That Time Stephen Stills Left CSNY Behind, With a Little Help
After the release of Déjà Vu and a turn in the Woodstock film a few months later, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were suddenly one of the biggest bands on the planet.
Rather than try to follow up that success collectively, however, the band's members instead decided to focus on individual projects. Neil Young worked on After the Gold Rush, David Crosby recorded If I Could Only Remember My Name, Graham Nash got to work on Songs For Beginners and Stephen Stills constructed a self-titled solo record, released in November 1970.
In June of that year, Crosby Stills Nash and Young booked a five-night stand of shows at the Fillmore East in New York City. For all intents and purposes, it was the group’s victory lap after a year of incredible commercial success and near-sycophantic critical acclaim. Not long after the conclusion of the final gig on June 7, Stills took off for London – ostensibly to place as much distance as he could between his debut album and the Los Angeles folk-rock scene that he had helped foster.
He kicked around London for most of the summer, writing, recording and making personal connections with elite English rock players, before flying back to San Francisco to put the final touches on Stephen Stills.
At this point, he was apparently ready to reconnect with old friends, as Nash remembered in his book Wild Tales. "Stephen called and said, 'You remember that song of mine, “Love the One You’re With,” that I cut in London? Well, I’ve brought the track back and we’re in Wally Heider’s with it. I need voices for the choruses. Any chance you and David would come down?'"
In fact, Stephen Stills is overflowing with guest appearances from some of the biggest names in rock history. Eric Clapton made an appearance on “Go Back Home,” Ringo Starr played on two songs (“To a Flame” and “We’re Not Helpless”) and Cass Elliott offered up backing vocals on three separate tracks.
The album was dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, who added guitar to “Old Times, Good Times” before his untimely death. CSNY drummer Dallas Taylor also sat in.
Stephen Stills rose to No. 3 on the Billboard chart, while "Love the One You're With" became a Top 20 smash. That success likely bolstered Stills' decision to remain focused away from Crosby Stills Nash and Young for some four years. He released Stephen Stills 2 in 1971, and then formed the group Manassas, before finally returning for an unprecedented worldwide stadium tour with CSNY.
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