“A HUMAN TRAGEDY…”
The tensions that had been evident at Woodstock grew ever-more palpable during the dates that followed the festival, culminating in a full-scale blow-up backstage at New York’s Fillmore East, the toxic fall-out of which seeped poisonously into the sessions for Déjà Vu, which was recorded over many painful months at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco, where Crosby and Stills constantly fought, their enmity fuelled by the massive amounts of drugs that Stills, especially, was daily consuming. It was a far and bitter cry from the largely harmonious sessions that had produced their first album, when the three original band members had worked together with a mostly uncomplicated enthusiasm.
“There’s a reason for that,” Nash explains to Uncut. “We were all in love on the first record. I was in love with Joni. David was in love with Christine [Hinton], Stephen was in love with Judy Collins. It was a love thing. We were in love with each other. We had discovered each other’s music and we had discovered something together that was phenomenal. And after that, I’d split with Joni, Stephen and Judy were no longer an item, and Christine was killed [in a car crash, near the Marin County home she shared with Crosby]. It was just different. One album was inviting and warm and soft and gentle, and the other was four people that were angry.
Matters were not aided by the blizzard of cocaine that was now attendant at every session.
“We had no idea it was addictive,” says Dallas Taylor, a former heroin addict who now works as a drugs counsellor. “In fact, we were told it wasn’t. Stephen didn’t even smoke pot at the time, but when we found cocaine, he just went insane. We always looked to him as the leader of the band, and that’s when he kind of lost it.”
“All of a sudden, we had the money, we had the access, we had the deadlines,” Stills recalls, “and we over-indulged.”
“Young, inexperienced guys with a whole lot of money is a recipe for disaster in life,” says Crosby, who, following Hinton’s death, embarked on what would become years of drug-induced madness.
“It was quite sudden and quite deadly in many cases,” says Nash of the corruptive influence of the cocaine and heroin that had replaced pot and acid as the band’s choice of narcotics. “It was a bad scene all around. It certainly put the three or four of us in moods that were less than groovy.”
Nash still remembers vividly the endless arguments during the Déjà Vu sessions, and the long days and nights in the studio. The disagreements, he says, were largely trivial.
“‘What do you mean my pizza’s cold?’ Silly stuff,” he recalls. “We were living at the Caravan Lodge motel in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. We all had our rooms. Neil had his room. But Neil had bush babies. Harriet and Speedy, two bush babies, lived in the motel with Neil. Oh man, it was insanity. You’d go and say, ‘Come on, Neil, let’s go to breakfast.’ He’d open the door and Harriet and Speedy would be bouncing off the walls. I don’t know what happened to those two bush babies. And I have no idea why he had them in the motel, actually. They just turned up: ‘Harriet and Speedy are my new friends, man,’” he says, offering an impersonation of a zoned-out Young.
“Oh, it was an awful hotel,” he goes on. “But it was literally 70 feet from the studio. So that was why we were there. Interesting time, man. I wonder if anyone will ever write the story. I wonder if anyone could write the story. Insanity.”