Revisit Neil Young’s stunning performance of ‘Old Man’ live from the BBC in 1971
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you quite possibly our favourite performance of Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ that he was ever produced in his nearly six-decade-long career.
When Neil Young stepped out on his own and became the singer-songwriter we know and love today, he did so with a knowing smile and the confidence of a man that already knew himself as an artist. There’s no better display of that than in this stunning performance.
Of course, Young did already know himself as an artist, he had been in bands with some of the new rock waves greatest artists. But there was still something special about his command of not only his content but his growing audience. In the clip below, Young is on top form, taking the stage as a storytelling maestro, even in between songs, he’s charming and captivating.
By 1970, Young had shaken off the shackles of working within Buffalo Springfield and had quickly marked himself out as a contender for the title of America’s favourite songwriter—and it worked this side of the pond too. It was during this time that Young made the move and bought a plot of land in Northern California and turned it into Broken Arrow Ranch, a location where he still lives to this day.
When he was buying a plot of land he met Louis Avila, who showed him around the estate: “Louis took me for a ride in this blue Jeep,” Young said in 2005, it’s a warm image that is beautifully conveyed in the performance.
“He gets me up there on the top side of the place, and there’s this lake up there that fed all the pastures, and he says, ‘Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?’ And I said, ‘Well, just lucky, Louie, just real lucky.’ And he said, ‘Well, that’s the darndest thing I ever heard.’ And I wrote this song for him.”
Despite Young now being older than Avila was in the song, the track still feels as ageless and timeless as when he first wrote it. This is pure Youngian lyricism at its finest but perhaps it doesn’t get better than in this crystalline performance which puts Neil Young among the greats to have graced the Beeb.
Watch below as sings ‘Old Man’ for the BBC in 1971.