My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)

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"My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)"
Neil Young - My My single cover.jpg
Single by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
from the album Rust Never Sleeps
A-side"Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)"
ReleasedAugust 27, 1979
Recordedearly 1978, Boarding House, San Francisco, California
GenreAcoustic rock[1]
Songwriter(s)Neil Young, Jeff Blackburn
Producer(s)Neil Young, David Briggs, Tim Mulligan

"My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" is a song by Canadian musician Neil Young. An acoustic song, it was recorded live in early 1978 at the Boarding House in San Francisco, California. Combined with its hard rock counterpart "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)", it bookends Young's 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps.[2] Inspired by electropunk group Devo, the rise of punk and what Young viewed as his own growing irrelevance, the song significantly revitalized Young's career.[3]

The line, "it's better to burn out than to fade away," became infamous after being quoted in Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's suicide note.[4] Young later said that he was so shaken that he dedicated his 1994 album Sleeps with Angels to Cobain.


Young compared the rise of Johnny Rotten with that of the recently deceased "King" Elvis Presley, who himself had once been disparaged as a dangerous influence only to later become an icon. Rotten returned the favour by playing one of Young's songs, "Revolution Blues" from On the Beach, on a London radio show, an early sign of Young's eventual embrace by a number of punk-influenced alternative musicians.[5]

The song may best be known for the line "It's better to burn out than to fade away" (actually only spoken in full in the acoustic "My My, Hey Hey" and the Human Highway film recording[citation needed]). Kurt Cobain's suicide note ended with the same line,[4] shaking Young and inadvertently cementing his place as the so-called "Godfather of Grunge".[6][7]

Ex-Beatle John Lennon commented on the message of the song in a 1980 interview with David Sheff from Playboy:[8]

Sheff: You disagree with Neil Young's lyric in Rust Never Sleeps: "It's better to burn out than to fade away..." Lennon: I hate it. It's better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out. If he was talking about burning out like Sid Vicious, forget it. I don't appreciate the worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or dead John Wayne. It's the same thing. Making Sid Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison—it's garbage to me. I worship the people who survive—Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo. They're saying John Wayne conquered cancer—he whipped it like a man. You know, I'm sorry that he died and all that—I'm sorry for his family—but he didn't whip cancer. It whipped him. I don't want Sean worshiping John Wayne or Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious. What do they teach you? Nothing. Death. Sid Vicious died for what? So that we might rock? I mean, it's garbage you know. If Neil Young admires that sentiment so much, why doesn't he do it? Because he sure as hell faded away and came back many times, like all of us. No, thank you. I'll take the living and the healthy.

Young would reply two years later when asked to respond to Lennon's comments:

The rock'n'roll spirit is not survival. Of course the people who play rock'n'roll should survive. But the essence of the rock'n'roll spirit to me, is that it's better to burn out really bright than to sort of decay off into infinity. Even though if you look at it in a mature way, you'll think, "well, yes ... you should decay off into infinity, and keep going along". Rock'n'roll doesn't look that far ahead. Rock'n'roll is right now. What's happening right this second. Is it bright? Or is it dim because it's waiting for tomorrow—that's what people want to know. And that's why I say that.[8]

Oasis covered the song on their 2000 world tour, including it on their live album and DVD Familiar to Millions. The band acknowledged Cobain's attachment to the song by dedicating it to him when they played it in Seattle on the sixth anniversary of his death.[9] Scottish band Big Country recorded a version, which can be heard on their Under Covers album, and the remastered edition of their live album Without the Aid of a Safety Net. It is also used as live-intro to System of a Down's "Kill Rock 'n Roll" in some live performances.

It is included on Neil Young's Greatest Hits album.

Many other bands and singers have played or recorded covers of this song: System of a Down (Festival of Hurricane in 2005), Dave Matthews Band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Battleme (closing track of the Sons of Anarchy Season 3 finale), Rick Derringer, Nomeansno (FUBAR soundtrack), Mexican rock & roll band El Tri, Finnish glam rock band Negative, Argentine rock band La Renga, Chromatics, Jake Bugg (played live at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival), Axel Rudi Pell on his 2014 album Into the Storm. Romanian act Fjord covered the song for their 2016 album Textures.[10] Brazilian doom metal band HellLight recorded a version for an album of covers (The Light That Brought Darkness in 2012).[11] Blixa Bargeld and Teho Teardo covered the song on their 2017 album Fall.

The song is the title theme of Dennis Hopper's movie Out of the Blue.[12]

The song was included at number 93 in Bob Mersereau's book The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).


Courtney Love, singer for Hole and Cobain's widow, alludes both to this song and her husband's suicide note in the song "Reasons To Be Beautiful" from the album Celebrity Skin. In "Reasons To Be Beautiful," she changes the verse to "It's better to rise than fade away."

Def Leppard begins their song "Rock of Ages" with the lines "I got something to say / It's better to burn out than fade away"; the same lines were used in the movie Highlander by The Kurgan and used in the Queen song "Gimme The Prize (Kurgan's Theme)" on their A Kind Of Magic album.

Metalcore band Killswitch Engage have quoted the line in their song "New Awakening".

The lyrics of the song, in particular "out of the blue and into the black", are an epigraph and also a prominent feature in Stephen King's It.

Lana Del Rey mentions the song through the lyrics "out of the black, into the blue" on her song "Get Free" from her fifth studio album Lust for Life (Lana Del Rey album).


  1. ^ Boehm, Mike (August 12, 1989). "O.C. POP MUSIC REVIEW : Neil Young, 43, Finds an Angry Focus for '90s". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  2. ^ "Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps". Discogs. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  3. ^ Corbin Rieff (2014-07-02). "35 years ago:Neil Young releases 'Rust never sleeps'". Ultimate classic Rock. Townsquare Media Inc. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  4. ^ a b "This is the actual contents of Kurt Cobain's "suicide note"". Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  5. ^ Schneider, Martin. "DJ Johnny Rotten plays music from his own record collection on the radio, 1977". Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  6. ^ "Neil Young: Godfather of Grunge?". Thrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young Archives. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  7. ^ "Godfather of Grunge Neil Young to induct Pearl Jam into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Consequence of Sound. 2017-01-28. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  8. ^ a b "Neil and The Beatles". Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  9. ^ "Oasis Pay Tribute to Cobain". NME news. 2000-06-04.Retrieved December 15, 2007
  10. ^ FjordVEVO (2016-06-13), Fjord - Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) [Neil Young Cover Video], retrieved 2016-10-30
  11. ^ "Funeral Doom / The Light That Brought Darkness, by Helllight". Helllight. Retrieved 2016-11-01.
  12. ^ Janet Maslin (1983-04-08). "Out of the Blue". The New Yorker. The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-01-26.

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