'Rockin In The Free World' - Neil Young


Writer: Neil Young

Producers: Neil Young and Niko Bolas ("The Volume Dealers")

Recorded: Throughout 1988 at The Barn/Redwood Digital on Young's ranch in northern California

Released: October 1989

Players: Neil Young--vocals, guitar
Frank "Poncho" Sampedro--guitar, vocals
Dick "The Bass Player" Rosas--bass
Ben Keith--keyboards
Chad Cromwell--drums
Album: Freedom (Reprise)

There are two versions of "Rockin' In The Free World" on the Freedom album. It opens with a solo acoustic version recorded in the summer of 1989 at Jones Beach in Long Island, New York, and closes with the more familiar full-band rendition made at Neil Young's home studio at his ranch in northern California.

Of the song, Young has said "I wrote that song out on the road, on my bus, and I thought of the first line ('There's colors on the street') and said, 'My God, that really says something, but it's such a cliche, it's such an obvious thing,' so then I had to use it."

"Rockin' In The Free World" is one of Young's most directly political songs, railing against the inequities of American society as well as the toll drugs were taking on the populace. He explained that the lyrics "are just a description of events going on every day in America. Sure, I'm concerned for my children, particularly my eldest son... He has to face drugs every day in the school yard, drugs that are way stronger than anything I got offered in most of my years as a professional musician."

The song also takes a pointed jab at then-President George Bush, quoting his "thousand points of light" campaign slogan and dubbing him "a kindler, gentler machine gun hand."

The electric version of "Rockin' In The Free World" was never a hit single but is one of Young's most-played radio tracks.

The Freedom album began life under the title Times Square and was slated to come out in early 1989. But feeling that the album lacked something, Young scrapped it.

In the meantime, he released a five-song EP titled Eldorado in Japan and Australia. It quickly became a collector's item in the U.S.

Freedom features six of Times Square's nine songs, plus another six recorded subsequently. It was hailed as one of Young's finest works and a return to form after he spent much of the '80s experimenting with blues, country, rockabilly, and electronic-flavored rock.

Freedom peaked at Number 35 on the Billboard 200 and earned a gold album.

Frank "Pancho" Sampedro, who appears on "Rockin' In The Free World" and was part of the production team for Freedom, is part of Young's principal electric group, Crazy Horse.