On The Beach

Album: On The Beach (1974)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • The title track of Neil Young's fifth album, "On The Beach" finds him contemplating the nature of his fame and discussing the inner turmoil he feels because of his success.

    "I need a crowd of people," Young laments, "but I don't need them every day." This simple line clearly illustrates a conflict that seems to have tormented Young since his earliest days as a rock star. He yearns for an audience sometimes, but intensely wants to be left alone at others. He wants to be rich and famous, yet he also wants to be a regular guy and seems to have always suffered guilt around money. Through it all, he resists the reality that all fame and anonymity are mutually exclusive, and no amount of bewailing is going to change that.
  • Another revealing line in the song is:

    Though my problems are meaningless
    That don't make them go away


    The thought reflects a common problem reported by dissatisfied stars: they know they are supposed to be happy because they have what most people are after, but this only compounds their own guilt and depression.

    After Young explores these feelings and his fear that the world is "turning away" from him, he ends with the decision to "head for the sticks" with his "bus and friends." This has been Young's go-to escape throughout his career.
  • The song features representatives from every key landmark in Young's career to that point. In addition to Stray Gator Ben Keith on hand drums, there's Ralph Molina of Crazy Horse playing drums and Graham Nash of CSN&Y on electric piano.

    It's intriguing to imagine that Young assembled this cast consciously for this song about musical fame, but Young has never said anything to validate the idea. As with Rockets guitarist George Whitsell performing on "Vampire Blues," Young's reasoning for selecting backing musicians is a mystery.

Comments: 2

  • Gábor from SzékesfehérvárI love this song!
  • Beagle from Bilbao"I need a crowd of people," Young laments, "but I can't face them day to day."
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Curt Kirkwood of Meat Puppets

Curt Kirkwood of Meat PuppetsSongwriter Interviews

The (Meat)puppetmaster takes us through songs like "Lake Of Fire" and "Backwater," and talks about performing with Kurt Cobain on MTV Unplugged.

Eric Burdon

Eric BurdonSongwriter Interviews

The renown rock singer talks about "The House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

Alan Merrill of The Arrows

Alan Merrill of The ArrowsSongwriter Interviews

In her days with The Runaways, Joan Jett saw The Arrows perform "I Love Rock And Roll," which Alan Merrill co-wrote - that story and much more from this glam rock pioneer.

Krishna Das

Krishna DasSongwriter Interviews

The top chant artist in the Western world, Krishna Das talks about how these Hindu mantras compare to Christian worship songs.

90s Music Quiz 1

90s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

First question: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson appeared in videos for what artist?

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: Tarantino Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: Tarantino EditionMusic Quiz

Whether he's splitting ears or burning Nazis, Quentin Tarantino uses memorable music in his films. See if you can match the song to the scene.