Tonight's The Night

Album: Tonight's The Night (1975)
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song was written as a tribute to Bruce Berry, a Neil Young roadie who died of a heroin overdose. Berry was the second noteworthy person in Young's life to die of a heroin overdose, the first being Danny Whitten, Crazy Horse's original guitar player. The song is unusually detailed for a requiem. It takes a series of candid snapshots from Berry's life, describing how he drove the van, slept late, and clowned around with Young's guitar after gigs.
  • Neil Young's Rolling Stone interview concerning this song and album is recorded in Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History: "Tonight's the Night is like an OD letter. The whole thing is about life, dope, and death. When we played that music we were all thinking of Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry, two close members of our unit lost to junk overdoses. We played Bruce and Danny on their way all through the night."

    Speaking of "Tonight's the Night," Young declares what might as well be his M.O. for all of his art: "All of these things happen to people, so I figured it happened to me so I'll write about this, and I'll just write from my heart, and if other people have this happen to them they'll relate to this."
  • Neil and Crazy Horse recorded this song without playing it back until after they finished it, which added to the raw sound that the song would be recognized for. Musicians on this track were:

    Young - piano
    Billy Talbot - bass
    Ralph Molina - drums
    Nils Lofgren - guitar
    Ben Keith - steel guitar
  • This song opens the album, and the closing track is "Tonight's the Night - Part II," a more spare version of the song. Using two different versions of a song as the opener and closer is a trick Neil used several times in his career, including on his album Rust Never Sleeps ("My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue), "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)") and Freedom ("Rockin' In The Free World").
  • Young got the idea to start and end the album with "Tonight's the Night" from a two-day benefit concert he did at the Topanga Corral, where he opened and closed the shows with the song "Walk On." He liked the idea of one song at the beginning and the end, but changed the tune itself.

    Young says in Shakey, "There were a few 'tonight's the night' songs in the show, but it wasn't the 'Tonight's The Night' vibe - it was the 'Walk On' vibe. We'd do 'Walk On' when we walked on, then we'd do it when we walked off. So that concept of doing the same song at the beginning and the end happened with 'Walk On' - then we dropped 'Walk On' and put in 'Tonight's The Night.'"
  • Touring Tonight's The Night in London, Young frequently made a spectacle of himself with his drunkenness and appearance so unsavory that it's been likened to psycho-cult leader Charles Manson.

    One night in London, Young went on a revealing ramble about how Bruce Berry "lost" one of the band's guitars, forcing Young to fire him. Berry came back to Young a couple years later looking for work.

    "We looked at him and I said, 'I'm sorry, man, can't do it. I mean, ya lost David's guitar, y'know," Young said. "You don't know what happened to the guitar, it's gone. Ya lost his guitar, man, I mean, that's his ax. That was it. Ya lost it. That's your job and you lost it... You took that guitar and you put it in your arm, Bruce."

    During another show on the tour, Young said he was going to raise Berry from the dead "right here at the Hippodrome," before slamming wildly on piano and yelling repeatedly, "You took that guitar and put in your arm."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 3

  • Airtroop from AlabamaJon, late to the party in this discussion but the truth is there was never a feud between NY and Skynyrd. The three song "battle" (ie, the songs, in other order, Alabama by NY, Sweet Home Alabama by Skynyrd, and NY's supposed" retort, Southern Man) was all done in a tongue in cheek manner between great and very close friends. Skynyrd and Neil Young were all very close buddies and more than once NY would be invited onstage to jam all three of those tunes WITH Skynyrd live and on concert. Just had to set the record (s) straight... It was ANYTHING but a "feud", just light hearted fun amongst close pot smoking buddies.
  • Greg from Harrington Park, NjA great song from Neil Young's greatest album in my opinion. He has a ton of great songs and plenty of great albums.... but there is just something about this album that speaks to you. When it ends it begs you to listen again - when you do, you're glad you did. There's a certain sadness on the album that somehow only peeks its head out at you as to say I'm in here if you really want to find me -- but it never fully discloses itself. As melancholy and dark as the lyrics are on the whole album there is a certain brightness to it in songs like Roll another Number, Lookout Joe, Speakin' Out World on a string... but direct opposite effects on songs like Albuquerque, Borrowed Tune and Tired Eyes, which in my opinion may be the most depressing song ever written. Tonight's the Night remains as one of the most important albums Neil Young ever made and the quintessential album that defines his approach to music-- I'm doing it my own way and if you don't like it - tough s--t.
  • Jon from Tucson, AzRonnie Van Zant, the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd who had a "feud" with Neil Young, would wear a t-shirt with the image of the Tonight's the Night album cover in concerts. It's also what he's wearing on the cover of Street Survivors, Lynyrd Skynyrd's final album before the plane crash
see more comments

Kristian Bush of SugarlandSongwriter Interviews

Kristian talks songwriting technique, like how the chorus should redefine the story, and how to write a song backwards.

Chris Squire of YesSongwriter Interviews

One of the most dynamic bass player/songwriters of his time, Chris is the only member of Yes who has been with the band since they formed in 1968.

Director Mark Pellington ("Jeremy," "Best Of You")Song Writing

Director Mark Pellington on Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," and music videos he made for U2, Jon Bon Jovi and Imagine Dragons.

Cy Curnin of The FixxSongwriter Interviews

The man who brought us "Red Skies" and "Saved By Zero" is now an organic farmer in France.

KissFact or Fiction

Kiss is the subject of many outlandish rumors - some of which happen to be true. See if you can spot the fakes.

Martin PageSongwriter Interviews

With Bernie Taupin, Martin co-wrote the #1 hits "We Built This City" and "These Dreams." After writing the Pretty Woman song for Go West, he had his own hit with "In the House of Stone and Light."