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Saturday, November 10, 2018

RARE: Neil Young's Roadie Bruce Berry - "Was A Working Man"

Bruce Berry ~1973

Neil Young's Roadie Bruce Berry was immortalized in the song "Tonight's The Night" lyrics:

"Bruce Berry was a working man
He used to load that Econoline van"

In 1973, after the deaths of band mate Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, Neil Young and his group (dubbed the Santa Monica Flyers) entered the studio with the sole purpose of unloading their grief and having as much fun as possible. The result was the very dark, ragged, loose and powerfully emotional "Tonight's The Night album."

Neil Young's 1975 "Tonight's The Night" is considered to be his 'darkest' album - both literally and figuratively - and the last of the "Ditch Trilogy" (along with Times Fade Away and On The Beach).

tonights the night  album cover

Tonight's The Night

The album "Tonight's The Night" explores the depth of Neil's pain over the heroin overdose deaths of Crazy Horse's Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Berry was a roadie and was Jan Berry's brother, of Jan and Dean fame. Brother Jan Berry, was living out his own period of 'darkness' after his tragic car accident had ended his own illustrious career and ultimately his life.

"Tonight's The Night" was recorded at Los Angeles' Studio Instrument Rentals (S.I.R.) on Santa Monica Boulevard, which was run by Bruce Berry's other brother Ken, and down they had an innocuous black and gray building that functioned as a rehearsal space.

Neil Young and Santa Monica Flyers
Studio Instrument Rentals, Los Angeles, CA

Fueled by tequila and cheeseburgers, Neil Young's "Tonight's The Night" the album represents a dark chapter in Young's career. Winning almost no acclaim upon its release (that would come years later, as "Tonight's the Night" ranked #331 on Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums of all time in 2003), it did, however, influence numerous artists, including Johnny Rotten (the Sex Pistols) and Wilco. It was so dark and raw that Young's record company, Reprise, delayed its release for two years. Released in mid-1975, "Tonight's The Night" was shelved in favor of On the
. In 1975, Neil was playing his next album, Homegrown, for friends and TTN followed on the reel. Neil decided TTN was better than the still-unreleased Homegrown, and it was released instead.

From a 1995 interview in MOJO Magazine with Neil Young he was asked about the rumor that he tried to produce a Broadway play based on the record:

    Neil: "Yeah, we did. The plot was about a roadie who made it and then OD'd on drugs. 'From Roadie To Riches' was the name of it (laughs). For Broadway in 1974 it was a little ahead of its time, as you can imagine. "

Album Credit: "This album was made for Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry who lived and died for Rock and Roll."

Neil Young and Santa Monica Flyers
Roxy, Los Angeles, CA

Old times, were good times...

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At 11/10/2018 05:47:00 PM, Blogger Danger Bird said...

I am a big fan of your website and a Neil Young fan since 1968. There is one thing that does bother me is the use of a David Crosby lyric as a motto of sorts.

Peace be with you .........

At 11/10/2018 06:33:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Hi Danger Bird - thanks for the note, support and readership.

well, hmmm. you're right and this has come up before over the years here @ TW. Ideally, Neil would've written "Almost Cut My Hair" -- or used the line "Separate the wheat from the chaff" in a song. It is a CSNY song, of course.

but, the phrase "Separate the wheat from the chaff" really does capture the essence of what we've been trying to do here since founding the site in 1996. Back in the early days of the dawn of the internet -- when we 1st joined the Rust group in 1993 -- Rust was a very pioneering forum, with a very excellent signal:noise ratio.

Of course, the amount of chaff on the internet has just exploded since, where it has gone from about 80:20 (wheat:chaff ratio), to something around 20:80 today, and that's being generous.

So thanks David Crosby for taking a Bible verse and putting into a wider audience.

Matthew 3:11-12 "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. "

So, at this point, a bit late in the game to re-think. Given that establishing a web address is essentially an irreversible and permanent decision, we're pleased that TW has survived over 20 years.

If interested, a bit more on TW history here:

Thrasher's Wheat: the longest continuing running website in the history of the Internet dedicated to a single topic, operating under the same "original management" and "original mission". Longer than eBay, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. Even before New York Times or Washington Post websites were launched, or about the same time.

So you go back to 1968 & Buffalo Springfield days?! cool. What was your 1st concert??? please share your story.

peace & love

At 11/10/2018 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

The Broadway show was Elliot's idea, it's discussed in "Shakey." It never came to pass, but the three songs added to the original TTN material to flesh out the proposed stage score - "Borrowed Tune," "Lookout Joe" and "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown" - led to the release of the TTN album in the form that we know it. (Unfortunately, Neil just said on the Archives that the original tapes with the raps are lost, after seeming to indicate a few days beforehand that he had them.)

At 11/11/2018 04:36:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

Let your freak flag fly Thrasher! In internet years you are as old as the dirt, fertilizing the landscape and filling Young minds with joy. I see the sparkle in your eye and the life in your hands. Thanks for the ride!

...just Speakin' Out in NY

At 11/11/2018 10:52:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Babbo B. - thanks on the "Shakey" details. Always, the best reference. That interview was pre-publication.

That would really be ashame if the original tapes with the raps are lost. Especially, after it seemed like they were found? Lost again? Maybe a mis-labeled box?

@ SONY - thanks for the support! And you too -- Let your freak flag fly! And keep on Speakin' Out!


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