Monday, August 31, 1970

Neil Young released After the Gold Rush: August 31, 1970

Originally posted August 31, 2012.

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Release date: 31 August 1970
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Tell Me Why / After the Gold Rush / Only Love Can Break Your Heart (10/24/70, #33 US) / Southern Man / Till the Morning Comes / Oh, Lonesome Me / Don’t Let It Bring You Down / Birds / When You Dance You Can Really Love (4/10/71, #93 US) / Believe in You / Cripple Creek Ferry

Sales (in millions): 2.5 US, 0.6 UK, 5.5 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 8 US, 7 UK


Review: Given Young’s already diverse discography at this point in his career, it was anyone’s guess what he would deliver for his third solo album. He’d already been a part of the hugely influential group Buffalo Springfield, released a folk-and-country oriented solo album, and the “brain-shredding guitar powerhouse” TL Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. Earlier that year he gave the already successful Crosby, Stills & Nash another dose of clout when they teamed for the blockbuster album, Déjà Vu.

The two cuts he contributed to that album (“Helpless” and “Country Girl”) “returned him to the folk and country styles he had pursued before delving into the hard rock of Everybody Knows.” AMG They also set the course for After the Gold Rush, an album in which he “laid claim to the field of sensitive singer-songwriters” RV by crafting a collection of “country-folk love songs.” AMG

The album “matched the tenor of the times in 1970.” AMG Its “dark yet hopeful tone” AMG “represents the morning after the mayhem, both personal and cultural – the sound of Young waking up with a post-‘60s hangover, catching his breath, and trying to sort through the wreckage.” TL

Southern Man (live with Crosby, Stills & Nash)

Young “balances masterful hard rockers…with beautiful acoustic songs.” DBW In regards to the former, Southern Man was one of the album’s “few real rockers,” AMG showing a talent for tackling “political issues with angry, cranked-up guitars.” RV With “unsparing protest lyrics typical of Phil Ochs” AMG the song “attacked the racism inherent in Southern culture of the day.” RV

Meanwhile the “subdued title track laments the destruction of the earth” RV serving up “apocalyptic doom-saying juxtaposed with delicate piano.” EK It “evokes perfectly the circa-1970 shift between the naiveté of the hippie dream and the paranoia that would come to strike even deeper.” EK It is “a mystical ballad that featured some of Young’s most imaginative lyrics and became one of his most memorable songs.” AMG

After the Gold Rush

“Much like Bob Dylan, Neil Young has a not-conventionally-attractive voice, and both of them have an ability to write the kind of indelible melodies that make their songs pop even when the singer’s larynx falls short.” EK Throughout the album “the arrangements are simple, with none of Young’s earlier studio trickery or multi-part mini-symphonies. He ends each side with brief piano-led melodies you wish would go on longer (Cripple Creek Ferry, Till the Morning Comes).” DBW

“Young’s own perverse appreciation for roots music, which he’s returned to again and again throughout his career, is on display as he transforms Don Gibson’s jaunty 1958 country classic Oh Lonesome Me into the moper’s lament that it probably always was under the surface.” EK

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

“Only Neil Young could have written the chilling Don’t Let It Bring You Down or the homespun Only Love Can Break Your Heart – much less both on the same album.” TL The latter is “one of Young’s most beautiful tracks” RV marked by “his distinctively off-center whine warns of the perils of new love.” RV

In the end this is “one of the definitive singer/songwriter albums, and it has remained among Young’s major achievements.” AMGAfter the Gold Rush hits the sweet spot between his ‘popular’ work and his ‘difficult’ work.” EK “Much of what Young has done throughout his career…can be found crystallized right here.” EK “It’s brilliant all the way through” JA and “Neil is close to his peak here.” JA

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Saturday, August 29, 1970

Edwin Starr “War” hit #1


Edwin Starr

Writer(s): Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong (see lyrics here)

Released: June 10, 1970

First Charted: July 11, 1970

Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 11 HR, 3 RB, 3 UK, 1 CN, 37 AU, 5 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 25.4 video, 85.89 streaming


Bruce Springsteen

Recorded: September 30, 1985 (live)

Released: November 10, 1986

First Charted: November 21, 1986

Peak: 8 US, 9 CB, 12 RR, 4 AR, 18 UK, 11 CN, 38 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2.5 video, -- streaming

Awards (Edwin Starr):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Springsteen):

About the Song:

Motown liked to recycle songs amongst their roster of artists. In 1967, Gladys Knight & the Pips hit #2 with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” The next year, Marvin Gaye took it to #1. 1967 also saw Gaye paired with Tammi Terrell for the top-20 hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” a song which would top the charts in 1970 – in fact, it knocked Edwin Starr’s “War” from the perch.

“War” was another of those recycled songs. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who also penned “Grapevine.” They also wrote several top-10 hits for the Temptations, including the #1 “I Can’t Get Next to You.” The pair wrote everything for the Temptations’ 1970 album Psychedelic Shack, which included the non-single “War.” The song was “a hard, intense stomp-chant, as visceral as what the moment demanded.” SG Motown received hundreds of letters pleading for them to release it as a single FB but head honcho Berry Gordy was leary to unleash an anti-war song SG on the group’s “large and surprisinginly conservative Black middle-class audience.” BD

Whitfield asked Edwin Starr if he’d like to record it. FB He was “a journeyman soul belter who was low on the Motown totem pole.” SG Essentially he had “no fan fase to alienate.” BD He’d been signed to the label in 1966, but didn’t record anything for two-and-a-half years while contract negotiations stalled. FB Finally, in 1969 he found success with the top-10 hit “Twenty-Five Miles,” but it was followed by several failed singles.

The Temptations’ version of “War” “is nasty and funky, but it’s not the vein-throbbing wail that it would eventually become.” SG Starr’s version “was harder and choppier, all its power coming from that merciless rhythmic march…The groove is huge and all-consuming…There’s fuzz all over the guitars, and a nervous tambourine tingles all through it. This is weaponized music, music that’s impossible to ignore.” SG Vocally, Starr “swipe[s] all of [James] Brown’s affectations, right down to that perfectly placed ‘good God, y’all’ on the chorus.” SG

Bob Dylan says, “One can’t help but wonder whether or not the peacenik sentiment behind the song was sincere or merely the next relevant subject to be mined in the attempt to reach Young America’s wallets…Even if it was a blatant exploitation of the peace movement, it’s still a stronger song than ‘Eve of Destruction.’” BD It is ironic that the song asking, “war, what is it good for?” is co-written by Barrett Strong who gave Motown “its first hit, that oft-covered anthem of avarice – ‘Money.’” BD

In 1985, Bruce Springsteen performed “War” while touring in support of his monstrously successful Born in the U.S.A. album. The song was featured on the monstrously successful live box set in 1986 and was released as a single. Before singing, Springsteen offers his own perspective on the Vietnam War, for which he received a draft notice but then failed his physical. He warns the young members of the audience that the next time the country may come looking to them and that “blind faith in your leaders, or anything, will get you killed.”


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Edwin Starr
  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Bruce Springsteen
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 280.
  • BD Bob Dylan (2022). The Philosophy of Modern Song. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Pages 211-5.
  • SG Stereogum (1/10/2019). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 11/5/2022.

Friday, August 7, 1970

Black Sabbath “Paranoid” single released


Black Sabbath

Writer(s): Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward (see lyrics here)

Released: August 7, 1970

First Charted: August 29, 1970

Peak: 61 US, 79 CB, 58 HR, 1 CL, 25 AR, 4 UK, 54 CN, 18 AU, 5 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.6 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 287.42 video, 1028.21 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The “three-chord classic [was] dashed off as last-minute album filler.” GW It was written and recorded so quickly that Ozzy Osbourne was reading the lyrics as he was singing. SF Tony Iommi wrote the “simple riff that chugged, paused, and kept prowling, like a predator always in search of its next meal” PF while the rest of the band headed to the bar. PF “The driving guitar and bass create a nervous energy to go along with Ozzy Osbourne’s desperate vocal.” SF

Lyrics for Black Sabbath songs were generally left to bassist Geezer Butler because, as Ozzy and guitarist Tony Iommi have said, they considered him the intelligent one. SF However, Butler said, “Basically, it’s just about depression, because I didn’t really know the difference between depression and paranoia. It’s a drug thing; when you’re smoking a joint you get totally paranoid…you can’t relate to people.” SF The song “foregrounds an adolescent sort of worry – about being depressed and not understanding the symptoms or root of it, about crying when others laugh, about breaking up with someone because ‘she couldn’t help me with my mind.’” PF The word “paranoid” is never used in the lyrics.

The record company, Vertigo, heard a hit and issued the “three-minute assault” PF as a single just six months after the band had released its debut album. Vertigo also pushed for renaming the album Paranoid (instead of the originally planned War Pigs) “to remind potential customers of the song they’d seen four long-haired weirdos headbang to on Top of the Pops.” PF “Despite virtually nonexistent radio play,” AMG “Paranoid” charted in the United States in an era “when it was far more fashionable to sing gentle acoustic songs about ‘getting back to the garden.’” GW

It “isn’t only a heavy-metal classic, but “presaged the coming of punk rock.” GW Cash Box said the “crashing, non-stop beat with gobs of bass and drums laced liberally with stinging, echoey vocals and hot guitar licks move the song along at a blistering pace.” WK The magazine also described it “as dense, musically as ‘Whole Lotta Love.’” WK The song has amusingly achieved the same level in Finland as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” has in the United States where the audiences humorously request the song during other peoples’ concerts. WK


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First posted 3/14/2022; last updated 4/10/2024.