This Flight Tonight

Don’t you just love it when the universe sends moments of serendipity? Today, one of those surprise sets of coincidental alignment came up when I resumed playing an episode of BBC 6 Music’s weekly program Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour (April 2, 2023, “Pure Enjoyment”).

When listening to the episode previously, I had left off just before Garvey spins “This Flight Tonight,” a 1971 song by Canadian folk singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell (b. 1943; please stick around after today’s selection and check out this post of another song by her). Adding to the mystique, Garvey said the song was the start of burrowing down a rabbit hole of connections among the pieces he’d play in succession.

As soon as “This Flight Tonight” started today, I immediately remembered seeing the band Nazareth play it in concert, sometime around 1977-1979. They were a hard rock band formed in 1968 in Dunfermline, Scotland, whose 1973 cover of the song brought them much success. I also recalled how the American band Heart’s Nancy Wilson (b. 1954) stated her band borrowed from Nazareth’s guitar riff from “This Flight Tonight” for Heart’s raging 1977 hit “Barracuda” (as I mention in my post on that song).

As my trip along memory lane continued, I envisioned the beginning of that Nazareth show some 40-plus years ago in what’s now the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg. My friends and I were seated near the front of the audience. I recall the dramatic start to the show as they opened with “Telegram,” a four-part song cycle from their seventh studio album, Close Enough for Rock ‘n’ Roll (1976), about the music industry as well as the trials of touring: “Part 1: On Your Way,” “Part 2: So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (a cover of the 1967 song by American band The Byrds), “Part 3: Sound Check,” and “Part 4: Here We Are Again.” The concert stage backdrop had a marquee with the band name/logo, and the tall, dark red letters lit up in sequence, timed with the opening guitar/piano riff and then the song’s beat after the intro.

Interestingly, I had assumed “This Flight Tonight” was an original of theirs until quite some time later when I learned Joni Mitchell was the composer. Now, if you’ve been following along here for a long time, you’ll know I love a good cover song. And Nazareth does a remarkable job converting this folk song into a hard rock piece.

“‘Look out the left,’ the captain said
‘The lights down there, that’s where we’ll land’
Saw a falling star burning
High above the Las Vegas sand

It wasn’t the one that you gave to me
That night down south between the trailers
Not the early one that you wish upon
Not the northern one that guides in the sailors

You’ve got that touch so gentle and sweet
But you’ve got that look so cryptical
Can’t talk to you babe, you know I get so weak
Sometimes I think that love is just mythical

Up there’s a heaven, down there’s a town
Blackness everywhere any little lights shine
Blackness, blackness draggin’ me down
Come on light a candle in this heart of mine

Starbright, starbright, you’ve got the lovin’ that I like
Turn this crazy bird around
Should not have got on this flight tonight

I’m drinkin’ sweet champagne, got the headphones up high
Can’t numb you, can’t drum you out of my mind
They’re singin’, ‘Goodbye baby
Baby bye-bye
Ooh! Love is blind’

Up go the flaps, down go the wheels
Hope you got your heat turned on, baby
Hope they’ve finally fixed your automobile
Hope it’s better when we meet again, babe

Starbright, starbright, you’ve got the lovin’ that I like
Turn this crazy bird around
Should not have got on this flight tonight
Should not have got on this flight tonight”

This Flight Tonight,” by Joni Mitchell.
Lyrics retrieved from

The Nazareth cover has a rugged, driving beat with a galloping bass/electric guitar line, sustained and distorted electric guitars floating to and fro in the background starting in the third verse, and the raspy sound of lead vocalist Dan McCafferty (1946-2022). It’s a brilliant version; impossible to sit still while listening, I say. It was a massive hit in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, and the British online newspaper The Independent reported in 2002, Joni Mitchell had been so impressed with the Nazareth version that, at a gig of hers in London, England, she told the audience, “I’d like to open with a Nazareth song!”

I remember the Nazareth rendition being played frequently in the 1970s at parties, school dances, and on the radio. The band was hugely popular in my circle of friends, and this song is a definite marker of that time.

“This Flight Tonight” comes from Nazareth’s fourth studio album, Loud ‘n’ Proud (1973, the second album they released that year). Mitchell’s original appeared on her fourth studio album, Blue (1971).

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio from the Nazareth YouTube channel:

And, just for fun, here’s Joni Mitchell‘s original:

With rockin’ vibes to you,


6 thoughts on “This Flight Tonight

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