The “Listen Again” series went over well enough that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some TV executives and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. In this edition we revisit Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
For those not up on their classic rock history, Young is a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist who was once a member of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is his second studio album released on Reprise Records. It was his first platter with his backing band Crazy Horse: Danny Whitten (guitar and backing vocals), Billy Talbot (bass) and Ralph Molina (drums and backing vocals).
They stepped into the studios in Hollywood as 1969 opened. By the time they came out that March they had produced an early critical classic. The seven-track album opens on “Cinnamon Girl” which Young wrote in double-drop D tuning (like “Ohio”) while sick with the flu. (It remains one of his finest songs to date.)
The second selection is the titular track “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”. While perhaps not as significant as the prior piece it was nevertheless a quality cut and quickly became a favorite on FM radio stations. The same can be said for “Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long)” which followed.
Side one ends on another song to receive heavy radio play– “Down by the River”. This is another song Young wrote while sick and feverish. It tells the tuneful tale of a man who shoots his lover like in the 1960s Leaves’ song made famous by Jimi Hendrix “Hey Joe”.
The flip side lead-in is “The Losing End (When You’re On)”. This like all the songs here is an original Young composition. The next number is the lesser known, pleading “Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)” which features guest musician Bobby Notkoff on violin.
The closing cut is “Cowgirl in the Sand”. This is the longest track on the record with a running time of over 10 minutes. It’s also the third song on the LP that Young wrote with a 103 °F (39.5 °C) fever and it’s based on a basic chord progression that goes from major chord to minor chord. It is unclear as to whether the song is about one promiscuous girl or three different girls and Young has never clarified.
Released in May of the same year on the Reprise label, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere had a running time of over 40 minutes. It rose to number 34 the US Billboard 200 (and eventually went platinum). The release would remain significant as in 2003 Rolling Stone magazine slotted it in at number 208 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
In 2009 it would be remastered and released on HDCD-encoded compact disc as part of the Neil Young Archives Original Release Series and on vinyl separately and as part of a special limited edition box-set of Young’s first 4 albums. More recently, Allmusic rated the release five out of five stars. The departure from the polished presentation of the previous release while questioned by a few actually made it even more interesting and significant.
Songs such as “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down by the River,” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” allowed audiophiles to experience Young’s improvisational efforts, the oft’times ominous tone of his vocals and the change in his overall approach. This made Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere/Rep. K-2282 a memorable, lasting, critical success.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.