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CSNY 1974
August 20, 2014 11:03 AM   Subscribe

The Oral History of CSNY's Infamous 'Doom Tour'
posted by josher71 (40 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to take a wild guess and say that it involved drugs.

I also would like to say that I like Graham Nash. He seems to be the most "normal" guy of the bunch. I've grown to like Neil Young more as the years have gone by also.
posted by spock at 11:13 AM on August 20


Sounds more like it was a drug tour that involved music.
posted by yoink at 11:14 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


The format is strangely apt: no real narrative, no great demands on your attention, just tasty nuggets of reminiscence, each of them with a crunchy outer shell and a chewy middle. A biographical bag o' snacks for anyone with a case of the memoir munchies.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:30 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


This is why punk happened.
posted by davebush at 11:31 AM on August 20 [3 favorites]


I thought punk happened because of disco.
posted by echo target at 11:47 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


THE MADNESS

Nash (From his 2013 book Wild Tales): "Crosby took two beautiful women with him on tour… Often I would knock on his hotel door, which he kept propped open with a security jamb, and he'd be getting blown by both of these girls, all while he was talking and doing business on the phone and rolling joints and smoking and having a drink.""


Maybe I should just stick with my fond memories of the music.
posted by philip-random at 11:49 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


> Nash: "Some of the vocals were out of tune, so I had to tune them. If I found one line that was flatly out of tune, I'd go to a different night, find the line in tune and put it there. We did a lot of work to make it feel like it was completely spontaneous and that you were witness to an ideal show."

...aside from the edits and auto-tuning.
posted by ardgedee at 12:11 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]


I thought punk happened because of disco.

They happened simultaneously. That may seem counter-intuitive now, but that is the real history. Maybe Chaos Theory will someday help clarify the history of popular culture.
posted by koebelin at 12:21 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]


Bummer that Neil didn't take part in the reminiscence.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:28 PM on August 20


Stephen Stills: "As bad as things got, I don't even think it was the craziest tour I ever did. I had some overly lubricated solo tours later on, and then Manassas… For a few years of my solo career the bourbon king showed up and it was just messy

I heard a story from an engineer who worked on the Stills-Young record a couple of years later, and let's just say that he did not remember Stephen's coked-out, middle-of-the-night, wake up the engineer because I have a brilliant riff I'm going to play endlessly for three hours recording sessions fondly (pretty sure the track in question was 12/8 Blues).
posted by uncleozzy at 12:36 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]


But if any one action proved that the group hadn't changed since the old and golden days, it was their utter lack of foresight and discipline in planning, then executing, the first show. As Crosby, his voice wrecked, would say the next evening, just before the Vancouver concert, the group had mapped out forty-four songs for what they figured would be a three or three-and-a-half-hour stand. And when they found themselves with fully nine more numbers on their list at 12:35 A.M., three-and-a-half-hours after they had opened with "Love the One You're With," they decided to plunge ahead, what the hell, first show and all.

And it ruined them and their Vancouver show. Not that the audience noticed; in both Seattle and Vancouver, packed houses of 15,000 and 17,000 gave their heroes heroes' receptions and continuing waves of ovations. But the group, of course, knew, and they scuttled and shuffled songs around to accommodate Crosby's sinking voice.


As someone who was at that Vancouver show I can attest that the entire audience did in fact notice their ravaged voices-- how could you not? they sounded like shit-- and went home pretty much disappointed. The ovations were showing love for the records, not for their performances that night. (Quote not from the FPP article, but from a contemporary Rolling Stone piece archived here.)
posted by jokeefe at 12:42 PM on August 20 [5 favorites]


I can also attest to the received wisdom at that point that cocaine was not an addictive drug. Which led, of course, to the lack of caution described by Crosby.
posted by jokeefe at 12:48 PM on August 20


the received wisdom at that point that cocaine was not an addictive drug

Didn't you guys read Sherlock Holmes stories?
posted by thelonius at 12:52 PM on August 20 [4 favorites]


How they could not have figured out how long 44 songs would take with some simple math baffles me.
posted by josher71 at 1:10 PM on August 20


I did love the Dylan/Stills anecdote and in fact am going to use, "Well Stephen, play me one of your songs" as my go-to put-down for the next little while.
posted by maupuia at 1:12 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't mess with Dylan in a hotel room, after watching him destroy Donovan in "Don't Look Back"
posted by thelonius at 1:20 PM on August 20 [2 favorites]


Bummer that Neil didn't take part in the reminiscence.

well, it was those 3 guys' peak as artists and performers, so naturally they're going to want to talk about it

neil, he was just getting started and it probably doesn't mean so much to him
posted by pyramid termite at 2:35 PM on August 20 [5 favorites]


So, out of $11M 1974 USD grossed on the tour, the four members netted $500K each. Wow.
posted by Nevin at 2:49 PM on August 20


josher71, add in drug fueled jams and solos and things get out of hand pretty quickly.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 3:12 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


So, out of $11M 1974 USD grossed on the tour, the four members netted $500K each. Wow.

There's a whole world of expense to be accounted for there; we really don't know what it legitimately cost. I wonder what an artist nowadays can expect to realize from a tour. ~20% of the gross seems low but not insanely low. And it does sound like they were pretty high maintenance and they weren't writing personal checks for any of that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:23 PM on August 20


Billboard's "Rich List" assumes a 34% artist take from touring -- I'd link to it but the page isn't loading, I had to read the google cache.

I strongly suspect that today's concerts cost a lot more to put on, particularly compared to an early-70s folk-influenced band. So yeah, they were taken to the cleaners. Not that I doubted it or anything.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:35 PM on August 20


fta -
Nash: "Everything was just so excessive. The CSNY logo that Joni [Mitchell] did was branded onto wooden plates and to the pillowcase in our hotel suites. There were leather luggage tags. There were private jets and helicopters. We didn't realize we were paying for all of it."
and that's without even going into the tour's central cocaine supply, etc... so really, it sounds like they spent that money, whether they remember it or not...
posted by hap_hazard at 6:09 PM on August 20


I wouldn't mess with Dylan in a hotel room, after watching him destroy Donovan in "Don't Look Back"

I've never really understood this (common) claim. Donovan plays a song and then Dylan plays a song. I mean, yeah, Dylan's song is a lot better than Donovan's--but we already knew that going in. Beyond that I can't see how Dylan is supposed to have "destroyed" Donovan. If Donovan was going to be "destroyed" by hearing "It's All Over Now Baby Blue," it's odd that he should have asked Dylan to play it.
posted by yoink at 9:35 PM on August 20


Yeah, Dylan is obviously impressed by Donovan's 'To Sing for You', enthusiastically complimenting him a couple of verses in.
posted by item at 10:17 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


I shall rewatch it. My impression years ago was, Donovan looked crestfallen, like he would never write anything as good as "It's All Over Now Baby Blue".

I actually like Donovan quite a lot, by the way.
posted by thelonius at 4:10 AM on August 21


My impression years ago was, Donovan looked crestfallen, like he would never write anything as good as "It's All Over Now Baby Blue".

Well, he certainly never would (at least in my opinion), but again, I don't see why that revelation should have just hit him then for the first time. It isn't as if Dylan suddenly reinvents the song or anything. Donovan asks him to play it and he does. Donovan would have known pretty much exactly what he was about to hear. He had every reason to be impressed, of course ("gosh, I'm in a room with Bob Dylan and he's singing this song for me!") but I just can't see a plausible psychology of the moment in which it is somehow devastating for him to hear Dylan sing the song he's just asked him to play.
posted by yoink at 7:38 AM on August 21


Maybe Chaos Theory will someday help clarify the history of popular culture.

Good band. I remember Lester Bangs' article on them... Upon reflection, reading Bangs on anything clarifies a lot, I think.
posted by mikelieman at 9:07 AM on August 21


Stills is an ass. During this period he also favored military surplus clothing and regaled the crew with tales of his service in Nam. To the point where people started to call him Sarge. A deeply, deeply insecure man and it comes across in almost every interview I've ever seen him do.

BUT: Assholes can be geniuses too. Pick up "Just Roll Tape," from a couple of nights he stopped into Electric Ladyland in NYC in early 1968 to get some demos down on tape, solo acoustic. Just had some songs in his head he needed to get down. Among them:

So Begins the Task
Change Partners
Know You Got To Run
Black Queen
Judy
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Helplessly Hoping
Wooden Ships
Treetop Flyer
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:39 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]



Stills is an ass. During this period he also favored military surplus clothing and regaled the crew with tales of his service in Nam. To the point where people started to call him Sarge. A deeply, deeply insecure man and it comes across in almost every interview I've ever seen him do.


Wasn't this due to him being so completely gone on drugs that he didn't realize he hadn't been in the Vietnam? That's what I'd always heard.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:14 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Donovan looked crestfallen, like he would never write anything as good as "It's All Over Now Baby Blue".

bob dylan never got to play with half of led zeppelin either, so it all works out
posted by pyramid termite at 12:25 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]


I don't see why that revelation should have just hit him then for the first time.

The whole "Dylan destroys him" thing may have been more from my teenaged desire to see a winner and loser in musical pairings, although item was saying that it was a widespread perception.
posted by thelonius at 12:36 PM on August 21


Oh it was definitely widespread, but I do think it's basically a teenaged "Ooh, my hero totally pwned that pretender douche" thing. I really don't think anybody in the room is thinking anything than "Donovan just played a Donovan song and Dylan just played a Dylan song." I think all the angst and drama is projected post hoc.
posted by yoink at 12:45 PM on August 21


My impression years ago was, Donovan looked crestfallen, like he would never write anything as good as "It's All Over Now Baby Blue".

No one can write a song as good as that, except Bob Dylan.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:00 PM on August 21


Donovan also had the first Jeff Beck Group backing him on a few songs.
posted by rfs at 1:49 PM on August 21


No one can write a song as good as that, except Bob Dylan.

Well, I don't know about that, obvs it's very subjective, but I think a bunch of people have. But most people would count themselves lucky to do it once, whereas at that point Dylan was doing it, on average, at least a couple of times a year. That would be intimidating.

Unless you're Stephen Stills, I guess.
posted by hap_hazard at 1:53 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


I think all the angst and drama is projected post hoc.

Some of it may be from the tone of the film as a whole. It really has been 20+ years since I saw it, but didn't the film have a lot of tense, semi-hostile scenes of Dylan facing off against various foes? The film seemed like a study in the Angry Young Man to me. So maybe people carry over that framing into the Donovan scene: he must be sticking it to the home folky team now.
posted by thelonius at 8:48 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


I strongly suspect that today's concerts cost a lot more to put on, particularly compared to an early-70s folk-influenced band.

They also get the benefit of corporate sponsorship, and the merchandising tends to be more ubiquitous and better-organized, despite such early outliers as Elvis and the Beatles. (Although they didn't necessarily make the best deals, either; Elvis, in particular, lost quite a bit of money through a management deal with Colonel Tom Parker in which the latter got most of the merch money, as well as 50% of all of Elvis' performance and royalty income. Parker, in turn, was a lousy negotiator. Elvis' estate was facing bankruptcy within a few years of his death, before Lisa Marie's attorneys wrestled control away from Parker; Lisa Marie is now substantially wealthier than her father ever was.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:26 AM on August 22


despite a weakness for twee descents into hippie-dippie patchouli, Donovan's stuff is pretty damned strong, particularly once he dropped the Dylan wannabe stylings and evolved his own unique sound through the mid-late-sixties.

But Dylan was better ... tho I suspect I'd trade Donovan's 1970 release for his any day.

As for that hotel room scene, I'm with thelonius. That was angry young Bob being angry young Bob. Complex enough to be both appreciative of Donovan's talents and willing to bluntly put him in his place. Indeed, I don't think it's reading too much into it to see that moment as a turning point in Donovan's career -- post 1965, he'd never really sound like Dylan again.
posted by philip-random at 8:43 AM on August 22


> I actually like Donovan quite a lot, by the way.

Mellow Yellow made hippies all over the Known Universe think they could get high by smoking banana peelings. That should count for something.
posted by jfuller at 3:40 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Donovan's been pretty steadily making albums all this time. I think he has a new one out now, that he made in Nashville. As for the twee descents, I say, charge it to the game, it was the style at the time.
posted by thelonius at 3:48 PM on August 22


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