Neil Young has never been afraid of speaking his mind, whatever the consequences – and much to the delight of his fans. Back in 1988, Young took aim at what he saw as the growing commercialisation of rock and pop music by releasing the defiant single This Note’s For You, the title track to the album he released on 11 April that year. Going Top 20 on Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks chart, the song became notorious, not least for its promo video, which was initially banned by MTV until the network performed an about-face and named it Video Of The Year at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.
The inspiration: “I laughed my ass off. For miles and miles”
The sentiment of This Note’s For You had been brewing for some time, with Young increasingly irked by the willingness of some of his contemporaries to accept hefty paychecks from global brands. “The Rolling Stones were sponsored by Jovan perfume, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood were selling beer, Michael Jackson had been bought by Pepsi for $15 million,” Young told interviewer Mark Rowland, as quoted in Jimmy McDonough’s 2002 biography, Shakey.
Budweiser’s This Bud’s For You ad campaign provided Young with the catalyst he needed for his protest song. “For months I heard this line – ‘I ain’t singin’ for Pepsi, I ain’t singin’ for Coke.’ And I was riding along in the bus, and I was singing it to myself, and thinking, I like that,” Young later explained. “Then when I thought of the line ‘This note’s for you’, I laughed my ass off. For miles and miles.”