PUBLICATIONS > Articles > 1970s > Euphoric acoustic good guys hit the Dylan Trail

Euphoric acoustic good guys hit the Dylan Trail
NME
Barbara Charone
March 16, 1974

 

“WELCOME AMERICAN Dairymen” read the hotel display-board and beneath it, in smaller letters, “Welcome Stephen Stills Group”. Upstairs overlooking Chicago in just another hotel room, Stills relaxed on the last day of his tour and muttered:

“Well, the latest flash is that CSN&Y are finally getting back together.”

Another piece of rock gossip? One more “wish it would come true” rumour? Nope, this is for real. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, those archetypal euphoric acoustic good guys, are back for a real live tour.

Dylan in the winter. CSN&Y in the summer. You could say ‘74 has been a good year for rock alright.

It’s grey and muddy outside, but Stephen Stills, football jersey and jagged toothy grin, laughs: “We’ve been trying to get CSN&Y back together for some time now. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. But this time it was me. I just didn’t want to give up this tour because it was a real nice little tour and I wanted to get a new band put together.”

Seems after countless episodes in the continuing adventures of Stephen Stills, the lad finally came round to kicking ass on stage. And this present little band is the one that got him musically excited again, yearning to hit the road with those “other” guys.

“The latest news,” says Stills with barely restrained excitement. “is that the first gig is July 4 in Tampa Florida at a football stadium. We’ll do about ten dates on the tour. I’m really looking forward to it: it should be O.K. And if it doesn’t happen it will be because everybody has grown too far apart. We’ll see,” Stills sighs in disbelief that plans have proceeded this far.

“I know we can still sing well together. It’s just down to deciding on arrangements and stuff.”

LIKE THE Dylan tour that preceded it, this CSN&Y jaunt is to be another of those intimate rock ‘n’ roll affairs, small gatherings of 20,000 plus. One wondered how Dylan and the Band could project in huge arenas. And here again, it makes you wonder – how an outdoor stadium can pick up the subtle ooh-lâ-las of, say, “Suite Judy Blue Eyes”?

“If it’s better or worse than what any of us have done separately. I don’t think the Press would notice anyways, which is the unfortunate thing” says Stills. “I don’t know if it’ll be better than CSN&Y, but I’ll tell ya something, it’ll be as good.’

“I’m sure the tour will get lots of attention, the whole bit. Covers of Time and Newsweek. And it’s going to outgross the Dylan tour. In fact, it already has.”

So it’s only big arenas, I ask dubiously.

“Football stadiums,” Stills laughs. “But it’s going to be fun. We’ll work it out with the security so everything will be right, so it won’t be a big drag. And everybody will have a new ‘I’ve been there’ patch for their levi jackets.”

It’s been four years since the Fab Foursome won the minds and hearts of Young America, four years that gave us every conceivable combination of CSN&Y We’ve had solo albums galore, countless tours, and every so often a genuine nostalgic twinge for the old days.

How many of us trouped out to see one or more of CSN&Y do ill-fated versions of the old favourites? How often have you closed your eyes and wished it was 69 all over again?

Well, it’s ‘74 kids. We wondered about Dylan. Now you’ve got three months to prepare for the next epic journey.

“It’s going to be good.” Stephen threatens. “If it’s not good in rehearsals, then I ain’t going. Everybody else feels the same way. I think that some of my records have suffered for lack of their influences and some of theirs have suffered for lack of mine. We all kind Of agree on that.

“That’s the part that no one is going to be willing to believe, the good side of it all. Everybody will see it as a chance to gross out $12 million or whatever. But I honestly think that everyone’s a little curious.

“And it has a lot more to do with Neil, Graham, David and me all being curious as to what the other guys would do with his song.”

SO what about the egos, the stubborn knock-down drag-out fights that reportedly ham-strung the previous formation? For if the time between has done anything. it’s certainly established David Crosby and Graham Nash, taken them out of the shadows.

And what about Stills and Young and all those famous feud rumours that have been around since the days of the Buffalo Springfield?

“The hardest part is going to be for everyone to remember how to sit and take orders. And me, too.” Stills smirks.

“You do this, you do that. Now one two three-do it, Well I don’t like this part. Fine, far out. But as long as we go through the process to get there it’s going to be O.K.

“Brian Wilson went through the same thing. I remember sitting in the studio with Brian, Danny Hutton and a few others where Brian would tell everyone what part to sing. Every single part was crazy but when we all closed our eyes and did it together, did just what we were supposed to do, it was absolutely gorgeous!

“That’s one of the hardest parts about playing with”.. he searches for the right word..” with a band that’s supposed to be equals. One of the things I pride myself on, one of the things I think I do best, is arrange.

“Yet I’ll sit and take orders from David Crosby any day of the week about voices because I have ultimate respect for his taste. And Graham always had an ability to tell me when to quit about adding instruments.

“And Neil and I,” he pauses. “Well, that’s another deal.

“But it’s going to be interesting. And I think it’ll work out. And I ain’t going to go unless it’s going to be good. I’ll just say no! Basically. I’m real curious to see how it goes.”

Does he see it as being a fairly loose situation, changing nightly?

“Yeah it’ll be loose, but I’m always the one who’s got to have certain cues within the thing that everybody remembers. This band I’m with now is the best that I’ve been with yet. You play a cue and everybody knows what’s supposed to happen. It’s like playing basketball really”

So is this going to be one of those get-rich-quick tours, release a guaranteed million – seller and call it quits? And what about those CS&N Hawaii sessions?

“Well. I would hope an album will come out of the tour but we won’t he recording beforehand. Nothing much came out of the Hawaii dates. We all got disgusted and made our own solo albums, so we’ve all really got to write some more songs.

“And I find that I’m a little slower these days with words, with getting things to be cohesive. You sit and diddle at the piano and wait for something that sets it off and it takes hours and hours. Finally you get bored and go skiing.

“It’s hard writing songs. Woke up this morning was feeling blue”. He laughs “Ya know. I’ve always written the blues. And today it’s grey and muddy and rotten outside. But who cares?”

MEANWHILE Stephen Stills ends this present tour in Chicago, plaving the same hall where CSN&Y recorded the bulk of “Four Way Street”. Deja vu. oh yeah.

“This new band started out like a dictatorship, but it’s loosening up. I mean, they’re awfully good.. This band is fast, but it’s a lot cleaner and sparser than Manassas. Manassas ended by mutual consent — it was just something else.

“I mean, this is my fourth band.” Stills laughs. “and I’ve been privileged to play with a lot of really great musicians.

This is certainly the most professional and the most experienced band I’ve worked with.”

This time around Stills has a rhythm section that actually flies: he kids are pleased and word gets around. Dick Clark wants to do a television show on me? On the real Stephen Stills.

Do you want people to know who the real Stephen Stills is?

“Well.” he sighs. “I kind of do because there’s a lot of misconceptions about what kind of person I am. It’s a strange position to be in. And it still bothers me that it’s got nothing to do with the music. It’s a case of the journalist as would-be rock star.”

MEANWHILE the real Stephen Stills is up onstage with a frizzy hippie wig announcing to the sell-out crowd “I just won $200!” only to discover that he’s got to wear it throughout the entire song to collect, on his bet.

It’s a crazy end—of—tour alright, what with the band doing hard assed versions of “Black Queen” and “Bluebird”, what with Maria Muldaur dancing in the wings in a wild frenzied boozy haze as if to mumble. “Damn it, won’t someone feel my leg.’

And in a new tune. “My Favorite Changes”. Stills sings: “If you’re still listening I hope you remember the kid with the big black guitar and the sad songs.”

Yeah. Steve, we still remember you and Graham and David and what’s his-name? It’s been more than a long time coming. Make it good goddamnit.

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