Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown

Album: Tonight's the Night (1975)

Songfacts®:

  • Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten holds a special place in the Neil Young mythos. His music and friendship played critical roles in shaping the sound that broke Young out, starting with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, the first album Young collaborated on with Crazy Horse. In death, Whitten's memory inspired some of Young's most acclaimed music, notably "The Needle And The Damage Done."

    On "Come on Baby Let's go Downtown," we get to hear Whitten featured on vocals singing one of his own creations.
  • Depending on which album credits are most accurate, Whitten either was principal songwriter or co-writer. Live At The Fillmore East (which features the uncut recording of this song), released in 2016, lists him as sole writer. Tonight's The Night has him as co-writer with Young.
  • "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown" sounds innocent enough upon casual listen, a rollicking tune calling to get out to the city and party. A closer look reveals a decidedly different, darker meaning.

    The song is about scoring smack:

    Sure enough they'll be sellin' stuff
    When the moon begins to rise
    Pretty bad when you're dealin' with the man
    And the light shines in your eyes


    These lines indicate that Whitten contributed the bulk the lyrics.
  • Contrary to much popular mythology, Young was never a fan of heroin and in fact knew well enough to stay away from it, even before the drug-related deaths of his friends. There's at least one firsthand account of Young literally jumping out of a stationary car and fleeing the scene when he realized one of his bandmates was buying heroin.

    Those who knew Whitten nearly universally felt he was a star. He had the it factor, even beyond his obvious musical talent. If it wasn't for his drug problems, he may have become a household name. These early recordings, including this song, attest to his talents.
  • This song has Whitten and Young on both guitars and vocals. Jack Nitzshe played electric piano. Ralph Molina was on drums and Billy Talbot on bass.
  • Writing in Uncut (January 2007), Barney Hoskyns described the song as, "A smack classic that prefigures the unfortunate demise of the former Rocket."

    The "Rocket" in that quote refers to The Rockets, the band Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse were in before Young "borrowed" them for himself.

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