Revisiting Paul McCartney and Neil Young’s spinetingling duet of ‘A Day In The Life’
Paul McCartney and Neil Young are two of the most iconic characters in the history of contemporary music. Having shared history in the annals of rock music’s legacy, both artists originate from bands born in the 1960s before stepping out firmly in their own right. Although The Beatles’ success is undeniably paramount to the riches Young had with Buffalo Springfield however, the two iconic musicians would never share stage until 2009 at London’s Hyde Park when they came together for an iconic take on ‘A Day In The Life’.
The careers of Young and McCartney never crossed paths until their later years and, despite making music that sonically different to one another, there has always been great respect between the two who appreciate each other’s immense songwriting capabilities. Surprisingly, it has to be said, that it was The Beatles that first encouraged Young to believe in himself enough to perform.
In an interview with Rolling Stone all the way back in 1975, Young would first publically profess his admiration for the work of Macca, as he revealed: “I remember singing Beatles tunes… the first song I ever sang in front of people was It Won’t Be Long, and then Money (That’s What I Want). That was in Calvin High School [Winnipeg] cafeteria. My big moment.”
It’s fitting, then, that Young was the person who would induct Paul McCartney into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during a ceremony in 1999—living proof of the domino effect that McCartney had on the music industry. Without The Beatles, there would be no Neil Young who, in turn, would then go on to influence a new wave of musicians himself.
During the aforementioned induction, Young would dote about his love of McCartney’s debut record rather than his work in the ’60s with The Fab Four: “I loved that record because it was so simple,” he said at the time. “There was no attempt made to compete with the things he had already done. And so out he stepped from the shadow of the Beatles.”
He then added: “Paul McCartney is one of the greatest songwriters ever. He’ll be remembered hundreds of years from now.”
Both men have stepped out of the shadows of there previous alma maters and have built up repertoires of solo material that almost any musician would be envious of so, with that in mind, it was incredibly special to see the two icons share the stage together in 2009. The duet arrived during Neil Young’s headline set at Hyde Park’s Hard Rock Calling and the song they chose to take on was one of significant importance to Young.
During his 1978 Rust Never Sleeps tour he would play 1967 Beatles classic ‘A Day in the Life’ every night on the public address system before he took to the stage. However, he would never perform it live until he came to Europe in the summer of 2008.
The song would close out nearly every show for the next year whilst he was on the road and when the mammoth run of dates finally came to an end at Hyde Park on June 27th, 2009, McCartney himself ran onto the stage to sing his lines from the song then stayed on stage to soak up the electric atmosphere with Young for a few minutes following the end of the set.