Neil Young – Like a Hurricane

Like a Hurricane was on the American Stars ‘n Bars album in 1977. A single version was released that was edited down to under 4 minutes but it failed. The album version is the version that is known now.

Neil’s songs are so well written and detailed but they come out sounding so loose like he is improvising on the spot…cause most of the time while recording he is more interested in getting the right feel than anything technical. it works really well.

From Songfacts.

This song of intense desire has become one of Young’s classics, and one he almost always plays at his shows. Rock critic Dave Marsh described the song as “an eight-minute tour de force of electric guitar feedback and extended metaphor (Smokey Robinson meets Jimi Hendrix on Bob Dylan’s old block).” 

Young did write this tale of longing about a specific girl, but it wasn’t nearly as serious as it sounds – he had already broken up with actress Carrie Snodgress and had yet to meet his wife Pegi Morton. The woman in question was a girl he came across in a bar.

In Neil Young’s biography Shakey by Jimmy McDonough, it’s revealed that during the summer of 1975, Young was recovering from surgery on his vocal cords and couldn’t talk. This didn’t stop him from going out and having a good time with his friends, including his neighbor Taylor Phelps, who said: “Neil, Jim Russell, David Cline and I went to Venturi’s in La Honda. We were really f–ked up. Neil had this amazing intense attraction to this particular woman named Gail – it didn’t happen, he didn’t go home with her. We go back to the ranch and Neil started playing. Young was completely possessed, pacing around the room, hunched over a Stringman keyboard pounding out the song.”

Young took the song to his band Crazy Horse with just two lines written on an envelope: “You are like a hurricane, there’s calm in yer eye.” The band struggled with it for 10 days on Young’s ranch before a breakthrough. Crazy Horse guitarist Poncho Sampedro said: “We kept playing it two guitars, bass, drums, but it wasn’t in the pocket. Neil didn’t have enough room to solo. He didn’t like the rhythm I was playing on guitar. One day we were done recording and the Stringman was sitting there. I started diddling with it, just playing the chords simply, and Neil said, ‘Y’know, maybe that’s the way to do it – let’s try it.’ If you listen to the take on the record, there’s no beginning, no count-off, it just goes woom! They just turned on the machines when they heard us playing again, ’cause we were done for the day. Neil goes, ‘Yeah, I think that’s how it goes. Just like that.’ And that was the take. That’s the only time we ever played it that way.”

Referring to his vocal performance, Young explained: “It was a sketch. I went in and I sang both harmony parts, the low one and the high one – and that’s the way the record is. It’s all me singing.”

According to Young, there are similarities between this song and Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” Young explained in Shakey: “When ‘Runaway’ goes to ‘I’m a walkin’ in the rain,’ those are the same chords in the bridge of ‘Hurricane’ – ‘You are…’ It opens up. So it’s a minor descending thing that opens up – that’s what they have in common. It’s like ‘Runaway’ with the organ solo going on for 10 minutes.”

It took almost two years from Young coming up with the idea for this song to it appearing on an album. American Stars ‘N Bars was released in June 1977; an edited version of this song was released as a single that September and failed to chart. Like “Layla,” the edited version didn’t get much traction but the album version became a classic – that’s the version radio stations almost always play and is most widely available on compilation albums.

Young recorded a popular acoustic version for his 1993 MTV Unplugged appearance. His album from the show did very well, charting at #4 in the UK and #23 in the US, while helping introduce Young’s classic songs to the MTV generation.

Since Young couldn’t sing due to throat injuries at the time, he whistled his part in early takes. In an Uncut Magazine interview, he explained: “I wrote it when I couldn’t sing. I was on voice rest. It was nuts – I was whistling it. I wrote a lot of songs when I couldn’t talk.”

Young recalled in his autobiography Waging Heavy Peace that he penned this song’s lyrics “on a piece of newspaper in the back of (his friend) Taylor Phelps’s 1950 DeSoto Suburban, a huge car that we all used to go to bars in.”

He added: “As was our habit between bars, we had stopped at Skeggs Point Scenic lookout on Skyline Boulevard up on the mountain to do a few lines of coke; I wrote Hurricane right there in the back of that giant old car. Then when I got home, I played the chords on this old Univox Stringman mounted in an old ornate pump-organ body set up in the living room.”

“I played that damn thing through the night,” he concluded. “I finished the melody in five minutes, but I was so jacked I couldn’t stop playing.”

Like a Hurricane

Once I thought I saw you in a crowded hazy bar
Dancing on the light from star to star
Far across the moonbeam I know that’s who you are
I saw your brown eyes turning once to fire

You are like a hurricane
There’s calm in your eye
And I’m gettin’ blown away
To somewhere safer where the feeling stays
I want to love you but I’m getting blown away

I am just a dreamer, but you are just a dream
You could have been anyone to me
Before that moment you touched my lips
That perfect feeling when time just slips
Away between us on our foggy trip

You are like a hurricane
There’s calm in your eye
And I’m gettin’ blown away
To somewhere safer where the feeling stays
I want to love you but I’m getting blown away, blown away

You are just a dreamer, and I am just a dream
You could have been anyone to me
Before that moment you touched my lips
That perfect feeling when time just slips
Away between us on our foggy trip

You are like a hurricane
There’s calm in your eye
And I’m gettin’ blown away
To somewhere safer where the feeling stays
I want to love you but I’m getting blown awa

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

23 thoughts on “Neil Young – Like a Hurricane”

  1. Excellent song! Surprisingly, given my nationality and typical preference for originals more often than not, I actually like the roxy Music version (from live albums like ‘The High Road’) better. It was a mainstay of their encores during the Avalon tour. But Neil’s version is pretty cool …and another great song he wrote that appealed to a range of musicians

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right… Down by the River etc…I have liked his stuff since of course but it’s like early Dylan…nothing afterward was the same…not that is wasnt as good but t was just different.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. He’s the original garage band musician, even though from what you’re saying it is a cultivated style more than just something they threw together. It’s funny how the biographer said he went nuts over a woman in the bar, but he said it was the coke. I don’t see these two points of view conflicting when I read the lyrics. I heard this but it was many many moons ago. Thank you for bringing it back to today.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes we just got together last Saturday. I play rhythm guitar now but I started off on bass. We play ever two or three weeks. Once in a while we will play party for the fun of it.

        Liked by 1 person

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