Days That Used To Be

Album: Ragged Glory (1990)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Days That Used to Be" is a wistful tune in which Young addresses someone in his past, recalling simpler times when money wasn't such a burdensome concern.

    For a little while, "Days That Used to Be" was titled "Letter to Bob," with the Bob being Bob Dylan. The song's melody is also almost identical to Dylan's "My Back Pages." So, Mr. Dylan was clearly prominent in Young's mind when he wrote this song, and is probably the person Young first imagined addressing. However, speaking to Fred Schruers of Musician in February 1991, Young clarified that the song was directed to all his old buddies from that generation, not just Dylan.

    "Yeah, but it's about everybody from that generation," Young told Schruers. "It's to me as well as everybody else."
  • In the song, Young is referring back to his younger days in the idealistic '60s when he and many of his peers were part of the hippie counterculture, ostensibly making art for the sake of art and not for fame or gain. The song is particularly concerned with the way materialism has overtaken passion and happiness.

    Seem like such a simple thing
    to follow one's own dream
    But possessions and concession
    are not often what they seem
    They drag you down
    and load you down
    in disguise of security.
    But we never had
    to make those deals
    In the days that used to be


    Then, in the final verse, a new car is used a metaphor for materialism in general.

    Talk to me, my long lost friend,
    tell me how you are
    Are you happy with
    your circumstance,
    are you driving a new car
    Does it get you where you wanna go,
    with a seven year warranty
    Or just another
    hundred thousand miles away
    From days that used to be
  • Some critics, regarding how this song and others in Young's career that rail against materialism, have pointed out what they perceive to be Young's hypocrisy in taking public stances against material gain when he is, in fact, rich. Young addressed this, as well, with Schruers and Musician.

    "I don't want to flaunt my riches to the public," Young said. "There could be somebody writing a letter to Musician saying, 'What the f--k do we give a s--t about Neil Young's f--king cars, he's got so much money... Unfortunately, that's my lot in life, I have to be a f--king rich hippie and buy old cars."

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