A Horse with No Name

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"A Horse with No Name"
Single by America
from the album America
  • "Everyone I Meet Is from California"
  • "Sandman"
  • November 12, 1971 (UK)
  • January 12, 1972 (US)
StudioMorgan Studios, London
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Dewey Bunnell
Producer(s)Ian Samwell
America singles chronology
"A Horse with No Name"
"I Need You"
Audio sample
"A Horse with No Name" on YouTube

"A Horse with No Name" is a song by the folk rock band America, written by Dewey Bunnell. It was the band's first and most successful single, released in late 1971 in Europe and early 1972 in the United States, and topped the charts in Canada, Finland, and the United States.[4] It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.[5]


America's self-titled debut album was released initially in Europe, without "A Horse with No Name", and achieved only moderate success. Originally called "Desert Song", "Horse" was written while the band was staying at the home studio of musician Arthur Brown, near Puddletown, Dorset.[6] The first two demos were recorded there, by Jeff Dexter and Dennis Elliott, and were intended to capture the feel of the hot, dry desert that had been depicted at the studio from a Salvador Dalí painting, and the strange horse that had ridden out of an M. C. Escher picture. Writer Dewey Bunnell also says he remembered his childhood travels through the Arizona and New Mexico desert when his family lived at Vandenberg Air Force Base.[7] Bunnell has explained that "A Horse with No Name" was "a metaphor for a vehicle to get away from life's confusion into a quiet, peaceful place".

Trying to find a song that would be popular in both the United States and Europe, Warner Brothers was reluctant to release Beckley's "I Need You" ballad as the first single from America. The label asked the band if it had any other material, then arranged for America to record four more songs at Morgan Studios, Willesden in London.[8] "A Horse with No Name" was released as the featured song on a three-track single in the UK, Ireland, France, Italy and the Netherlands in late 1971. On the release, "A Horse with No Name" shared the A-side with "Everyone I Meet Is from California"; "Sandman" featured on the B-side. However, its early-1972 two-track US release did not include "Sandman", with "Everyone I Meet Is from California" appearing on the B-side.


"A Horse with No Name" was recorded in the E Dorian mode with acoustic guitars, bass guitar, drum kit, and bongo drums. The only other chord is a D, fretted on the low E and G strings, second fret. A 12-string guitar plays an added F♯ (second fret, high E string) on the back beat of the Em. A noted feature of the song is the driving bass line with a hammer-hook in each chorus. A "waterfall"-type solo completes the arrangement.[9] Produced by Ian Samwell on the day of final recording at Morgan Studios, when at first the group thought it was too corny and took some convincing to actually play it. Gerry Beckley has explained in Acoustic Guitar magazine (March 2007) that the correct tuning for the guitar is D E D G B D, low to high. The chord pattern that repeats throughout the entire song is: 202002 (Em), then 020202 and 000202.[10] The tuning is unique to this song; they did not use it on any other America song.


Despite the song being banned by some U.S. radio stations (such as WHB in Kansas City) because of supposed drug references to heroin use ("horse" is a common slang term for heroin),[11] the song ascended to number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and the album quickly reached platinum status. The song charted earlier in Ireland (reaching number 4), the Netherlands (reaching number 11) and the UK (reaching number 3, the band's only Top 40 hit in the country[12]) than it did in the United States.

The song's resemblance to some of Neil Young's work aroused some controversy. "I know that virtually everyone, on first hearing, assumed it was Neil", Bunnell says. "I never fully shied away from the fact that I was inspired by him. I think it's in the structure of the song as much as in the tone of his voice. It did hurt a little, because we got some pretty bad backlash. I've always attributed it more to people protecting their own heroes more than attacking me." By coincidence, it was "A Horse with No Name" that replaced Young's "Heart of Gold" at the number 1 spot on the U.S. pop chart.[13]

The single achieved sales of over 50,000 copies in Australia, being eligible for the award of a gold disc.[14]

The song has received criticism for its lyrics, including "The heat was hot"; "There were plants, and birds, and rocks, and things"; and "'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain."[15] Singer-songwriter Randy Newman dismissed "A Horse With No Name", saying that it sounds like it's "about a kid who thinks he’s taken acid."

Penn Jillette asked the band about their lyrics, "there were plants, and birds, and rocks, and things" after a show in Atlantic City, where America opened for Penn & Teller. According to Jillette, their explanation for the lyrics was that they were intoxicated with cannabis while writing it.[16] In a 2012 interview, Beckley disputed Jillette's story, saying, "I don't think Dew was stoned."[17]


(Per back cover of 1972 vinyl issue of America.)


Session musicians

In popular culture[edit]

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

The song was featured in Hideous Kinky, a British–French 1998 film, during a trip on the Moroccan desert.

The song bookends the second episode of the third season of Breaking Bad, "Caballo sin Nombre" (Spanish for "Horse without Name"), where the song plays on a car radio as Walter White drives through the desert in the beginning,[18] before being pulled over for driving with a cracked windshield. At the end of the episode the song is sung by Walter in the shower.

The song is sung by Diane (Kristie Alley) while she is attempting to ride a horse in the family film It Takes Two (1995 film). The horse becomes spooked and takes off running. This leads Diane to her first encounter with Roger (Steve Guttenberg).

The song is also featured in the movies The Devil's Daughter, The Trip, and Air America. The song is also featured on the soundtrack of the 2013 motion picture American Hustle directed by David O. Russell and 2016 movie The Nice Guys.

The song is also briefly featured in the Friends episode "The One with Joey's Big Break", when Joey drives through the Mojave Desert on his way to a production set in Las Vegas.[19]

The song also appears in the season 18 episode of The Simpsons "The Haw-Hawed Couple".

In the NBC television program "NewsRadio" main character David "Dave" Nelson (played by Dave Foley) is said to have an inexplicable "obsession" with the America song "A Horse with No Name", according to his girlfriend Lisa Miller (played by Maura Tierney).

The season 3 episode of Parks and RecreationLi’l Sebastian” features the song as a tribute to the late titular equine.

In the season 4 episode of BoJack Horseman "The Old Sugarman Place", the title character drives through the desert to Patrick Carney and Michelle Branch's interpretation of the song. This version also appears on the soundtrack album of the series.[20]

The song also appears as one of the tracks played in the radio station K-DST in the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.[21]

Musical references[edit]

The song was one of many popular songs quoted and parodied on the album The Third Reich 'n Roll by The Residents.[citation needed]

Michael Jackson's song "A Place with No Name" was released posthumously by TMZ as a 25-second snippet on July 16, 2009. The snippet closely resembles "A Horse with No Name". Jim Morey, both Jackson's and America's former band manager, has stated that "America was honored that Michael chose to do their song and they hope it becomes available for all Michael's fans to hear."[22] The song was remastered and released in its entirety along with the original Michael Jackson recording on Jackson's 2014 album, Xscape.

The song was sampled by Milo on his song "Geometry and Theology" from his album Cavalcade,[23] in which every song samples a song by America.



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[36] Gold 25,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[38] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Micchelli, Thomas (March 9, 2019). "Painting Paradoxes of Family, Race, and Prison". Hyperallergic. Retrieved June 16, 2019. (both apparent references to the 1972 folk-rock song, 'A Horse with No Name,' by a band called, tellingly, America) beckon toward freedom.
  2. ^ "200 Greatest Soft Rock Songs". Entertainment.expertscolumn.com. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  3. ^ "VH1's 40 Most Softsational Soft-Rock Songs". Stereogum. SpinMedia. May 31, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  4. ^ "A Horse with No Name" USA chart history, Billboard.com. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  5. ^ RIAA. "RIAA Gold & Platinum Database". Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2008.
  6. ^ "Decadence and depravity…with added cheese - Dorset Life - The Dorset Magazine". Dorsetlife.co.uk. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  7. ^ "Highway Highlight (from the box set booklet)". Archived from the original on June 2, 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2008.
  8. ^ Rosen, Craig (September 30, 1996). The Billboard book of number one albums: the inside story behind pop music's blockbuster records. Billboard Books.
  9. ^ Hodge, David (January 13, 2012). "A Horse With No Name by America - Adding Some Personal Touches". Guitarnoise.com. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  10. ^ "Horse With No Name Guitar Lesson | Strumming Pattern & Chords". Guitarcoachmag.com. September 16, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  11. ^ "Liner notes, Highway Highlight". Archived from the original on June 15, 2006. Retrieved June 11, 2006.
  12. ^ "America singles charts history". Official Charts. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  13. ^ "America - Biography | Billboard". Billboard.com. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  14. ^ The Go Set Chart Book, Australia's First National Charts. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-387-71246-5.
  15. ^ John Mendelsohn (1972). "Rolling Stone Review". Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved March 12, 2006.
  16. ^ Jillette, Penn. (2012). Gilbert Gottfried Again! (Episode 14, 2012/05/21). Penn's Sunday School. Ace Broadcasting Network.
  17. ^ "Q&A With America Singer Gerry Beckley". Patch.com. December 19, 2012.
  18. ^ AMCTV (2010). "Walt Gets Arrested". Archived from the original on April 1, 2010. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  19. ^ "The One with Joey's Big Break". IMDb.com. 1999. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  20. ^ "Hear Patrick Carney, Michelle Branch's New Song for 'BoJack Horseman'". Rolling Stone. 28 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Rockstar Games: Grand Theft Auto San Andreas". Rockstargames.com. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  22. ^ "Place with No Name sounds like Horse with No Name". news.com.au. July 17, 2009. Retrieved March 5, 2010.
  23. ^ Breihan, Tom (February 22, 2019). "The Number Ones: America's "A Horse With No Name"". Stereogum. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  24. ^ "Ultratop.be – America – A Horse With No Name" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  25. ^ "RPM100 Singles" (PDF). RPM. 6 May 1972. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  26. ^ "Lescharts.com – America – A Horse With No Name" (in French). Les classement single.
  27. ^ Billboard: 53. October 7, 1972.CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  28. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie.
  29. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – America – A Horse With No Name" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  30. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – America – A Horse With No Name" Canciones Top 50.
  31. ^ "America: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  32. ^ "America Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  33. ^ "America Chart History (Easy Listening)". Billboard.
  34. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2015). The Comparison Book Billboard/Cash Box/Record World 1954-1982. Sheridan Books. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-89820-213-7.
  35. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  36. ^ "Italian single certifications – America – A Horse with No Name" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved January 21, 2020. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "A Horse with No Name" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
  37. ^ "British single certifications – America – A Horse with No Name". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  38. ^ "American single certifications – America – A Horse with No Name". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 21, 2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]