Saturday, March 25, 1972

America “A Horse with No Name” hit #1

A Horse with No Name


Writer(s): Dewey Bunnell (see lyrics here)

Released: November 12, 1971

First Charted: December 18, 1971

Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 12 GR, 13 HR, 3 AC, 1 CL. 3 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 18.59 video, 458.75 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley were American kids who were sons of fathers in the Air Force based in England. They met at London’s Central High School, a school primarily for children of military families, FB and “bonded over the shimmering, heavily harmonized folk-rock that was coming out of California. When they started a band, they called themselves America because they didn’t want anyone to get the idea that they were English kids trying to sound American.” SG

They released their self-titled debut in the UK in 1970. They wanted to release the ballad “I Need You” as a single, but the label was more interested in releasing a new song the band initially called “Desert Song” which they thought “would be a fun little novelty…that…was too weird to be a big success.” SG The non-album single was named “A Horse with No Name” and took off. When they released it in the U.S., the song was added to the debut album.

The song is “about finding an existential epiphany after a trip through the desert.” SG Bunnell, who was 19 when he wrote it, said it was about “solitary thinking in a peaceful place.” SG He was “inspired by a homesickness for America and the desert countryside he remembered when he lived briefly at Vandenberg Air Force base” FB in California.

The song “is hazy and memorable” SG despite some “real lyrical clunkers…that nobody older than 19 would’ve been able to sing with a straight face;” SG lines like “There were plants and birds and rocks and things” and “The heat was hot.” Of course the question the song has raised since the beginning is why doesn’t the protagonist name horse after nine days in the desert? Bunnell also distractingly “sounds a whole lot like Neil Young” SG with his “very distinct vocal tone, an airy high-lonesome quaver.” SG

Despite that, “’A Horse With No Name’ works. There’s a warm, cloudy sense of mystery to the song. The band (and the session musicians who filled out the song) play with a real confidence. It’s full of neat production touches: murmuring bongo drums, a politely meandering bassline, a darting-hummingbird dual guitar lead that nods to flamenco without giving into it altogether. The harmonies add a mythic out-of-time quality even as they imitate what Young’s buddies Crosby, Stills & Nash were doing at the time, and the arrangement builds to a pleasant swirl.” SG


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for America
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 309.
  • SG Stereogum (2/22/2019). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 7/13/2022; last updated 12/6/2022.

Saturday, March 18, 1972

Neil Young hit #1 with “Heart of Gold”

Heart of Gold

Neil Young

Writer(s): Neil Young (see lyrics here)

First Charted: January 29, 1972

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 12 GR, 11 HR, 8 AC, 1 CL, 10 UK, 12 CN, 14 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 4.0 radio, 92.0 video, 373.84 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Critic John Rockwell once called Neil Young “the quintessential hippie-cowboy loner.” FB The legendary artist first made a name for himself with Buffalo Springfield in the late ‘60s before striking out on his own. In 1970, he collaborated with Crosby, Stills & Nash, contributing classics like “Ohio” and “Helpless” before returning to his solo career. In 1972, he found his biggest success with Harvest, his fourth solo album. The album produced the only top-40 hits of his solo career with the chart-topping “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man.”

Harvest and “Heart of Gold” were perfect representations of the ‘70s singer/songwriter era, when adult-contemporary and folk-driven artists like Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor found huge mainstream success. Both of them lent their backup vocals to “Heart of Gold.” They were in Nashville to perform on Johnny Cash’s TV show and Elliot Mazer, the producer for Harvest, invited them to perform on the album. WK

During the recording of the album, Young was wearing a brace because of a back injury. He explained that it made the album mellower because he couldn’t stand for long periods of time to play electric guitar, but he could play acoustic sitting down. All Music Guide’s Denise Sullivan called it “the ultimate campire song,” AMG noting that it is marked by “a little harmonica, a little peddle steel, his natural twang, and two simple verses that speak of the universal condition.” AMG “Heart of Gold” served as the “perfect expression of the brooding idiosyncratic artist at the height of his quest.” FB

It featured “one of Young’s most haunting, memorable melodies, sung in his usual broken voice.” TB Bob Dylan said that while he always liked Neil Young, he despised “Heart of Gold” because it was the only time it bothered him that someone else sounded like him. WK Young himself has knocked it, saying in the liner notes for his 1977 Decade compilation, “This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch.”

A wide variety of artists have recorded the song, including Tori Amos, Boney M, Johnny Cash, Bettye LaVette, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Passenger, Roxette, and James Taylor. WK


Related Links:

First posted 2/5/2021; last updated 4/28/2024.

Saturday, March 11, 1972

Neil Young’s Harvest hits #1 in the U.S. and U.K.


Neil Young

Released: February 14, 1972

Peak: 12 US, 11 UK, 12 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF

Sales (in millions): 4.3 US, 0.9 UK, 16.1 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: folk rock


Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Out on the Weekend [4:35]
  2. Harvest [3:03]
  3. A Man Needs a Maid [4:00]
  4. Heart of Gold [3:05] (2/5/72, #1 US, #10 UK, #8 AC, sales: 1.0 m)
  5. Are You Ready for the Country? [3:21]
  6. Old Man [3:22] (4/29/72, #31 US)
  7. There’s a World [3:00]
  8. Alabama [4:02]
  9. The Needle and the Damage Done [2:00] (7/17/93, #75 UK)
  10. Words (Between the Lines of Age) [6:42]

All songs written by Neil Young.

Total Running Time: 37:10

The Players:

  • Neil Young (vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica)
  • Ben Keith (pedal steel guitar)
  • Jack Nitzsche (arrangements on “A Man Needs a Maid” and “There’s a World,” lap steel guitar on “Are You Ready for the Country?,” piano on “Alabama” and “Words”)
  • Tim Drummond (bass)
  • Kenny Buttrey (drums)
  • Teddy Irwin (second acoustic guitar on “Heart of Gold”)
  • John Harris (piano on “Harvest”)
  • James McMahon (piano on “Old Man”)
  • James Taylor (banjo and backing vocals on “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”)
  • Linda Ronstadt (backing vocals on “Heart of Gold” and Old Man”)
  • David Crosby (backing vocals on “Are You Ready for the Country?” and “Alabama”)
  • Stephen Stills (backing vocals on “Alabama” and “Words”)
  • Graham Nash (backing vocals on “Are You Ready for the Country?” and “Words”)
  • London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Meecham (on “A Man Needs a Maid” and “There’s a World”)


4.255 out of 5.00 (average of 29 ratings)


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Young’s previous two solo efforts, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush, mined gritty rock anthems and folky love songs to perfection.” SY He followed that with Harvest, which featured “the solitary troubadour…at his most elegiac.” ZS With a crew of session players he recorded in a “country-folk vein” SY in Nashville but also “employ[ed] a number of jarringly different styles” AMG including “an acoustic track [and] a couple of electric guitar-drenched rock performances.” AMG “But the album does have an overall mood and an overall lyric content, and they conflict with each other: the mood is melancholic, but the songs mostly describe the longing for and fulfillment of new love.” AMG

Ultimately the overall “sound was Americana…stripped down and rebuilt with every jagged edge exposed.” RS500 That means “much of it is country-tinged” AMG such as on Are You Ready for the Country, when “Young detoured briefly to the Nashville mainstream.” AZ

“Young’s concerns are perhaps most explicit on the controversial” AMG and “string-drenched domesticity” SY of A Man Needs a Maid. The song, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, as was There’s a World, “contrasts the fears of committing to a relationship with simply living alone and hiring help.” AMG

“His usual dissonant touches, like the otherworldly guitar in Out on the Weekend, are less spooky in this new context.” AZ Songs like “the hypnotic rocker” AZ Words (Between the Lines of Age), with “a little distorted guitar along the way,” AD “predict Tonight’s the Night, Young’s haunted 1975 classic.” AZ

“The singer’s acquired-taste voice comes across smooth and beautiful” AZ in songs like the aforementioned “Out on the Weekend” and “rolling laments like Old ManSY which “are unusually melodic and accessible.” AMG Nowhere is this more apparent than Heart of Gold, “by far Young’s most commercial-sounding song,” AZ complete with “steel guitars and Linda Ronstadt’s backup vocals.” AZ The latter “helped set the stage for the Seventies soft-rock explosion.” RS500

“Much of the album was written whilst Neil was in love, a new blooming love affair.” AD As such, “Neil sounds yearning and the lyrics are very evocative” AD on the title cut. “The steel guitar, the piano – the backing track is perfectly done, beautifully felt – a real classic song, no question.” AD

“The harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction” AMG on “the deceptively gentle” AZ The Needle and the Damage Done is “one of the most poignant songs about drug addiction ever recorded.” ZS It is a “haunting” and “honest plea” which was recorded live. AD This and the love songs “remain among Young’s most affecting and memorable songs.” AMG

In reference to the album’s “simple arrangements, simple songs” AD some “critics accused him of dumbing down at the time.” JI Although Harvest “lacked the through-the-night-until-the-morning-after crush of its predecessors” SY it “can now be seen as simply another facet of Young’s musical personality, representing the acoustic, pastoral idyll that usually preceded another barrage of electric howl.” JI In any event, it was Young’s “most popular album” AMG and sealed his “voice-of-a-generation fate.” SY

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Neil Young
  • AMG All Music Guide review by William Ruhlmann
  • AZ review by Steve Knopper
  • AD Adrian Denning
  • JI Jim Irvin (editor). (2000). The Mojo Collection: The Greatest Albums of All Time. Mojo Books: Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  • SY Stylus Magazine’s Top 101-200 Favourite Albums Ever by Stylus staff (3/22/04).
  • TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. Page 133.
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 246.

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 11/11/2012; last updated 7/17/2023.