Gone Dead Train (1971)

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse
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No other song recreates the sensation of riding on a real train the way “Gone Dead Train” by Crazy Horse does. Of course, the band is Neil Young’s primo backing group. In 1971, Crazy Horse had its full-house compliment of members.

Danny Whitten hadn’t OD’d and was among the best guitarists in the business; Nils Lofgren had joined, adding a second top-drawer ax-man, and Phil Spector protege Jack Nitzsche was sitting in playing a mean, whorehouse piano.

The song cooks with gauge-busting steam pressure, chugging, wheezing, belching, funking, gasping for more coal, more water, more, more, more.

The overtly sexual song was written by Randy Newman (who never fails to surprise). It seems as if he said to himself, “I’m gonna write something low-down and dirty.” The step by step of what’s going on isn’t clear, but it sure is about a built-up head of sexual steam that can’t be denied.

My engine was pumpin’ steam
And I was grindin’ at you hard and fast
Burnin’ down the rails, tryin’ to heat the way
Haulin’ ass and ridin’ up the track
And I laughed at the conductor
Who was tellin’ me my coal

It would never last

But then the fire in my boiler
Up and quit before I came
Ain’t no empty cellar
Like a gone dead train

It’s been said many times that folks in Crazy Horse are the “American Rolling Stones.” In “Gone Dead Train,” it is crystal clear that no, no… The Stones are the “British Crazy Horse.”