We have some information about Neil Young’s Sugar Mountain from fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. From a concert where she was singing a duet (familiar with Newton Family Singers):
She introduces her next song by saying:
The song she wrote?
The Circle Game. A live version from 1974:
Here’s Joni’s version of Sugar Mountain (1967):
Right. Back to Neil and Sugar Mountain:
He wrote this song right after leaving his band The Squires (this is a great interview with a bandmate from those teenage years about Young, Neil).
From Neil Young: Long May You Run: Neil wrote this at the Victoria Hotel in Fort Williams, Ontario. Around this time he met Stephen Stills, who was touring Canada with his band The Company. Young on Stills: “Mainly, he was the funniest person I’d met in years. He didn’t have another gig until next weekend, so he stayed in Thunder Bay and we played and he took us to see buffalo. We lived on A&W cheeseburgers and root beer. Very Canadian.”
Sugar Mountain was the b-side to Young’s first solo single (The Loner) and did not appear on an album until 1977’s greatest hits compilation “Decade.” (It appeared as a b-side on a number of singles.)
Here’s Neil from 1971 with a talky intro:
at about the 5:45 minute mark, he talks about writing the song saying:
The verse he’s speaking of?
Here’s one of Young’s biggest fans doing his version:
(Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, for those wondering.)
And here’s a (quiet) video of Young from last year’s Farm Aid concert: