Comment of the Moment: Tonight’s the Night
The Comment of the Moment is on the epitome of ditch... Tonight’s the Night.
Ah, the 'dark side'!
Everybody has one, and Neil certainly exposed his during the recording of this little gem. This wasn't something that one could even attempt to sit down and write without having to have experienced or at least observed what was going down in the sub-culture during that time period.
Written, recorded, and performed shortly after the deaths of both Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry, who by the way,was the brother of Jan Berry of 'Jan & Dean' fame, who was living out his own period of 'darkness' after his tragic car accident had ended his own illustrious career and ultimately his life.
While most of his peers at that time were still trying to ride out the wave of peace and love, Neil was one of the very few who were keenly aware of the consequences brought forth as a result of the 'Hippie Dream'. The short lived Utopia that was induced upon the youth, post 'summer of love', as a result of the seemingly innocent widespread consumption of marijuana and psychedelics led way to rampant abuse of far less innocent drugs such as Heroin, Cocaine, and the element of crime that ensued (Tired Eyes).
The soldiers returning home from the war certainly didn't get the 'heros welcome' that our returning soldiers enjoy today. So much had changed in the short time they were gone that most of them were overwhelmed with 'culture shock' upon returning (Lookout Joe).
As the great visionary that he is, Neil captured the essence of societies ill's and created a masterpiece of a recording depicting the ups and downs of the drug culture at that time, along with some contrasting tunes offering hope and redemption (Mellow My Mind, New Mama). This record stands alone, even among the other two 'Ditch' siblings, nothing else that Neil has done before or since can compare. This is one of those things that just happen, a moment in time captured like a photograph.
Of all of his records, this defines what would eventually become synonymous with Neil Young, the irony that the only constant with Neil is change. This record has all of the trademark elements of a Neil Young record, however, it would probably be a poor choice to play for someone during an attempt to gain a convert, especially on a sunny afternoon at the beach. Rather, around 2am after the ones who 'can't hang' have gone and those who remain have grown weary of whatever it was that had been playing, turn down the lights and crank this one up ... thats how it was meant to be heard!
From Greg M (A Friend Of Yours):
So much to be said about a one of a kind record. I think some of the earliest terms applied (exorcism, wake) still make the most sense to me. The balls it took to release this!, even given the fact that it took time and the reassurance of a peer review listening party to get it past a stalled state. I'm no exhaustive source on the history of recorded music, but how many other records could there be that expose the artist in just this way- harrowing, drunk, off key, shredded vocal chords, just this side of despairing? Sure, TFA had already trashed Harvest, but this is quintessential Neil- the unvarnished truth of the record itself, and the damn the torpedoes release.
The moment that still sticks out for me among my countless TTN moments, is a cold winter night back in school, returning to my apartment from a listless party, lighting one up and sitting down on the floor in front of the speakers, with just some dim lamp light behind me. The opening piano notes and the opening line- made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. "Speaking Out" propelling the whole thing forward, the rough rockers, the impossibly quiet moments, and maybe my favorite Neil line of them all: "Well tell me more, tell me more, tell me more. I mean was he a heavy doper or was he just a loser? He was a friend of yours." The artless phrasing of “loser” and "yours", as in don't pretend with me, let's just tell the truth. After all, at its core, isn't this the spirit of the album in a nut shell? Pretty close to the truth, if not "the" truth, at least for me. But the album means so many things on so many levels, we are all in Neil’s debt that he put it out.
Oh, and count me in as preferring a Briggs version first before any TFA re-release, albeit that without TFA, there might never have been a TTN in any form (might not have been). Also, could someone correct me if I'm wrong, I thought I had read that the complete Briggs recording was somehow lost, and does not exist, or can't be reconstructed, or something along those lines. Do I have that wrong? I hope so.
In the spirit of "Tired Eyes", Greg M (A Friend Of Yours)
Thanks Big Chief & Greg M.!
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