Neil Young: “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (1970)

His first Top 40 single is said to have a pair of famous lovebirds as its backdrop.

Kronomyth 3.1: It’s only castles burning.

The first single from Neil Young’s brilliant third album, After The Gold Rush, was this endearing waltz. Only Love Can Break Your Heart shows a softer side of Neil Young, the sort of thing that might have felt at home on a Todd Rundgren or Carole King album. In other words, probably not exhibit A when discussing the man’s best work, but still craggy enough to avoid the middle of the road, more melancholy than mellow. The song is purportedly about Graham Nash’s breakup with Joni Mitchell, in case you care about these things.

The B side is a very different version of Birds that features a full backing band instead of the elpee version’s stark piano accompaniment. Though shorter, it’s the superior version in my book, and moves with the kind of cool stride that made you think of Neil Young as Bob Dylan’s crankier cousin. That’s probably Neil playing vibes on the song, an instrument you don’t immediately associate with the man.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. Only Love Can Break You Heart (Neil Young) (3:13)
B1. Birds (Neil Young) (1:38)

Japanese 7-inch single version
A1. Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Neil Young) (3:05)
B1. The Loner (Neil Young) (3:55)

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single reissue (Spain)
A1. Solamente el Amor Puede Romper Tu Corazon (Neil Young) (3:13)
B1. Viejecito (Old Man) (Neil Young) (3:17)

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch single in October 1970* in the US, Canada and the Philippines (Reprise, 0958) , on November 6, 1970 in the UK (Reprise, RS.20598) and in 1970 in Australia (Reprise, R-0958), Germany (Reprise, RA 0958), the Netherlands (Reprise, R 0958) and New Zealand (Reprise, RO.958), and in January 1971 in Japan (Reprise, P-1004R) with regional picture sleeve. *First appeared in 10/17/70 issue of Billboard.

  1. Re-released with “Old Man” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in 1972 in Spain (Reprise, HS-873) with picture sleeve.

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