Neil Young Takes A Shot At Beck’s “Old Man” Cover Appearing In An NFL Commercial
Have advertising firms just been waiting decades for a chance to put a Neil Young song in a TV commercial? Has that been their white whale? Neil Young always famously refused any and all requests to license his music for advertising purposes, and he made a big point about it. Young’s 1988 song “This Note’s For You” is specifically about the whole idea of corporate-sponsored rock music: “Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi, ain’t singin’ for Coke/ I don’t sing for nobody/ Makes me look like a joke.” The song’s video — which MTV, perversely enough, awarded its Video Of The Year trophy — is a series of visual jokes about ads that use pop and rock songs. On Instagram last night, Neil Young posted a screenshot from the “This Note’s For You” video, with no caption. We have to imagine that there’s a reason for that.
Over the weekend, Beck’s cover of Neil Young’s 1972 song “Old Man” appeared in a promotional spot for the NFL. In the ad, we see black-and-white footage of Beck playing “Old Man” on an acoustic guitar, and it’s interspersed with footage of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes ahead of next week’s Buccaneers/Chiefs Sunday Night Football game. The whole thing would look like a “This Note’s For You”-style parody of TV commercials using beloved rock songs if it weren’t an actual TV commercial that uses an actual beloved rock song.
A commercial like this would’ve been unthinkable a few years ago. But early in 2021, Neil Young sold half of his song catalogue to the Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British investment company that’s been buying up song catalogues for huge sums in recent years. The terms of Neil Young’s sale were not disclosed. At the time, Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis told ABC News, “There will never be a ‘Burger Of Gold,’ but we will work together to make sure everyone gets to hear [Neil Young’s songs] on Neil’s terms.” It’s possible that their deal allows for covers of Young’s songs to show up in TV commercials without Young’s personal blessing. It’s possible that Neil Young is grumpy about this. We’ve reached out to Neil Young’s rep for clarification.