For a while back in the 1970s, I routinely fell asleep to “Hot August Night,” a live album of Neil Diamond’s that my mother owned on 8 track tape. The 8-track medium is the butt of many a joke, but for kids it had big advantages over vinyl, which required dexterity, or cassettes, which had to be ejected and flipped over halfway through. It was easy for a kid to insert the chunky, rectangular boxes face-first into the hi-fi and hit the play and repeat buttons before turning in. (Anyway, in my house there was no cassette player, except for a little tape recording device that my sister would sometimes use to listen to herself saying curse words. Hilarious!)
Going to bed was much easier with the distant sound of Neil’s familiar voice wafting through the upstairs bedrooms. The concert was recorded on August 24, 1972, when I would have been 8 years old. Every song on this double album became familiar to me, and there were long passages which, to my tender, pre-Led Zeppelin ear, were comprised of nothing but catchy hits: Solitary Man, Cherry Cherry, and Sweet Caroline; Shilo, Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon, Holly Holy, and I am I said. And of course Cracklin’ Rosie and Song Sung Blue.
The picture on the cover depicted Neil as you've never seen him before or since, his face distorted by low light, his hair frizzed-out (it was a hot August night, after all). And just what the hell is he doing with his hands?
At some point in my young life, Hot August Night became overplayed, and I moved onto falling asleep to other 8 tracks my mother had, like Engelbert Humperdinck, (or maybe it was Vikki Carr).