Neil Young

Ambulance Blues

Composed by Neil Young

Song Review by

The epic folk song "Ambulance Blues" is a favorite among folk-rockers and musicians wishing to pay tribute to singer/songwriter Young. Ironically, Young was paying tribute to his favorite guitarist, Scottish folk troubadour Bert Jansch, from whom he borrowed the guitar figure and melody (from Jansch's "Needle of Death"). Delivered on acoustic guitar with a little fiddle, spare bass, drums, and signature harmonica, the song is taken from the kinda blue album On the Beach (1974). "Ambulance Blues" is one of Young's rare songs that can't be so easily interpreted, with its references all over the map, drawing from some of his pet themes: his past in Toronto, the rape of the land and its native people, lying politicians, and depression, or in this case, coming through a depression. It has that loose and rambling vibe in which Young specializes, yet it's wound tightly in all of its sprawling, nine-minute glory. The reference to the ambulance in the title, "An ambulance can only go so fast, it's easy to get buried in the past," might refer to Young's career (of which he sings, "back in the old folky days"). The song is a rare concert favorite; in 1998, Young performed the song at the Bridge School Benefit backed by members of R.E.M.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
On the Beach 1974 Reprise 8:56
Official Release Series, Discs 5-8 2014 Reprise / Warner Music 8:56