The Needle and the Damage Done ~ Neil Young

neil-youngNeil Young, OC OM  is a Canadian singer-songwriter and musician. He began performing in a group covering Shadows instrumentals in Canada in 1960, before moving to California in 1966, where he co-founded the band Buffalo Springfield together with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, and later joined Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969. He released his first album in 1968 and has since forged a successful and acclaimed solo career, spanning over 45 years and 35 studio albums, with a continuous and uncompromising exploration of musical styles. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website describes Young as “one of rock and roll’s greatest songwriters and performers”.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice, first as a solo artist in 1995, and second as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.

Young’s music is characterized by his distinctive guitar work, deeply personal lyrics and characteristic alto or high tenor singing voice. Although he accompanies himself on several different instruments, including piano and harmonica, his idiosyncratic electric and acoustic guitar playing are the defining characteristics of a varyingly ragged and melodic sound.

While Young has experimented with differing music styles throughout a varied career, including electronic music, most of his best known work is either acoustic folk-rock and country rock or electric, amplified hard rock (most often in collaboration with the band Crazy Horse). Musical styles such as alternative rock and grunge also adopted elements from Young. His influence has caused some to dub him the “Godfather of Grunge”.

Young has directed (or co-directed) a number of films using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, including Journey Through the Past (1973), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Human Highway (1982), Greendale (2003), and CSNY/Déjà Vu (2008). He has also contributed to the soundtracks of films including Philadelphia (1993) and Dead Man (1995).

Young is an environmentalist and outspoken advocate for the welfare of small farmers, having co-founded in 1985 the benefit concert Farm Aid. He is currently working on a documentary about electric car technology, tentatively titled LincVolt. The project involves his 1959 Lincoln Continental converted to hybrid technology as an environmentalist statement.  In 1986, Young helped found The Bridge School,  an educational organization for children with severe verbal and physical disabilities, and its annual supporting Bridge School Benefit concerts, together with his ex-wife Pegi Young (née Morton). Young has three children: sons Zeke (born during his relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress) and Ben, who were diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and daughter Amber Jean who, like Young, has epilepsy. Young lives on his ranch near La Honda, California. Although he has lived in northern California since the 1970s and sings as frequently about U.S. themes and subjects as he does about his native country, he has retained his Canadian citizenship.  On July 14, 2006, Young was awarded the Order of Manitoba, and on December 30, 2009, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

The Needle and the Damage Done

The Needle and the Damage Done” is a song by Neil Young that describes the destruction caused by the heroin addiction of musicians he knew. Though not specifically about him, the song was inspired by the heroin addiction of his friend and Crazy Horse bandmate Danny Whitten. It previews the theme of the Tonight’s the Night album that reflects Young’s grief over the heroin overdose and death of both Whitten and Bruce Berry, a roadie for Young and Crazy Horse.

“The Needle and the Damage Done” first appeared on the Harvest album in 1972. Rather than re-recording it, he selected a live version from January 1971. It appeared on the compilation albums Decade and Greatest Hits. On the handwritten liner notes included in Decade, Young had this to say about the song: “I am not a preacher, but drugs killed a lot of great men.”

It appeared on the 2007 album Live at Massey Hall 1971. The album captured Young’s introduction of his song thus:

Ever since I left Canada, about five years ago or so… and moved down south… found out a lot of things that I didn’t know when I left. Some of ’em are good, and some of ’em are bad. Got to see a lot of great musicians before they happened… before they became famous… y’know, when they were just gigging. Five and six sets a night… things like that. And I got to see a lot of, um, great musicians who nobody ever got to see. For one reason or another. But… strangely enough, the real good ones… that you never got to see was… ’cause of, ahhm, heroin. An’ that started happening over an’ over. Then it happened to someone that everyone knew about. So I just wrote a little song.

The Song in Popular Culture

  • The song was the inspiration for The Sisters of Mercy’s first 7″ single, “The Damage Done” (1980).
  • The title was also used as the album title for the second installment of the Nirvana Outcesticide bootleg series (1995).
  • In the ninth episode of the second season of NewsRadio Jimmy remarks to Dave that he’s “…seen the coffee and the damage done,” a reference to Dave’s coffee addiction.
  • Rolling Stone’s cover story on Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley, a known heroin addict, bears the title (Issue 727).
  • A reference to its title can be found in the song “Understanding in a Car Crash” on the album Full Collapse (2001) by Thursday.
  • A fourth season episode of Homicide: Life on the Street concerning the fallout from a drug war was titled “The Damage Done”.
  • “Song to Say Goodbye” from the Placebo album Meds (2006) includes the lyrical reference “your needle and your damage done”.
  • In 1994, several prison guards in Idaho were accused of playing this song to taunt death row inmates during a scheduled lethal injection.
  • A reference to the title appears in the song “Genetic Design For Dying” from Aiden’s album Nightmare Anatomy (2005)
  • In 1997, the Skylab remix of the Depeche Mode song “Home” was titled “Home (The Noodles & The Damage Done)”.
  • In a 2012 episode of New Girl (TV Series), “Bully”, Max Greenfield’s character Schmidt references the song, saying “Schmiddle and the damage done. Yo Neil Young.” to his lover.
  • British Artist Pete Fowler’s August 2013 solo exhibition, at Beach London Gallery, of cross-stich embroidery was titled ‘The Needle and The Damage Done’
  • The title of this song was used by former Heroes del Silencio singer Enrique Bunbury in his 2009 album Las Consecuencias in the song “Los Habitantes”.
  • A horror novel called “MILK-BLOOD”, based on the song lyrics, was published in June of 2014.

The Needle and the Damage Done ~ Young
I caught you knockin’
at my cellar door
I love you, baby,
can I have some more
Ooh, ooh, the damage done.

I hit the city and
I lost my band
I watched the needle
take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.

I sing the song
because I love the man
I know that some
of you don’t understand
to keep from running out.

I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s
like a settin’ sun.

  • Audio from the 1972 album, Harvest:


Play The Needle and the Damage Done - by Neil Young