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

..

Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life

This is Graham Nash’s autobiography.

Graham narrates the audible version and does a good job weaving through his personal history. He starts with his blue-collar family and how Alan Clarke and he knew each other since school and formed The Hollies. The most interesting part to me was the mid-sixties era living in swinging London.

He wrote about his friendship with the Beatles and him getting an advance tape of Sgt Pepper from Brian Epstein. He had a great hi-fi system at his flat and he would show it off to anyone that came over. When the Turtles came over from America they were blown away by Sgt Peppers at top volume. He went on about how Sgt Peppers changed everything and it would eventually lead him to leave the Hollies.

Graham describes being a pop star in the mid-sixties in London. Shouldn’t we all live that life? Paul McCartney calls him up and invites him over to the All You Need Is Love session for the “Our World” program to be broadcast to millions.

He talks about how his friendship with Mama Cass led to meeting David Crosby and eventually CSN being born. Graham covers the CSNY period and his romantic relationships including  Joni Mitchell. He does cover the drama associated with CSNY and the troubled David Crosby. What kind of Rockstar bio would it be without drugs… Graham did his share and Crosby did our share. Graham handled them better than some.

Graham would write simple songs compared to Crosby, Stills, and Young but many times his songs would be the hits that drove some of the later albums…songs like “Just a Song Before I Go” and “Wasted on the Way.”

One thing I can say is he didn’t hold back or pull punches…but he still comes off as a really nice guy but it is his book.

This book helped sever his relationship with Crosby…for now anyway but Nash stressed through the book how much he cared for Crosby.

I would recommend this book to not only Hollies and CSNY fans but fans of 60’s and 70’s music and culture. After reading this I listened to more Hollies songs and I really began to appreciate their psychedelic period with songs like King Midas in Reverse.