Only Love Can Break Your Heart

"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.

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
Only Love Can Break Your Heart.jpg
Single by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
from the album After the Gold Rush
ReleasedSeptember 19, 1970
October 19, 1970
(U.S. 7" single)
RecordedMarch 15, 1970
GenreFolk rock[1]
Songwriter(s)Neil Young
Producer(s)David Briggs, Neil Young
Neil Young and Crazy Horse singles chronology
"Cinnamon Girl"
"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
"When You Dance I Can Really Love"

Genesis and recordingEdit

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,[2] though Young in interviews has been somewhat tentative in admitting or remembering this.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] The song is praised as a "seemingly simple song which display[s] considerable attention to detail in the deployment of instruments."[6]

Saint Etienne versionEdit

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
Single by Saint Etienne featuring Moira Lambert
from the album Foxbase Alpha
  • "The Official Saint Etienne World Cup Theme" (UK)
  • "Filthy" (UK reissue)
  • "Stoned to Say the Least" (United States)
ReleasedMay 1990
RecordedJanuary 1990[7]
GenreAlternative dance, house[8]
LabelHeavenly - HVN2 / HVN12 (reissue)
Songwriter(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 - Sarah Cracknell had not yet joined the band as a permanent member beforehand. [9] The band recorded the song in producer Ian Catt's bedroom studio in Pollards Hill.[10] The recording, made in under two hours, got them a record deal, their first single, and their first hit.[11] Andrew Weatherall later remixed the song, further emphasising its 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. "Filthy", was later covered as "Jungle Pulse" by Etienne Daho.[12] The song remains Saint Etienne's only entry in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 97 in 1992[13]. 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."[14]

Two videos were released for the single. The original version is mostly in black and white and depicts Lucy Gillie from early 90s pop trio Golden miming the vocals (Lambert refused to appear in the video).[15] The second features Cracknell miming to Lambert's vocals and depicts the band entering a cinema in a small French town (that inspired the group's name) where they see themselves in a movie. The act includes this song in their live shows with Cracknell performing the song.

Other cover versionsEdit

Chart performanceEdit

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[21]


  1. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" at AllMusic. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  2. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2003). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. Random House. pp. 339–40. ISBN 978-0-679-31193-5.
  3. ^ 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". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  4. ^ Lonergan, David F. (2005). Hit records, 1950-1975. Scarecrow. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-8108-5129-0.
  5. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2003). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. Random House. p. 750. ISBN 978-0-679-31193-5.
  6. ^ Echard, William (2005). Neil Young and the poetics of energy. Indiana University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-253-21768-4.
  7. ^ Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 605. ISBN 978-0-879-30607-6.
  8. ^ "Saint Etienne | Music Biography, Streaming Radio and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-09-07.
  9. ^ Kelly, N (2009-05-30). "Pop's never-never band return to the source". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  10. ^ "Only Love Can Break Your Heart". Saint Etienne. Retrieved 2015-09-07.
  11. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (2008). Song Man: A Melodic Adventure, Or, My Single-Minded Approach to Songwriting. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81581-2.
  12. ^ Warwick, Neil; Tony Brown; Jon Kutner (2004). The complete book of the British charts: singles & albums. Omnibus. p. 950. ISBN 978-1-84449-058-5.
  13. ^ "Music: Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  14. ^ "Second Time Around". Vibe. March 2003. p. 160.
  15. ^ "Golden - Golden's Photos". Facebook. 2012-12-08. Retrieved 2015-09-07.
  16. ^ "The Ultimate Stiff Record". Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  17. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Christian David Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8.
  18. ^ Cox, Bradford (August 13, 2007). "Atlas Sound - Only Love Can Break Your Heart (N. Young / Psychic TV Cover)". deerhunter / atlas sound / lotus plaza blog. Retrieved October 17, 2009.
  19. ^ "A COVER TRILOGY: Asami Zdrenka - Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Saint Etienne/Neil Young cover)". YouTube. 2015-08-26. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  20. ^ "Florence + The Machine". Retrieved 2016-05-28.
  21. ^ "Foxbase Alpha - Saint Etienne | Awards". AllMusic. 1992-01-14. Retrieved 2015-09-07.