Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
B-side  "Birds"
Genre  Folk rock
Label  Reprise
Recorded  March 15, 1970
Length  3:05
Released  September 19, 1970 October 19, 1970 (U.S. 7" single)

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" is a song written by Neil Young. It has been covered by many bands, including a 1990 single by Saint Etienne.


Genesis and recording

The song is the third track on Neil Young's album After the Gold Rush. The song was supposedly written for Graham Nash after Nash's split from Joni Mitchell, though Young in interviews has been somewhat tentative in admitting or remembering this. Released as a single in October 1970, it became Young's first top 40 hit as a solo artist, peaking at number 33 in the U.S. The single was issued with a Crazy Horse version of "Birds" (rather than the solo piano version of the album) on the B-side, apparently accidentally. The song is praised as a "seemingly simple song which display[s] considerable attention to detail in the deployment of instruments."

Saint Etienne version

In 1990, English band Saint Etienne recorded a cover version of the song, included on their debut album Foxbase Alpha. The vocals are by Moira Lambert, as Sarah Cracknell had not yet joined the band as a permanent member. The band recorded the song in producer Ian Catt's bedroom studio in Pollards Hill. The recording, made in under two hours, got them a record deal, their first single, and their first hit. Andrew Weatherall later remixed the song, further emphasising its dub bassline: this remix, subtitled "A Mix of Two Halves" (duration 8:49), was featured on both releases of the single and on the compilation Casino Classics. The U.S. and European releases contained a different extended mix by Flowered Up (duration 6:19), issued in the UK only on a flexidisc, though it was mistakenly listed as the "Mix of Two Halves". Weatherall had no involvement with this mix.

The song was re-released in the UK as a double A-side with the track "Filthy", peaking at number 39 in the UK Singles Chart. The song remains Saint Etienne's only entry in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 97 in 1992. It did, however, top the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart. The U.S. b-side to the single was the Foxbase Alpha album track "Stoned to Say the Least." In 2003, Vibe listed Masters at Work's remix of the song as one of the "Top 25 remixes ever created."

Two videos were released for the single. The original version is mostly in black and white and depicts Lucy from early 90s pop trio Golden miming the vocals (Lambert refused to appear in the video). The second features Cracknell miming to Lambert's vocals and depicts the band entering a cinema in a small French town where they see themselves in a movie.

Other cover versions

  • Jackie DeShannon sang it on her Jackie album (1972).
  • It is a bonus track on the re-released 1972 John Baldry album Everything Stops for Tea as a duet between Baldry and Joyce Everson.
  • British singer Elkie Brooks achieved a UK hit with the song in 1978, which was taken from her Shooting Star album.
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed the song during their Live Aid set in 1985.
  • British girl group Mint Juleps released a cover of the song on Stiff Records in 1986.
  • Psychic TV played the song on The Bridge: A Tribute to Neil Young in 1989.
  • A sampled portion of the Saint Etienne version was used in a remix for Chez Damier's 1992 single "Can You Feel It."
  • Everlast covered the song for the 1999 film Big Daddy.
  • The Corrs recorded the song for VH1 Presents: The Corrs, Live in Dublin in 2002; The New Rolling Stone Album Guide called their version "pretty but lightweight."
  • Juliana Hatfield recorded the song for her 2002 collection Gold Stars 1992-2002.
  • Gwyneth Herbert recorded the song for her debut album Bittersweet and Blue in 2004. Her cover also appears in the film Leap Year.
  • The New Standards recorded the song for their eponymous album released in 2005.
  • Bradford Cox aka Atlas Sound covered the song for his blog in 2007.
  • Damien Leith covered the song on his album Catch the Wind: Songs of a Generation in 2008, which reached number 1 on the ARIA Chart for Australian albums.
  • Nils Lofgren covered the song on his album "The Loner – Nils Sings Neil" released in 2008.
  • Kathleen Edwards recorded the song live for her iTunes exclusive Live Session in 2008.
  • Butch Walker released a live version on his iTunes release, Live from Lollapalooza in 2008.
  • Angie Hart sang it on her Eat My Shadow album in 2009.
  • The S.I.G.I.T. covered this song for their split EP Hertz Dyslexia in 2009.
  • Jenn Grant covered the song on her album "Echoes" released in 2009.
  • I Blame Coco has recorded covers of both the Neil Young and Saint Etienne versions of the song. A cover of Young's version was released with Fyfe Dangerfield in 2010. A cover of the Saint Etienne version appears on the album The Constant.
  • In 2010, Beccy Cole recorded a version for her album, Preloved.
  • Rickie Lee Jones covered it on her album "The Devil You Know" album, released in 2012.
  • Ida Sand covered the song on her album "Young at Heart" released in 2015.
  • Natalie Imbruglia covered the song on her album Male released in 2015.
  • Asami Zdrenka of Neon Jungle covered the Saint Etienne version as part of her A Cover Trilogy series in 2015.
  • Florence and The Machine covered it for the B Side of their Record Store Day Release of "Delilah" in 2016.
  • References

    Only Love Can Break Your Heart Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    A Foreign Field
    Emeka Anyaoku
    Petra Grabowsky