50 years after the fact, Stephen Stills has looked back to Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young‘s historic sessions for 1970’s Déjà Vu album. The group will release a deluxe multi-disc version of the chart-topper on May 14th.
Stills shed light on the creative process for the album, which was tracked while the band’s 1969 debut set, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, was earning the band iconic status. Stills told Uncut, “We talked everything to death and that would take hours. That was the adjustment to working with Neil (Young). For myself, I was already in the process of moving and had one foot in Europe. I was ready to make an escape. We had all come to think quite a lot of ourselves. The blessing of fame was wearing off. Some people. . . the more famous they get the smarter they think they are — that was rampant among us even if everybody was doing a great job of covering up just how prickly it was.”
When pressed about how the sessions — now featuring Neil Young — differed from the band’s 1969 debut, which only featured himself, David Crosby, and Graham Nash, Stills explained, “Neil was one of those who wanted us to sing it and play it at the same time and be done, and the first time you get it right — that’s the take. I like a bit more polish so I’m not actually that fond of these extra tracks. For me it’s like seeing the mannequins undressed in the shop window. Why do you want to put these out there even though they sound great? But they went on this excursion, like this archeological dig. Neil has always n the smartest one of us; he gave three songs and kept the rest. He’s now put together his own archive, and I found that quite clever actually.”
Stills spoke about the album’s only cover — CSNY’s legendary reworking of Joni Mitchell‘s “Woodstock”: “I played her my arrangement and asked for her permission. We were isolating ourselves in the tradition of all self-indulgent rock bands. I played her my version of ‘Woodstock’ and years later I regret not using more of her really good strange notes. I made the melody a little straighter and in retrospect I wonder if that was right.”
Back in the day, Stephen Stills was among the most outspoken of his generation regarding how America could heal itself as the 1960’s eased in to the new decade: “I was raised in the South and basically, I like black people. I was raised by black people. I learned to play music from black people. I don’t think the Black Panthers, or going home and getting a gun, is the answer. We gotta do it different. I really think that this generation is capable of non-violent revolution. Bringing about change without bloodshed, without all of that tremendous loss of individual life.”