Happy 65th birthday wishes go out to Neil Young today as we feature his touching album Tonight’s The Night.
Neil lost two close friends to drug deaths, only about six months apart. One was the guitarist of his backing band, Crazy Horse, Danny Whitten. The other, Bruce Berry, was a long time roadie for Neil. Bruce was also the brother to Jan, of ‘Jan and Dean’ fame.
Much of this album was a direct response to those losses. Both of those men died shortly before Neil started writing this album. Bruce Berry is mentioned by name in the title track while Danny Whitten can be heard on the track, ‘Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown.’ This song was live from 1971.
Neil had quite a solid backing band at this point. Ben Keith (who recently passed away this July) was on pedal steel. The wonderful Nils Lofgren was on guitar with Billy Talbot on bass and Ralph Molina on drums.
Neil was and is still known for his conviction. A great example of that was shown when he began his tour for Tonight’s The Night. Neil’s plan was to play the album front to back in its entirety. He felt that the music was strong enough to stand on its own legs even though people were hearing it for the first time. Critics and audience members weren’t as receptive. They wanted a ‘greatest hits show’ but weren’t getting one. What was Neil’s plan to get people to pay attention and leave remembering the message? Well, here’s what he did! He would begin the show saying ‘I’m going to be playing new music. Please listen and have patience with it. Once you hear the full album, I promise to you that I’ll play songs that you’ve heard before.’ So, in classic Neil fashion, as soon as the album was done, he indeed did play something that they’ve heard before. He played the album again!!!!!
The album was recorded in 1973 but was not released until 1975. Reprise Records wasn’t too thrilled with it. Neil finally was able to get them to release it a couple years later. I remember seeing Neil a few years later. For the encore he performed the song, Tonight’s The Night, but not before holding the record high and saying ‘Buy This Album!’
Tonight The Night peaked at #25 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.
Rolling Stone Magazine ranks the album #333 on their list of the Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Once again, Happy Birthday Neil!
All songs written by Neil Young except “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown” by Danny Whitten and Neil Young.
- “Tonight’s the Night” – 4:39
- “Speakin’ Out” – 4:56
- “World on a String” – 2:27
- “Borrowed Tune” – 3:26
- “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown” (Live) – 3:35
- “Mellow My Mind” – 3:07
- “Roll Another Number (for the Road)” – 3:02
- “Albuquerque” – 4:02
- “New Mama” – 2:11
- “Lookout Joe” – 3:57
- “Tired Eyes” – 4:38
- “Tonight’s the Night—Part II” – 4:52
- Neil Young – vocal, piano, guitar, harmonica, vibes
- Ben Keith – pedal steel guitar, vocal, slide guitar
- Nils Lofgren – guitar, piano, vocal
- Danny Whitten – guitar, vocal
- Jack Nitzsche – electric piano, piano
- Billy Talbot – bass
- Tim Drummond – bass
- Ralph Molina – drums, vocal
- Kenny Buttrey – drums
- George Whitsell – vocal
BONUS VIDEO: ’The Needle and The Damage Done’ from the Johnny Cash Show.