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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Comment of the Moment: Tonight’s the Night

Photo by Robert Ellis

The Comment of the Moment is on the epitome of ditch... Tonight’s the Night.

From BigChief:
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.!

More on the epitome of ditch... Tonight’s the Night.

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At 5/03/2010 12:27:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

I put this on the other night and had to turn it off 3 songs in. It's a work of unbridled genius for sure, but I really need to be in a certain mindset to listen to it.

Here are the two overwhelming sensations I felt that needed to be turned off at that moment:

Tuneless dischord and an overbearing grey hopelessness.

It's funny how this album can affect you differently depending on your mood. I mean, a lot of albums are like that, but this one violently vacillates depending on my state of mind. I can love it and admire it, and hate it and want to throw it away.

That's the truth about real art. I've always said that I don't want everyone to love my songs. I won't consider them good enough unless there are some people who absolutely hate them. It's that volatility that makes art real.

At 5/03/2010 04:39:00 PM, Anonymous SONY said...

"I won't consider them good enough unless there are some people who absolutely hate them."

Now there's a perspective I hadn't considered. I must be doing something right then. I will say that there are times with my own stuff where I think it's great and right on cue and other times listening to the same songs when I just wanna turn it off and quit.

Tonight's the Night though seems to define itself as far as the art/music relationship. I just don't hear it being off key or out of step because the base root of the theme seems to carry it all the way through. It's a bottomless drain. And for that reason it never seems to be less than expected.

At 5/03/2010 09:58:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Well Sony, I should clarify - I didn't actually start thinking it would be the mark of art to provoke intense dislike for my songs until Neil Young made that clear to me. Though dammit if I can't get someone to intensely dislike my stuff. The worst I get is apathetic, or "Eh, I'm not really into that." Argh!

Truly I think it's part of his genius, particularly evident in this album (among others), that the ugly is as beautiful as the serene, and sometimes moreso even.

"Bottomless drain," a perfect description of the endless emotional cascade of this album. And also why it continues to have the extreme effect on me that it does.

It's not an album I always enjoy, though there are nights when it feels so poignant, meaningful and powerful. It's more an experience than anything.

But if I am not feeling emotionally strong, it's hard to take, and I want to burn it. Which is why I think it's a perfect piece of art.

Interesting that you should mention not hearing it off-key. When I am into it, it doesn't sound off-key. It sounds on key at those moments. So I would agree, but only when it hits me on the "I dig this" extreme, as opposed to the "I can't take this" extreme.

Such a slippery album. It seems to morph and change with my own feelings. Sometimes I even dream about it. Seriously. It's a monster of the night, capable of invading the crevices of sleep and working its way into the psyche, even when I haven't listened to it in quite awhile.


At 5/04/2010 09:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of those rare albums that must be listened to from start to finish - no jumping around among songs, or playing only 2-3 tracks. It is a "rock opera" of sorts, almost kabuki in a sense since it is awash in post-70's angst, the musicians are living through an epoch of personal and popular history run amok. The 60's are definitely over, and Neil doesn't like what he sees (What do you mean, he had bullet holes in his mirrors?)... This is a postcard from the fringes of this great nation - and one without a return address.

At 5/04/2010 10:32:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

I think this might be the greatest rock album of all time, in terms of it being such a soul-baring document.

Perhaps it even trumps Floyd's Atom Heart Mother as a truly miraculous expression.

At 5/05/2010 04:03:00 PM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

"Ten years after the original recording, David Briggs and I talked about Tonight's the Night, on which he had shared the producer credit with Neil. At home a couple of weeks earlier he had come across the original tape, the one that wasn't put out. 'I want to tell you, it is a handful. It is unrelenting. There is no relief in it at all. It does not release you for one second. It's like some guy having you by the throat from the first note, and all the way to the end.' After all the real smooth stuff Neil had been doing, David felt most critics and others simply failed to read what they should have into Tonight's the Night -- that it was an artist making a giant growth step. Neil came in during this conversation, which was in his living room. When David stopped Neil said, 'You've got that original? I thought it was lost. I've never been able to find it. We'll bring it out someday, that original.'"
Scott Young from Neil and Me

At 5/06/2010 10:00:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Yes!! It EXISTS!!! It EXISTS!!!!! I hope they didn't bury it with Briggs. I know that McDonough was able to get a picture of the cassette to post in his book. That cassette is out there, and Neil has got to find a way to release it. Even if it's got tape hiss, I don't care!!! AAAAAAHH!!

At 5/06/2010 02:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If true, this would in itself make Archives II a priceless piece of art.


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