I’m curious – has Keith ever spoken to you about the song?
“No. In fact, I don’t know if he’s ever heard it. I just don’t know. I mean, I know that he knows I wrote a song about him. I’ve met him at shows – he’s always been very friendly. At a show in LA he saw me playing ping-pong, and he gave me a big hug. He yelled at a photographer to come over and take a picture of us. He said to the guy, ‘Make sure Nils gets a copy of that.’ We put it in the booklet.
“But as for the song, a friend of mine, Don Marrandino, a GM in Vegas who was running the Hard Rock, asked Keith about it, and he said he hadn’t heard it. Don asked him why, and you know, Keith jokes a lot, and I guess he said, ‘Because I don’t wanna go.’ [Laughs] Maybe if he heard the song it would give him ideas. I thought that was pretty funny. Maybe it’s the truth. Who knows?”
You included the song Beggar’s Day, which you wrote for your onetime Crazy Horse bandmate Danny Whitten.
“That’s right. Danny was great. I first met him in ’68 at the Cellar Door on the first Crazy Horse tour. I got to befriend them through Neil. I was out in LA three weeks later, and I got to know all of them. Danny would drive me around and talk. He was charming, a roughneck surfer-type guy with dirty, sandy hair and a chiseled faced – very sweet temperament. He was a genius-gifted singer and player and a pretty strong, hearty guy.
“Over the years, the drugs and alcohol took a toll on him. By the time we made the Crazy Horse album – with Jack Nitzsche producing and joining the band on keys, and me as a guitarist and writing a couple of numbers – Danny was playing and singing great, but he wasn’t good for too much else. I’d tune his guitar for him and get him ready to go. We finished the record and he came back East. At one point, he was considering joining my band Grin. Tragically, he just wasn’t up for it physically. We did Tonight’s The Night as a wake album for Danny and for [Young roadie and friend] Bruce Berry, both of whom had succumbed to drugs and alcohol. It was dark and healing in a strange way.”
You hooked up with Neil when you were so young. What were you, 17?
“Well, I had just hit the road with Grin. We were auditioning for producers in New York City and were headed to LA. I’d go backstage and ask for advice, because I didn’t know anything about the business. Some people talked to me, some didn’t. Neil talked to me, gave me his guitar, let me sing, bought me a cheeseburger and a Coke for four shows over two nights. He’d call me from the road, told me to look him up in LA, which I did. He turned us on to his producer, David Briggs, and took us under his wing, moved us into his home in Topanga. He really helped so much. He told me ‘Your band is really good, but you need a better bass player.’ So we got one, Bob Gordon, and we were ready to record.”