Crosby, Stills & Nash Primer

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Scs&n_1969UITE: JUDY BLUE EYES, Crosby, Stills & Nash (1st Album)

It wasn’t an immediate hit. “Marrakesh Express” got all the airplay. And being in excess of seven minutes long, radio was reluctant to play the track in its entirety, the days of free format radio were dying.

So the initial Crosby, Stills & Nash album developed slowly, most of us heard it at friends’ houses, at parties, and marveled at the elixir that emitted from the speakers.

There was harmony before. But not in the rock of the day. And we remembered acoustic guitars from the folk/hootenanny years. But their return here was so fresh we all broke out our instruments and tried to replicate the sound.

All this was done without Neil Young, who now gets all the accolades. But at the time, Stephen Stills was king, one can argue he still should be.


“Say, can I have some of your purple berries”

Yes, we listened to this album stoned, it was the heyday of marijuana, not today’s mega-powerful bud, but the multi-joint stuff that mellowed you out without putting you on the floor.

The song was cowritten by the Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner and appeared in a bit slower take on their late ’69 album “Volunteers,” which has been unjustly forgotten, check it out.

But know at the turn of the decade, this was what was categorized as a hit, even though it was not a single, wasn’t on AM radio, everybody knew it, we weren’t mindless, but deep thinkers, and this music set us on our way.


My favorite cut on the debut. It sounds like mud is oozing all over the floor, pulling you into the sound, for which you’re extremely grateful.

A David Crosby masterpiece wherein not only his vocal is the starring element. Listen to that organ, that bass, that electric guitar!


Probably my favorite cut on the album today. It was one of the last tracks I got into originally. Its quiet subtlety prevented it from standing out, but it ultimately became indelible in my brain.


This is what we’ve lost in the transition from McIntosh to Macintosh, from three-way speakers to earbuds. This is a rich sound that should be heard on vinyl.

Notice I included neither “Marrakesh Express” nor “Lady of the Island” on this playlist, not because I detest Graham Nash, I preferred his initial solo album the most of the three, but because they’re sweet in a way the rest of the material was rich, and it’s this richness which has given the debut longevity.

csny deja vuCARRY ON

To say “Deja Vu” was anticipated is an understatement. By this time, a year later, Crosby, Stills & Nash were the biggest band in the land, and they had an album cover befitting this status, it was faux leather, with an old-timey photo glued upon its front.

And there was nothing like dropping the needle on “Carry On” the very first time. Because of the SOUND!!

You’d put your ear in front of the speaker, you couldn’t believe the mellifluousness of it all!



It’s the GUITAR!

Talk about a riff! Not quite as famous as “Smoke On The Water,” but known by every baby boomer just the same.

We saw the Joni Mitchell credit, we knew who she was, but this was a completely different take upon the song she released in a slower, quieter version on “Ladies Of The Canyon.”

This was a month before the “Woodstock” movie was released. We were still high on the Woodstock energy, and when the movie hit and was so gigantic, this was the anthem.


I didn’t get it until I’d graduated from college and I was living in Sandy, Utah with a couple from Asheville, North Carolina and every day Tom put his head in front of the speaker as this played and wistfully contemplated his life.

You see he’d just turned twenty four.

I was only twenty one.

I didn’t get it.



It was overblown even back then, but the emphatic Crosby vocal and stinging guitar triumphed anyway.

It took me eighteen months to cut mine, back when long hair no longer bespoke your politics, but back then…we all wanted to let our freak flag fly.

And yes, “Teach Your Children” was the hit off this album, but you already know that, and can live without it if you’ve never heard it, it’s too sappy.

And yes, this is the album with Neil Young, I preferred “Country Girl” to “Helpless,” but really his sound was different from that of the other three, and this playlist is about them, not him.


Sometimes you give up on your dream, the Beatles never reunited, you never got back together with your summer camp girlfriend, we thought Crosby, Stills & Nash would never reunite.



Everybody else disappointed, the Byrds reunion was close to abysmal, mostly because of the material. But this 1977 album not only sounded like the original act, the material was memorable!

And we were ready and willing.

This album was embraced by both radio and fans alike.


This, “Shadow Captain” and “Fair Game” got the most airplay. But they were not the best tracks on the album.



Yes, it’s a Graham Nash composition, but not an AM radio ditty, but something personal, akin to his solo work.

It goes from quiet to loud…it’s an epic!


Once again, Graham Nash had the hit. But this one is less sappy than “Teach Your Children” and a bit deeper than “Marrakesh Express.”


The finale, a Stephen Stills number, it built and built and at home alone it resonated so much! When a record rode shotgun and kept you company, completed your life.


The piece-de-resistance, the best song on the record.

“Ten years singing right out loud
I never looked was anybody listening
Then I fell out of a cloud
I hit the ground and noticed something missing”

Fame does not fix your life. Neither does money.

You think it will, that’s your motivation. But if you live through the studio, the road and the dope, one day you wake up and look for more than one night stands.

“Now I have someone
She has seen me changing”

Change is so hard, especially if you’re successful on societal terms. No one is more boorish than a rich and famous person. Which is why you’re disappointed so much when you meet your heroes.

“And it gets harder as you get older
Farther away as you get closer”

Ain’t that the truth. When the sand is running out of the hourglass, when you’re becoming set in your ways, you wonder if you’re ever gonna get to the destination, whether you’re ever going to be happy.

And the more you know, the less you do.

Think about it. Only the young know everything.

And then Crosby, Stills & Nash went on to make more albums, none of them extremely memorable. 1982’s “Daylight Again” even had a single that’s become iconic, played endlessly on satellite radio, “Southern Cross.”

But the truth is after coming back, the band was spent.

And we can speculate why, or just revel in the greatness of what came before.

Crosby, Stills & Nash were the biggest rock stars of their day. Today you might find that hard to believe, but listen to the above tracks and reevaluate, you’ll be forced to.

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