This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #344: My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) by Neil Young.
There are a great many reasons why a song may stand the test of time and become legendary. One of my favourite reasons is that the song possesses an iconic line that ends up taking on a significance that, in some cases, even transcends the song, itself. The writer in me, loves a good line. I was thinking about this when I wrote about “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin, a few days ago. I have always admired the line, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. For me, “Me and Bobby McGee” is just another song but, that line always makes me smile and want to be a better writer, when I hear it. Another song that has an iconic line is “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) by Neil Young. The line in question is, “Its better to burn out than fade away”. That one line has become one of the foundational pillars of Rock n’ Roll; an attitude that is the essence of Rock for many. That line is all tongues sticking out, devil horns stretched to the sky. It is one of the most requested musical lines by people requesting tattoos. In fact, the line means so much that Kurt Cobain even referenced it in the letter he left behind on the day he took his own life.
When Neil Young wrote this song, the 1970s were just coming to an end. Young was one of the leading names in the Music scene and had already accomplished much on his own and as a member of “Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young”. But, one thing that has always characterized Neil Young is his reluctance to settle in and become predictable. While some artists have one hit album and milk that for all it is worth and then, continually head out on “nostalgia” tours, where they recycle their couple of hits, again and again; Neil Young has always sought to re-invent himself and, by doing so, stay relevant and meaningful. So, it was not surprising that, by the end of the 1970s, he had become aware of a new form of musical expression called Punk Rock. Young was fascinated by how completely different and vital Punk Rock seemed when compared to what he felt he and his contemporaries were playing. You can call it a mid-life crisis, if you want but, truth be told, Punk Rock made Neil Young question his place in the musical hierarchy. All of a sudden, he felt old.
“My My, Hey Hey! (Out of the Blue)” is his response to the simultaneous passing of Elvis Presley and the emergence of performers like, Johnny Rotten, of “The Sex Pistols”. In this song, Young proclaims that Rock n’ Roll will always exist because it can withstand the passing of legends due to the fact that new talent is always knocking on the door, ready to carry the fortunes of Rock onward. Then, he offers up his iconic line that it is better to burn out than fade away. His advice to all who follow in his wake: give everything you’ve got, every show, every song. Play it loud! End your shows soaked in sweat! Always be creative and trust your voice! No compromises! There is no reason to play it safe because Rock n’ Roll was meant to be played with swagger and joy. And, if you become tired of it all…..no worries. Someone fresh and new is standing by. Rock n’ Roll is immortal.
Neil Young took his own advice to heart and has enjoyed a long career that has seen him switch creative gears several times along the way. From Rockabilly, to harder Rock, to Country, Neil Young has constantly re-invented himself and, as such, he has remained relevant for over half a century now. Part of his secret is embracing new performers when they come along. For instance, he has co-headlined concerts with Pearl Jam. “My My, Hey Hey! (Out of the Blue)” was written and fleshed out by Young and Mark Mothersbaugh, the lead singer of Alternative Rockers, “Devo”. Rust may never sleep and neither does Neil Young, Rock’s master chameleon. So, without further delay, here he is, with “My My, Hey Hey! (Out of the Blue)”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue)” by Neil Young, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Neil Young, can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting creative, original Rock, in all of its many forms. The link to their official website can be found here.