Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night

Tonight's The Night

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This is one of the most interesting and deeply inspired packages I have been a part of making. It is filled with mystery and heavy drama that includes the death of a young man who was very close to Neil, the project, and all of us.

Bruce Berry was a long time roadie for Neil. He had been struggling with his addiction to heroin for some time and finally lost the battle and his life. Neil celebrates Bruce in the song Tonight’s The Night. For this record Neil was looking for a particular sound appropriate to the songs and he found it at a place called Studio Instrument Rentals, SIR, ironically owned by Bruce Berry’s brother. There was another Berry brother, Jan Berry of the group Jan and Dean and he suffered a horrendous fate when at the peak of his career he was paralyzed in a car wreck I digress. SIR was located in a very seedy part of Hollywood as dark as what was going on on the record. The rehearsal room Neil liked the sound of was way in the back and it was a hassle to set it up as a studio, run cables etc. So Neil had them knock a hole in the outside wall of the building, they pulled the remote recording truck up next to the building and ran all of the cables etc. through the new hole in the wall. Neil is nothing if not determined.

During the time Neil was recording the album David Geffen and Neil’s manager Elliot Roberts, with their other partners, opened a new club on the strip (Sunset Blvd.) The Roxy and On The Rocks. That was a wild night. Neil was the first artist to play the club. It’s still a famous rock and roll music venue. I saw one of the greatest nights of music ever when Bob Marley played there. The night Neil opened the club the backstage was wall-to-wall celebrities. Everyone from Jack Nicholson to Elton John. I shot super 8 movie film all night long in every nook and cranny of the club and in every notable face I could find. In line with the vibe in the air at the time I lost all of that film, hours and hours of amazing stuff that I never saw any of. Some of the mysterious elements in this package included a photo of Neil at Barney’s Beanery sitting inside one of the famous assemblage artist Ed Keinholz’s pieces, man with clocks for heads. There is a full-page spread of an article from a newspaper in Holland all written in Dutch, a photo of Mickey Rooney as Huck Finn and Neil’s very abstract rap about Waterface and Miami Beach, where, “Everything is cheaper than it looks”.

In designing the package and selecting the paper stock the first challenge Neil presented was that he wanted the package art to rub off and wear out in a short period of time. I researched and found that the most easily destructible paper, that would disintegrate the quickest, was blotter paper. Now, not many people print on blotter paper and a more experienced graphic artist would have known that, but being blissfully/purposefully ignorant I didn’t known the pit falls. When the printer got over his apoplexy and settled down I told him why and what we wanted to do. We ran some test on press and actually did one where we ran four color process on blotter paper! The poor printer was very frustrated because every time he would get up and running the blotter paper would be disintegrating and the blanket of the presses would get clogged up and he would have to stop and clean them before continuing. In the end we were able to give Neil what he wanted and later when I would see the cover in other people’s homes looking old, funky and worn out when it was only a few weeks old I got a big smile.

Thanks

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