This Day in ’69: CSN gains a Y

Monday, July 25, 2016
This Day in ’69: CSN gains a Y

47 years ago this summer, Neil Young joined forces with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, adding a letter to an already-familiar acronym and, for whatever tension it might’ve brought to the existing trio on occasion, resulted in some of the greatest music of the rock era.

As a result of his membership in Buffalo Springfield, Young and Stills were certainly intimately acquainted, and in a very real sense, it was Stills who was responsible for Young’s introduction into the collaboration. Not just because of the fact that he already knew Young, but also because it was his work on Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s debut album in the studio, most of which he did by himself, that left the band in need of some assistance to reproduce the material live.

“I’ll never forget our ride in the limo on the way to see Neil,” said Dallas Taylor, longtime drummer for both CSN and CSNY, in Jimmy McDonough’s Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography. “Stephen said, ‘How would you feel about Neil Joining the band?’ ‘Wow, great –except isn’t that why the Springfield broke up?’ He said, ‘Oh, no, man – it’s gonna be different this time. It’ll be cool.’ But there was this tone of doubt in his voice.”

Nash – who really didn’t know Young – initially had his doubts as well, telling McDonough, “We’d spent a lot of time getting this beautiful harmonic sound together. I mean, Jesus Christ, wasn’t the album a huge multiplatinum success? I didn’t feel like we needed anybody else.” After meeting Young one morning for breakfast, however, Nash was swayed.

Young has said in the past that it was a major help to his career to join forces with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, since not only did it help raise his profile, but it also helped him sell more records. And to hear Young’s manager, Elliot Roberts, tell it, Young’s presence helped CSN, too, by helping to toughen up the trio’s sound.

“What we were asked to do is take something soft and give it balls,” Roberts told McDonough. “Neil’s got balls dropping from his shoulders, there’s balls in his hair, there’s balls comin’ down his back – he’s got balls everywhere.”

Clearly, Nash didn’t disagree: as he was quoted as saying in Mojo Magazine awhile back, Young’s arrival in their ranks “was like lobbing a hand grenade in a vacuum.”