If it seems as though in this space we’ve been celebrating a lot of albums that came out 50 years ago—1969—it’s just because there were so many fantastic records that were released during that year; truly it was one of popular music’s best years ever, in my opinion. Today’s Throwback track is one of four classic tunes that appeared on Neil Young’s phenomenal second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, released 50 years ago this past Wednesday (May 14, 1969)—the other three are the title song, “Cinnamon Girl,” and “Down By the River”; all four, amazingly enough, were written on the same day! If you’d been following Neil since his Buffalo Springfield days, you already knew he was a singular talent (“Expecting to Fly”! “Broken Arrow”!), and his eponymous first album, released just a few months before Everybody Knows… showed flashes of brilliance amid some rather unfortunate production choices made by the occasionally heavy-handed Jack Nitzsche. But Everybody Knows… was raw and real and it will be forever loved for unleashing Neil’s rough ‘n noisy, yet somehow perfect-for-him backing band, Crazy Horse, on unsuspecting world. Yay! Pass the ear plugs, please.
In the five decades since its unveiling, “Cowgirl in the Sand” has traditionally been a big, long jamming vehicle for Neil and Crazy Horse (and other bands he’s fronted), but he has also played it solo acoustic occasionally. Here’s a version from the 2004 edition of Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid benefit concerts. —Blair Jackson