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Monday, July 18, 2011

"The American Beatles": Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young



Here's an excerpt from the new book Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970, by David Browne on the U.K. debut (at Royal Albert Hall) of the band dubbed "the American Beatles" -- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young:
After opening with "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," the seven-minute Stills homage to former girlfriend Judy Collins that had become one of their signature songs, their utter self-confidence kicked in. As Paul McCartney looked on, they sang one of his own songs, "Blackbird," from the White Album.

CSNY had tackled it before, including at Woodstock the previous summer, but tonight it was a declaration of their eminence: It practically declared that they were picking up where the Beatles had left off. (To their credit, they sang it lovingly, with Stills holding a long, raspy note in the "dark black night" line that made the song their own.)

The rest of the show broke with tradition in numerous ways.

For the first, acoustic half, the four sang some songs as a quartet, others separately, others with a combination of the four. Like their garb, the songs mirrored their diverse personalities and lifestyles. Crosby’s "Triad" openly coaxed a girl into having a ménage à trois; Nash introduced "Our House," about the cozy, music-and-lovemaking existence he had back home in Laurel Canyon with his girlfriend Joni Mitchell. (He also told the crowd it was from a new album they’d just completed, to be called Déjà vu.) Young’s "The Loner" seemed to be as much about himself — the way he worked on his own schedule, at his own pace, on his terms—as about the song’s borderline-stalker character.

More excerpts of Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970by David Browne.


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7 Comments:

At 7/18/2011 09:17:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

They can call CSNY that all they want, I believe Neil was quoted as saying he wanted Crazy Horse as the American Rolling Stones.

 
At 7/18/2011 09:25:00 AM, Anonymous Harold Lepidus said...

I remember when CSNY were called "The American Beatles" years ago . . . Of course, Graham is British, Neil is Canadian . . .

 
At 7/18/2011 10:54:00 AM, Blogger Raincheck said...

They could have been the American Beatles. But they were never really a band. Even on their ONE album (Deja Vu) guys were holding out material for solo albums.

There are a lot of great things about classic era CSN/CSNY, and Neil fans can sometimes be unfair to them. But the reality is that, after a perfectly crafted CSN debut album, they were never really a BAND again. That doesn't mean there was no good music, but the essense of the Beatles was as a band.

Crazy Horse was Neil's Stones while Danny was alive. Afterwards, they were sometimes great, but never nearly as soulful.

 
At 7/18/2011 01:58:00 PM, Blogger asg said...

actually I don't think CSN was a band on their first album either...the "band" was mostly Stills and Dallas Taylor...I still dunno exactly what that "American Beatles" tag means...the Beatles didn't start out as four distinct separate solo artists, but CSN(Y) did...

 
At 7/18/2011 03:38:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...

"The American Beatles" label has always been very flawed... mainly hype. think Bill Graham coined it before the 74 tour?

Probably more about being hyper successful than anything else regarding national origin, band, etc.

At one point combined, all the facets of CSNY/CSN/BS/Manassas/CH etc were probably selling as many or more records as the Beatles in the US.

 
At 7/18/2011 03:54:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

I always thought the "American Beatles" tag was a lot of hooey, if for no other reason than how prolific the Beatles were, compared to relatively short lived CSNY outings, and song quality. I mean, CSN and CSNY did some good things, but the Beatles churned out one great song after another. I don't think you can even compare them. You could break it down further if you wanted, and maybe make the argument that had CSNY stayed together as long as the Beatles, and were powered by Neils songs, with a fair amount of contributions from Stills, and the odd song from Nash and Crosby, that they could have vied with the Beatles, but even this is a stretch.

I think it's fair to say that the Beatles were more of a band, and CSNY were more collaborators. Nothing wrong about that, just different.

More than anything, I think the comparison comes from a longing on the part of Americans to say that they had something to be just as proud of. I remember early on straining to find the comparison for just this reason, and pretty quickly coming to the conclusion I started out with, which is that any comparison is a lot of hooey.

 
At 7/18/2011 09:35:00 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

I do agree that CSNY's output and general oeuvre isn't on the same level as the Beatles but I do believe that with Déjà Vu and the solo albums from the late sixties until 74, they really had a chance to become the most important thing to come out of America. I think it's truly one of music's biggest lost that they released just one album in their prime and lost the plot after. Imagine if they had kept churning out CSNY albums while releasing fantastic solo albums for all of the seventies. I mean, I'm sure Neil could have saved some songs from his amazing solo output of that decade for CSNY and CSN had a lot of talent as well. Sadly for them (CSN), they drowned themselves in cocaine and groupies...

 

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