70 FROM ’70 — THE TOP TEN — #4

4. CROSBY STILLS NASH AND YOUNG — Déjà Vu

“Carry on” begins with purposeful strummed acoustic guitar before the voices enter, harmonising like a heavenly hippy chorus. Some slithery electric guitar creeps into the next bridge, instruments fall away for a sublime vocal refrain; here’s a little organ, a two word snap of Steven Stills’ voice. There is a funky momentum to the opening track on Déjà Vu, the first album by the incontrovertibly ‘super’ group of David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young. 

If this collection of song-writing and playing talent wasn’t enough, Jerry Garcia pops up to add steel guitar to Nash’s “Teach your children” while John Sebastian blows some harmonica on Crosby’s “Déjà Vu”. But at the core, this classic album orbits the songs—and the voices that deliver them—with a commitment undimmed by passing decades. You want the early ‘70s aesthetic? It’s all here. A dash of longhair paranoia in “Almost cut my hair”, the twee sentimentality of “Our house”, country yearning for an even earlier time in Young’s “Helpless”, and the magnificent cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”.

The nostalgia (doubtless influenced by The Band) is captured in the photo on the front cover (literally glued on in some countries, printed on in Aus—hence my multiple copies. Yes, I know). The sepia shot of a hunting party, complete with dog and guns, rightly includes the rock-solid rhythm section of Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves. Personally, I’m not fond of guns as a concept but there’s an acoustic guitar there too, amongst the shadows.

Listening again, I loved Stills’ electric guitar contributions (subtle, forceful, delicate, strident) and both his and Neil’s songs. Less connection remains with Graham’s simple songs but that may be because I can no longer find my way back to the garden, now doubtless overgrown. Or paved to make a parking lot.

We have this in our house. Do you?

26 comments

  1. I enjoyed the fantasy of being a great blues harmonica player back then but the reality was that me and my friends cleared out a few party rooms with our playing. Word possibly had got around?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interestingly, I had a similar level of success with the mouth harp. When I drew one out during campfire sings, people often discovered how late it was and how attractive their sleeping bag seemed. Genes, maybe?

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  2. Yes. A really good album.
    But mention of “longhair paranoia” got me grumpled up though.
    1970: picture DD, long golden hair from a beach side holiday, rugged red beard, harmonica in bag at feet, hitch hiking in Tarcutta; it’s dusk, a local comes out of store opposite and gives me a very dirty look before hopping in his car and driving up the hill. Minutes later the car returns, racing down the hill in the middle lane then when nearly parallel with me, it cuts violently across to the curb. I jump. Something bumps my airborne heel, but I survive unbroken, rolling to a stop on the verge.
    Very few recognised the clean shaven, short haired lad who returned to Uni.
    And the ‘harp’ that I mentioned stayed with me until fairly recently, a crushed but significant momento of deliverance.
    I might even be brave enough to listen to “Déjà vu” some time soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a story! I thought most people liked harmonicas.

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  3. I like the cut by the Captain. Was he the 5th member?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now THAT would have been a line-up. Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young and Don.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Definitely one of the very best acoustic guitar intros and album openers of all time, imho. My first listen to this album was on an actual Atlantic-produced reel-to-reel tape; and f I’m not mistaken, its cover also had that famous textured finish. For me, Stills shines on this album, most especially on the Crosby numbers. As for Nash’s contributions, yes they’re lightweight compared to his bandmates, but you do have to give him his due: he paid the bills for all of them and then some. 😉 – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peeps love a good toon, eh Marty? 😉
      But yes indeed; thank heavens for Stills salt in the caramel.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I always get my freak flag flying to this one, as I shake my long tousled locks.

    Another sound of my childhood, it’s just in my bones even though I only listen to it about once a year. Woodstock is one of my favourite covers ever, I think it actually improves an already great song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With you on everything here, Joe. From hair-moves to the infectious energy, the urgency of ‘Woodstock’.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “Deja Vu” is among the very first vinyl records I ever heard thanks to my six-year older sister who had the album at the time. I must have been 8 or 9 years old back then.

    I loved this record from the very beginning, especially because of the harmony singing. In my book it remains a beautiful timeless classic to this day, one of the best albums ever recorded – great songs and harmony vocals few can match!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How fabulous that the LP made such an impression at such a young age, Christian. I’ve enjoyed hearing people’s connections very much. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. ‘Teach Your Children,’ for me, has some of the most beautiful message lyrics of all time. Thanks to this post, I have learned for the first time that it is Jerry Garcia playing the steel guitar on it. A quick look at the stacks brought me the surprise that I do not have it. ((What?? Why do I feel like I know it so well then?))

    I really like your copies line-up photo here, VC. Meta!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Teach Your Children’ is a high point in Nash’s song-writing, fur sure. It’s almost an album that seeps into the cultural consciousness, isn’t it?
      (Thanx re pic – I was quite pleased with that one!)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I just checked my copy, Bruce – the front cover photo is printed on at our house.
    So with your permission, I’ll start looking for a glued on version too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Go for it Geoff! The brown vinyl copy is from Holland. Nice place to begin the search.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A classic for sure. ‘Our House’ may be twee and sentimental, but I love the fact that it’s a slice of Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell’s life together at that point. I see that Sebastian is credited with playing the ‘mouth harp’; I didn’t realize that’s a term for harmonica. I think of mouth harps as jaw harps or Jew harps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. Sentiment is fine, of course, taken in small doses. 😬
      Dropping the ‘mouth’ and referring to harmonicas as ‘harps’ is quite common. Ref Capt Beefheart ‘Gimme that harp boy’, for which I provide a link that should elicit a smile.

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  10. A mixed bag, the highs are highs and the lows are well usually the Graham Nash songs, he does stay wide eyed and keeping to the garden though even to this day it seems, must be the Manchester optimism the city is so well known for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is Manchester optimism anything like Yorkshire flippancy, I wonder?
      Did you hear ‘This path tonight’, Neil? It was surprisingly good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have not listened to anything Graham Nash released since the end of the 70’s, I keep thinking about going to see him live but his autobiography put me off as he has been so integral to the development of rock music that I was fearful of being intimidated. Manchester optimism goes right along with the prevailing clouds and rain, Yorkshire flippancy is a real thing though.

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        1. He’s a funny old character, is Graham. The couple of interviews I’ve seen have not especially warmed me to him. But this is the bloke who write “King Midas in Reverse” ffs. I dunno, Neil, whether I’d go or not. Would passing leave regrets? If so, go.

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  11. Wow, lots of great albums in 1970. I suppose that’s why you picked the year. Do you recon you could get together a list of 20 out of 2019?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right on there, Jeff. The spur was the 50th anniversary thing, but I’ve (re-)discovered some great music too.
      As for current stuff, I’d probably almost manage a list of 20 from the 21st century…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This would probably rank about the same for me in 1970. Some great deep cuts like Carry On and the title track.

    Liked by 1 person

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