Mellow My Mind

Album: Tonight's the Night (1975)


  • "Mellow My Mind" can't be properly understood outside the context of the album on which it appears.

    Tonight's The Night is a distinctive work in Neil Young's catalogue, both in its painfully emotional sound and in its distinctly personal subject matter. The album was made following the death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Both men died from drug overdoses, and the story goes that it was Whitten who introduced Berry to the heroin that would eventually kill him. These deaths inspired the earlier "The Needle And The Damage Done," but the grief they caused Young is explored in more depth throughout Tonight's the Night.

    It's the album's larger backstory that has folks such as Marc Weingarten in Guitar World (September 1995) calling "Mellow My Mind" an "anti-drug" song, though the lyrics wouldn't otherwise identify it as such. Young himself is quoted in that Weingarten piece as saying, "The whole thing [Tonight's the Night] is about life, dope and death."

    Taken as an isolated artifact, "Mellow My Mind" is about a man yearning for the simple joys of a lost, innocent youth, "like a schoolboy on good time" that is "satisfied with a fish on a line." Young's cracking, tortured vocals lend the song real emotional intensity, amplifying that yearning into something heartbreaking.
  • Simply Red published a (very) cleaned-up version of "Mellow My Mind" in 1998 on their album Blue, but it could be argued (and many Young fans would argue) that cleaning the song up completely misses the point.

    "Mellow My Mind" is a song about a seriously desperate man, likely one whose ability to feel the simple joy of living has been ruined by drug use, and Young recorded it to sound as such. It's a sad, ragged tale - Young had every intention of making it sound that way.
  • Neil Young spoke about "Mellow My Mind" with Bud Scoppa of New Musical Express on June 28, 1975. In the interview, he said that "Mellow My Mind" should be listened to from 100 yards away.

    "It's supposed to be part of the environment," Young told Scoppa. "Play it loud, but stay in the other room."


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