Friday, June 19, 2015

40 Year Itch : Neil's Liquid Album

"I'm sorry. You don't know these people. This means nothing to you." ~ Neil Young's liner notes.

Neil Young : Speakin' Out

    Like an album length extension of the grief stricken "The Needle and the Damage Done", Tonight's the Night, released on June 20, 1975, explores the dark side of rocking in the free world. In an interview with Rolling Stone's Cameron Crowe, Young explained the circumstances surrounding the making of the album:

    Tonight's the Night is like an OD letter. The whole thing is about life, dope and death. When we [Nils Lofgren, guitars and piano, Talbot, Molina and Young] played that music we were all thinking of Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry, two close members of our unit lost to junk overdoses.

Danny Whitten
   The Tonight's the Night sessions were the first time what was left of Crazy Horse had gotten together since Danny died. It was up to us to get the strength together among us to fill the hole he left.

Bruce Berry

    The other OD, Bruce Berry, was CSNY's roadie for a long time. His brother Ken runs Studio Instrument Rentals, where we recorded the album. So we had a lot of vibes going for us. There was a lot of spirit in the music we made. It's funny, I remember the whole experience in black and white.

We'd go down to S.I.R. about 5:00 in the afternoon and start getting high, drinking tequila and playing pool. About midnight, we'd start playing. And we played Bruce and Danny on their way all through the night. I'm not a junkie and I won't even try it out to check out what it's like...but we all got high enough, right out there on the edge where we felt wide-open to the whole mood. It was spooky. I probably feel this album more than anything else I've ever done.

   Recorded in August of 1973, the album wasn't released for two years. Young says that's because, with just nine songs recorded,  it wasn't finished. But manager Elliot Roberts found two Neil Young songs, "Lookout Joe" and "Borrowed Tune", that fit the feel of the album and a live version of Whitten singing lead on "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown" from 1970.

 The result is an album Young describes as both "the most out of tune thing I'd ever heard" and strong in performance and feeling.

  It may sound like a bad trip but 40 years on, Tonight's the Night remains one of my most played Neil Young albums. Its off-key honesty is one of the great artistic statements put on record.

1 comment:

  1. After "Tonight's the Night" I lost my mojo for Neil. I know that's sacrilege, my friends all razz me, but it's true. Everything before "Tonight…" was real and authentic and sounded like it came from the heart. "Tonight's the Night" in contrast just seem to come from the soul. Ragged, unrehearsed, drunken, brutal, sloppy, almost angry. Just honest rock and roll. Punk from the garage. And then everything after that just couldn't compare. Rushed, rote and somewhat contrived to me. I admire Neil Young more than I love his music after TTN. He's had some
    great tracks intersperse with a lot of regrades. (Although "On the Beach" was pretty fine….) Sorry. I know that's wrong for so many but that's just me. But "Tonight's the Night" is one of his jewel crowns. I used to lay it when I was pist (sic) off. Hahahahaha.