2021 SONG DRAFT-ROUND 6 PICK 13: MSJADELI SELECTS ‘SUGAR MOUNTAIN’- NEIL YOUNG

Albums That Should Exist: Neil Young - Folksinger (Demos, 1964-1967)


Round 6, Pick 13, Saturday, September 25, 2021 “Sugar Mountain,” by Neil Young.


I think the first time I heard this was on pandora radio. It was love at first listen. Of course I
wanted to learn more about it, especially what Sugar Mountain was and what it represented.
(Am I the only one who has become addicted to wikipedia as first source when it comes to
things?) Once I learned the back story, I was even more enthralled. I look at the song as an
icon representing a coming-of-age that each of us faces in our own time and in our own way.
Similar to the Bible verse, Corinthians 13:11:


“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when
I became a man, I put away childish things.”


Papa Neil builds his own time capsule of “childish things” then sings with such lamentation
about having to put them away. The song reaches and holds tight to me like few other songs.
Based on some of the information below, I have to believe this was a watershed moment for
Neil, and without it everything else would have rippled differently.


Note: If you click on the image link above, it will take you to a very interesting post about Neil
Young’s folksinger demos from 1964-1967, where Sugar Mountain is one of them.


The following information comes from… wikipedia!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_Mountain_%28song%29


“Sugar Mountain” is a song by Canadian folk rock singer and composer Neil Young. Young
composed the song on November 12, 1964—his 19th birthday—at the Victoria Hotel in FortWilliam, Ontario (now Thunder Bay), where he had been touring with his Winnipeg band the
Squires. Its lyrics are reminiscences about his youth in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


The first known recording of the song was made on December 15, 1965 for a demo record at
Elektra Records in New York City; this version appears on the “Early Years” disc on The
Archives Vol. 1 1963–1972. The first formal release was a recording of the song made on
November 10, 1968, as part of a live performance at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor,
Michigan. This recording was released as the B-side of Young’s 1969 single “The Loner” (and
again as the B-side of the “Cinnamon Girl” the following year), but was not collected on an
album until the 3-LP compilation Decade was released in 1977. A CD/DVD release of
recordings from the Canterbury House performance, Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury
House 1968, was released November 25, 2008 as part of Young’s ongoing Archives
Performance Series; this release includes the first-ever stereo mix of “Sugar Mountain” itself.
Young recorded the song again in February 1969, as part of a series of live shows at the
Riverboat in Toronto; this version is included in the 2009 Archives Performance Series release
Live at the Riverboat 1969. Still another live rendition is included as the first track of Young’s
1979 album Live Rust.

In a concert at the Albert Hall in London on October 29, 1970, Joni Mitchell, who was already
friends with Young by the time he wrote this song, opened her song “Circle Game” with this
speech:


Mitchell: “In 1965 I was up in Canada, and there was a friend of mine up there who had just
left a rock’n’roll band (…) he had just newly turned 21, and that meant he was no longer
allowed into his favourite haunt, which was kind of a teeny-bopper club and once you’re over
21 you couldn’t get back in there anymore; so he was really feeling terrible because his
girlfriends and everybody that he wanted to hang out with, his band could still go there, you
know, but it’s one of the things that drove him to become a folk singer was that he couldn’t
play in this club anymore. ‘Cause he was over the hill. (…) So he wrote this song that was
called “Oh to live on sugar mountain” which was a lament for his lost youth. (…) And I thought,
God, you know, if we get to 21 and there’s nothing after that, that’s a pretty bleak future, so I
wrote a song for him, and for myself just to give me some hope. It’s called The Circle Game.”


On the bootleg album Live on Sugar Mountain, released just days after the concert at which it
was recorded (on February 1, 1971, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles), Young
talks at length about the lyrics. He says that when he first wrote the song, he
“wrote 126 verses to it. Now, you can imagine that I had a lot of trouble figuring out what four
verses to use… I was underneath the stairs at the time… Anyway, this verse that I wrote… It
was the worst verse of the 126 that I wrote. So, I decided to put it in the song, just to give
everybody a frame of reference as to, you know, what can happen. What I’m trying to say is,
by stopping in the middle of the song, and explaining this to you, is that… I think it’s one of the
lamest verses I ever wrote. And, uhh…it takes a lotta nerve for me to get up here and sing it in
front of you people. But, if when I’m finished singing, you sing the chorus ‘Sugar Mountain’
super loud, I’ll just forget about it right away and we can continue.”


youtube: https://youtu.be/1-macfL0MdM

Oh to live on sugar mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can’t be twenty on sugar mountain
Though you’re thinking that you’re leaving there too soon
You’re leaving there too soon

It’s so noisy at the fair
But all your friends are there
And the candy floss you had
And your mother and your dad

Oh, to live on sugar mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can’t be twenty on sugar mountain
Though you’re thinking that you’re leaving there too soon
You’re leaving there too soon

There’s a girl just down the aisle
Oh to turn and see her smile
You can hear the words she wrote
As you read the hidden note

Oh, to live on sugar mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can’t be twenty on sugar mountain
Though you’re thinking that you’re leaving there too soon
You’re leaving there too soon

Now you’re underneath the stairs
And you’re giving back some glares
To the people who you met
And it’s your first cigarette

Oh, to live on sugar mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can’t be twenty on sugar mountain
Though you’re thinking that you’re leaving there too soon
You’re leaving there too soon

Now you say you’re leaving home
‘Cause you want to be alone

Ain’t it funny how you feel
When you’re finding out it’s real

Oh, to live on sugar mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can’t be twenty on sugar mountain
Though you’re thinking that you’re leaving there too soon
You’re leaving there too soon

Oh, to live on sugar mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can’t be twenty on sugar mountain
Though you’re thinking that you’re leaving there too soon Writer/s: Neil Young

20 responses to “2021 SONG DRAFT-ROUND 6 PICK 13: MSJADELI SELECTS ‘SUGAR MOUNTAIN’- NEIL YOUNG

  1. This is in my top 3 of Neil Young songs…the feel of it is great. This is one of the best picks of the draft to me. Great pick Lisa…always happy to hear Uncle Neil…especially this one.

  2. Good writeup! Fine song, one I know but don’t hear nearly as much as many of the later Neil songs. Never knew anything about the background to it, so that was interesting. I wonder if the entire original 126 verses survives out there anywhere?

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