It was 50 years ago today (April 7th, 1971) that Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young released their first live album, the double-disc chart-topper, 4 Way Street. The collection was recorded in June and July 1970, during the group's tour in support of its massive second album, Déjà Vu, and was taped at New York's Fillmore East, The Forum in L.A., and the Chicago Auditorium.
The album featured numerous tunes that were not officially part of the group's catalogue including David Crosby's Byrds outtake “Triad” and the recent Déjà Vu castoff “The Lee Shore”; Graham Nash's “Right Between The Eyes,” the yet-to-be Songs For Beginners standout “Chicago”; along with a preview of Neil Young's then-upcoming After The Gold Rush album with — “Don't Let It Bring You Down” and “Southern Man.”
Among the highlights on the set was Stephen Stills' jaw-dropping solo piano reading of “49 Bye-Byes,” which incorporated his Buffalo Springfield favorite “For What's It's Worth,” along with a rap, called “America's Children,” detailing the state of the “Woodstock nation.” The first half of the album featured CSNY performing acoustically with the second electric set including their rhythm section featuring bassist Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels and drummer Johnny Barbata.
Apart from being culled from several different shows, 4 Way Street is one of rock's most honest live albums, with Stephen Stills demanding absolutely no studio sweetening or fixes be added to the tapes — much to the chagrin of David Crosby and Graham Nash.
4 Way Street topped the Billboard 200 albums chart for one week starting on May 15th, 1971, displacing Janis Joplin's Pearl, before it was knocked out of the top spot by the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers. All told, 4 Way Street spent 13 weeks in the Top 10. The 1992 CD reissue added an additional 35 minutes to the set. To date, 4 Way Street has sold over four million copies in the U.S. alone.
The tracklisting to CSNY's '4 Way Street' is:
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “On The Way Home,” “Teach Your Children,” “Triad,” “The Lee Shore,” “Chicago,” “Right Between The Eyes,” “Cowgirl In The Sand,” “Don't Let It Bring You Down,” “49 Bye-Byes / America's Children,” “Love The One You're With,” “Pre-Road Downs,” “Long Time Gone,” “Southern Man,” “Ohio,” “Carry On,” and “Find The Cost Of Freedom”
The expanded 1992 version added: “King Midas In Reverse,” “Laughing,” “Black Queen,” and “Medley: The Loner / Cinnamon Girl / Down By The River”
David Crosby told us that it was clear that Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young was never going to remain a band for very long due to the fact that Neil Young always had several other musical projects cooking on the back burner: “Y’know, you gotta understand, Neil didn’t mean to join a band. To Neil, CSNY was a stepping stone. Y’know, he intended to have a solo career. He had seen what being in the Buffalo Springfield was like, he liked being by himself much better, he had Harvest ready to go when we were doing (CSNY) and he had every intention of moving on. And all of us had thoughts like that. I knew that Nash and I had something special and I knew that we could go out and do Crosby-Nash anytime and it would be good. It would be really good music.”
Graham Nash says that making music with Young as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young has always led to fascinating results: “I love to make music with Neil. It's very different with Neil. Y'know, it's a very different band — there's more edge, it's darker, it's funkier. It's just different.”
Back in the day, Stephen Stills spoke about what it meant to be creating music in his time: “If you're for the sake of the audience — you're the Monkees, or Grand Funk Railroad, or this, or that, or something. . . (But if) you're (for) the sake of the art — you're the Beatles, y'know, when they did their thing. I consider myself an artist, y'know? And there's a certain amount of magic and there's a certain amount of technical ability. And when you find the place between the two for yourself, you'll find your little groove, right?”
Graham Nash was asked if he ever found it difficult wrapping his talents around David Crosby and Stephen Stills' distinctive styles: “Nah, it's just the way we were brought up writing. My songs are usually about three minutes, 'cause I was brought up writing songs with the Hollies, y'know you need your pop songs write before the news. And mine are chopped short and to the point, and get the point across immediately. And David's tend to meander a little, y'know? And his stories are always unfolding as is his melodic chord structures. And Stephen with his Southern blues brings what he brings, y'know?”