C.S.N.Y.: 50 YEARS AFTER WOODSTOCK

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young first topped the charts in the spring of 1969 and rocked a set at Woodstock just a few months later. We have the details on how this supergroup became the soundtrack of a generation.

Aired on June 18, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE BUT IT WAS ALMOST EXACTLY 50 YEARS AGO THAT ATLANTIC RECORDS RELEASED CROSBY AND NASH THAT BROUGHT THREE ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIANS FROM THE '60s MOST POPULAR BANDS, DAVID CROSBY CONFIDENT BIRDS, STEVEN STILLS OF BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD AND GRAHAM NASH OF THE HOLLIES.

THEY SOON BECAME A QUARTET WHEN NEIL YOUNG JOINED THE GROUP JUST IN TIME TO PERFORM AT WOODSTOCK.

WHEN ANOTHER CLASSIC ALBUM 'DEJA VU' FOLLOWED A YEAR LATER, IT APPEARS AS IF THEY WERE POISED TO CONQUER THE WORLD.

THAT'S NOT EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.

INSTEAD, WHAT CAME NEXT WAS A DECADES LONG SOAP OPERA INVOLVING DRUGS, EGOS, INFIGHTING, JEALOUSIES, REUNIONS AND ENOUGH STORIES TO FILL A BOOK.

LUCKILY, SOMEONE HAS WRITTEN THAT BOOK.

AND IT'S CALLED 'CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG, THE WILD DEFINITIVE SAGA OF ROCK'S SUPER GROUP.'

IT'S AUTHOR DAVID BROWNE JOINS US NOW AS PART OF OUR CELEBRATION OF THE SUMMER OF '69.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

GREAT TO BE HERE.

READING THE BOOK, I REMEMBER RIDING IN MY CAR, MY FATHER WAS DRIVING AND THE SUMMER OF '69, DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA.

SUDDENLY THE DEEJAY INTRODUCES AMERICA EXPRESS BY THE NEW SUPER GROUP CROSBY STILLS AND NASH.

I HAD HEARD CROSBY PERFORMING AND HEARD THE HOLLIES AND BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD.

THE QUESTION IS, WAS A LOAN OR WAS THIS REALLY A SUPER GROUP BEFORE THEIR DEBUT ALBUM.

THE DEFINITION OF A SUPERGROUP AT THE TIME, IT'S KIND OF A LOST ART FORM IN ROCK BUT YOU HAD MEMBERS OF OTHER BANDS COMING TOGETHER TO FORM A NEW GROUP.

AND SO STILLS AND NASH WERE NOT HOUSEHOLD NAMES AT THE TIME BUT THEIR BANDS HAD HITS, BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD HAD FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH AND THE WHO AS HAD A SLEW OF HITS OVER HERE.

THE WHOLE IDEA OF THE GROUP WAS A GRAND EXPERIMENT IN ROCK.

WE'RE GOING TO TAKE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN IN OTHER BANDS TO A NEW GROUP.

USUALLY YOU STUCK WITH YOUR BAND.

THE WHOLE IDEA OF CSNNY FROM THE START WAS GOING TO BREAK THE RULES IN EVERY WAY DO THINGS THE WAY WE WANT THEM, WE'LL USE OUR NAMES.

THAT WAS VERY UNIQUE AT THE TIME.

USUALLY PEOPLE THE HAD GROUP NAMES OTHER THAN SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, IT WAS HARD TO FIND THEIR OWN NAMES.

THAT'S RIGHT.

THEIR WHOLE THING VERY MUCH IN KEEPING WITH THE '60s ETHOS, WE'RE NOT GOING TO GO BY THE RULES.

WE'RE GOING TO BREAK THE RULES AND DO THINGS OUR WAY AND KIND OF YOU KNOW, IN THE FREEDOM OF THE TIME.

SO THE ALBUM COMES OUT.

I MEAN, IT'S A HUGE HIT.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THAT ALBUM THAT PEOPLE FOUND SO IRRESISTIBLE.

YOU HAVE TO START WITH THE MUSIC.

THE SONGS WHICH WE ALL KNOW TO THIS DAY HAVE ENDURED WHETHER IT'S SWEET JUDY BLOOM I.C.E., MARRAKESH EXPRESS, HELPLESSLY HOPING, BRANDI CARLILE COVERED ONE OF THESE SONGS.

THE SONG WRITING WAS REALLY STRONG.

THE SOUD OF THE GROUP, THOSE HARMONIES THERE HAVE BEEN HARMONY GROUPS BEFORE, THE BEACH BOYS, FOUR SEASONS, ET CETERA, BUT THEIR HARMONIES WERE UNIQUE.

THREE VERY DIFFERENT VOICES THAT SOMEHOW CAME TOGETHER.

AND CREATED A SOUND THAT NO ONE HAD KIND OF HEARD BEFORE.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT WAS THE CONTEXT OF THE TIMES.

YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE SPRIK SIMILAR SUMMER OF '69.

THE COUNTRY HAD BEEN THROUGH THE ASSASSINATIONS OF THE MARTIN LUTHER KING, BOBBY KENNEDY, THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION '68, NIXON, VIETNAM.

HERE WAS A RECORD THAT EXUDED A CERTAIN BEAUTY AND JOY IN THE HARMONIES AND THE SORT OF OPTIMISTIC FEEL.

TO SOME DEGREE THEY REFLECTED THE TIMES AND SOME DEGREE A RELIEF OF THE TIMES.

EVEN WHEN THEY SANG ABOUT THE TIMES ON THE ALBUM LONG TIME AGO RECORDED JUST A FEW DAYS AFTER BOBBY KENNEDY'S DEATH, EVEN A SONG LIKE THAT IT WAS ESCAPIST BUT SAID WE'RE ADDRESSING TIMES BUT WE CAN HANDLE IT.

WE CAN KIND OF DEAL WITH IT AND GET BEYOND IT.

AS YOU SAID, THESE GUYS NEVER REALLY GAVE THIS BAND A NAME, RIGHT?

AS YOU SAY, IT'S MORE LIKE SOUNDING LIKE A LAW FIRM THAN A ROCK GROUP.

THEY DID IT JUST TO HAVE A CERTAIN DEGREE OF FREEDOM?

IT WAS A STATEMENT BASICALLY TO SAY LOOK, WE WE'RE A GROUP NOW.

WE MIGHT NOT ALWAYS BE A GROUP.

WE MIGHT WANT TO MAKE RECORDS ON OUR OWN.

YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT GUYS WHO HAD PRETTY STONG EGOS GOING INTO IT.

BEFORE THEY HIRED NEIL, THEY WERE IN SEARCH OF OTHER BACKUP MUSICIANS AND APPROACHED PEOPLE LIKE STEVE WYNN WOOD AND GEORGE HARRISON.

THESE VOICES WERE PERFECT HARMONY, LIKE THE PERFECT BALANCE, RIGHT?

ALL THE CRITICS SAID SEWED AT THE TIME.

SO THE ALBUM COMES OUT AND WHAT DO THEY DO RIGHT AFTER IT COMES OUT?

THEY MESS WITH THAT BALANCE AND BRINGING IN NEIL YOUNG.

WHY?

IT WAS KIND OF A MUTUALLY AGREED UPON DECISION IN SOME WAY, MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL ONE I SHOULD SAY IN THAT CSN DIDN'T HAVE A FULL BAND.

THEY NEEDED EXTRA MUSICIANS BEHIND THEM.

HENCE THEM APPROACHING PEOPLE LIKE STEVE WINWOOD WHO TURNED THEM DOWN.

NEIL EVEN THOUGH HE'S AN ICONIC ROCK FIGURE NOW, BACK THEN HIS OWN CAREER AFTER BEING IN THE BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD HAD GOTTEN OFF TO A ROCKY COMMERCIAL START.

GREAT MUSIC, CINNAMON GIRL, DOWN BY THE RIVER.

NOT A BIG HIT ALBUM AT ALL.

HIS PROFILE WAS -- HE WAS STRUGGLING IN TERMS OF THAT ASPECT.

AND HE KNEW GOING INTO IT THAT JOINING UP WITH THIS ESTABLISHED NEW ESTABLISHED SUPER GROUP AND HAVING HIS NAME ADDED ON THE END WOULD HELP HIM A LOT IN TERMS OF HIS PUBLIC PROFILE.

THEY NEEDED ANOTHER BACKUP MUSICIAN.

THEIR RECORD COMPANY KIND OF EGGED THEM INTO IT.

HAVE NEIL JOIN, THAT WILL BE A GOOD THING.

THEY SAID OKAY, LET'S TRY IT OUT.

LET'S HOLD OUR BREATH AND SEE HOW IT'S GOING TO GOING.

THE SUBTITLE OF THE BOOK 'THE WILD DEFINITIVE SAGA OF ROCK'S GREATEST SUPER GROUP,' SUPER GROUP SPECIFICALLY DEFINED.

WHERE WOULD YOU PUT THEM IN THE PANTHEON OF ROCK BANDS?

WELL, I THINK THEY'RE KIND OF UP THERE FOR SURE.

THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS I WROTE THE BOOK.

I FELT IN SOME WADES THEY'RE UNDERAPPRECIATED KIND OF A STRANGE TERM TO USE FOR THEM GIVEN THEIR LEGENDARY STATUS.

WHEN YOU DO THINK OF THE GREAT BANDS, YOU KNOW, BEATLES, STONES, GRATEFUL DEAD, WHATEVER, CSN DON'T ALWAYS COME 0 MIND AUTOMATICALLY.

I THINK IT'S BECAUSE THEY HAD SUCH A FRACTURED HISTORY.

THEY'RE ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN.

PEOPLE THINK ARE THEY A GROUP?

IS NEIL PART OF IT?

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE BODY OF WORK OVER 50 YEARS, NOT JUST THEIR EARLY RECORDS TOGETHER, THEY MADE TERRIFIC MUSIC ON THEIR OWN IN THE '70s AND INTO THE '80s.

NEIL YOUNG COPIES TO BE SUPER PROLIFIC AND WROTE A LOT OF GREAT SONGS HIMSELF, DAVID CROSBY MADE SOME ALBUMS RECENTLY THAT WERE GOOD.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE WHOLE BODY OF WORK AND HOW IT WITHSTOOD THE TEST OF TIME, THEY STUD IT BE CONSIDERED IN THE PANTHEON.

PEOPLE ARE STILL RECORDING AND PLAYING THOSE SONGS.

PEOPLE ARE STILL PLAYING 'OHIO.'

I HEARD TWO OR THREE GROUPS DOLL COVER VERSIONS OF OHIO.

THE BOOK IS CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG.

THAT'S A REALLY GOOD BOOK.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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