Neil Young is kidding. This is not actually the most intense song ever recorded about domestic help. No one needs a maid this badly. Well, I can think of some single male friends of mine, who speak this passionately about having someone come in and empty out the ashtrays, slay the vermin, find bedsheets and remove the melted cheese from the rice cooker. In my estimation, the point is moot, because a maid would would be far out of her depth; what is actually needed is a crack squad of exorcists, fumigators and arsonists.
Neil Young - A Man Needs a Maid - 1971
But, because we know he's kidding, it is incumbent also to ask what he really means. Why is he so lonely, in this ocean of swelling strings? Why is his heart breaking when women he has never met swim across the dotted screen?
In fact, he's not kidding.
On some nights, when your head is not full of poisons or fictions, and you step out of your house and walk down the street, the familiar terrifies you. How many of these people do you know? How many of the names on these houses do you remember? What kind of dog barks behind the white gate? If you were to turn around, right now, is it possible there is somebody right behind you- someone who might do you harm?
You don't turn around. You never do. You could not bear to know you're right.
Maybe love is a kind of domestic help. A guarantee that, at least in the nutshell of your own home, the only other sentient being does not want to put a kitchen knife in your back. A sense of safety when you put your headphones on and close your eyes. Someone else checking that the doors are locked, the gas is off. In the spiraling dark, one more fixed point; enough to draw a line.
Maybe you're lying to yourself, like Neil Young is. Maybe the fear is not that you might die tonight and not have left behind a single coherent thing. Maybe the fear that keeps you lonely is that you might live till you are very, very old, but because you were worried about dying young, you screwed everything up. No one wants to live with an eternity of regrets.
Your candle is burning and the clock is ticking. In your lonely house, the silence is unbearable. You must bet now, but a bony hand holds the dice.