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Only Love Can Break Your Heart

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Only Love Can Break Your Heart

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
Single by Neil Young
from the album After the Gold Rush
B-side "Birds"
Released September 19, 1970
October 19, 1970
(U.S. 7" single)
Recorded March 15, 1970
Genre Rock
Length 3:05
Label Reprise 45 0746
Writer(s) Neil Young
Producer(s) David Briggs, Neil Young
Neil Young singles chronology
"Cinnamon Girl"
"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
"When You Dance I Can Really Love"
After the Gold Rush track listing
"After the Gold Rush"
"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
"Southern Man"

"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,[1] though Young in interviews has been somewhat tentative in admitting or remembering this.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] The song is praised as a "seemingly simple song which display[s] considerable attention to detail in the deployment of instruments."[5]

Saint Etienne version

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
Single by Saint Etienne featuring Moira Lambert
from the album Foxbase Alpha
B-side "The Official Saint Etienne World Cup Theme" (UK)
"Filthy" (UK reissue)
"Stoned to Say the Least" (USA)
Released May 1990
Recorded 1990
Genre Alternative dance, house[6]
Length 4:29
Label Heavenly - HVN2 / HVN12 (reissue)
Writer(s) Neil Young
Producer(s) Saint Etienne
Saint Etienne featuring Moira Lambert singles chronology
"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
"Kiss and Make Up"

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.[7] The band recorded the song in producer Ian Catt's bedroom studio in Pollards Hill.[8] The recording, made in under two hours, got them a record deal, their first single, and their first hit.[9] Andrew Weatherall later remixed the song to further emphasise the 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.[10] 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."[11]

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).[12] 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

Chart performance

Artist Chart (1970) Peak
Neil Young U.S. Billboard Hot 100 33
Artist Chart (1991) Peak
Saint Etienne UK Singles Chart 39
Artist Chart (1992) Peak
Saint Etienne U.S. Billboard Hot 100 97
Saint Etienne U.S. Hot Dance Club Play 1
Saint Etienne U.S. Modern Rock Tracks 11[15]

Chart Successions

Preceded by
"A Deeper Love" by Civiles & Cole
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single (Saint Etienne version)
February 15 – 22, 1992
Succeeded by
"We Got a Love Thang" by CeCe Peniston


  1. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2003). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. Random House. pp. 339–40.  
  2. ^ Thompson, Ben (1993-06-27). "Lives of the Great Songs: Soft, strong and not very long: Only Love Can Break Your Heart: It was written by one of Crosby Stills Nash & Young, for another, and later ruined by a third. Ben Thompson compiles the second in our series of song biographies".  
  3. ^ Lonergan, David F. Hit records, 1950-1975. Scarecrow. p. 168.  
  4. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2003). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. Random House. p. 750.  
  5. ^ Echard, William (2005). Neil Young and the poetics of energy. Indiana University Press. p. 91.  
  6. ^ "In the spring of 1990, Saint Etienne released their first single, a house-tinged cover of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart,""
  7. ^ Kelly, N (2009-05-30). "Pop's never-never band return to the source".  
  8. ^ Saint Etienne official site: Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  9. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (2008). Song Man: A Melodic Adventure, Or, My Single-Minded Approach to Songwriting. Da Capo Press.  
  10. ^ Warwick, Neil; Tony Brown; Jon Kutner (2004). The complete book of the British charts: singles & albums. Omnibus. p. 950.  
  11. ^ "Second Time Around".  
  12. ^
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Christian David Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster. p. 193.  
  15. ^
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