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Tonight's the Night, Neil Young photo

Tonight’s the Night
Neil Young
June 20, 1975
Reprise Records


I assume you have a regular route on your nightly rounds, those eagle eyes scanning for any lock popped daringly up like a gopher from its hole. Lift the handle. Feel it give. Ease the door open. You’re in. You’re out. Off to the next one. 

Every time I leave my newish 2000 Toyota 4Runner unlocked for the night, you rifle through it. Come morning, I’m greeted by the dropped jaw of my glove compartment, my centre console yawning its exhaustion, sundry contents carelessly discarded across seats, dash and floor. Owner’s manual. Registration and insurance. Pack of gum. Small change. Tapes and CDs. 

I clean up your messes. I do my best not to take it personally. But finally, inevitably, I’m forced to admit: your indifference offends me. You leave me no choice. I want to know what kind of monster I’m dealing with.

Tonight’s the night.

The subtle click you anticipate is answered by another you don’t. You stop dead, half in, half out. I’ve been hiding in the caragana.

You seem a little drunk already. So, maybe this was meant to be. 

“Not a word,” I whisper.

I steer you into the passenger seat. I’m in the driver’s seat now.

“You know,” I say, “I like to think I have decent taste. When you didn’t grab Music from Big Pink, I figured it’s a format issue. No cassette player, right? But the next one was a CD. You left Fear of Music.”

I’ve been keeping track, so I rhyme off some others. Moondance. A Grand Don’t Come for Free. Chutes too Narrow. Graceland. Blonde on Blonde…. I could go on. My vehicle has offered a generous range of decades, a reasonable choice of genres. But you would have none of it. 

“Don’t ask me why,” I tell you, “but Otis Blue was the final straw. Beyond the pale. My personal breaking point.” 

I sense you’re a good listener. 

“So here we are,” I say. “It’s come to this.”

With my free hand, I put the key in the ignition. Then I reach into my coat and pull out an ancient cassette, push it partway into the slot; its butt is still hanging out. 

“Tonight’s the Night,” I say. “It’s the record you play for a hostage at 4:00 a.m. in a parked 4x4. It’s a desperate situation. It’s a shot in the dark and a cry from the ditch. It’s raw. Real. Perfectly flawed. We’re going to sit here, you and me, in this suburban driveway. We’re gonna listen, start to finish. Maybe twice. And drink this Cuervo.”

No, you don’t strike me as a monster. You just seem like someone who could use a guide. Musical or otherwise.

I say, “Once the sun rises over my hood ornament, you’re free to go. This could be a turning point. A rock-bottom kind of thing.”

The 4Runner is facing east—I made sure of that—but there’s obviously no hood ornament. I appreciate how you let this slide. You haven’t said a word. You really are a good listener. I’m counting on it. 

I give the tape a final nudge. Into the dashboard’s abyss. We recline our seats. You reach for the bottle. 

“Tonight’s the night,” Neil assures us. “Tonight’s the night.”


Drink: Tequila, obviously.


image: Aaron Burch