Remembering when Neil Young debuted ‘Out On The Weekend’ live on the BBC in 1971
Following the moderate success of Buffalo Springfield in 1968, there were no real expectations that Neil Young would go on to have the rich solo career that he would carve out for himself. However, by 1971, he had gone transformed his future in the short space of three years from ‘another folk-rock troubadour’ to one of the world’s most revered artists with his own BBC special.
Soon after the band’s split, Young would go on to have much wilder successes than he had ever have imagined during his time in Buffalo Springfield and, taking his creative vision to the next level, he prolifically started making music with the release of two full albums in 1969. Comprised of his self-titled debut and his debut collaborative album with Crazy Horse just four months later, which would later go platinum, Neil Young had arrived at the main stage.
By 1970, Young had the world at his feet. Continuing his momentum, he didn’t disappoint when the was pressure on and he delivered his near faultless full-length effort, After The Gold Rush, which was an adored by fans and critics alike who were blown away by his poetic tongue.
Young, truly his own man by this point, created a remarkable sense of intrigue into what he would do next and, bringing his material to a major platform, he performed live on British television. Young would go on to deliver a stunning 29-minute solo set live from London’s Television Centre as part of the BBC’sIn Concert series, a performance that including showcasing ‘Out On The Weekend’ live to the world for the very first time.
The lyrical content of the song is uplifting and joyous, acting as somewhat of a juxtaposition to the dark moody sonic nature of the track which Young was well aware of: “Even when I’m happy it sounds like I’m not and when I try to say I’m happy I try to disguise it,” he says. “I’m so happy that I can’t get it all out. But it doesn’t sound happy. The way I wrote it sounds sad, like I tried to hide it.”
‘Out On The Weekend’ was taken from Young’s now-iconic Harvest LP, a project that arrived as a commercial success and topped the chart not only in the States but also in Great Britain, Australia and more, cementing Neil Young’s position as a global megastar—but, remarkably, the record didn’t go down as swimmingly with critics as it did with fans.
Rolling Stone‘s John Mendelsohn was one major critic of it, writing: “The discomfortingly unmistakable resemblance of nearly every song on this album to an earlier Young composition—it’s as if he just added a steel guitar and new words to After The Gold Rush.” However, history would prove Mendelsohn wrong when Harvest would place highly on his publication’s 100 Greatest Albums Of All Time list in 2003.
There’s something so special about the intimacy of this performance and how one of the world’s biggest stars at this point in time is performing to just a handful of people which brings another level of substance to it that makes for riveting viewing. See Young’s 1971 effort, below.