Initially formed in California, 1968 as Crosby, Stills and Nash or CSN, the trio was a supergroup like no other. Comprised of ex-Byrds guitarist David Crosby, ex-Buffalo Springfield frontman Stephen Stills and former Hollies man Graham Nash, the group has become noted for their lasting influence on culture.
However, their status as the Galacticos of music would be cemented in the summer of 1969. The invaluable front three had signed drummer Dallas Taylor and bassist Greg Reeves; however, they still needed a keyboardist. Stills had originally tried to convince Steve Winwood to join their all-star team of hitmakers, but he was tied up with the new trans-Atlantic supergroup, Blind Faith.
Consequently, co-founder and President of the band’s label, Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, suggested they hire Neil Young. Young had played with Stills in Buffalo Springfield, and although Young was principally a guitarist, and one of note, Ertegun knew that Young was also a proficient keyboardist. The Atlantic boss thought that this would lend itself to a live setting, with Young able to switch instruments and alternate on the keyboard with Stills and Nash when on-stage.
At first, Stills and Nash held reservations, but before too long, Young was signed on a contract into the band, the trio expanded into a quartet and made Young a recognised partner of the firm. The terms of Young’s agreement also allowed him to have a parallel career with his new group Crazy Horse.
After an appearance at Woodstock in August that year, which was a “baptism by fire” by all accounts, the band started on a mammoth tour and the road to stardom. The group released their first album with Young, the iconic Déjà Vu, in March 1970.
Although the band have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have influenced countless artists, they also gained notoriety for other reasons. A defining factor of the group was its tumultuous internal politics, permeated by constant in-fighting and chemical excess. By Summer 1970, Stills, Taylor and Reeves were fired from the band. Tensions being too much to bear, in July 1970, the hippie Harlem Globetrotters were no more.
Within the following year, each of the quartet would release iconic solo albums. Young released After the Gold Rush, Stills his eponymous debut, Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember my Name and Nash’s Songs for Beginners. The band would briefly reunite for a 1974 tour. Following each time the band have since come together, the occasion has been marred by the characteristic arguing. Even up until recently, the band have gradually continued to revisit the ephemeral supergroup.
These days, the group’s ire is directed at one man, in particular — David Crosby. In the years following the height of his success in the ’70s, Crosby’s life would be consumed by excessive drug abuse, the destruction of interpersonal relationships and terrible record deals. In 2014, Crosby would sever ties with the rest of the band ad infinitum. This was to be the death of CSNY and CSN.
In 2014, Crosby called Young’s wife, actress Daryl Hannah “a purely poisonous predator”. Such an uncalled for slight on a friend’s wife was the final straw for Young. A few weeks later at a solo show, Young proclaimed “CSNY will never tour again, ever… I love those guys”. A couple of weeks later, Crosby would publicly apologise to Young on The Howard Stern Show, “I sent an email to Neil, saying, ‘Listen, I know you’re pissed at me because I slagged your girlfriend. And I’m sorry.’ I’ve apologised for a couple of times publicly … and I said, ‘I’m really sorry I shot my mouth off about your girlfriend. I really am. But we’ve all been horrible to each other over the years.’ Neil left Stephen in the middle of a tour twice! Twice! It was a really good email, man. It was very sincere, very straightforward. I’m not buttering his toast, trying to suck his dick.”
Since this farce, Young has publicly discussed a group reunion but has not ruled the possibility out. Young said, “Crosby should write an introspective book: “Why People Won’t Talk to Me Anymore” He made a lot of great music for a long time. I don’t know what happened with David. I got nothing to say. I love Stephen. I love Graham. If a reunion happens, it would be a surprise. I won’t close the door on anything. I can hold a grudge with the best of them, but only if there’s a reason for it”.
Well, don’t get your hopes up. Graham Nash also weighed in on the debate surrounding the group. He offered a more definitive outlook on the future of the band. Speaking to Billboard he said, “In my world, there will never, ever be a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young record and there will never be another Crosby, Stills and Nash record or show.”
Although this interview was from 2016, it seems as if Nash is done with Crosby forever. “Right now, I don’t want anything to do with Crosby at all. It’s just that simple,” the former Hollies tenor was frustratingly cryptic as to why. “I was letting Crosby be who he is. I let people play their hand in front of me, and I let him do it and then I make a decision.”
Speaking to a Dutch publication, Lust for Life, the British icon maintained, “I don’t like David Crosby right now. He’s been awful for me the last two years, just fucking awful”. Nash continued, “I’ve been there and saved his fucking ass for 45 years, and he treated me like shit. You can’t do that to me. You can do it for a day or so, until I think you’re going to come around. When it goes on longer, and I keep getting nasty emails from him, I’m done. Fuck you.
“David has ripped the heart out of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.”
In a 2019 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nash again gave fans an ultimatum. When asked if discussions had taken place for the band to reform, he said “No, there’s none at all, and there won’t be. And the truth is, none of us are speaking to David. Not me, not Stephen, not Neil. And that’s the way it is. We have to like and love each other to be able to make great music. And I understand the financial implications. I understand the need for CSNY to raise their voices, particularly in this political climate today, but we have to like each other. And we don’t want to do it if we don’t like each other.”
In the 2019 interview, Nash also hints at being exhausted by the age-old bickering. He claims, “We made it through Nixon. And we made it through Bush. But this Trump guy is something else.”
Now Trump has gone, and the pandemic looks to be on the back foot; who knows what the future holds for CSNY? We wouldn’t bank on a reunion, though, given the cantankerous nature of each of the supergroup’s parts and the fact that David Crosby is, well, David Crosby.
Listen to Déjà Vu in full below.