Up and down the old homestead
The naked rider gallops through his head
And although the moon isn't full
He still feels the pull

Out on the floor where the cowboys dance
Approaching slowly at a glance
Here comes the shadow of his stance
The reins are fallin' from his hands

Why do you ride that crazy horse?
Inquires the shadow with little remorse
Just then a priest comes down the stairs
With a sack of dreams and old nightmares

Who are you, the rider says
You dress in black but you talk like a Fed
You spout ideas from books that you read
Don't you care about this guy's head?

Just then the sound of hoof beats was heard
And the sky was darkened by a prehistoric bird
Who flew between the unfulfilled moon
And the naked rider, to a telephone booth

We'll call the moon and see what's up
I've got some change in this little tin cup
We'll say that the shadow is growin' dim
And we need some light to get back to him
Just one call should do it all
I'll carve this number on the wall
With my beak

Flying feathers were all around
The air was filled with a ringing sound
Two more birds, the second and the third
Came down from the sky to deliver the word

Where have you been, they said to the first
Get back to the clouds, we're dying of thirst
There's not enough time to make that call
Let's ditch this rider, shadow and all

The sky was filled with the beautiful birds
Still on the ground some crying was heard
With his dime in his hand and his hand on the dial
His ears were sweating as he forced a smile

Hoof beats beating across the range
He rode through the night with his cup of change
Tired and beaten he fell into slumber
But up in the sky they still had his number

Up and down the old homestead
The naked rider gallops through his head
And although the moon isn't full
He still feels the pull
Still feels the pull

Lyrics submitted by planetearth

The Old Homestead Lyrics as written by Neil Young

Lyrics © Silver Fiddle

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The Old Homestead song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentThis is a pretty oblique song, but there's one line in it that makes it possible to interpret as quite autobiographical.

    That line, of course, is "Why do you ride that crazy horse" - or more precisely perhaps, "Why do you ride that Crazy Horse". In 1974, CSN&Y had "pushed it over the end" (to quote a phrase) with the disastrous tour and aborted album. Neil reformed Crazy Horse and over the next few years recorded, threw away, pieced together and released a number of erratic-but-great records - now with Crazy Horse, now solo, now with various friends. Sometimes he it brought him success ("Rust Never Sleeps"), sometimes he was on bar band tours as a backup guitarist in The Ducks.

    It's the story of Neil Young's career: he follows his whims, wherever they take him - sometimes for good, sometimes for bad.

    So in other words: the rider and the shadow are BOTH Neil, galloping through his own head - trying to understand himself. The shadow could be seen as the more perverse side of his artistry - the one that keeps wanting to head for the ditch, try something different and doesn't show remorse when colleagues get left behind (viz Neil's written note to Stephen Stills as he left their 1976 tour; "Funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach, Neil.")

    The three birds - connected with money - might be Crosby, Stills and Nash; financially sound, artistically dead ("prehistoric" - see also "Thrasher": "There was nothing that they needed, nothing left to find"). The telephone booth - the possibility to "sell out" and go back to the big time anytime he wants. But the rider wants the moon, not the birds blocking it. And as the sky is filled with beautiful birds - all the little popstars - his shadow makes him leave the phone booth (though he keeps the change - keeps his options open) and keeps riding on his own, searching for his own path. Still feels the pull.
    beer goodon March 26, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentExcellent analysis, although hard to know how much is accurate. Certainly the first "Byrd" was David Crosby, who has been quoted the most on his incredulousness as to Neil "riding the Crazy Horse". Your take on the Shadow is the most insightful - food for thought. The links with Thrasher are tantalizing.
    Moonmadnesson July 17, 2016   Link

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