Neil Young

Albuquerque

Composed by Neil Young

Song Review by

A relatively underappreciated gem from Neil Young's catalog, "Albuquerque" is one of Tonight's the Night's less-bleak moments; in fact, it is a plaintive celebration of the little things in life, "fried eggs and county ham," and the protagonist seems to relish the freedom in having "the time to roll a number and rent a car." Wind at his back, "starving to be alone," Young's narrator takes to the road in search of "someplace where they don't care who I am." The low rumble of a semi-distorted, drop-D-tuned electric guitar begins a somber backing consisting of Ben Keith's wailing pedal steel and Nils Lofgren's drunken honky tonk piano, while the stellar garage band Crazy Horse's rhythm section of Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot mimic the beat from "Down by the River." The band overdubs layered three-part harmonies on the humorously phrased chorus: "Oh Aaaaaaaal...Buqurque." The beautiful, wistful melody is sung like a healing mantra. Young trades solo on the harp with Keith on the steel. The country-folk, three-chord progression is in line with the late-night/dawn vibe of the album. The impression is of driving all night from California, heading out into the heart of the nation, arriving in New Mexico's sun-baked desert just in time for breakfast. As if a vivid photograph, we can almost see Young rejuvenating with coffee, a long-haired refugee from the L.A. rock scene seated at a diner counter next to salt-of-the-earth truckers and waitresses. Young ties the song into the theme of the record: the devastating effects of a late-'60s drug culture and the accompanying hangover in the early to mid-'70s. He yearns to be "independent from the scene that I've known." The weary tone of the album clearly extends to "Albuquerque," the desire to move on from the literally dopey milieu that has claimed the lives of close friends and bandmates. Though Young does not go so far as to surmise that they've got it all figured out there in Albuquerque, his narrator does seem to be defeated by the "scene" with which he was associated, and is in a sense surrendering and getting as far away from that immediate past as possible. Now he seems open to suggestions.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Tonight's the Night 1975 Reprise / Warner Bros. 4:01