The Loner (Neil Young song)

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"The Loner"
Single by Neil Young
from the album Neil Young
B-side "Sugar Mountain"
Released February 21, 1969
Format 45 rpm record
Recorded August–October, 1968 at
Wally Heider Recording, Sunset Sound Recorders, and TTG Recording, Hollywood CA
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:05 single version, 3:55 album version
Label Reprise 0785
Songwriter(s) Neil Young
Producer(s) Neil Young and David Briggs
Neil Young singles chronology
"The Loner"
"Down by the River"
"The Loner"
"Down by the River"

"The Loner" is a song by Neil Young, his first solo single. It was released on his solo debut album in November 1968, and then an edited version as his debut solo single three months later on Reprise Records. It missed the Billboard Hot 100 chart completely, but over time has become a staple of his performance repertoire. Both it and "Sugar Mountain", its B-side recorded live at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, were released on album together for his 1977 compilation, Decade.


"The Loner" was written while Buffalo Springfield was in its last throes. The widely held assumption that the song was written about Stephen Stills (who covered the song on his 1976 album Illegal Stills) can perhaps not be disproved (Young himself rarely provides clarity on such issues), but it is perhaps more likely that the song is autobiographical in nature, especially since Young was, of all Springfield members, the most bothered by playing as a member of a band.[1]

Recorded with former Springfield member Jim Messina (bass) and George Grantham (drums) (they were uncredited on the album sleeve), it is the first Young track produced by David Briggs, with whom Young would collaborate until Briggs's death.[1] Strings were arranged by David Blumberg, whom Young met through Briggs.[2] Young's guitar is in Double drop D tuning;[3] "psycho guitar noises" were made, according to Briggs, by putting the guitar through a Leslie speaker[4] (the sound has also been referred to as a "fuzztoned rave-up"[5]). The lyrics are characterized by dread and disorientation, coming from an "immobile protagonist" who "witnesses extraordinary visual displays".[6]

Praise came quickly, for instance in the album review in Rolling Stone: "'The Loner' is a contemporary lament that features a nice blending of Neil's guitar with strings in non-obtrusive fashion, allowing Young's balanced ice-pick vocal to chip effectively at the listener."[7] The song is still played live, as is one other song from Neil Young, "The Old Laughing Lady".[1] Stephen Stills has played the song live with and without Young.[8][9]

Notable covers[edit]

"The Loner" has been covered by the following artists:


  1. ^ a b c d Williamson, Nigel (2002). Journey Through the Past: The Stories Behind the Classic Songs of Neil Young. Hal Leonard. pp. 21–22. ISBN 9780879307417. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Young, Scott (2009). Neil and Me. Random House. p. 117. ISBN 9780771070594. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  3. ^ "Neil's Alternate Tunings". HyperRust. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  4. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2003). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. Random House. p. 443. ISBN 9780679750963. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Prown, Pete; Newquist, Harvey P.; Eiche, Jon F. (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Hal Leonard. p. 116. ISBN 9780793540426. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Echard, William (2005). Neil Young And The Poetics Of Energy. Indiana UP. pp. 15–16. ISBN 9780253217684. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  7. ^ Tersch, Gary von (5 April 1969). "Rev. of Neil Young, Neil Young". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  8. ^ Zimmer, Dave (2008-09-23). Crosby, Stills & Nash: The Biography. Da Capo Press. p. 199. ISBN 9780306816154. 
  9. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2003). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. Random House. p. 709. ISBN 9780679750963. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  10. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2003). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. Random House. p. 402. ISBN 9780679750963. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 

External links[edit]