Like a Hurricane – Neil Young – 1977

One of the best guitar songs of all time by one of the most influential rock musicians of all time – Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane remains an integral part of his live concerts.

no singing – doctor’s orders

In 1975 Neil had an operation to remove nodes on his vocal cords. He was unable to sing or even talk for a while. During that time he began to write Like a Hurricane. It began as a simple guitar lick and the line,

You are like a hurricane, there’s storm in your eye…

As part of his recovery, Neil and some mates went on a road trip. It was on that trip that he and his neighbour Taylor Phelps, sitting in the back of Neil’s DeSoto Suburban, that the song was completed. Although, there are other versions to the story of where Like a Hurricane came from (see like a hurricane fax below).

First released on Neil’s 1977 album American Stars ‘n’ Bars, Like a Hurricane was released as a single on August 8, 1977 and has been included in almost every one of Neil’s live concerts since.

rust never sleeps

So, I’ll never forget the movie Rust Never Sleeps thanks more to the audience than the actual movie. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is great but…

There we are in the Civic watching one of the world’s great guitarists when suddenly there’s a bit of a commotion up the back and all the lights go on. Some old geezer (probably younger than what I am now!) has had a heart attack. So, there are paramedics and stretcher bearers and general panic all around. Fortunately the old boy was okay. He’s carted off to hospital and the movie resumes.

The highlight of the movie, for me, will always be the haunting guitar of Like a Hurricane (although only marginally ahead of the wonderful Cortez the Killer).

It’s obvious others are enjoying this movie because people are standing on their seats dancing! And, as it comes to an end – to the strains of the Jimi Hendrix version of The Star Spangled Banner – and the credits roll up the screen, a section of the audience are clapping, cheering and shouting towards the screen, “more, more, more.”

For the record, Neil doesn’t return to the stage.

NB – The movie was produced by Bernard Shakey, the pseudonym Neil uses for his movie production.

like a hurricane fax

  • Neil wrote Like a Hurricane for a girl named Gail. He’d broken up with his wife, actress Carrie Snodgress, about a year before. He met Gail in a bar. In Neil’s biography Shakey it quotes, Neil’s neighbour Taylor Phelps as saying;

Neil had this amazing intense attraction to this particular woman named Gail – it didn’t happen, he didn’t go home with her. We go back to the ranch and Neil started playing. Young was completely possessed, pacing around the room, hunched over a Stringman keyboard pounding out the song. Neil had just the two lines,

You are like a hurricane, there’s calm in your eye.

It took his band, Crazy Horse, around ten days of work at Neil’s ranch before the song fell into place and was completed.

  • In 1993, Neil recorded an acoustic version for the MTV Unplugged show. The album from that show charted at #4 on the UK album chart and #23 in the US.,
  • Like a Hurricane has been covered by Roxy Music (released the live albums The High Road and Heart Still Beating). Heather Nova and Placebo also recorded live versions. Jeff Healey covered the song on his 2008 album Mess of Blues and Adam Sandler sang it on a 2009 episode of the Late Show with David Letterman to promote the release of Covered, A Revolution in Sound; an album featuring Warner Brothers artists performing cover songs. Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings released an album of cover songs – Bachman-Cummings Jukebox – in 2008 which featured Like a Hurricane. And, finally, Dave Matthews Band sang Like a Hurricane at a concert in August 2011 in reference to their next two shows having to be cancelled by the impending Hurricane Irene.
  • Theresa Andersson sings Like a Hurricane it in the 2006 film New Orleans Music in Exile, a movie that follows the events after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Like a Hurricane lyrics.

like a hurricane – Neil Young – 1977

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2 Responses to Like a Hurricane – Neil Young – 1977

  1. finnattic says:

    Use to be my favorite but as you know having thrashed it so much it has become just one of many equally great songs to me by Neil. We didnt get to hear it at the Big Day Out but it was such a great concert it didnt seem to matter. The God Father of grunge has just got better and better with age something that can’t be said for a lot of acts touring these days.

  2. Greg.K. says:

    Well said Finnattic. As you say, there are dozens of GREAT Neil songs. I like the Country ones too – Comes a Time etc.

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