CSN – Just A Song Before I Go

.This is a laid back 70s pop song. I like their music in the early seventies the best but I won’t turn this off if it comes on the radio.

The song peaked at #7 in the Billboard 100 and #10 in Canada in 1977. Their first album was named Crosby, Stills, and Nash but this one was called CSN which is confusing. The album did well helped by this hit. It peaked at #2 in the Billboard Album Charts, #10 in Canada, and #23 in the UK in 1977.

After touring in 1977 and 1978, further work as a group was complicated by Crosby’s increasing dependence on cocaine. Nash’s 1980 Earth & Sky was supposed to be another Crosby-Nash album, but Crosby was not in shape to participate

It surprised me but this was the highest charting song by CSN or CSN&Y.  As Nash tells it in his memoir Wild Life, the guy taking him to the airport was his drug dealer, who said, “I’ll bet you can’t write a song before you go.” Nash then thought, “Hmm… just a song before I go,” and composed it on the spot. I have the exact quote below.

Graham Nash: I’d been on vacation in Hawaii. Leslie Morris was with me, and in an effort to score some grass we met up with a dealer named Spider at his house near the beach. This was around one in the afternoon, and I had a four o’clock flight back to Los Angeles. Spider was a cheeky little bastard. He said, “You’re supposed to be some big-shot songwriter. I bet you can’t write a song before you go.”

“Oh, really,” I said. “How much?”

“A hundred bucks.”

I finished “Just a Song Before I Go” in a little under forty minutes. Turned out to be the biggest hit Crosby, Stills & Nash ever had, on the charts for twenty weeks. The original lyric I’d scribbled on school composition-book paper is currently in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

From Songfacts

Graham Nash wrote this song on a bet. David Crosby explained in the liner notes to their 1991 boxed set: “Graham was a home in Hawaii, about to go off on tour. The guy who was going to take him to the airport said, ‘We’ve got 15 minutes, I’ll bet you can’t write a song in that amount of time.’ Well you don’t smart off to Nash like that, he’ll do it. This is the result.”

Going to the airport and his day of travel were on Nash’s mind, so that’s what he wrote about: “driving me to the airport and to the friendly skies.” The “song before I go” was for his friend who made him the bet.

This was the first single released from the re-formed Crosby, Stills & Nash, and in the US it was the highest-charting song of any iteration of the group. The group’s first album came in 1969, and they won the Best New Artist Grammy Award for that year. In 1970, they added Neil Young and released two albums before taking some time off – they didn’t see the Top 40 from 1971-1976. In this period, the members recorded solo, with Graham Nash and David Crosby teaming up for a 1972 album, and Stephen Stills forming the band Manassas. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young got back together for touring in 1974 and released the 1976 album Wind On The Water. The next year, minus Young, they were Crosby, Stills & Nash again for the first time since 1969, and the CSN album was the result. Following more solo efforts from Stills and Nash, they hit the studio again in 1982 for the Daylight Again album, and reunited with Young for the 1988 effort American Dream. They continued to go back and forth with and without Young in the ’90s. Their law firm-style name made for an unwieldy discography, but we always knew who was in the group.

Just a Song Before I Go

Just a song before I go,
To whom it may concern
Traveling twice the speed of sound
It’s easy to get burned

When the shows were over
We had to get back home,
And when we opened up the door
I had to be alone

She helped me with my suitcase,
She stands before my eyes
Driving me to the airport,
And to the friendly skies

Going through security
I held her for so long
She finally looked at me in love,
And she was gone

Just a song before I go,
A lesson to be learned
Traveling twice the speed of sound
It’s easy to get burned



Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

50 thoughts on “CSN – Just A Song Before I Go”

  1. I have a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with CSN. This song is the epitome of phoning it in, imo. Great, he won the bet. He should have left it at that. To me the song is not worthy of their catalog, let along release as a single. But it sold a boatload of copies and made them a lot of money, so what do I know? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. His next song was a little better….Wasted on the Way. This one is a crafted pop song and not much more. The last song I really loved by them was Southern Cross.


      2. I agree about Southern Cross. It ended up being one of my favorites that they do/did live. Coincidentally, I’m cleaning out some very old storage, and just unearthed my Dam the Torpedoes cassette tape that coincided with your post yesterday, and this morning my CSN 1992 Acoustic Tour t-shirt. The picture on the front is from Southern Cross. I’m anxious to see what turns up tomorrow!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Those are nice suprises to find! I saw them back in the 80s…what I remember is walking to get a coke or something and those voices….just literally went through me…I could feel them vibrate through me. I wish Young would have been with them but I was happy I got to see them.


      4. I’m envious that you saw them in the 80s. I think ’92 was my first time. They did an excellent show, every time. I didn’t ever see Y with them either. I finally saw him at Desert Trip, and of course he didn’t disappoint.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes but YOU got to go to that desert festival! You know the concert I’m most proud of seeing early? The Kinks in 1983 I believe…a great invasion band still in their prime….and full of energy.


      6. I would have loved to see the Kinks then. I have a similar fave: The Stones in 1981, when Mick Taylor joined them for that one night in KC. At the time the Stones were touring as ‘old’ guys, implying this was a farewell tour. Now I can look back and laugh at that. It wasn’t their 1960s personas, but they were certainly still in their prime.

        Desert Trip was wonderful for sure. I think I’d rank my Glastonbury experience in 2013 one notch higher, but both were pretty much the best of the best.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. See I’m totally jealous. Mick Taylor and the Stones…that was to me the best version…nothing against Ron Wood but Taylor made them sound different. Brian is just a different era all together…

        I would love to go to a festival like that. So yes you did get to see the Stones at about the same place in their career as I did the Kinks. I didn’t see the Stones until 96 or 97.

        I talk to my UK friend and she saw Pink Floyd at the UFO club… You know…we should have been born in the UK.


      8. I would give just about anything to have been in the UK in the mid-late 60s.

        The festivals are so fun. And they are actually a bargain to attend compared to the price of a single concert ticket. But you have to enjoy camping. That’s the part that seems to be the deterrent for most.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Oh yes the UK in the mid to late sixties would be unbeatable.

        Yes it takes a commitment because there is no going to the concert at 7 and getting home at 10…I would love to try it.

        Oh btw Good Luck on Sunday but I don’t think KC will need any luck.


      10. I just hope festivals can finally happen again. Glastonbury is cancelled again this year. You are a short drive from Bonnaroo, right? That wasn’t my favorite, but if I lived close, I’d be trying to go every year.

        Thanks re the Super Bowl. It is such a thrill watching KC play.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Yes and I have talked to some friends about going the next time they have it.

        They have the best team hands down.


  2. Alas, I have to disagree… to me it’s a gem and the most under-rated track they did. Not as good as “Ohio” or “Teach Your Children” but better than some of their early work and too oft overlooked. But that was just me 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey I get it. It sounded a little like Wasted On the Way that came next also…that pop feel. It was a product of the time. I like them of course…but I tend to like their first two albums the best but like I said…I don’t turn off any song by them.

      Also…it also matters when you hear a song…we have talked about that before…it connects you to that time…good or bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. that’s true – I think a lot of the pop music from that era (’76-78) puts me in a happy spot at times… now, I was sick a lot of the time and my mom was very over-protective so I wasn’t the happiest kid . But I was beginning to grow up and the world seemed so ..infinite in possibility . And music was always my go to when things weren’t good at home . So I’m fond of a lot of that stuff that might not have sounded quite as good if released in ’67 or ’87

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yea being a sickly kid while at that age…I see why she was like that. That music has a slickness to it…but not in the bad way…a comfortable feeling. Rod Stewart during that time had that sound.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Last thing I heard yes…Crosby…as only Crosby can do pissed off Nash and Young at the same time.
      Nash had good things to say about him in his book…I didn’t see anything that bad that we didn’t already know.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I would have to agree with that. It’s a wonder they had anything at all especially with Daylight Again.
      I read in Nash’s book that the other two would make fun of him…not in a bad way but because his songs were so simple but yet…Nash probably had the biggest hits of them all within the band.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I also like Stills the best. Suite Judy Blue Eyes and Carry On are probably my two favorites of them…also Stills was/is a great arranger. Nash said he was the music behind most of the songs.

        I’ll check it out.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like CSN, but I like CSNY better. And I like the parts of both lineups more than the whole. Conversely, I’m a huge Hollies fan. I routinely delve into their cannon. Same with The Byrds. Same with Neil Young as a solo artist (never been as big of fan of Buffalo Springfield, but that’s just me.) I do like this one though. The harmonies, the song structure, the mystical feeling…it’s a perfect example of California folk rock.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Young gives them a bit of an edge that they miss without him I agree. Nash can write a catchy pop song. They were balanced with different personalities and songwriters.
      They Byrds I can never get enough of. McGuinn is a musical hero to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I can see why you, as a musician, would be enamored with Roger McGuinn. I personally think of The Byrds as a super group and CSYN as one too, only I like the Byrds much better. Of course, technically, The Byrds probably don’t qualify because the band pre-dated the members supergroup bonifides–if that makes any sense. It’s like saying The Beatles is a supergroup–they are but, they aren’t.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know exactly what you are talking about. Yea even when they turned more country… they got Clarence White and I liked him as well. I agree they were a supergroup so to speak.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Agree it’s not a bad tune. I’ve always enjoyed CSN’s great harmony singing. However, just like you were, I am surprised this is their highest-charting song.

    I’d say any tune from Déjà Vu is better. For example, how can Woodstock or Ohio not have been top 10 hits?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’m with you on that one…the first two albums were very deep and balanced. Like Graham said in a comment by this time Crosby was iffy.

      Charts are funny things…I mean look at Lennon…Whatever Gets You Through the Night…#1 but Imagine is not. Nothing against Whatever… but it doesn’t seem right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess it’s the timing. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair.
        Chuck Berry for instance…his only number one was a novelty record.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I see the song got a lot of discussion going! It is amazing it was their biggest hit as it’s a sweet little ditty that doesn’t seem to measure up to their powerhouse political tunes. I like the song but not a rabid fan of it either.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, this one sure generated some strong reactions. I always liked it, though I’ll concede it’s far from their best song. The charts are a funny and unpredictable thing, and there’s sometimes no rhyme nor reason as to why some songs are big hits, while others aren’t, even among an artist or band’s own repertoire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What is odd about it is…when i posted it…I didn’t think I would hear much from people on it. This pop song strikes a nerve it seems. Todays song I thought I would get a lot of comments both positive and negative…but it wasn’t much.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I read the Graham Nash book and yea…Crosby cannot say enough. I’m more surprised at him still being here than Keith Richards. Richards stuck with high grade drugs…Crosby would do anything.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Must be… I’ve wondered what the hell was in the water over there in the 40s during the war or near it…many of the huge rock stars were born in that time period…of course it was the timing but what a fertile period for music. Beatles, Stones, Who, Zeppelin…and many more.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: