To commemorate Crosby, Stills & Nash's 40th anniversary, this updated version of CSN: The Biography has just been re-released. Written by Dave Zimmer, a knowledgeable and studied writer who brings a wealth of information and insight, the book traces the development of the trio from its beginnings in 1968 through four decades of ups, downs, ins, and outs.
The band, as the book details, had their beginnings in California. Stephen Stills had left Buffalo Springfield and was looking to put a new band together. He thought about David Crosby. A short while later, the pair teamed up.
"It's funny," says David in the book. "Not a whole lot was discussed. But the minute we started playing together again, I knew we were gonna be hot shit. We started playing 'Long Time Gone,' and I could hear something was happening."
Hanging out in Cass Elliot's backyard in Laurel Canyon, Stills and Crosby decided to commit some songs to tape. They tracked "Long Time Gone," "Guinevere," two of David's songs, and also put down Stephen's "49 Reasons." There was magic here, remembers engineer Henry Lewy. "I just sat there with my mouth hanging open when 'Guinevere' came together. The music, the words, and those harmonies. I'd been working with
The Mamas and the Papas. So I knew good harmonies. What Crosby and Stills were doing was somehow sweeter. It was a joy to see these two... very amiable, in complete harmony, working away, creating some miracles."
Zimmer captures every miracle on these pages. He traces their ascent from hanging out in backyards to their encounter with Graham Nash. They were one of the most unique and clever and creative bands to emerge during the Woodstock generation (that appearance is also mentioned here, of course). But drugs and in-fighting and egos ultimately destroyed them. They brought in Neil Young to act as a neutralizing agent between the furious personalities of Stills and Crosby, but this didn't work. And, in fact, the CSNY albums were never as good as the CSN album.
The band continues to tour and, though Zimmer states in conclusion, "There are still songs yet to be written and recorded," those compositions will never capture the beauty and and originality of the early pieces. That time is gone; the band were only virgins once and too much blood has passed under the bridge.
Still, we can listen to those early records (mainly the first one) and read this book and somehow believe we are all 40 years younger.