Here’s a clip of everyone’s favourite Canadian ex-pat, Neil Young with a solo piano version his song “A Man Needs A Maid”, recorded in a more sumptuous manner on his 1972 album Harvest.

Neil YoungThis is actually my favourite song of his, and I love a good deal of them. One of the reasons is that it tends to live outside his usual oeuvre of folky-country or electric freak-out rock. It is wistfully orchestral, not unlike a Jimmy Webb tune. And the lyrics are very clunky in places, yet the clunkiness works, just because this is a song about trying to express oneself, and finding that the words just aren’t available. It’s a love song for those who know that navigating through it is treacherous. And although it is about being in love, it’s also the song for someone who is very lonely at the same time.

The song was recorded using the London Symphony Orchestra on the record, along with another tune; “There’s a World”. But, more recently it was featured on the ‘official bootleg’ Live at Massey Hall 1971 a concert recorded a year before Harvest came out. And on that version of the song, it is presented much like it is here – just stark piano and voice. Young introduces it as a new song, a “showtune from the movie of my life”.

The shock of hearing it presented so nakedly was quite a delightful on first hearing, since it revealed even more of the vulnerability which lies at the core of the song. Also on that version, he adds a middle section which is made up of another song, which hadn’t been fully formed at that point – “Heart of Gold” – a song which would make Neil Young a star.


2 thoughts on “Neil Young Performs “A Man Needs A Maid”

  1. Great song. Initially it was my favorite song from what is still my favorite Neil Young album.

    Later, however, I came to think that “Out On the Weekend”, “Alabama”, and the title track are even better.

  2. Hey Tom,

    It took a while for this tune to take hold for me, just because it is so overwrought in its arrangement, and the lines “I was thinking maybe I’d get a maid/Find a place nearby for her to stay/Just someone to keep my house clean/Fix my meals, and go away” are just so oddly random. For a while, I just never took it seriously.

    Yet, when it hit me that the song was about dealing with everyday life while also being in love and feeling really vulnerable, the tune just opened right up for me. I heard that this is Bob Dylan’s favourite Neil Young song. Hey, if Bob says it, it must be true. 🙂

    And you’re right – Harvest is a great record. In many ways, it should be pretty uneven, just because it covers a lot of bases stylistically in a way that After the Gold Rush doesn’t (although I think I like AtGR a bit better…). Yet, the individual songs shine, and so the record’s quality quotient is pushed through the roof. The ones you mentioned are excellent tunes, yet in some ways they shouldn’t fit on the same record. Except that they do. And not a bad effort for someone who suffered from chronic back pain at the time, and recorded the album while wearing a body brace!

    Thanks for comments as always!

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