My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) – Neil Young

neil youngNeil Young is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician and film director.
Young’s work is characterized by deeply personal lyrics, distinctive guitar work, and signature falsetto tenor singing voice. Although he accompanies himself on several different instruments-including piano and harmonica-his style of claw-hammer acoustic guitar and often idiosyncratic soloing on electric guitar are the linchpins of a sometimes ragged, sometimes polished sound. Although Young has experimented widely with differing music styles, including swing, jazz, rockabilly, blues, and electronic music throughout a varied career, his best known work usually falls into either of two distinct styles: folk-esque acoustic rock (as heard in songs such as “Heart of Gold”, “Harvest Moon” and “Old Man”) and electric-charged hard rock (in songs like “Cinnamon Girl”, “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”). In more recent years, Young has started to adopt elements from newer styles of music, such as industrial, alternative country and grunge, the latter of which was profoundly influenced by his own style of playing, causing some to confer on him the title of “the godfather of grunge”.

My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)

Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” is a rock song by Neil Young. Combined with its acoustic counterpart “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”, it bookends Young’s successful 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps. Inspired by proto-new wave group Devo, the rise of punk and what Young viewed as his own growing irrelevance, the song today crosses generations, inspiring admirers from punk to grunge and significantly revitalizing Young’s then-faltering career. The song is about the alternatives of continuing to produce similar music (“to rust” or – in “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” – “to fade away”) or to burn out, as John Lydon of the Sex Pistols did by abandoning his Johnny Rotten persona.

A part of a lyric from the song, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away,” became infamous in modern rock after being quoted in Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. Young later said that he was so shaken that he dedicated his 1994 album Sleeps with Angels to Cobain.

“Out of the blue and into the black” was a Vietnam War-era phrase that originally referred to jumping out of the daylight into the darkness of a Vietcong tunnel, and was later generalized to refer to various situations, including death.

The song “Hey, Hey, My, My…” and the title phrase of the album, “rust never sleeps” on which it was featured sprang from Young’s encounters with Devo and in particular Mark Mothersbaugh. Devo was asked by Young in 1977 to participate in the creating of his film Human Highway.  A scene in the film shows Young playing the song in its entirety with Devo, who clearly want little to do with anything “radio-friendly” (of note is Mothersbaugh changing “Johnny Rotten” to “Johnny Spud”). Also, the famous line, “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust” is credited to Young’s friend Jeff Blackburn of The Ducks.

Some reviewers viewed Young’s career as skidding after the release of American Stars ‘N Bars and Comes a Time. With the explosion of punk in 1977, some punks felt that Young and his contemporaries were dinosaurs, and that such artists now seemed too content to rest on their laurels and release halfhearted material. Young worried that these punks were right. The death of Elvis Presley that same year seemed to sound a death knell for rock, as The Clash gleefully cried, “No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones in 1977!,” in the song “1977”.

From Young’s fear of becoming obsolete sprang an appreciation of the punk ethic, and the song was born, initially an acoustic lament that became “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”. Upon embarking on a tour with his backing band Crazy Horse, the song took on new life in a rock arrangement, punctuated by Young’s guitar solos that would go on to inspire players of the proto-grunge scene, including Sonic Youth, The Meat Puppets, Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. – who in turn begat Nirvana.

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My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It’s better to burn out
Than to fade away
My my, hey hey.

Out of the blue
and into the black
They give you this,
but you pay for that
And once you’re gone,
you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue
and into the black.

The king is gone
but he’s not forgotten
This is the story
of a Johnny Rotten
It’s better to burn out
than it is to rust
The king is gone
but he’s not forgotten.

Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.

  • Audio from the 1988 live album,  Live Rust:


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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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