this song and "Crippled Creek Ferry," the closing song on the album. (thanks, Chris - Philadelphia, PA)
  • New York songwriter Patti Smith recorded a stark piano-and-vocal cover of this ecological paean for the closing track of her 2012 album Banga. Her version features a children's choir singing the chorus at the end. " 'Constantine's Dream,' the song before it, is such a dark song," Smith explained to Billboard magazine. "It ends so darkly, with Columbus having a dream of the environmental apocalypse of the 21st century. Even though I fear that myself, I didn't want to end the record that way. I wanted to write a song that was more like the dawn that gave some kind of hope. Then I happened to hear 'After the Gold Rush;' I was sitting in a cafe and thought at least the two verses of Neil's song said what I wanted to say because it has a sense of optimism, but it's also at a cost. So I thought I'd just sing that, because that's what I wanted to say... And having children sing that with all their innocence and purity, I felt that brings out the danger of what he wrote."
  • The song has been covered a variety of artists, including Thom Yorke of Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds.

    When Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt recorded it in 1999 for their collaboration Trio, they got some unique insight into the song from the man who wrote it. Said Parton: "When we were doing the Trio album, I asked Linda and Emmy what it meant, and they didn't know. So we called Neil Young, and he didn't know. We asked him, flat out, what it meant, and he said, 'Hell, I don't know. I just wrote it. It just depends on what I was taking at the time. I guess every verse has something different I'd taken.'"
  • In live performances, Neil replaces the flute solo with a harmonica performance. Additionally, he's amended the final line to "Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 21st century" (it was originally "in the 1970's").
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Comments: 48

On this day in 1974 {September 29th} "After the Goldrush" by Prelude entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #87; and on November 24th, 1974 it peaked at #22 {for 1 week} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
It reached #21 on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
The British trio had one other record make the Top 100 chart, "For A Dancer", it stayed on the chart for 8 weeks, peaking at #63...
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
As new ages began, Mother Nature was put on the run. Totally open to pregnant thoughts, he drifts onto the end. As the last new age ends, chosen ones were picked to abandon the doomed Mother Nature.Vic - Wharton, Nj
This song is a lyrical masterpiece and the melody is so beautiful. It is able to be sung well and done justice by a man or a woman. Some songs you hear men cover that women sang or vice versa and they seem out of place singing it... However, I think this is a song that is not gender specific. A testament to how great of an artist Neil young is.Greg - Harrington Park, Nj
Why do so many people ignore the context of lyrics and assume any odd verse is about drugs? Are they druggies themselves? Probably! "Gold rush" equates to pillaging of the land for human desires. "Look at Mother Nature on the run" is about Man being the hunter. "Flying Mother Nature's silver seed" invokes a scenario similar to "Silent Running," where life on Earth had to be rescued from human greed. This is clearly a song with strong environmental themes (the EPA was created in 1970 because too many industries wouldn't self-regulate). No need for mindless drug allusions.Jim - Pleasant Hill, Ca
I believe that Niel Young got the lyrics to this song from Alien Beings. Check out > www.rael.org <
Here you have a real person seeing a real space ship in the noon day sun and it was in the early seventies. He describes a silver space ship. THIS IS VERY INTERESTING - As Spook would say, Check out the web site and learn something new.
Tony - San Franciscp, Ca
I couldn't find the Prelude version for years, until Youtube!Marlene - Montreal, Qc
I believe the song is about drug use. But imagine the song in the sense that it may be about the fact that humans are destroying the world and when it references Mother Nature on the run....then at the end "They were flying Mother Nature's Silver seed to a new home in the sun." ... meaning, putting Mother Nature on another planet out there with the sun, or in outer space. Now listen to the song thinking about mother nature moving on to somewhere else.Ever - Washington Dc, Dc
It's heroin, man. Heroin. I'm feelin it right now. It's exactly the way he says it is. Exactly. It's heroin. We were all ready to go. We were all waitin for that damn spaceship that never came. It's heroin.Patrick - Las Vegas, Nv
I read an interview with Dolly Parton and she said as she was trying to figure out what this song was about she gave Neil a call. He told her it depends on what he was taking at the time and that he was taking something different when he wrote each verse. Also that is NOT a french horn solo it is a flugelhorn which is a lower version of the trumpet.Chris - Milan, Pa
I think this song is about the environment being polluted in the 1970's by big business before government reform, "We got mother nature on the run in the 1970's".Steve - Trabuco Canyon, Ca
When I first heard this,it changed my life.Jim - Long Beach, Ca
This song is extremely poetic, prophetic and hauntingly beautiful. Don't think that the lyrics about "Knights in Armor" and "a Queen" dates it in any way. It could be tomorrow that the military has full containment power armor with life support, defense, and weaponry for any environment or foe.
Don't think it's not possible that an all out nuclear war could really happen. NOW. Even conventional war or civil unrest could leave "a burned out basement" to take refuge in anytime, anywhere.
The "chosen ones" to me are lottery winners that determine who "The loading had begun" were. Some family units were split. Sacrifices made to fly "mother natures Silver seed to a new home in the sun".
We already have the physics to actually support life "in the sun". Just haven't quite gotten around to figuring out how to finance & implement it. Maybe if we just shut up and listened and cooperated for a few years we could "make a new home". Here on Earth. In the sun. In the stars...

You don't have to understand the prophesy to be the prophet.
David - Mesquite, Tx
I love this song. I have no idea what it is talking about. If I go on my own assumptions, I think it might refer to some natural/man-made disaster, or maybe the limits the Earth's resources are pushed to. If so, it does this without sounding "preachy". It is lovely. I love the version done by Dolly Parton, Linda Rhonstat, and Emilue Harris.Landry - Asheville, Nc
Well, then, I wish I could write half that brilliantly using only drugs and a thesaurus.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
I think the lyrics are essentially the result of drugs and a thesaurus.Hank - Lancaster, Pa
This song is a very prescient piece of Sci-Fi. I was always facinated by the bit about Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s. The same year this was released, Canned Heat released the Future Blues LP. The title song was a reference to a decimated planet. Here we are almost 40 years later and we are at a point that many are calling the final moment for a chance at turning back from our self-destruction. Recently I decided to see what the full lyric for After The Gold Rush was about. It is certainly cryptic and much of the lyric is fanciful. In the first verse the singer is dreaming about a great day of heraldry and celebration...music, banners flowing, knights in armour something about a queen. Could this be the day in the future where Earthling civiliztion flys off to a new world"?

In the second verse, the dreamer is lying in the burned out basement, (decimated world) and hoping for a replacement.

In the final verse the dreamer returns to the heraldry and delight of the day with the silver spaceships and the chosen one to lead via Mother Natures Silver Seed (spaceship) to a new home in the sun.

Those final lyrics clinch the meaning for me. WOW! This week as I write this, there is talk of the first Canadian Space Tourist. Also there was mayor TV show about grim scenarios for our future on the planet. Are we on that path or can we save this world?
Jim - Campbell River, Canada
I heard that the song was about a bohemian community living in Canada who all got washed into the sea one day...Liv - Aberdeen, United Kingdom
My brother turned me onto this song when I was twelve and still loving Donny Osmond. I listened to it twice and after that I tore down my wall size Donny Poster and never looked back. Thank you to my dear brother Bobby and thank you Mr. Young.Jami - Redding, Ca
Does it matter if the song is about heroin? Even if it is that doesn't change how amazing this song is.Morgan - Bemidji, Mn
Very interesting Steve from Fenton. I never would have tought that the "chosen ones" metaphor extended into the rest of the song. I thought that the verses just depicted stages of mankind; the idilic past, the decadence of the present and the desperation of the future, but what you said is really clever.Robert - Glasgow, United Kingdom
It a amazing how high he sing in this song. Also this song is probably someone who lost their job and they are using drugs.Chad - Los Angeles, Ca
I know of what I speak from a routine personal basis -- rather than what I've read. I stand by what I wrote and I respectfully disagree with you. Also, nothing was meant to, nor did it, denigrate this iconic artist in any way who also happens to be a friend.Louie - Sunny Isles Beach Florida, Fl
I'd say the three verses are about the past, present, and future, yeah. I'm not too hot on the Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton version. They replace "and I felt like getting high." with "and I felt like I could cry." Kinda a sell out. Also, I thought the lyric was " a band playin' in my hair" not "head", as posted earlier. All in all, this song still blows my mind.Lazlo - Sugar Mountain, On
Neil Young has alwasy been open about his drug use. He's done cocaine, smoked tons of weed but he's never done heroin.David - Huntington Beach, Ca
ANy body know what Key this is if one wants to play a harmonica to it, I know the guitar chords...

Thanks,

Dwight
Dwight - Charlotte, Nc
Believe me you (must be) "young ones" out there, Neil loved heroin and all his so-called "anti-heroin" songs were the result of his own experiences (as that of all heroin addicts/abusers) on the vast negative other side that unavoidably joins the rush for what Neil knows is the greatest high for deadening inner pain and feeling ecstasy simultaneously. I know Neil and he would neither deny this nor feel it is any dark secret to withhold or feel shame. It is/was part of his life.Louie - Sunny Isles Beach Florida, Fl
To Sean: It's definitely a french horn. An oboe sounds "reedy" and is rather high-pitched. I've played it before. The solo is so beautiful. I love this song, too, and I don't care whether it's about drugs. It's still wonderful.Bess - San Diego, Ca
Very Good comments. There's a solo at the two minute mark. Does anyone know what instrument it is? it sounds like a french horn or an oboe. Please help.Sean - Ardmore, Pa
When I heard this song as a kid when it originally was released as a single or at least was getting radio airplay, I had no idea who was singing it. I didn't know who Neil Young was. At the time I assumed it was a woman singing the song and just assumed it was Melanie, the woman who sang Brand New Key. Years later when I became a Neil Young fan, this ideas was planted so strongly in my mind, I still assumed that Melanie had done a version of the song and released it as a single. I finally put 2 and 2 together and realized I had mistaken Neil's very unique voice for that of a woman's on this particular song.Steve - Fenton, Mo
The song is about the environment. The biggest clue is the title. A typical gold rush town would be a town that sprung up very fast once gold was discovered to support the gold prospecters. As long as the mining business was good the town thrived. Once the gold was gone, the town died and everyone moved on. Neil used this as a metophor for his song about the environment, but on a global scale. His song was about the Earth's resources being depleted and polution being so bad, that the human race or life in general could no longer survive on the Earth. The human race selects a lucky few to fly off the Earth in rockets (silver spaceships...mother nature's silver seed to plant this Earth's life onto a new Earth) in search of a new planet so the species can survive. I always interpreted the "full moon in my eye" as really being the sun blocked out by so much polution that it appears to be the moon. The line "I was hoping for a replacement" I interpreted to mean that the person has missed out on the lottery to go to the new planet...he's not one of the lucky few, but hopes he might replace one of the lucky few if for some reason that person can't make the trip. "Look at mother nature on the run in the 1970's" is also an obvious clue that the song is about concern for the environment. But it seems to be the person's dream (nightmare) that if the environment is not taken better care of, this scenario might happen in the future.Steve - Fenton, Mo
"I was lying in a burned out basement with a full moon in my eyes, I was hoping for replacements when the sun burst through the sky. There was a band playing in my head, and I felt like getting high" I may be wrong, but I have always interpeted this from a soldiers point of view. The sun bursting through the full moon I envision mortor or bombing. I was told once by a Vietnam vet that the band playing in his head was Pink Floyd. Just another fan's two cents on the song and the man.Paul - Meadville, Pa
Jay is correct in my opinion. It is about the environment and is one of the reasons the environment is much cleaner now than in the 70's. Megan in San Diego, it's definitely not Neil glamorizing heroin...he was very anti-heroin (Needle and the Damage Done, Tonight's the Night). Gina, he doesn't want to admit what the song is about, because it's better that it remains cryptic. If he has to explain what it means, it implies he didn't do a very good job of writing them. I think the "replacement" was a ticket on the silver spaceships leaving earth to continue the human race on another planet.Steve - Fenton, Mo
I don't get what the song's about, but I like it and I think it has a great arrangement.,Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
jay, u rock! I completely agree! Nel Young seems like more of a drug addict then he is. also, Neil picked up Crazy Horse, laterJohnny - Los Angeles, Ca
I really don't know what this song is about. I only know that I was awestruck when I first heard it. It's beautiful and I fantasize that it is about something breathtaking. It's one of my favorite songs. With that said, my first interpretation of 'After The Goldrush' was in fact, that of a mystical heroin experience. The lucky-the unaddicted or non-experienced can't understand the dream world of a good heroin experience. "All in a dream, all in a dream"Megan - San Diego, Ca
I have no idea what the hell Neil was writing about but it is one of his best pieces.. Beautiful song...Matt - Monroe, La
This song, in my opinion is about how the world has changed from medival times and how war and our neglegence of the earth will lead to the chosen ones leavin earth to find a new planet to inabite because we have ruined this one. This song was based on a movie in the 1970's that Neil was going to sing in. It got cancelled so Neil Young put it on his album instead.John - Orillia, Canada
It's just a basement. I was just lying there. why you gotta read into it like that?Neilyoung - Atowninnorthontario, Canada
When I first heard this song, it was sung by "Prelude". Their version was the highest ever on the charts for an acappella tune. That may still stand today, but I'm not sure. Listening to it on the radio in the seventies, I never quite heard the lyrics correctly. I always thought they were saying "in the 1917", instead of "the nineteen seventies". So I thought it was about WW I, trench warfare, and the coming of WW II. I think I still prefer this incorrect interpretation to one of drugs.Curtis - Morgan, Mo
I don't get what the song's about, anyway. I think that it's just a great song. Besides, doesn't a song mean what you (the listener) interpret it to mean?Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton included a surreal version of "After the Goldrush" on their 1999 TRIO 2 album.Mark - Boston, Ma
The third verse definitely sounds like it is based on Arthur C. Clarke's 'Childhood's End', which is the story of the end of humanity, mostly because of the 'silver spaceships' and 'flying mother nature's silver seed to a new home in the sun', because in the book, all the children of the world transcend matter and become light energy and flow into the universe... 'tis quite an interesting book, and I definitely think it fits.Alyssa - Pickerington, Oh
According to Neil, even HE didn't fully understand the lyrics of this song!Gina - Paradise Valley, Az
Lets go ahead and really delve into what Mr. Young was singing about. It is an apocalytic about the demise of the environment during the '70's and he was hoping for some sort of redemption for man and that redemption would be for those who heeded the call for a more ecologicaly friendly way of life (read something other than our current SUV loving, coal burning, F the earth, republican consumption orgy).

Neil probably was high during the composition of this song and this was his "vision". But it definitly not a drug song. Look at the lyrics of the first verse, medievial imagery -knights heralding the arrival of a queen, a giver of life and the imagery of the sun throughout the song-illumination? enlightenment?

Lying in a burned out basement-post apocalytic imagery-hoping for replacement- a dream sequence that connects the first and last verses-the lie, whic is the absolute demise of this world- or is it a lie.

Redemption- the silver seed to a new home in the sun-chosen ones, the ones who will continue the seed of human kind-going back to the queen.

All a doper's hallucination? More like a peyote induced revelation.
Jay - Norfolk, Va
young wasnt into heroin. and the words burned out basement implies he was on pot, not a mainlining or freebasing drugKevin - Babylon, Ny
Beutiful song. Why does it have to be heroin neil felt like getting high on in the burned out basement?Joshua - Butler, Pa
I've always felt this was an anti-war song. We were still involved in the Vietnam war when this song was released.Paula - Houston, Tx
Totally a heroin song.Nick - Denver, Co