I caught you knockin' at my cellar door
I love you, baby, can I have some more?
Ooh, ooh, the damage done

I hit the city and I lost my band
I watched the needle take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done

I sing the song because I love the man
I know that some of you don't understand
Milk-blood to keep from running out

I've seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie's like a settin' sun


Lyrics submitted by H-bomb

The Needle And The Damage Done Lyrics as written by Neil Young

Lyrics © Kanjian Music, Hipgnosis Songs Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Needle And The Damage Done song meanings
Add Your Thoughts

67 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +7
    My Interpretation

    "Milk blood to keep from running out" Definite double meaning 1) Re-injecting blood to get high 2) Using/ stealing from family members to get dope money

    Damicson February 04, 2012   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    Supposedly, as the story goes, one of the members of Crazy Horse (whose name escapes me at the moment) got addicted to heroin. So Young kicked him out of the band, gave him a plane ticket and $50 to go to LA, enter rehab and clean himself up. Instead, he spent the money on more heroin and ended up Oding. Very sad.

    And the "milk blood" line is about how junkies draw their own blood and re-inject it to get a mild high.

    If you like this song, you'll like the whole album Tonights The Night - another band member ODed, so everyone in Crazy Horse just got piss drunk and recorded the whole album in pretty much one take. All kinds of slurred words, missed tempos and stuff - but it's absolutely amazing nonetheless.

    headlessparroton June 28, 2003   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    I'm not even going to begin to point out the meaning of this song to you. To quote from the master himself, Bill Hicks, (drug addicts) "they are sick, they are not criminals". I guess you have no real compassion for people. You can't just make a broad generalisation that all drug addicts want to be addicts. I'm going to stop now before I get angry...

    hang on to a dreamon May 24, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    This song reminds me on Layne Staley. The article in Rolling Stone( 1996- I think ) magazine about Layne was titled>The Needle And The Damage Done. I dont know when this song was written, but its like he is singing about him. Layne, I love you.

    mojo risinon August 27, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    "The worst drugs are as bad as anybody's told you. It's just a dumb trip, which I can't condemn people if they get into it, because one gets into it for one's own personal, social, emotional reasons."

    -John Lennon

    bobdylaniscoolon February 21, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    My father was a big Neil Young fan, and I eventually became one too. He told me this was about infamous Sid Vicious, the bassist for the Sex Pistols in the '70s. Sid was never a heroine drug addict until meeting Nancy Spungen, a heavy heroine addict and overall drug abuser. Sid fell for her and eventually became one too, and so Nancy dragged her man down with her to the grave. He did love her, and before his death, he was kicked out of the Sex Pistols to spend his last days with his hopeless addiction, and eventually dying in 1979 after Nancy.

    Moondance12on March 01, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I don't know about sympathy...the song seems to be more of a warning about the dangers of drug abuse. He has been around a lot of folks that couldn't get enough, turned into junkies, and are "like a setting sun" pushing themselves to an inevitable end.

    speterso74on August 02, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    "I've seen the needle and the damage done A little part of it in everyone"

    Way out there and over analysing just want to put my 2 cents worth in like everybody else has and it's probably been said before but I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH!!!

    Anyway back to my point:

    "I've seen the needle and the damage done A little part of it in everyone"

    Man-kind is always addicted to something Whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling, women

    But when he sings "But every junkie's like a settin' sun." Just like his rendition of Imagine after 9/11... He sang: "Imagine no possessions I wonder if I can." As opposed to Lennon's: "if you can"

    I say to Neil's last line instead of "But every junkie's like a settin' sun" I say: And everyone's like a setting sun

    Sicklenhammeron December 10, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I think it's about heroin and a friend of his getting addicted and how sad it was to watch him waste away. Maybe, only possibly, could it be about David Crosby (?). It's one of the reasons he left CSNY because of David's addiction and I heard they were pretty close...but these are only thoughts. Thanks! Love ya! ~~Tessa~~

    Flychick773on June 12, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i love this song. it's very true, and an amazing way to express the habits of a junkie....oh, and for those who dont know, the like "milk-blood to keep from running out", while sickening, is true. severe addicts do milk their own blood, then re-inject it. Since they've been doing heroin for so long, their blood has enough to give them a fix.

    mikes_konstantineon September 04, 2002   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

More Featured Meanings

Album art
Light Up The Sky
Van Halen
The song lyrics were written by the band Van Halen, as they were asked to write a song for the 1979 movie "Over the Edge" starring Matt Dillon. The movie (and the lyrics, although more obliquely) are about bored, rebellious youth with nothing better to do than get into trouble. If you see the movie, these lyrics will make more sense. It's a great movie if you grew up in the 70s/80s you'll definitely remember some of these characters from your own life. Fun fact, after writing the song, Van Halen decided not to let the movie use it.
Album art
Dreamwalker
Silent Planet
I think much like another song “Anti-Matter” (that's also on the same album as this song), this one is also is inspired by a horrifying van crash the band experienced on Nov 3, 2022. This, much like the other track, sounds like it's an extension what they shared while huddled in the wreckage, as they helped frontman Garrett Russell stem the bleeding from his head wound while he was under the temporary effects of a concussion. The track speaks of where the mind goes at the most desperate & desolate of times, when it just about slips away to all but disconnect itself, and the aftermath.
Album art
Mountain Song
Jane's Addiction
Jane's Addiction vocalist Perry Farrell gives Adam Reader some heartfelt insight into Jane’s Addiction's hard rock manifesto "Mountain Song", which was the second single from their revolutionary album Nothing's Shocking. Mountain song was first recorded in 1986 and appeared on the soundtrack to the film Dudes starring Jon Cryer. The version on Nothing's Shocking was re-recorded in 1988. "'Mountain Song' was actually about... I hate to say it but... drugs. Climbing this mountain and getting as high as you can, and then coming down that mountain," reveals Farrell. "What it feels to descend from the mountain top... not easy at all. The ascension is tough but exhilarating. Getting down is... it's a real bummer. Drugs is not for everybody obviously. For me, I wanted to experience the heights, and the lows come along with it." "There's a part - 'Cash in now honey, cash in Miss Smith.' Miss Smith is my Mother; our last name was Smith. Cashing in when she cashed in her life. So... she decided that, to her... at that time, she was desperate. Life wasn't worth it for her, that was her opinion. Some people think, never take your life, and some people find that their life isn't worth living. She was in love with my Dad, and my Dad was not faithful to her, and it broke her heart. She was very desperate and she did something that I know she regrets."
Album art
Punchline
Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran sings about missing his former partner and learning important life lessons in the process on “Punchline.” This track tells a story of battling to get rid of emotions for a former lover, whom he now realized might not have loved him the same way. He’s now caught between accepting that fact and learning life lessons from it and going back to beg her for another chance.
Album art
Head > Heels
Ed Sheeran
“Head > Heels” is a track that aims to capture what it feels like to experience romance that exceeds expectations. Ed Sheeran dedicates his album outro to a lover who has blessed him with a unique experience that he seeks to describe through the song’s nuanced lyrics.