Neil Young sings ‘Heart of Gold’ live on the BBC back in 1971
When Neil Young decided to break out on his own following the taste of the spotlight he got with Buffalo Springfield, the singer began one of the most fruitful periods of his career. It would spawn some incredible songs and offer him up opportunities he likely never thought imaginable a mere year or two before.
After some successful records, including 1970 effort After The Gold Rush, Young had firmly asserted himself on the musical map and it provided him with the chance to reach a national audience as the BBC welcomed the Canadian to their In concert series.
The footage below captures Neil Young at one of the brightest moments of his career. He had achieved success both commercial and critical with his solo records and was now beginning to establish himself as a star in his own right.
The BBC show offered a perfect chance to not only perform his songs but deliver them with star power. He certainly did that.
The set may only contain eight songs but each one is imbued with tender emotion and veracious performance. Performances of ‘Out On The Weekend,’ ‘Old Man’, ‘A Man Needs A Maid’ were all debut showings of his upcoming new album Harvest and there’s another track from that record which hits particularly hard.
Young fumbles through his pockets trying to find the correct harmonica, “This one’s in G if anyone wants to blow along with me,” smirks Young as the British crowd coo over his dry wit. With that, he began the beautiful notes of ‘Heart of Gold’ quite possibly one of Young’s finest tracks. While the song is missing the stunning backup vocals of James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt which feature on the record, this performance may well be the definitive version.
In the liner notes of his 1977 compilation album Decade, Young said of the track: “This song put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.”
Below you can see that duality expressed without reproach as part of his now-iconic performance of ‘Heart of Gold’ live for the BBC back in 1971.