Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
“Welcome to Miami Beach, everything’s cheaper than it looks.” 45 years later, and you can practically smell the tequila on Neil Young’s breath as he leans into the microphone to share that tongue-in-cheek greeting on the new live album Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live. Of course, he’s nowhere near Miami Beach on this night. In fact, he’s a good 3,000 miles away, standing onstage in front of a rapt crowd of few hundred industry insiders and the LA elites, playing the inaugural gig at this posh Hollywood club. Backed by a new band called the Santa Monica Flyers, that’s made up of players from some of his older bands, including the rhythm section of the venerated group Crazy Horse, Neil is prepping to launch into one of the final songs of his short and loose set, “Tired Eyes.”
“Let’s have a little sun on that tree,” he commands the lighting guy, pointing to a plastic palm someone has placed onstage. “We’re doing okay in the ‘70s, we really are,” he slurs. “This tree’s coming back. Everything’s okay. Spiro [Agnew] says it’s alright. I wonder if he’s sleeping so well tonight.” From the audience, “I doubt it!” I’d doubt it too. It’s September 22, 1973. Less than three weeks later ol’ Spiro would resign from the office of Vice President in disgrace after facing charges of corruption.
The ‘70s had been a fraught time for Neil as well. Though the decade was still young, the Canadian singer-songwriter had endured some of the highest highs and lowest lows one can imagine in the music industry. It began with a fruitful collaboration between his old Buffalo Springfield bandmate Stephen Stills, along with David Crosby and Graham Nash that bred the No. 1 album Déjà Vu, which was followed a couple of years later by his No. 1 solo album Harvest. Neil was unquestionably one of the biggest stars on the planet. Life was good. Then everything turned black.