The Ditch Trilogy refers to a trio of rock music albums by Neil Young made in the wake of his chart-topping best-seller, Harvest. The moniker derives from a quote by Young, printed in the self-penned track-by-track liner notes to his career summary compilation Decade of 1977. In the text about the only #1 single of his life, "Heart of Gold," Young states: "This song put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there."
After his success with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Harvest, Young took an abrupt artistic turn with the soundtrack and film Journey Through the Past. His next three albums cemented this move. Much of this work is characterized by loose, almost "sloppy" playing, a type of performance which Young encouraged. Lyrical themes from this time include the hollowness of show business and commercial success ("LA" from Time Fades Away), the toll exacted by hard drug use, specifically the heroin-related deaths of former Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry (the title track of Tonight's the Night), and other, less specific but still downbeat subject matter.
The three albums of the Ditch Trilogy (also known as the "Doom Trilogy", or the "Depression Trilogy") are:
Young would return to commercial clover with the CSNY reunion tour in 1974, by which time all of the material for the above albums had been recorded. Although released after, Tonight's the Night was actually recorded before On the Beach in 1973 but not released for 2 years. He followed up Tonight's the Night with Zuma, a loose but more upbeat record in the vein of Everybody Knows this is Nowhere. Sleeps with Angels, an album Young recorded with Crazy Horse following Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994, is seen by some critics as thematically linked to the ditch trilogy.