“Long may you run, long may you run, though all these changes have come.” Long May You Run,The Stills/Young Band.
Neil Young and Stephen Stills go waaaay back. Legend has it they first met in Toronto, in the mid 1960s, when Stills was passing through with a folk troupe much like the ones famously lampooned by Christopher Guest in “A Mighty Wind.” Neil was a member of a band called The Squires. His previous band, Mynah Birds, featured future “Superfreak” Rick James. How’s that for weird and ironic convergence? In any event, Young befriended Stills and then the two parted ways.
Later, when Stills abandoned to button-down folk scene to pursue his career in L.A. on the cusp of the Summer of Love, he spied an old beat up hearse driving down the Sunset Strip. He knew that funereal jalopy belonged to none other than Neil Young. The two quickly renewed their friendship and launched a musical partnership that has spanned six decades.
The ride over those three score of years has been rougher than a cross-continental trip in Neil’s ancient hearse. Starting with Buffalo Springfield, continuing with Crosby, Stills, and Young, and then, briefly, with the short-lived ill-fated Stills/Young band. the two men have feuded–openly, notoriously, on-stage and off–throughout their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame careers.
Neil Young famously bolted from Buffalo Springfield over creative differences. And his tenure with CSNY has similarly been rocky, with Stills and Young continually battling to define the soul of that supergroup. On stage, their creative and personal tensions often yielded magic, with epic guitar battles pitting Stills’ fluid, bluesy solos against Neil Young’s feral, gut wrenching genius. Off stage, the clashes of personality ensured that the band could not play on beyond a few short initial years,two classic albums, Deja Vu and Four Way Street, and sporadic reunions in the new century.
In 1976, Stephen and Neil surprised everyone, including probably themselves, by teaming up as a duo in the Still/Young band. But after a few incendiary performances that featured each man at his musical best, Neil simply walked away, leaving Stills gasping like a jilted groom at the altar.
Lest you think this pattern must have been a function of youthful hormones that long must have subsided, Young did it again last year. He walked away from a lucrative multi-city tour of the reunited and rejuvenated Buffalo Springfield, exasperating Stills yet again.
Do these two legends agree on anything? It seems that they do, when it comes to allowing their names to be used in the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series. The books follow the eponymous protagonist, Scott Pilgrim, in his exploits with his rock band. The lead singer of that fictional band is named Stephen Stills, and the bands’ number one fan is called Young Neil, both names obvious homages.
It seems that neither man has taken issue with this literary tribute. There are four books in the series, they have been adapted into a feature film, and there’s even a video game. Plenty of opportunity for the real Stills and Young to complain if they were so inclined. But they’ve apparently chosen to accept this tribute graciously, and to reap the benefit of having their names ingrained in the psyches of a whole new generation.
It’s good to see Stephen Stills and Neil Young agree on something at last.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: My temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men; and it is peculiarly my wish to avoid any personal feuds . . .” George Washington