White Line

Album: Ragged Glory (1990)

Songfacts®:

  • Young recorded this song on September 12, 1974, at Ramport Studios in London. He was on tour with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and stopped to lay this track down before they played Wembley Stadium. Robbie Robertson of The Band plays guitar and sings duet on the track.

    From the start, the original recording was intended to be released on Homegrown. That album sat on the shelf for almost 50 years, but Young recorded the song again and released it on Ragged Glory in 1990. This version is much heavier than the original, as befitting a song from that garage-rock monster of an album.
  • The songs of Homegrown will always be defined by the story of Neil Young's relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress (who birthed his first son). The whole album was kept from the public for nearly 50 years because Young felt the material was too raw and personal. When Young found out Snodgress was sleeping around, it hurt him badly (though years later he confessed to having slept around on her, as well). This narrative fits in nicely with "White Line."

    In "White Line," Young's talking about leaving a failed relationship and heading towards his true love.

    And I'm rollin' down
    The open road
    Where my true love, she lies waiting
    Right now I'm thinking 'bout
    These things I know
    But the daylight will soon be breaking


    Knowing the story behind the album, it's easy to fit Snodgress in as the failed love he's fleeing from.

    You were my raft
    And I let you slide


    So what's the true love he's running to? It seems like it's his music. When he sings, "That old white line is a friend of mine," he's referring to the white line that runs alongside roads (not cocaine, like the white lines in the Grandmaster Flash song.) He's talking about the road itself - touring. But the white line of the open road is only his friend and the thing that takes him to his true love, not his true love itself. So, it makes sense that he's talking about touring taking him back to his music.
  • The version on Ragged Glory runs 2:57, making it the shortest track on the album. The Homegrown version is 3:14.

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