Manassas On German Television

Stephen Stills Manassas
Start at 29:00 in.

Stephen Stills makes it seem so effortless, you can’t believe he’s wringing that sound out of his guitar, no one should be able to play that well, no wonder he was friends with Jimi Hendrix, who played on Stephen’s solo debut.

I was reading about Manassas on Music Aficionado, the story is entitled

“Why Manassas Was Stephen Stills’ Best Band” ,

and I don’t believe that, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for Manassas so I had to read the article, no one ever talks about the band anymore, it’s like they didn’t even exist, but that initial double LP is a killer, in an era when double album packages were de rigueur and too often there was too much filler and not enough nougat, but not in the case of “Manassas.”

I bought the solo LP, you’ve got no idea how big CSN and sometimes Y were. It took a while for their sound to penetrate, everybody didn’t know “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” until “Deja Vu” came out and then their records were on every turntable, the songs were a part of the fabric of this nation in a way unfathomable today. If you were under thirty you knew. Now we all live in our own little silos, just looking for community.

Which we got at the show.

But it was different. It wasn’t a show, it was a CONCERT! It was about the music, there was no production, rarely a light show, you were there to hear the sounds, and watch the musicians play them.

That’s what’ll blow your mind about this clip, the way everybody can play, before it was possible to fake it.

You probably don’t know Manassas’s material, and when you don’t it can be hard to get hooked, which is why I led you to that instrumental passage above, but if you wind the YouTube clip back to the beginning not only will you see and hear Stills’ exquisite playing, you’ll hear that of the other band members, who are virtuosos in their own right and all hang together in a way that seems impossible with so many musicians on stage. Joe Lala’s percussion stands out, it’s anything but superfluous. And Paul Harris and Al Perkins are virtuosos on organ and pedal steel respectively, but that’s not to denigrate the rest of the players, you watch Dallas Taylor behind the kit and you want a shirt like him, didn’t he get the memo that you’re supposed to dress up, put on your stage outfit, a monkey suit for the Grammys no one watched or cared about, no this was before everybody went formal, when it was more important how you played than how you looked.

So I didn’t buy “Stephen Stills 2.” Even though I knew every lick of the solo debut, I found it somewhat disappointing, in retrospect it’s phenomenal, it’s just that I was comparing it with CSN(Y) and “Love The One You’re With” was not quite up to the standard of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Carry On,” I played the “Deja Vu” opener every day I woke up in April 1970, it put me in a good mood, sometimes music can do that, irrelevant of what is going on in your life.

But the buzz on the Manassas album was so good, I took the plunge. And if I were gonna introduce you to the package I’d say to start with side four, “What To Do” is instantly accessible, as is the follow-up, “Right Now,” you don’t have to hear them multiple times to get them, you get them right away. But the piece-de-resistance is the eight minute long “The Treasure” and then listening to the closing cut, “Blues Man,” you’ll be jetted back to your childhood bedroom, it’ll warm you up and creep you out at the same time, just like adolescence.

But those are not my favorite songs.

My absolute favorite is “Johnny’s Garden.”

There’s a place I can get to
Where I’m safe from the city blues
And it’s green and it’s quiet
Only trouble was I had to buy it

Wow, truth! A sense of humor! None of the poor-mouthing of the holier-than-thou wannabes, Stephen Stills worked hard and is now testifying from a new perch.

And work hard he did. You can’t pick like that if you don’t practice. The path to stardom is not straight, and just when it looked like he was on top of the mountain Buffalo Springfield broke up, but not before he wrote “For What It’s Worth.”

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear

That’s for sure. This was 1967, FM underground radio was just being hatched, most people in America wouldn’t be exposed to rock on the frequency modulated dial for at least half a decade, this was long before “Easy Rider,” most people had no idea what a hippie was, most of America was categorically unhip, but in Los Angeles, on the Sunset Strip, the seeds of disquietude were starting to blossom and after the riot at Pandora’s Box Stephen Stills was inspired to lay down his thoughts and the result became an anthem that sounds just as fresh today as it did yesterday, and the obvious question is why today’s younger generation can’t emulate, can’t follow in the footsteps of this giant and his work.

Because it’s a different time with a different generation. People are afraid. To harm their career, to piss anybody off. You’re in bed with the man, who’s not the enemy. Just think about that, you hear people testifying again and again in support of the police, back then they were the enemy of the youth, we’re not even starting from the same block. Then again, back then the younger generation were all on the same page and that page was written in recording studios and read on radio stations. Radio was the internet of its day and everybody involved knew it. Television was moribund, radio was positively immediate, and if you liked what you heard…

You went to the show.

Not everybody, not at first, their parents wouldn’t let them. It wasn’t like today, where parents accompany Madison and Mason to the gig, most parents wanted no part.

But some of us had liberal parents.

And we went and our minds were blown.

And if you watch the Manassas clip above you’ll know why.

P.S. Don’t email me and tell me I overlooked Chris Hillman, that I didn’t mention Fuzzy Samuels because he’s black. The truth is the players were always hipper than the fans, they knew it wasn’t about accolades, that everybody knew the truth. Funny how culture has changed, today you have to tell everybody how great you are on social media, over and over and over again. Yesterday, you just had to pick out one note, pure and easy, and we all got the message.

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