Neil Young: "What does the "M" mean in MTV: music or money?"

What does it have to do with topless girls? What's happening at the Roxy?

“Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live” is a live album by Neil Youngreleased on April 24, 2018 but recorded on September 20, 21, and 22, 1973 at the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles, shortly after the studio sessions for the album ended “Tonight's the Night” which would be released only two years later, on June 20, 1975.

In the liner notes Neil Young explains: “We had recently lost Danny Whitten and our roadie Bruce Berry to heroin overdoses, we missed them and we could hear them in the music every night we played. There were no overdubs on those nine songs. They were recorded live, without cleaning them up For almost a month we recorded starting at eleven and playing until the early hours of the morning. Sometimes we had a small audience. One time Mel Brooks came with some friends. We drank a lot of tequila and I wrote the songs for “Tonight's the night.” We had nine songs and we played them a couple of times every night for a long time until we thought we had them mastered and we decided to celebrate with a concert at a new venue that opened on the Sunset Strip , the Roxy. We went there and recorded for a few nights, opening for the Roxy. We really knew the songs from “Tonight's the night” after playing them for a month. So we played them again, start to finish, two sets per night for a few days. He was great.”

The lines that you can read below concern the review of “Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live” who wrote for us Claudio Todesco.

“The first topless girl who gets up here gets one of these boots, ladies and gentlemen”, says Neil Young jokingly before performing “Tonight's the night”, a requiem for a friend who died of an overdose. What do topless girls have to do with funeral music? What's happening at the Roxy? “Tonight's the night” from 1975 is the album in which the Canadian singer definitively puts the hippie culture behind him to explore his decadence and the rock scene of the time. Based on that album, “Roxy – Tonight's the night live” renews its cult and enriches its meaning. The album told, among other things, the need for peace, the need to escape, the promise of a better life. On stage at the Roxy, Neil Young and the Santa Monica Flyers seem to want to keep that promise, at least for one evening. The funeral of “Tonight's the night” turns into a joyful wake between friends.

Recorded in 1973 and released just two years later, “Tonight's the Night” represents Neil Young's reaction to the drug-related deaths of two friends, Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry.

“Sorry,” wrote the Canadian. “You don't know these people, this stuff has no meaning to you.” It wasn't necessary to know the stories of Berry and Whitten to immerse yourself in the dark and joyless world of “Tonight's the night”. The album chronicled the drug culture of the early 70s with direct and prosaic lyrics, dark musical colors, a good first-time production. He was Neil Young out of tune (literally and metaphorically) and sometimes difficult to listen to. The songs were gloomy and devoid of any sense of joy, the production was worn out, almost as if it were the result of an unsteady hand. Despite not being one of Neil Young's albums most loved by the public nor one of his best from a musical point of view, “Tonight's the Night” is surrounded by an absolute cult, by a genuine devotion for the sense of desperation and nihilism that he expressed .

A few weeks after recording the album, Neil Young opened the Roxy in Los Angeles, playing it essentially in full during two sets every night. In “Roxy – Tonight's the night live”, recorded between 20 and 22 September 1973, nine songs appear from the original, plus a sunny version of “Walk on” from the album “On the beach” which would be released in July 1974, perfect ending with that sentence that more or less said: some get high, others get strange, but sooner or later reality knocks on the door. Accompanied by the musicians with whom he recorded the album, namely Ben Keith, Nils Lofgren, Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina, Young transforms the album. The studio recordings have a funereal tone and a wobbly pace, the live performances are more lucid and vital. Nei Young seems to be having fun. “Welcome to Miami Beach,” he says as soon as he gets on stage. And then: “Ten years in the music business, folks. I feel like Perry Como.”

On the Roxy stage, the songs from “Tonight's the night” come across as normalized, for better or for worse. Neil Young and the Santa Monica Flyers straighten them out, offering versions that are paradoxically more centered and less bizarre than the ones just recorded. From some performances emerges an ironic side and above all the pleasure of playing absent from the studio recordings which seem burdened by pain and alteration of the senses. The live at the Roxy does not have the raw charm, the ghostly atmosphere, the pathos of “Tonight's the night”, yet it is the perfect complement. It is the answer to the question of rest underlying “Mellow my mind”, placed programmatically immediately after the opening: “Baby, calm my thoughts”.

Released as a special edition for Record Store Day and arriving a few days later in stores and on streaming platforms, “Roxy – Tonight's the night live” is further proof of Neil Young's iconoclastic character. Listen to him and you will find an artist who tears apart the sensitive and thoughtful persona with which he identified in those years. Listen to him and, in hindsight, you will find an artist who destroys even the myth of “Tonight's the night”, a drugged and desperate disco: “Welcome to Miami Beach, everything is cheaper than it seems”.