In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking songs that feature the word “hey” prominently—either in the title or in the lyrics.
Neil Young, “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” (1979)
Neil Young was feeling a little lost in the latter part of the ’70s, or so the story goes. Impressed but also somewhat threatened by the rise of punk, Young made friends with the guys in Devo, who re-inspired him. His own artistic self-examination led to Rust Never Sleeps, and specifically the album’s twin bookends, “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black).” The songs—really one song, first delivered via acoustic guitar and then fully rocking—are among Young’s best known, due partly to the controversial line, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” John Lennon called Young out for what he considered an irresponsible sentiment, and Kurt Cobain took it to heart, quoting the line on his suicide note, which shook Young up quite a bit, naturally. But the words were always more complex than that; Young isn’t necessarily advocating some sort of live-fast-die-young approach, but rather examining his own muse in light of the next important movement coming up behind him. To me, it’s always seemed more intended as a mantra to keep things fresh, to never get complacent. That’s certainly something Young has lived by, for better and worse: Rust Never Sleeps was a commercial and artistic triumph, but it was his last for a long while. He spent the ’80s looking for inspiration in weird places, and released a series of albums that most fans consider his worst. But he kept going—never burning out or fading away, exactly.