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Trivia Q & A # 14 2013

Posted in: News, Trivia Q & A | No Comments | Posted on by Mary Anne

Q.  In 1970, who recorded “Cinnammon Girl”?

A.  Neil Young

It debuted on the 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, which was also Young’s first album with backing band Crazy Horse.  Released as a single the following year, it reached #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.

Like two other songs from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Down by the River,” Young wrote “Cinnamon Girl” while he was suffering from the flu with a high fever at his home at Topanga.

This song displays the very prominent role played by Danny Whitten in the sound of Young’s early recordings. The vocals are a duet, with Whitten singing the high harmony against Young’s low harmony. Young performed the song on his then-recently acquired Gibson Les Paul, “Old Black”.

The lyrics have the singer daydreaming for a girl to love, singing that he waits “between shows” for his lover. Young has claimed that he wrote the song “for a city girl on peeling pavement coming at me through Phil Ochs’ eyes playing finger cymbals. It was hard to explain to my wife.”  The city girl playing finger cymbals is a reference to folk singer Jean Ray.  Music critic Johnny Rogan described the lyrics as “exotic and allusive without really saying anything at all.”[3] Critic Toby Creswell describes the lyrics as “cryptic love lyrics” noting that they are sung “over the crunching power of Crazy Horse.” Critic John Mendelsohn felt the song conveyed a message of “desperation begetting brutal vindictiveness,” hinted at by the “almost impenetrably subjective words” but carried strongly by the sound of Crazy Horse’s “heavy, sinister accompaniment.

“Cinnamon Girl” has been covered by many artists:

  • The Gentrys on their eponymous album for Sun Records (1970). Their version reached #52 on the Billboard chart, slightly outperforming Young’s original. The Gentrys’ version actually charted before Neil Young’s did.
  • Type O Negative on their 1996 album October Rust.
  • John Entwistle of The Who recorded a version of the song as an outtake for his 1971 solo album Smash Your Head Against the Wall.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins released a version on the 2012 reissue of Pisces Iscariot.
  • Radiohead has performed a cover version at their live shows (Yokohama Arena, Santa Barbara Bowl - 2001)


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