J. Tillman – Borrowed Tune (2010)

September 29, 2019 – Day 121

“I’m singin’ this borrowed tune, I took from the Rolling Stones. Alone in this empty room, too wasted to write my own” is Neil Young’s confession to stealing the melody from Brian Jones’ dulcimer part on “Lady Jane” from 1966’s “Aftermath” LP. The Stones performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show to a deliriously excited crowd so it isn’t exactly a deep cut that Neil borrowed. The confession is a poignant moment on Neil’s album “Tonight’s The Night” LP. Recorded in 1973 but released in 1975, it is a musical wake of sorts for Neil’s fallen comrades, Crazy Horse singer/guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Both died of drug overdoses. Josh Tillman, currently known as Father John Misty used to release dark folk albums under the name J. Tillman and in 2010 he released, free to the internet, a cover album, Tonight’s The Night in full. His version of “Borrowed Tune” is a minimalist acoustic version and his stark shaky voice carries the message of the song well: a mourning artist questioning his musical ambitions is performing because that’s what he does, but he’s not sure what the point is. Josh is clearly a Neil Young fan, besides this very obvious sign, he also references Neil on his breakthrough album, as Father John Misty, on the song “I’m Writing A Novel”, singing a dream sequence: “I rode to Malibu on a dune buggy with Neil / He said ‘you’re gonna have to drown me down on the beach if you ever want to write the real'” …a real kill your idol approach to his, at the time, new Father John Misty persona. If any doubt remains, regarding his explanation for covering the whole album, he writes that he is “head-over-heels fanatical aboutmy favorite songwriter” and that “‘Tonight’s The Night’ is a ‘monolithic album that changed his life.'” “I’m climbin’ this ladder, My head in the clouds / I hope that it matters, I’m havin’ my doubts.”

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