The Album Neil Young Refrained From Releasing Due To Its Emotional Intensity

There are countless aspects of Neil Young‘s artistry that his fans admire such as his impeccable guitar work, signature high tenor singing voice, and his brilliance for infusing different genres. However, none of these elements that create his long music career had the same impact as his deeply personal lyrics that touched his fans’ hearts many times.

Although Neil Young isn’t one of those musicians who are scared to let it all out through their music, even he had a moment of doubt when it comes to showing his emotions in the past. In fact, he didn’t release an album for nearly 40 years just because he felt terrified to do so, and we’re here to break down the story for you.

Neil Young Released ‘Tonight’s The Night’ Instead Of ‘Homegrown’

‘Tonight’s the Night’ is the sixth studio album by Neil Young, recorded from August until September 1973, but released in June 1975. The entire album is a direct expression of Young’s grief as he lost two friends of his, Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, and roadie Bruce Berry both of whom died of drug overdoses in the months before the songs were written.

Despite his initial uncertainty about releasing the album, it actually peaked at number 25 on the Billboard 200 when it was first released. Moreover, the record found itself a place on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time both in 2003, 2012, and 2020.

However, Neil Young had a period during that time when he was unsure of his albums and which one to release as he also had another album that was ready to be out named ‘Homegrown.’ After a playback party for the album for Young himself with about ten friends on top of his personal opinions, he changed his mind and released ‘Tonight’s the Night’ instead.

Neil Young Had Another Reason For Not Releasing ‘Homegrown’

During a 1975 interview with Rolling Stone, Neil Young reflected on the release of his sixth studio album entitled ‘Tonight’s the Night.’ Apparently, the musician initially didn’t have the intention to release this album at all for numerous reasons, but later changed his mind after thinking things through about ‘Homegrown.’

‘Homegrown’ was first recorded after the release of ‘On the Beach’ in July 1974. Much of the material was inspired by Young’s relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress, which was deteriorating in 1974. Although the record was compiled and prepared for release in 1975, ‘Tonight’s the Night’ ended up being released instead.

According to Young, he didn’t change his mind about the release because ‘Homegrown’ wasn’t as good. It was a decision that was based on its strength in performance as well as the intensity of emotions since Young said the songs were personal enough to scare him which is why he refrained.

About ‘Homegrown,’ Young said:

“Not because ‘Homegrown’ wasn’t as good. A lot of people would probably say that it’s better. I know the first time I listened back on ‘Tonight’s the Night’ it was the most out-of-tune thing I’d ever heard. Everyone’s off-key. I couldn’t hack it. But by listening to those two albums back to back at the party, I started to see the weaknesses in ‘Homegrown’. I took ‘Tonight’s the Night’ because of its overall strength in performance and feeling.

I’m sure parts of ‘Homegrown’ will surface on other albums of mine. There’s some beautiful stuff that Emmylou Harris sings harmony on. I don’t know. That record might be more what people would rather hear from me now, but it was just a very down album. It was the darker side to Harvest. A lot of the songs had to do with me breaking up with my old lady. It was a little too personal . . . it scared me.

Plus, I had just released ‘On the Beach,’ probably one of the most depressing records I’ve ever made. I don’t want to get down to the point where I can’t even get up. I mean there’s something to going down there and looking around, but I don’t know about sticking around.”

After ‘Homegrown’ remained unreleased for decades, it was finally set for release as part of Record Store Day 2020, amid Neil Young’s ongoing Archives campaign. Its release was again delayed by Record Store Day’s postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was eventually released on June 19, 2020, as Neil Young’s 40th studio album.