"Tonight's The Night", Neil Young's sixth album, celebrates a birthday today!
This Neil Young classic released on June 20, 1975, is considered one of this magnificent artist's great albums, a milestone, not only in Neil Young's personal catalog but in modern music in general.
Things did not look like this when the album was released, in fact, they were light-years away from what was described. Stay tuned for the rest of the article and find out why.
Although the album "Tonight's The Night" was recorded back in 1973, right after Neil Young's successful album "Harvest", this album was finally released only two years later, in 1975. The record company that heard the album was so frightened by the content that they thought That it would be a commercial failure and decided not to publish it. Meanwhile, Young has released two other albums, "Time Fades Away", recorded live in 1973, and the studio album "On The Beach" released in 1974. These three albums are also known as "The Ditch Trilogy" - all from Neil Young's melancholy and dark times.
Indeed, "Tonight's The Night" is a gloomy and depressing album that addresses issues such as loss and death, mostly influenced by the deaths of Young's two friends, Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry.
The first to fall for drugs was Danny Whitten, guitarist of "the Crazy Horse", who died of a heroin overdose on 11/18/1972. Danny Whitten is also the main theme of the song "The Needle and The Damage Done" from the album "Harvest", which Neil Young wrote while Danny Whitten was alive. Unfortunately, Neil Young's pleas and even the song he wrote did not help Danny Whitten get rid of his addiction, which forced Neil Young to eventually fire him from the band. Neil Young put a $ 50 bill in Danny's hand and sent him off. Danny bought with the money Young gave him the last and deadly dose of heroin that finally killed him, leaving Young with terrible guilt, severe trauma, and deep depression.
A few months later, Bruce Berry also died. He was a stage worker of "Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young", together and separately. He also overdosed on heroin and cocaine. Bruce was drugged by the same Danny Whitten and found dead not long after.
The impact of the deaths of his two loved ones was traumatic for Young, who was unable to recover from the deaths of his two friends.
About three months after Bruce Berry's death, Young entered a recording studio in Hollywood California, fortified with a huge amount of alcohol, and began recording the album "Tonight's The Night". Most of the songs on the album were recorded in one late-night session on 8/28/1973, when the band members were drunk, and this is well reflected in the recordings.
The result was particularly dark, gloomy, and depressing.
The opening and concluding song of the album, which is also the theme song "Tonight’s The Night", was written as a tribute to the same Bruce Berry. As you can also hear from the lyrics, this is actually a requiem describing excerpts from Bruce's life, about being a "working man" who used to load and drive the band van, about how he used to take Young's guitar after everyone went to bed and sing songs with his shaky voice and more. The song was recorded by the band in one take, which apparently gave it its immature and rough sound. By the way, this motif of songs that start and end the album, will be repeated with "Hey Hey, My My" from the album "Rust Never Sleeps" and with "Rockin 'In The Free World" from the album "Freedom".
Young's broken and tormented voice in the song "Borrowed Tune" best illustrates the situation Neil was in at the time. The melody of the song was "stolen" from the Rolling Stones' "Lady Jane" and this is also mentioned in the lyrics of Young which says: "This is a melody I borrowed from the Rolling Stones". This confession by Young about the "borrowing" he made from the Stones, also explains what Young went through at that time.
Another example of the album's melancholy character is seen in his crushed voice and howls of Young's pain in the song "Mellow My Mind." The song is about a desperate man who cannot experience the small pleasures of life due to drug addiction.
"Albuquerque" is a sad song that is dealing with success, in which Neil Young talks about his desire to rent a car and drive it from Albuquerque New Mexico to Santa Fe, just to gain a few minutes of quiet and be alone with his thoughts. Listen to the moaning and howling guitar that accompanies the song throughout its length and conveys in an amazing, moving, and heartbreaking way, Young's feelings.
And if the direction of this album is still unclear, then listen to the song "Tired Eyes", and then you will surely understand the record company's fear of the album's release, especially after the successful album "Harvest". It is a broken, tormented, and painful song that does not leave one eye dry.
But the album includes not only quiet and melancholy tracks, but also angry and rough tracks in terms of their production. "Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown" which was recorded on Filmore East in 1970 and "Lookout Joe" which was written before the rest of the album's songs, and perhaps for this reason the atmosphere in it is different from the other songs on the album.
(Photo: Gijsbert Hanekroot)
In conclusion, this album passed the test of time very well, against all odds, despite the depressing material, despite the sloppy production (perhaps intentionally), and even though it sounded like it was recorded during one long rehearsal.
And maybe "Tonight's The Night" actually became a musical asset for precisely these reasons, because it was an album that was meant to sound the way it did. A stills picture that set a particularly difficult time in the life of a great creator. No polishing, no Photoshop, and no production tricks. Listeners got Young exposed, with no strainer and no defenses, just as it was in those dark sessions in 1973, and here lies the ultimate greatness of the album.
And if that's not enough, the fact that this album was ahead of time on the album "On The Beach" but came out after it, only added to the aura around it, because it highlighted the circumstances that surrounded its painful creative process.