Waiting to collect Jamie this afternoon after his fencing training I flicked through the catalogue on my iPhone until I (re)stumbled upon Neil Young’s Heart of Gold. I tapped the screen and fell into the Canadian drawl, soft acoustic guitar, and understated harmonica that delivers the tune. It’s a classic track on Harvest, a great rock album from the early 1970s where the Vietnam War rolled on and most of the protest singers followed Dylan’s lead and plugged in.

After letting it play through once, I tapped to play it again and then hit repeat – this is a song you can play on repeat, a background to whatever else you are doing, never overwhelming you but just ‘there’. I was skipping through emails and catching up on what I had missed in the news during the day, letting Young’s voice mixed with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor in the closing verse get me through the updates from Instapundit and Hacker News.

It’s a simple song, rather Dylanesque in its structure and themes, and it’s one that Neil Young would return to 25 years later when writing for the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Looking Forward. Check out the guitar parts below – first Heart of Gold, then Slowpoke – and tell me they aren’t the same.

But you can hardly blame the guy for wanting another #1 hit, can you?

I’ve read around the place that you can get a lot of work done if you play the same song over and over on your headphones rather than changing up tracks every three or four minutes. The idea seems to be that if you have music in the background and it is repeating itself every couple of minutes you eventually zone it out much the same as you would the background noise in a cafe. Heart of Gold is that sort of song for me: touching, deep, but able to sit there in the background and just wash over you.

Worth a listen, and personally I reckon it is a better track than Slowpoke

Image by NRK P3.

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