November 7, 2011 1 Comment
Deep Cuts Week Returns!
Try to contain your enthusiasm.
All week, ROTI will be rocking your soul with infrequently-played tracks from some of the most acclaimed and influential musical artists in recent memory. This is the second edition of a successful series we ran a year ago; the index of all Deep Cuts entries can be found at the end of this post.
Allow me, Alpine, to get personal for a minute. When I think about my love of great music and how it developed over the years, one scene that jumps into my mind is driving with my pops in the family station wagon, at a young and impressionable age, when “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” from the debut album by Crosby, Stills and Nash came on the stereo. My dad cranked up the volume and we cruised down the placid roads of our suburban town listening to some of the greatest harmonies ever put on wax. I nearly lost my mind when Stephen Stills led the band into the final part of the song, the random rumination about Cuba, and later spent many hours with headphones clapped around my ears and the record playing on the family stereo, trying to puzzle out what the words were. (Still haven’t figured ’em out.)
That’s why I’m beginning the second round of Deep Cuts articles with a feature on CSN. I received invaluable help in this effort from one of my wisest homies in harmony, and one of the most knowledgeable music fans on Earf, DJ Walls of Sound.
Probably the greatest and most essential supergroup ever created, CSN formed at a party at Mama Cass’ house in July 1968, at a time when all three of its members were adrift from the groups that had made them famous.
Troublemaker David Crosby was legendary for his harmonies as part of the original lineup of The Byrds, but was basically an a-hole who feuded with equally dickish frontman Roger McGuinn and eventually found himself band-less. Englishman Graham Nash had played a key role in the breakthrough success of The Hollies, yet he found his songwriting leading him in a different direction, a path that his fellow Hollies didn’t understand; they kept rejecting his compositions, and he eventually bailed and headed to California. Stephen Stills had achieved success through his collaborations with Neil Young; their band, Buffalo Springfield, had a smash hit with Stills’ “For What It’s Worth,” but after the elusive Young split from the band and insanely talented bassist Bruce Palmer was deported to Canada on drug charges, Stills was casting about for some new tune partners.
Stills and Crosby joined forces and had worked up a couple of numbers, including “You Don’t Have to Cry.” They were jamming on that song at Mama Cass’ pad, when Graham Nash walked up and laid down an insanely good high harmony over the top. Everyone knew right away that an incredibly awesome new sound had been born. Mere months later, they performed a set at Woodstock that launched their name into the top tier of harmonic rock groups. The sound that magically came together in July 1968 became one of the most influential musical styles of the 20th century.
The three geniuses feuded often throughout the years, both with and without their fourth wheel Neil Young. Throughout the intervening decades they’ve often re-formed in different configurations based on who was pissed at whom, or who was in jail (Crosby) or who randomly flounced off to Canada (Young). But their monument will always be the amazing songs and flawless, brilliant harmonies that they crafted together. Read more of this post