Tonight's the Night is a 1975 album by Neil Young.
Dark, heartfelt, and raw, Tonight's the Night was recorded in 1973 but initially rejected by Young's record company (a running theme in Young's career) as the second uncommercial release in a row and an unacceptable follow-up to his popular breakthrough, Harvest, and too stark a contrast with Young's work with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Young's album was a startlingly direct expression of grief: Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and Young's friend and roadie Bruce Berry had both died of drug overdoses in the months before the songs were written. The title track mentions Bruce Berry by name, while Whitten's guitar and vocal work highlight "Come on Baby, Let's Go Downtown", recorded live in 1970. (The song would later appear, unedited, on a live album from the same concerts, Live at the Fillmore East.)
All songs written by Neil Young except as indicated.
Neil Young & The Santa Monica Flyers
Neil Young with Crazy Horse
Neil Young with The Stray Gators
On the front of the insert is a letter to the mysterious "Waterface" character, no explanation is given to their identity, although in Shakey: Neil Young's Biography by Jimmy McDonough, Young says that "Waterface is the person writing the letter. When I read the letter, I'm Waterface. It's just a stupid thing - a suicide note without the suicide." (McDonough).
The back of the insert was equally puzzling, as it appeared in the insert superimposed over the credits to Young's On the Beach album, released a year prior. This passage is reportedly the lyrics to an unreleased song titled "Florida", referred to in Shakey as "A cockamamie spoken-word dream, set to the shrieking accompaniment of either Young or (Ben) Keith drawing a wet finger around the rim of a glass." (McDonough).
When unfolded, comprising a whole side of the insert was a lengthy article printed entirely in Dutch and is in fact a review of a Tonight's the Night live show by Dutch journalist Constant Meijers for the Dutch rock-magazine "Muziekkrant Oor". In 1976 Young said he chose to print it "Because I didn't understand any of it myself, and when someone is so sickened and fucked up as I was then, everything's in Dutch anyway." But Neil Young told Constant Meijers during a week's visit he made to Young's ranch in California, that he chose the article after some Dutch girls who were visiting him translated the story and made him aware of the fact "that someone on the other end of the world exactly understood what he was trying to say."
The Reprise Records sticker on the vinyl record itself was printed in black and white rather than the standard orange color, a process Young undertook again on the CD label art for 1994's Sleeps With Angels. Original printings of the sleeve were done on blotter paper which proved quite costly as reprints of the album are no longer printed that way.
Also of note is that scratched into the run-out grooves on Side One is the message "Hello Waterface" while the run-out grooves on Side Two read "Goodbye Waterface".
In Shakey: Neil Young's Biography by Jimmy McDonough, Young maintains that along with the inserts there was a small package of glitter inside the sleeve that was meant to fall out ("Our Bowie statement." (McDonough)), spilling when the listener took the record out. However, both Jimmy McDonough and Joel Bernstein (Young's archivist) have yet to find a copy of Tonight's the Night featuring the glitter package.
"The music has a feeling of offhand, first-take crudity matched recently only by Blood on the Tracks, almost as though Young wanted us to miss its ultimate majesty in order to emphasize its ragged edge of desolation. [...] More than any of Young's earlier songs and albums-even the despondent On the Beach and the mordant, rancorous Time Fades Away -- Tonight's the Night is preoccupied with death and disaster. [...] There is no sense of retreat, no apology, no excuses offered and no quarter given. If anything, these are the old ideas with a new sense of aggressiveness. The jitteriness of the music, its sloppy, unarranged (but decidedly structured) feeling is clearly calculated."
In a followup review published ten years later, Marsh wrote: "The record chronicles the post-hippie, post-Vietnam demise of counterculture idealism, and a generation's long, slow trickle down the drain through drugs, violence, and twisted sexuality. This is Young's only conceputally cohesive record, and it's a great one."
The album peaked at #25 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart.