Burger Music: Neil Young classic written on a napkin in a White Tower restaurant

Listening to The World Cafe on WXPN yesterday and David Dye prefaced a couple of tracks from the new Neil Young reissue Live At Canterbury House 1968.  He played the track “The Old Laughing Lady” which is preceded on the disc by a track called “Tuning Rap & Old Laughing Lady Rap” which is basically 3 minutes of really neat, wide-eyed between song banter.  What Young reveals in these three minutes (and no doubt why Dye chose it) is a rare glimpse into the nervous energy that fueled his early performances.

So why is it on my burger blog?   Here is a bit of Young’s rap:

I wrote this song in Detroit about four years ago – this is an old song – at the White Tower restaurant at about 4 o’clock in the morning at the corner of Livernois and something, the Chessmate Club was there.

The story continues from there, delivered in a hilariously dry style that Dye was pointing out seemed so “young” in age, not just in name.

We had come out of the Chessmate Club and found that somebody had left with part of our car and we had to wait for a while in this restaurant, we had to wait for almost a day…it was out of sight.

He continues.

I wrote it out on a napkin in true folk tradition.

The White Tower is long gone, but it isn’t hard to imagine Young circa 1964 parked on a stool at the counter inside the art-deco burger joint contemplating the whirlwind of events and then writing down some lyrics on the only thing handy, a napkin.  I wonder if the waitress was named Peggy?

A few months back I wrote about a White Tower in Toledo, OH that was for sale for $1. The good news is that someone bought it and plans to open it up again as a burger joint.  Read more here.

WXPN (88.5FM in Philadelphia) is housed inside World Cafe Live, a restaurant/live performance space in the University City section of Philly.  The in-house restaurant(s) serve a darn-nice burger.

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