What does After the Goldrush mean?

Neil Young: After the Goldrush Meaning

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Album cover for After the Goldrush album cover

After the Goldrush Lyrics

Well, I dreamed I saw the knights
In armor coming,
Saying something about a queen.
There were peasants singing and
Drummers drumming
And the archer split the tree.
There was a fanfare blowing
To the sun
That was floating on the...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Jul 29th 2011 !⃝

    After the Goldrush is a kind of surreal account of the past, present, and future of the western world. As with many other Neil Young songs it uses a kind of poetic lyricism to allude to historical and contemporary political events while still maintaining a confessional and intimate quality.

    The first verse, to me, talks about the colonization of North America. The celebratory nature of the fanfare as well as the imagery of the shining armor and peasants stands in stark contrast to mother nature being "on the run" in current times. This perhaps implies that the same ideology of the middle ages, in which the common people endorse the actions of the government, still persists today by making a surreal leap from one time period to another. With imperialism there is a sense of entitlement, which in the past, resulted in colonization and later slavery. The same sense of entitlement after the civil war lead to a kind of enslavement of nature (industrialism replaced slavery). Neil Young maintains a kind of personal attachment to the account by avoiding the use of specific historical events, places, or people, instead explaining these events in terms of a dream which allows for a kind of parallel to be drawn between his personal life and the events of history. The ambiguous relationship between to the two is the real mystery of the song (in my opinion). At any rate he draws a similarity between what was happening then and what is happening now which makes it seems as though the destruction of mother nature started with an ideology that is very old (and remember, we are a part of nature too so in a way slavery is a form of ecological destruction...)

    The second verse represents the present and probably is inspired by the (at the time) recent events of the Vietnam war. This would be in keeping with the theme that ideology justifies the destruction of life. It could be a soldier hiding in a bombed out basement waiting to be sent home, or on a more personal level, "burned out" could simply refer to Young's weariness and substance abuse, which would make sense with the following lyric "...and I wanted to get high" that feels almost more like an admission than a celebration. Like the fanfare of the first verse, getting high represents both an inspiring, beautiful moment in which an introspective dreamy state is embraced, but also an act of escapism, a dissatisfaction with your current state. Both the fanfare and the band are all in Neil Young's head. The use of, what I think, is a french horn in the song sums up this sentiment pretty well: it is beautiful and classical but also mournful at the same time. The imagery of the sun and the moon is especially interesting. Again the use of metaphors and language keep the song open to many interpretations as Young doesn't specifically say where this burned out basement is, we simply know that it is taking place within the same world as the one with the knights in armor and is therefor governed by the same natural laws (all life on earth has and will rely on the sun). The sun bursting through the sky could represent a kind of realization of this, that at no matter what point in time we essentially live by the same rules of nature. The sun and the moon also represent the kind of surreal movement through time within the song as the moon suddenly turns into the sun.

    The last verse completes the theme of human beings continuing to carry on on their own terms rather than trying to be content with the natural environment that they exist in. Like the colonists, or conquistadors of the first verse, people are leaving their home in search for a new one- only this time the ship is a spaceship instead of a sail boat or cavalry troops. The reference to the "chosen ones" indicates that in the future there will not only still be a social hierarchy, but that society will still be justifying its actions with a kind of entitled sentiment (ideology). The mentioning of the "silver seed" and "colors flying" draws a visual similarity to the knights in armor in which political or social importance is represented with visual symbols.The references to the sun could refer to the fact that no matter where you travel you are still a part of nature. The mentioning of a "new home" may be one of the most important clues in the whole song, as it signifies a common theme in all three verses: a searching for a new home. Location is ambiguous throughout the whole song and just as people continue to search for new places to live in the past and future, Young admits that he too has a need to escape, almost not wanting to believe what his own visions are telling him about human nature: "I was thinking about what a friend had said, I was hoping it was a lie". The people in all three verses, including Neil Young himself, are "on the run" just as mother nature is. We are a part of nature and therefore cannot transcend it through relocation, or monetary systems. Interestingly, Neil Young seems to address how his introspective nature both confronts this truth and attempts to escape it simultaneously.

    The name of the song is "After the Gold Rush" Which definately fits with the idea of the song having to do with modes of production and economic motives for the relocation of people throughout history and firmly plants this in the western world where the gold rush took place- and the kind of country western feel of the piano in the song is in keeping with a explorative cowboy feel (another idealized icon not unlike knights in armor or silver space ships and silver seed).

    If these ideas seem a bit far fetched, think about some themes and references used in Neil Young's later material: Cortez the Killer, Harvest (themes of time, the sun, reliance of nature), Rockin' in the Free World, Ride my Llama (in which Neil Young meets a man from mars...), Pocahontas, or even Alburqueque.

    Also, in Southern Man Young makes reference to a black man being "cut down"- seems like he's drawing a comparison between slavery and the cutting down of trees, he also says in Pocahontas that "they cut our women down".

  2. anonymous
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    Jan 13th 2019 !⃝

    In 1819, North Maxwell Pyke, Invited Eddie Henderson To His Home In Van Nuys. Gases Developed In The Sky, Conatining No Caffeine, But Trace Elements of Tobacco And Methamphetamine. They Banned The Methamphetamine, Resulting In A Rise of It's Use, And The Production Of Cocaine.

  3. anonymous
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    Oct 19th 2017 !⃝

    Neil explains that Valhalla Rises by stretching into an arch across time, landing at an elusive point only calculated by the North Star. The English unleashed mother nature with royal Primea Noctis in hopes for many elegant seasons. The world used Droit du Seigneur to blacken the skies with every battle, then wake into roving replacement gangs. Regardless of empire, the lands were covered in new after blood. His conjecture about nature's future flag waving is transcendent. All of this realized with the help of the gold rush people.

  4. anonymous
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    May 11th 2016 !⃝

    Two verses about dreams concerning past and future. The middle verse is his present reality, everything is destroyed, "burned out". The title refers to the Earth's state after we are done raping it in the name of the almighty dollar. And the final verse is possibly a premonition of our future - Certain humans selected to fly to a new planet, to begin again. Hopefully using the lessons learned in destroying Earth to make a better way. It's an environmental nightmare. Unspoken is the fate of those not chosen to go, likely the vast majority of people - horrible death on a planet made barren and uninhabitable by our own greed.

    Mother Nature's Silver Seed could be a future Noah's Ark, maybe a breeding pair of all species on board. But that's not in the song, just my own thoughts.

  5. anonymous
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    Mar 22nd 2014 !⃝

    This sounds right. He's saying we are looking for the wrong answers in our approach to the earth, society, and ourselves.

  6. anonymous
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    Mar 1st 2014 !⃝

    Seeing Neil Young's ''Solo & Acoustic'' concert on Sept,5&6 in 1989 at the Palladium in N.Y.C were peak performaces that sounded crisp and clear and hearing this song ''After The Gold Rush'' played live was more inspiring to imagine of what was this song about. Sadly, in some of us remembering the aftermath of Birmingham church bombing in Alabama could have played a part on Neal's conscious mind in reality before going into this dream he had that seems to take you on a runaway American tour from the old world of the east to the new world of the west in symbolic methaphors of threshold of a dream bridge between Earth&Heaven that always catches me even listening to it today like in a ''Child's Pause''in hope that there is a heavenly place to go back to. Is it possible that Neal wrote this song after he woke up from the dream[possible,nightmare where in reality children died] where also saw himself dying in this burnout basement and hoping for replacement to finish his earthly duties, because he was being called in the spirit of the chosen ones to be taken up[in the symbolic form of spaceships] to a new home in the sun[heaven] that he is hoping would be for him to go to because it feels so real in this dream that he's dreaming, while remembering that a friend told him that there is no such thing as spaceships,heaven,god etc., but he needs to believe otherwise so that there is hope in heaven for them.

  7. anonymous
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    May 6th 2012 !⃝

    LSD took over and predicted the future

    that's why he couldn't remember.

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