They’ve been trying to get Andy Zax on the podcast.

Zax is the archivist responsible for Woodstock complete, the 38 CD set coming out this summer.

I wasn’t sure. I don’t know the guy, hadn’t heard of him previously, so I asked for more information, on him and the project.

After a bunch of e-mails, today they sent me the recordings…HOLY SHIT!

Took about 11 minutes to download. I used the time to empty my closet, clean the dishes, pay a bill, and I was coming back to the iMac to finish the e-mail and shut it down. Tomorrow I’m working on my MacBook Pro. And I find if I don’t turn the computer off, I’m on it all night, searching for nuggets.

So, I’m getting the e-mail aligned, I use POP, not IMAP, because I get too damn much to use IMAP. That’s right, I keep EVERYTHING. As long as it’s addressed directly to me. So I can look up the pricks who keep sending hate mail. Yup, someone’s excoriating me so I go back into the archives, fifteen years, and almost always I find this person has been a prick from day one. Like the right wingers. Whenever I say anything positive about Democrats, or negative, even mildly, about Trump, I know I’ll hear from the exact same people, they’re working the refs. But only since I write so much do I know they’re on a campaign and I should ignore them. They’re one note Johnnies. Some are rich, and some are so poor, tenuously making ends meet, that I can’t understand how they’ve bought the B.S. I mean if you’re rich and a Republican I can understand, but if you’re poor? You want the rich to continue to rule and have the safety net eviscerated? Then again, this has been well-documented, people voting against their interests. But most people opining are not on the front lines, they’re faceless, they don’t get blowback on a regular basis.

So, having finished the e-mail, I decided to sample the Woodstock box. As I said, I have a hard time getting off the computer.

And I’m wondering what to pick, and then I decide to make it Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, since they’re noted for being unable to duplicate the studio sound, the harmonies are always off. So I drop the needle/click on “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and… I’M ASTOUNDED!

Now I’ve got a first rate speaker system hooked up to my iMac, a Genelec three-way. But I hadn’t noticed they’d sent me AIFF files. It was like I was going through a time warp, right back to ’69, with a direct line to the Woodstock stage.

Now my understanding is these are the raw tapes, not overdubbed. Hell, the version of “Sea of Madness” on the original three disc set is actually from the Fillmore East! But I truly know the tapes weren’t fixed because…

Stephen Stills’s voice was intact. Crosby sounds like an angel. Stills sounds like an angel with broken wings. There’s the sweetness and the roughness. He’s got emotional miles on his voice, at least he did before he had literal miles on it. And that’s why he was the star. He wrote, played and sang…

It’s getting to the point
Where I’m no fun anymore

We all knew these lyrics. The initial Crosby, Stills & Nash album had come out in the spring of ’69, but it took a while to percolate in the marketplace, when they played Woodstock they were not yet superstars. But by the spring of ’70, if you were hip at all, you knew the track, knew it was about Judy Collins, played it on the guitar if you were talented, but we all sang along…ALL THE TIME! “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was never a single, but it was bigger than any single in the marketplace today. Forget Drake, Beyonce and Swift. CSN was embedded in the culture, and music was embedded in the populace, the whole world ran on music, that’s what Woodstock was about, a celebration of this fact, when 400,000 people showed up the straight media, the disbelievers, were hipped, that music was the primary driver of a generation.

Now when you’re listening to CD quality on an almost $2,000 system you can hear EVERYTHING! Like I said, it’s like it’s happening right now, not 50 years ago. The guitar is not processed, it’s not fixed in the studio, it sounds like you do in your bedroom, picking away. And you can hear each individual voice when they’re singing, you tingle…THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT JONI MITCHELL HEARD IN HER HOUSE!

How could this be fifty years ago?

That’s another thing, our music was not temporary, but for all time. We’re not re-evaluating CSN today, we’re as addicted as ever, which is why all those old acts can tour to throngs at high prices.

So halfway through, I look at the set list, the Mac window, to see what else is included. And I see “4+20.” Yes, Stephen Stills wrote it when he was 24 years old.

Now the first year I lived in Utah, my housemate in Sandy used to sit in front of the stereo and play this track and contemplate his own life, he’d just turned 24.

It was way different back then. You graduated from college and you didn’t look for a job, YOU LOOKED FOR YOURSELF! You didn’t know where you were going, you had an inkling, but you wanted to get high and go on road trips and listen to music while you were figuring it out. No one was a billionaire, you were not falling behind by not selling out. Furthermore, you could live on minimum wage. Less than two bucks an hour. I know, BECAUSE I DID IT!

But “4+20” didn’t resonate for me in Utah. Oh, I always liked it, but it wasn’t until I was completely lost in the nineties and the CSN box set was released that it truly resonated.

Four and twenty years ago I come into this life
The son of a woman and a man who lived in strife
He was tired of being poor
And he wasn’t into selling door to door
And he worked like the devil to be more

It wasn’t much different for all of us. Our parents were not our best friends, they didn’t always know what was going on with us, but they knew they had to provide. My father was poor, had nothing. Started out as an engineer but only did that for one year, he was not a company man, he opened a liquor store. He was on a long journey to be more.

A different kind of poverty now upsets me so
Night after sleepless night I walk the floor
And I want to know, why am I so alone
Where is my woman, can I bring her home
Have I driven her away, is she gone

Money doesn’t solve all your problems. You think it will, and there’s nothing worse than being unable to pay the bills, it messes with your head, you’re always on guard, but once cash is not your number one priority and you can survey the world, your life, you wonder if you’re getting it right. And what you want most, is love, sex, companionship. It’s so hard to make it, you’re one-minded, working around the clock, all hit and run, but once you’ve got traction you want to delve deeply into all that you left on the back burner.

Morning comes the sunrise and I’m driven to my bed

Today everybody brags how early they wake up, that’s the badge of honor. If you’re not waking up before six, four-thirty, you’re laughed at. But that’s not the way it used to be. Almost everything good, everything cerebral, happens when after dark. Musicians are famously night owls, hell, it takes time to come down from the gig, but… It’s those conversations after, the jamming, that makes the road and studio life worth it. You’re bonding. It’s just like going to college, but you’ve got no tests, no restrictions.

I see that it is empty and there’s devils in my head

Loneliness. You can live with someone and bitch, but there’s a floor, a base as to how low your feelings can go, but if you’re alone, your mind can go into free-fall.

I grow weary of the torment, can there be no peace
And I catch myself just wishing that my life would simply cease

It’s so different today. Today it’s all about braggadocio. My life is FABULOUS, I’m better than you! And then there are the diss tracks. No one’s owning their inner feelings. Listeners feel inadequate, or just slough off the mindless crap, knowing it’s just background music.

Then again, CSN&Y weren’t just born yesterday. David and Graham had been in bands with a slew of hits, they’d ridden the merry-go-round, they’d paid their dues. And Stephen and Neil… Buffalo Springfield was seen as one of the most credible bands extant, and Stephen wrote an anthem, one that still gets traction today, “For What It’s Worth.” Then again, that song was about the youth standing up to the man. Today, the policeman is not the Fuzz or a Pig, but your supposed friend, your protector, and the only thing the youth will come out in droves for is jobs, or festivals, where the truth is they are the stars. Coachella survives, the acts don’t. And we keep on hearing about how much money everybody makes. If you’re into music for the money…hell, there are much easier ways to make money. And why is everybody creating clothing and perfumes and… Back then you could leave money on the table, no one does today.

Now “4+20” wasn’t even out. It was on “Deja Vu,” which was released in March of 1970.

But you don’t have to know great acoustic music to get it.

So Graham introduces the track, and Stephen starts to pick, all by his lonesome, he’s got the talent, he’s got the chops. And he starts to sing.

You had to have it all or odds were you weren’t gonna make it. You had to be able to write, play and sing, the Beatles set the template, and everybody followed them. All the action was on FM, not AM. These acts were giants!

And the funny thing is if you lived through that era and you listen to these cuts you’re truly brought back to yesteryear, because they live and breathe, you’re bought back to when you saved your money to buy records, when concerts were a tribal rite, when you fell asleep to the radio.

It was a long time comin’, and unfortunately it’s been a long time gone.

First came corporate rock. Then MTV, where it was about how you looked as opposed to how you could play. And now it’s everybody for themselves, with no filter, everybody’s yelling for attention.

It didn’t used to be that way.

Now we have these artifacts, these tapes, which is why the Universal fire was such a big deal.

But the people making this music are not going to live forever. And when they’re gone, they’re gonna be missed, their reputations will grow…hell, to the point there are hologram tours.

But there’s nothing like the real thing.

These Woodstock tracks are the real thing.

P.S. I’m now listening to “Helplessly Hoping.” Whew, it’s almost better than the original, it’s got this intense humanity…IT’S MAGIC!

Comments are closed