Vampire Blues

Album: On The Beach (1974)

Songfacts®:

  • "Vampire Blues" has Young speaking from the role of an oil magnate destroying the planet with his dirty business.

    The "blood of the earth" being sold by the barrel is obviously oil, and the song keeps up Young's long tradition of environmentally minded music. There's also a verse about being a "black bat, babe, banging on your window pane," but that appears to be something just thrown in there either to give the song a sense of mystery or just play around a bit.
  • Journalist/critic Ian MacDonald of felt that the whole song was sort of a gag. In a generally unfavorable appraisal of On The Beach in Uncut, he wrote, "'Vampire Blues' is a joke over churning out albums about anything. It starts with a guitar-intro reminiscent of the Stones on a typical 'album-filler'... and proceeds into a mock-fumbling, mock nod-out 12-bar guying the mandatory macho blues with which all second-raters pad their albums out over there in the US of A."

    The general view of journalists and critics has been less condemnatory than MacDonald's. While it's rarely cited as a highlight of Young's career, "Vampire Blues" is generally usually considered an interesting, if somewhat mediocre, part of Young's vast catalog. Marc Weingarten of Guitar World called it, "Young's most pointedly political statement since 'Ohio.'"
  • George Whitsell played guitar on this track. Whitsell had been with the Rockets when Young stole the band's rhythm section and turned them into Crazy Horse. It's an event memorialzied in Young's "Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets)," which appeared on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere five years prior to On The Beach.

    Whitsell got the call to play with Young on April Fool's Day, 1974. It was a complete surprise to him, but he agreed to the idea and went to meet Young.

    Whitsell played "Vampire Blues' for about 15 minutes, by his recollection. Young then took the rehearsal tapes and spliced them together - and that was that for Whitsell's work on On The Beach.

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