Stadium Jam

The Wall Street Journal (now with questionable sports bona fides!) published today, in oral-history style, a feature on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1974 summer stadium tour. An introductory excerpt:

On July 9, 1974, a month before President Richard Nixon resigned, with albums by Elton John and John Denver at the top of the charts, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young reunited to begin an ambitious nine-week tour of the U.S., Canada and England. Produced by Bill Graham, most of the 31 concerts were performed at stadiums and speedways with lengthy sets and clear, audible sound—firsts for an outdoor rock tour. Tickets cost about $7.50 (or $36 in today’s dollars).

Although the band hadn’t had a top-10 album since 1971, CSNY performed three-hour sets before crowds averaging 50,000 per concert, paving the way for rock stadium tours that followed.

Graham Nash: The idea for the tour was Bill Graham’s. Bill called me in my room at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles in early ’74. Bill said a lot of money could be made, and we knew Bill was used to putting on large events and had just produced Bob Dylan’s 40-date tour. Bill also pointed out that something on this scale had never been tried before, which sounded pretty cool to us.

For our music-sports nexus, the article also sheds a little light on Stephen Stills’ well-photographed penchant for wearing football jerseys onstage and on album covers:

[Tour photographer Joel] Bernstein: Stephen started wearing football jerseys on stage that year. The jerseys had a practical purpose—they were big and loose and perfect for a guitarist on stage. But they also were a statement. Remember, there were no NFL stores back then. All of those jerseys were originals, given to him by NFL players. I think for Stephen, they symbolized being in a stadium on a great team. There probably was a certain amount of irony there, too—he was a big football fan.

Speaking of photographs, the article includes a slideshow, which is the real gem here. High-quality audio and video from the tour are due out next month, but HD sideburn images are just a click away.   Continue reading

Winter Birthday Jam

Stephen Stills is one of my most favorite musicians and, like with Steve Winwood, I’ve enjoyed tracing his career through different ensembles and solo ventures and musical styles and phases. Somehow lesser-recognized today than bandmates David Crosby and Graham Nash, Stills was the guitar and vocal muscle that drove and textured CSN’s harmonies. Even though it eventually left him, relatively speaking, Stills’ songwriting muse burned bright in those early days too.

I could write another essay just on Manassas, my favorite Stills band, and their two albums, the first of which has been called “a sprawling masterpiece akin to the Beatles’ White Album, the Stones’ Exile on Main St., or Wilco’s Being There in its makeup.” Stills also played a critical role in bringing to life Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield’s Super Session, which, like Sgt. Pepper’s, “ushered in several new phases in rock & roll’s concurrent transformation.” Even before all of that, he had penned one of the most lasting 1960s protest songs, “For What It’s Worth,” for Buffalo Springfield.  While Crosby and Nash were off on one of their collaborations, he got together with Neil Young for the underappreciated Long May You Run, a quiet offering that ultimately failed to hold Young’s interest, as Winwood and Blind Faith ultimately failed to hold Eric Clapton’s. Although the strength of his later solo recordings wavered over the years, I enjoy his self-titled solo debut, which coyly hides guitar offerings from Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. I also enjoyed his 2005 solo-comeback-of-sorts, Man Alive!, with its cameos from Nash, Young, and Herbie Hancock. In 2007, Stills issued one of the few truly insightful and valuable archival releases in recent memory, and if you’re still with me at this point, you’ll want to read more about Just Roll Tape.

For all this, though, there’s no better Stills winter record than 1975’s Live, a somewhat brief offering with an electric A side and an acoustic B side. (And by “winter record,” I mean a disc to which you repeatedly turn when you’re trying to use the CD player to kickstart your Blazer’s chronically dysfunctional heater core in January in Michigan.) Today is Stills’ sixty-ninth birthday. Here’s the meat of that A side:

Bay of Cigs: Jet Set (Sigh?)

papa jetAirships are away in the Detroit Tigers empire as I write. After a crash landing at the final destination of the team’s only West Coast trip, the Tigers limped back to the Motor City, and promptly (indeed, retroactively) placed Octavio Dotel, who has been pitching without a functioning elbow since Oakland, on the disabled list. In immediate need of bullpen reinforcements, GM Dave Dombrowski & Co., air traffic controller furloughs be damned, revved up the sky fleet. The first move was to bring the franchise’s top relief prospect, Bruce Rondon, in from Toledo, something that admittedly is unlikely to require the services of a jet airliner. But then! Wheels up! Jose Valverde is on a flight to Detroit RIGHT NOW! The town and team turned on the once-perfect (49-0!) reliever after a down year last season, but now, in their need, redemption? The front office is mum for now, but the implication from Valverde’s comments this evening is that, at the end of his short-term minor league contract, he will sign a one-year contract with the club in Detroit.

What does all of this mean for a should-be frontrunner floundering in third place in the weak AL Central with a .500 record? Even though it’s early, and fans of baseball teams that struggle early love to rail against “small sample sizes,” we can set aside results and other numbers and acknowledge that the bullpen was working way too hard this month, and two fresh, if unsteady, arms are sure to provide at least temporary relief for a staff that seems like it could use a collective deep breath. For Rondon, my hope is that he’s ready for the big leagues. For Valverde, I just hope he has enough left to allow the coaches to use him in a way that helps the team. That may be ending this jet-set flourish with something of a sigh, but let it be, in part, a sigh of relief as you remind yourself that at least it wasn’t Brennan Boesch’s birthday flight that landed at DTW this evening.

Keep reading to find out who else will be on a flight to Detroit this week…

Rainy Friday Jam

I’m slowly making my way back here from vacation, and with that and the looming football season ahead, a return to regular content is on its way. The latest ALDLAND Podcast is up on the Podcasts Page There’s also a Lyle Lovett concert report and some Olympic coverage in the can, and I plan to acknowledge the now-passed one-year anniversary of this site’s launch.

One of the many nice parts of vacation was my acquisition of a pile of new music, including three LPs of live music from the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Everybody’s Talkin’ contains a mix of originals and covers. We know that Derek Trucks places a lot of emphasis on the other artists with whom he publicly associates himself, but I still was surprised to see Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin'” receive such prominent attention, serving as the title track of the triple-live release.

I knew Neil’s song from one of my favorite live releases, Stephen Stills’ Live. There, Stills actually introduces the song by acknowledging Neil by name, which is one of the reasons it always has stuck out to me from among a pretty fluid B/acoustic side.

Here’s Neil’s original, which sets a pace suitable for a rainy Friday afternoon:

To what we’re (sort of) listening during the Derby: Stephen Stills and Jerry Garcia

Plenty of people have made good listening suggestions for Derby day (HT: @amention, who also gave us yesterday’s timely jam), but two of the musical selections I most associate with horse racing are strikingly mediocre offerings by two top-tier musicians.

First up is Stephen Stills’ Thoroughfare Gap, a 1978 release that is the lowest-rated of all Stills’ albums on AllMusic. Usually thorough (sorry), AMG’s review is a mere two sentences long: “A rather poor attempt of Stephen Stills’ to adapt to the disco/dance craze. Includes lame covers of Buddy Holly (‘Not Fade Away’) and Gregg Allman (‘Midnight Rider’) along with the semi-hit title track.” Click here for a live take of that title track in which the Texan sounds alternatively tired and British, although his acoustic guitar is expectedly dexterous.

Jerry Garcia’s 1982 Run For The Roses received a few more lines in its AllMusic review, but it really isn’t any more glowing, beginning by noting that it’s the last release for the Jerry Garcia Band and “sadly, it is also Garcia’s most lightweight effort as a bandleader,” and including adjectives like “marginal,” “impotently executed,” “underachieving,” and, with respect to the cover art (pictured above, right), “disconcerting.” Like Thoroughfare Gap, the title track is the best-regarded selection on Run For The Roses. Here‘s a lazy live version from an undated JGB performance.

What’s playing in the background of your Derby party?