Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Album: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
  • Despite bearing the same title as the album it appears on, "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" wasn't generally considered one of the standout songs from Neil Young's second solo effort. "Cinnamon Girl," "Down By The River," and "Cowgirl in the Sand" all were more popular and enduring.

    Still, "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" is an interesting song in its own right, and even more so when viewed as part of Young's broader catalogue. It's also intriguing to ponder why Young chose to name the album after this particular tune.

    Young was living in southern California when he wrote this song. That's the environment he's describing with its "day-to-day running around" that he needs to escape. Young's conflicted relationship with the entertainment industry has marked his entire career, and it's seen even here at this early stage.

    While Young laments the hectic Los Angeles pace, he assures us that despite all the allure, nothing worthwhile is to be found there. As Jimmy McDonough wrote in Shakey, "'Everybody seems to wonder what it's like down here,' Young muses, his caustic tone making it clear that for him, the entire Los Angeles scene might as well fall into the sea."
  • In Young's previous album, he was already yearning for the simplicity of the countryside with "Here We Are In The Years." Those feelings have carried over here, and in fact continue to carry over throughout Young's career.

    At the same time Young's feeling that the life he's living is leading nowhere, friends and family back home are fascinated with the scene he's in. "Everybody seems to wonder," Young sings, "what it's like down here." The choice of "down" is telling, because it confirms Young's talking about his people back home in Canada, with Los Angeles being south of (or "down" from) Canada. That confirmation is nice but not necessary because the content of the rest of the song makes it easy to infer.
  • The LA lifestyle has lost its shine for Young in this song, and all he wants is to "take it easy" back home where it's "cool and breezy." This romanticized version of home contrasts with the version seen in "Helpless," which was released less than a year later with Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.

    In "Helpless" we see a place that is rather melancholy, even while Young still views it as a sort of sanctuary. We get none of that in "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere," where things are idyllic and perfect for relaxing and "just passing time." The song itself has a country-like aura about it. It sounds like a song that'd be played on the front porch of a country house in Young's childhood town of Omemee, Ontario.

    The fact that young named the album and this song the same suggests that the sentiments expressed in this tune are part of the album's theme.
  • The song's lead vocal track wasn't originally meant to be released: It was a scratch vocal sung through a low-quality talkback microphone on a mixing board. Young liked the way the sound contrasted with the rest of the songs on the album and decided to use it in the final product.
  • At 2 minutes and 26 seconds long, this is the shortest track on Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.


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