Global wars, protests in the streets, a film about the Iraq War and, of course, powerful music. Stephen Stills interview (including Web-extra excerpts) in advance of Borgata show.
Stephen Stills has the honorary distinction as being the only musician to have ever been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice in one night — for two different bands he was a part of: Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSN&Y).
Stills’ career is a one of the most prolific of the 1960s-era singer-songwriters and guitarists, having worked with some of the most influential names in music over the past five decades such as Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Chris Hillman, Eric Clapton, and of course Neil Young, David Crosby and Graham Nash.
As a songwriter, Stills has penned some of the most timeless songs of the Post-War era, including “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield), “Love the One You’re With” (from his first solo album, released in 1970), “Southern Cross,” which he says is one of his own favorite songs, and the many songs he wrote with or for CSN (or CSN&Y) featuring his unmistakably honey-toned voice and ever-glowing guitar work.
In 1970, CSN&Y followed up CSN’s mightily successful 1969 self-titled debut with “one of the most hotly awaited second albums in history,” as the All-Music Guide states, Déjà Vu. Shooting straight to the top of the charts and solidifying each band members’ place in music for decades to come, Déjà Vu was a watershed record at a watershed moment in American history. Including many songs that can still be heard all over classic rock radio, such as “Carry On,” “Teach Your Children,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” and Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” — CSN did perform at the legendary August 1969 music/hippie festival, as well as the Atlantic City Pop Festival, held earlier that month in Mays Landing (see below) — Neil Young’s masterpiece “Helpless” and a song leftover from Young and Stills’ time in Buffalo Springfield, “Everybody I Love You.”
In 1971, for the band’s third album in as many years, CSN&Y released the live double album Four Way Street, including even more politically and socially conscious material than had appeared on all of the members’ albums — together and apart — before that time.
Forty years ago, as the Vietnam War was dragging on, with protests in the streets a norm (sound familiar?) and other landmark moments occurring around the country, such as the Kent State shootings, the Chicago Democratic Convention protests (in 1968), the advancements and other outcomes from the Civil Rights Movement, for a few examples, the album provided a thought-provoking yet beautiful soundtrack to the times, including gorgeously performed live cuts of CSN&Y tunes such as “Ohio,” “Chicago/We Can Change the World” and a song that Stills says he is most proud of, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” which first appeared on CSN’s debut album.
By this time Stills had already released his first solo album, featuring Hendrix and other guests, and the classic “Love the One Your With,” among other highlights.
The following year he released his second solo album and recorded the Manassas album, a concept album of sorts that included top-notch and well-known players plowing through 21 songs that blended American and British folk, blues, country, Latin, bluegrass and a healthy helping of early ’70s psychedelic rock.
Forty years later, Stills, who continues to perform with both CSN and CSN&Y on a regular basis, and who regrouped with Buffalo Springfield in June of this year for a short, but highly anticipated and well-received round of concerts in California and at the Bonnaroo Festival, is in solo mode again, having kicked off a tour backed by Joe Vitale, Todd Caldwell and Kenny Passarelli on Oct. 10.
The opening act for the Atlantic City concert — at the intimate Borgata Music Box, on Saturday, Oct. 15 — is Josh Hisle, a young singer-songwriter and ex-U.S. Marine and two-tour veteran of Iraq. Hisle appeared in the 2008 CSN&Y movie Déjà Vu, a concert-film/documentary of the band’s “Freedom of Speech Tour” with the war in Iraq as the backdrop.
Stills, whose voice and guitar work are as passionate and piercing as ever, spoke with Atlantic City Weekly via telephone from his California home right before the start of the current tour.
Just listening to your Manassas album. It came out in April 1972. Did you record it in ’71?
So that was 40 years ago. The album has four parts: “The Raven, the Wilderness, Consider and Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay.
What was the idea behind the different parts; was there a concept?
It’s one of those wild-ass ideas that you think of in the studio when you’re mixing and it seems like a great idea when in fact, you have brain fatigue. But actually … everything about it is really special so you have to, of course, impart how special it is. In retrospect, it’s like, OK, that’s one way to organize it. Looking back, it seemed a little contrived, but at the same time I bet all those fans really took it seriously and got it. So just, you know, leave it alone.
Were the tunes recorded in that sequence?
Yeah, it had to do with the sequence. We had all these songs and said, ‘Oh My God, how do we put this together?’ Actually, we played the [electric] songs sort of in a row. We used to do that whole side in tact on the stage. We’d go from one song to the other like some giant medley.
Out of the hundreds and hundreds of tunes you’ve written and sung on, and all of the bands that you’ve worked with over the years, how do you determine which songs to play on a solo tour?
The ones that are easiest to remember. Ha ha, you know, [for] the band. Actually, I looked at the band and said, ‘What do we feel like playing? What do you think we’ll play really good?’ You know, it’s really what do we play really good.
And it’s a combination of stuff from CSN and solo, or ... ?
Yeah. It’s everything.
You’ve been to Atlantic City ...
I’ve been there a few times.
Numerous times, with CSN, especially at the Borgata, over the past five years or so. I don’t know if you remember, but you played the Atlantic City Pop Festival about two weeks before the original Woodstock.
Two weeks before Woodstock?
Yeah. It was August 1 to 3. It was at a race course in Mays Landing, N.J. It was called the Atlantic City Pop Festival and the bill was unbelievable. It was you guys, the Byrds, Iron Butterfly, Tim Buckley, Dr. John, B.B. King ...
Who’s us guys?
But CSN only played the Chicago Theater before Woodstock.
Hmm. Well, there are several stories and Web sites that claim the festival featured Crosby, Stills and Nash. I don’t know. You have no recollection?
It’s just — I’m sorry, did you see that show?
The festival? No, that was five years before I was born.
That was five years before you were born! Well, I’m having trouble reconciling that with my memory bank because ... I mean, I remember a fabulous frickin’ show in Atlantic City with CSN but it was later and it rained cats and dogs but we were great.
It actually rained cats and dogs at the Atlantic City Pop Festival. Was the show you remember in the 1970s?
Yeah. No, it was ... yeah, part of our first swing, but it was not before Woodstock. That’s what’s confusing to me. I’m easily confused being 66 so be gentle. But that’s astonishing that I remember the show, because it was at a racetrack, and it just rained cats and dogs. But we really felt ourselves come together as a band.
Yeah, it did rain from what I know.
It just blazed. But it was freezing cold and pissing down rain and we played until we were going to get electrocuted and we had to stop.
Frank Zappa was there, Captain Beefheart, Joni Mitchell, Little Richard!
Well, we didn’t see any of those people there ‘cause I think they had us spread out. So we came in and we played and we had to leave. Whether it was before or after Woodstock… you’re going to surprise Crosby with that because he thinks he remembers everything. Nash actually does,
I’ll send you some links if you want. I actually tracked down a photographer in California who was 18 at the time ... and took some fantastic pictures of the A.C. festival. Early pics of Santana and many others. Do you still live in L.A.? I know you’re from Texas.
I haven’t been to Texas since I was a year and a half old, and I’ve disowned the place in recent memory. But I have a place in Florida, and I have a place in L.A., and I’m in Los Angeles right now.
How was the Buffalo Springfield reunion experience earlier this year?
It was great. It’s like we got all wound up and got rolling and then Neil [Young] got a little burned out on everything and wanted to go tinker around in his garage so we kind of deferred it for awhile, which was kind of a surprise to the rest of us, but we’ll get back to it because it was really good.
A lot of people seemed to be interested in the Buffalo Springfield reunion and wondered what happened to the tour.
Well, of course they want to find out about Buffalo Springfield. But Neil had a concert he had to get out to, so he kind of put us on the backburner, so if we let him live, we’ll get back soon.
There are no firm plans right now to put a tour together again?
With Neil Young, there are never any firm plans. And he gets away with it, that’s the astonishing part.
Over and over and over again.
How many dates did Springfield play?
Six? And he got burnt out?
Rock Art Show at Hamilton Mall Feb. 8-10; Horseback Riding on the Atlantic City Beach
The proceeds from the Atlantic City show — tickets ($75 and $150) go on sale Nov. 30 at 10am — are going to aid victims of Superstorm/Hurricane Sandy.
For once, horses weren’t the center of attention. Instead, it would be a day for music and politics.
The musician and artist will make two special Jersey Shore appearances this weekend , including a show at Borgata and an artist reception in Stone Harbor at Ocean Galleries.
In relation to Occupy movement's two month anniversary...
Twelve days after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took mankind’s initial steps on the moon, Atlantic County braced for another first — the staging of the Atlantic City Pop Festival. The roster of acts spanned the musical spectrum.
"We recently played the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, which was a great time. These bands who are bringing us out here [Among Criminals, Tsunami Rising, and Cheezy and the Crackers] are super cool. They know what they’re doing. They’re cross promoting, which is very cool to see."
As purveyors of some of the most poignant songs of the rock era, it would seem that David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash were working from an agenda when they were turning out their counterculture messages more than 40 years ago.
THE FOLK-ROCK TRIO Crosby, Stills and Nash make a stop during their summer tour at the Borgata's Event Center Friday night. Although they're without sometime band mate Neil Young, the trio is armed with a new double-CD by a couple of its members (Crosby-Nash) and a presidential campaign in full swing. That's right, as announced recently, David Crosby and Graham Nash are jointly running for President of the United States. When asked who their vice president candidate would be at a press conference last month, Nash replied, "We'll have two presidents, and between us we have vice covered." Even though Nash was born in England and the legendary singer-songwriters clearly endorse the Kerry-Edwards ticket on their official web site (crosbystillsnash.com), the comical campaign includes a light-hearted commercial that can also be viewed on line at crosbynash2004.com. Recording and touring together -- and with solo projects -- for the past 35 years, CSN (and sometimes Y) are responsible for a plethora of music over the years. The trio's self titled 1969 debut, which included the songs "Long Time Gone," "Marrakesh Express" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," and the following year's Déj� Vu, with the classics "Our House," "Almost Cut My Hair" and...
WHEN PEOPLE THINK OF CLASSIC ROCK they think of the usual suspects: Hendrix, the Stones, the Beatles. Perhaps bands like Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills and Nash or Traffic come to mind. At one time or another Dave Mason, who'll be in town this Saturday night at Resorts, has played with members of all of the above. A co-founder of the UK band Traffic in the late '60s, whose original line-up also featured Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi, Mason, a native of Worcester, England, has had the opportunity to play with a multitude of legendary artists over the years. Mid-way through Traffic's prime, Mason exited the band and went on to a successful solo career, putting out now-classic albums such as Alone Together (how about that psychedelic cream-colored vinyl?), Split Coconut, Let It Flow and Mariposa De Oro. Aside from his solo efforts, Mason lent his guitar playing to a number of Rock 101 essential projects including George Harrison's All Things Must Past, Paul McCartney's Venus and Mars and Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland to name just a few. "There are great parts about all of the stuff -- the solo stuff, Traffic, working with Hendrix, getting to play with people even...
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