Buffalo Springfield Week; VI: “I Am a Child”

September 16, 2015 • 7:15 am

I believe there are three days left to go in Buffalo Springfield week. This song, “I am a child,” comes from the last of the Buffalo Springfield’s non-retrospective albums, “Last Time Around” (1968).  It is, of course, a Neil Young composition, and Young for once got to sing lead vocal. I doubt that most Buffalo Springfield or Neil Young fans would have this on their list of favorites, but I find it wonderful. Imagine this being a rock song in 1968, and written when Young was only 23.

The original recorded version is here, but I actually prefer the live version below, with Young on 12-string acoustic guitar and harmonica. This performance appears on the “Live Rust” album (1978), containing songs recorded on Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps” tour but not released on the eponymous album.

Somehow it makes sense to me to think of Young as a child—not that he had the mentality of one, but that he was innocent, vulnerable, and full of wonder. And so, I think, this is the rock song (are there any competitors?) that best expresses what it’s really like to be a child. Here are the lyrics. They’re pretty simple, but the first line is classic Young, “I am a child; I’ll last a while.”

I am a child, I’ll last a while
You can’t conceive of the pleasure in my smile
You hold my hand, rough up my hair
It’s lots of fun to have you there

I gave to you, now, you give to me
I’d like to know what you’ve learned
The sky is blue and so is the sea
What is the color when black is burned?
What is the color?

You are a man, you understand
You pick me up and you lay me down again
You make the rules, you say what’s fair
It’s lots of fun to have you there

I gave to you, now you give to me
I’d like to know what you’ve learned
The sky is blue and so is the sea
What is the color, when black is burned?
What is the color?

I am a child, I’ll last a while
You can’t conceive of the pleasure in my smile.

The first comment below highlights a nice American Masters documentary about Young, featuring many interviews with him; it’s here. It’s weird to hear him talking like a normal human being! Be sure to see a photo of the 16-year-old Neil at 5:22. The bit about the Buffalo Springfield starts at 11:30.

19 thoughts on “Buffalo Springfield Week; VI: “I Am a Child”

  1. This is a very haunting song and I have loved it as long as I can remember. However, I wonder how the sound to this video was recorded. There is no microphone in sight, yet the singing and playing are very well audible over the cheering of the crowd, despite mr Young’s walking around on stage. I’m not suggesting this was playbacked, I’d just like to know where the microphone was hidden.

      1. That is possible, but I don’t think wireless technology was that far in 1978 – plus you’d have an awful lot of breath noise when he’d actually play the harmonica, I guess…

    1. Young’s relationship with his own father was complicated. They did reconcile before his death in 2005. The hockey video I posted below features Scott and Neil Young.

  2. The video is from Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps” tour which I was fortunate to see at the old Chicago Stadium in 1978.

    The album Rust Never Sleeps had not been released – it was a combination of studio recordings and live recordings spliced together. Still one of my favorite Neil Young albums.

    The Stadium was one of the incredibly loud old hockey barns – like the Olympia (DET), Boston Garden, Forum (MTL) and Maple Leaf Gardens (TOR) which are now all gone. Yet the sound at the concert was great. Seemed appropriate since people at times forget the essential Canadianness (?) of Young. I believe that hockey is essential to the Canadian character. How do Canadians help absorb immigrants – with Hockey Night Punjabi.

    In 2013, Tim Thompson tied it altogether for me with one of the brilliant videos he used to put together for Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC), still the most popular television show in Canada. Unfortunately, since Rogers took over HNIC from the CBC, they no longer use Thompson. Before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between Chicago and Boston, the video was set to Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) which first appeared on Rust Never Sleeps. It also featured old footage of Scott Young, Neil’s father, one of the first hosts of HNIC including a shot of them together at the end of the video.

    1. If you want to see one of the first two links, get rid of the ” at the end of the URL after clicking the link. Not sure why it does that with some links. I think I did the HTML correctly – LinkText . For some reason, it keeps the second ” as part of the URL.

    2. I saw CSN, unfortunately sans Y, at Maple Leaf Gardens in maybe ’78 or ’79. They needed the rocking loudness of Neil in that venue. Unfortunately some even younger yahoos behind us kept lobbing lighted joints thru the audience. They had apparently never heard of CSN and had been given free tickets.

      Also heard Dylan during his Xtian phase at MLG.

  3. Saw the Atlanta gig on his tour in 78. The wireless mike was in the harmonica. Neil has always been on the cutting edge of musical technology. Pretty good for an old folkie.

    Musical note (sorry very bad pun): Joni Mitchell’s song THE CIRCLE GAME was inspired by this song.

    And the seasons they go round and round
    And the painted ponies go up and down
    We’re captive on the carousel of time
    We can’t return, we can only look behind
    From where we came
    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game

  4. It’s great to hear these songs. Being born in the late 60s I was about 15 years too late to really be aware of them. I know the names of course, but I’d never really listened to the music. Now I’m adding Buffalo Springfield and Neil Young albums to my music collection.

    Looking to hear more, I found on YouTube this video of the Buffalo Springfield reunion at Bridge School benefit concert in 2010.

    In the video at 11:15 the caption says ‘A Child’s Claim to Fame’ is “Richie’s song about Neil quitting and rejoining Buffalo Springfield”. At 19:58 the caption says ‘I Am a Child’ is “Neil’s answer to Richie’s ‘A Child’s Claim to Fame'”.

    I’ve no idea how true either claim is.

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