“More Barn!” The Story of How Neil Young First Played Harvest for Graham Nash (1972)

Image by Dar­ren Swim, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Every­one knows the punch­line “more cow­bell” from SNL’s affec­tion­ate jab at the Blue Öys­ter Cult’s enthu­si­asm. But how many peo­ple know the true sto­ry of “more barn”?

Too pre­cious few, I’d say.

It’s a clas­sic from that icon of clas­sic rock, Neil Young, a yarn—as told by Gra­ham Nash—that defies par­o­dy, and beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trates the absur­di­ty of Neil Young’s com­mit­ment to raw, rus­tic authen­tic­i­ty. For his ded­i­cat­ed fans, Neil’s ram­shackle meth­ods always yield wor­thy results. Even when he’s off, he’s so damned into it, it’s hard to ever fault him.

And when he’s on—in mas­ter­pieces like 1972’s Har­vest—Neil does no wrong. His tal­ents stretch beyond intense­ly impas­sioned songcraft and deliv­ery to a holis­tic appre­ci­a­tion of sound in all its forms (and a loathing for tech­nol­o­gy that does sound an injus­tice).

In the inter­view above with NPR’s Ter­ry Gross after the pub­li­ca­tion of his book Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life, Young’s erst­while CSNY band­mate Nash recounts the day Young first played him Har­vest:

The man is total­ly com­mit­ted to the muse of music. And he’ll do any­thing for good music. And some­times it’s very strange. I was at Neil’s ranch one day just south of San Fran­cis­co, and he has a beau­ti­ful lake with red-wing black­birds. And he asked me if I want­ed to hear his new album, “Har­vest.” And I said sure, let’s go into the stu­dio and lis­ten.

Oh, no. That’s not what Neil had in mind. He said get into the row­boat.

I said get into the row­boat? He said, yeah, we’re going to go out into the mid­dle of the lake. Now, I think he’s got a lit­tle cas­sette play­er with him or a lit­tle, you know, ear­ly dig­i­tal for­mat play­er. So I’m think­ing I’m going to wear head­phones and lis­ten in the rel­a­tive peace in the mid­dle of Neil’s lake.

Oh, no. He has his entire house as the left speak­er and his entire barn as the right speak­er. And I heard “Har­vest” com­ing out of these two incred­i­bly large loud speak­ers loud­er than hell. It was unbe­liev­able. Elliot Maz­er, who pro­duced Neil, pro­duced “Har­vest,” came down to the shore of the lake and he shout­ed out to Neil: How was that, Neil?

And I swear to god, Neil Young shout­ed back: More barn!

Now, whether or not that last bit is a Nash inven­tion, it must for­ev­er remain the punch­line of the sto­ry, which must always be referred to as “more barn.” But there’s no rea­son to think it didn’t hap­pen just the way Nash tells it.

In the film at the top, Young lis­tens to play­back of Har­vest through the barn, com­ments on the “nat­ur­al echo” of its rever­ber­a­tions from yon­der hill­side, drinks a Coors, and lounges in the straw. (He also talks in earnest depth about the eth­i­cal and per­son­al chal­lenges of being a “rich hip­pie.”)

I’ve heard this album count­less times through head­phones and stereo, sur­round, and car speak­ers, but until I can yell out “more barn!” I’m con­vinced I have not tru­ly heard it at all.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil Young Per­forms Clas­sic Songs in 1971 Con­cert: “Old Man,” “Heart of Gold” & More

Neil Young Busk­ing in Glas­gow, 1976: The Sto­ry Behind the Footage

When Neil Young & Rick James Cre­at­ed the 60’s Motown Band, The Mynah Birds

Miles Davis Opens for Neil Young and “That Sor­ry-Ass Cat” Steve Miller at The Fill­more East (1970)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (7)
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  • Bill W. says:

    I don’t agree with many of the things Neil Young says, but I great­ly admire Young’s con­sis­ten­cy in what he believes, and his will­ing­ness to adjust and change his views accord­ing­ly as he dis­cov­ers often uncom­fort­able truths about them. Stub­born­ness and ded­i­ca­tion has served Neil well. Also, he is ded­i­cat­ed to music as an art, going to great lengths to keep it pure and unadul­ter­at­ed (ex. Musi­cal Qual­i­ty over Quan­ti­ty). Good for him, he is like­ly the last TRUE (and rich­est) hip­pie still alive–rust nev­er sleeps!

  • jesica says:


  • jesica says:

    he is like­ly the last TRU .. its a best words.

    SalaryHD.ComA Part of Hap­py Life.

  • John Hughes says:

    Inter­est­ing analy­sis of Mr. Young but if he read it …he might not agree with it . You’re right about his ded­i­ca­tion to the muse of music…however the man is much more com­pli­cat­ed in oth­er areas than prob­a­bly any­one of us can under­stand… as is the case with most geniuses.In his auto­bi­og­ra­phy writ­ten by his dad …he claimed that the right side of his brain was affect­ed by his pri­or bat­tles with hav­ing seizures caus­ing him to be extreme­ly tun­nel vision on what­ev­er he is con­cen­trat­ed on at any giv­en time. When this man from Cana­da con­cen­trates on pol­i­tics of USA he’s nobody’s fool and has an eagle eye on cor­rup­tion and on those who would do the coun­try harm and is like­ly nev­er to give in on his beliefs

  • Scot Saures says:

    It is hard to believe that I have been a great fan for over 50 years. I nev­er tire of his music.

  • tom vannucci says:

    star hill. la hon­da. more barn. more acid…glad i lived long enough to say that out loud.…

  • Brazos says:

    His ranch is north of San Fran­cis­co I believe.

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