Borrowed Tune

Album: Tonight's the Night (1975)


  • The song Young borrowed is "Lady Jane" by The Rolling Stones - he used the melody on this track, and openly admits it.
  • Johnny Rogan in The Complete Guide to the Music of Neil Young observes that of all the songs on Tonight's The Night, "Borrowed Tune" is the one that has Young singing "at his most wasted." That's quite an assessment considering the entire album is one gaping wound of musical agony, mourning, and resentment.

    Tonight's The Night is a full set of Young openly grieving the drug-related deaths of roadie Bruce Berry and guitarist Danny Whitten. In "Borrowed Tune," he's so crushed, drunk, and stoned that he comes right out and admits that the song uses a Rolling Stone tune.

    The rest of the song's lyrics reveal Young confronting mortality and questions of nihilism. "I'm climbin' this ladder, my head in the clouds," he sings, presumably referring to his career ambitions. "I hope that it matters, I'm havin' my doubts."

    If we all just die anyway, then does anything matter? Why even make music, Young's asking.
  • The most interesting aspect of "Borrowed Tune" is that Young's open confession to plagiarism is in itself an artistic gesture. It's an intriguing paradox: The open theft of someone else's tune highlights how broken Young really is, which is the whole point of the song to begin with.

    Whether or not that was intentional or unintentional on Young's part is impossible to know for sure. The story is that there was little to nothing of Tonight's The Night made with any sort of commercial or even artistic pretense whatsoever. As the story goes, it's just a channel for Young's catharsis.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike + The Mechanics)

Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike + The Mechanics)Songwriter Interviews

Mike Rutherford talks about the "Silent Running" storyline and "Land Of Confusion" in the age of Trump.

Mick Jones of Foreigner

Mick Jones of ForeignerSongwriter Interviews

Foreigner's songwriter/guitarist tells the stories behind the songs "Juke Box Hero," "I Want To Know What Love Is," and many more.

Billy Gould of Faith No More

Billy Gould of Faith No MoreSongwriter Interviews

Faith No More's bassist, Billy Gould, chats to us about his two new experimental projects, The Talking Book and House of Hayduk, and also shares some stories from the FNM days.

90s Music Quiz 1

90s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

First question: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson appeared in videos for what artist?

Harry Shearer

Harry ShearerSongwriter Interviews

Harry is Derek Smalls in Spinal Tap, Mark Shubb in The Folksmen, and Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.

Who Did It First?

Who Did It First?Music Quiz

Do you know who recorded the original versions of these ten hit songs?