Out today (May 14th) is Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s “50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” of 1970’s Déjà Vu. The collection, which was curated by Graham Nash, features four CD’s, one LP, including 38 newly released tracks features demos, outtakes, and alternate versions.
Included in the box is a 12-by-12 hardcover book, rare and unseen photos, “as well as annotations by writer-filmmaker Cameron Crowe. Crowe can be heard recounting the making of the LP through first-hand accounts told by people who were present at the time” — including the band.
Déjà Vu was originally released on March 11th, 1970, and served as the followup up to the previous year’s watershed Crosby, Stills, & Nash collection. Déjà Vu was the first to feature Stephen Stills‘ Buffalo Springfield buddy and foil, Neil Young. Young had begun performing with CSN shortly after the debut album was released.
Déjà Vu, which hit Number One for just one week on May 16th, 1970, stayed in the Billboard Top 10 for a whopping 23 straight weeks. Highlights on the set included Graham Nash’s instant standards “Our House” and “Teach Your Children” — featuring Jerry Garcia making his debut on pedal steel guitar, David Crosby‘s title track and “Almost Cut My Hair,” Stephen Stills’ “Carry On” and the solo “4+20,” Neil Young’s “Helpless” — as well as the group’s reinvention and definitive take of Joni Mitchell‘s “Woodstock.”
In a new chat promoting the box set, Graham Nash revealed he took an unflinching look at all the music both leading up to and during the sessions, telling BBC Radio: “Absolutely, I listened to everything. You have to. I mean, we didn’t want to leave anything out. We wanted this re-release to thrill the people that bought Déjà Vu in the past. We wanted to make it so that they really had to have it, and in that process, we had to listen to everything that we had done. And then we gave each individual (the request for) permission for songs to be on there, and that’s how it went.”
Nash went on to recall how back in 1969 he was the deciding factor in allowing Neil Young to join the group during a one-on-one “get to know you” meal in New York City: “At the end of the breakfast, I looked him in the eye, and I said, ‘Okay — why the hell should I invite you into this band, Neil?’ And he paused for a moment and he looked me in the eyes and he said, ”You ever heard me and Stills play guitar together?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I have in the Springfield.’ He said, ‘That’s why you need me.’ And he was right. And Neil brought a darker edge to our music — not darker in the negative sense, but it’s Neil Young. Everything’s a little darker than (laughs) that normal sunshine with Neil.”
Neil Young told the Musicians Hall of Fame that all things are possible — providing you have the material first: “Songs are the vehicle, y’know, and the musicians are drivin’ it. And they’re goin’ into the curves the right way; and they’re floorin’ it at the right time. But the song is the vehicle. Y’know, so the things all go together.”
We asked Stephen Stills if over the years, he ever felt pressure to make his material fit in with his bandmates’ respective works: “Kinda — And the other thing was, I had other people involved, y’know, ‘we want this one, we want this one’ and it was fitting them in with the cohesiveness of what was going on and making room for other people’s songs, y’know? I mean, I could barely keep up. But, y’know, when you’re that age, they just come roaring out.”
While chatting with Apple Music back in 2012, David Crosby and Graham Nash touched upon the connection between artist and audience: “(David Crosby): You have no idea where it lands. You have no idea how it’s interpreted. You have no idea. . . (Graham Nash): . . . How it effects people. . . (Crosby): . . . What it means to someone. And if you can get it to be a two-way street, then you can fine tune the process of trying to communicate ideas to people. Now, ideas are the most powerful thing on the planet. And music is a fantastic medium for communicating ideas.”