|S E T L I S T|
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This tour journal is the last testament of the lost expedition of Mayfair. Last reported near the Grand Canyon, the members of the touring party have disappeared without a trace. However, it has been ascertained from other portions of the narrative retrieved by the Authoress and the vanished scribe’s papers deposited at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame that Stephen Stills was the favorite singer of the Ghost Dancer, the most favored rock & roll song “Cinnamon Girl” and her much beloved band the Buffalo Springfield.
was a dark and stormy night when the Atlantic Navigators set out to rediscover America. The skies were a mass of immense black clouds lowering, obliterating the horizon. The horseless carriage left the gray industrial outskirts of Brooklyn behind to venture into the gloomy wilds of Long Island. The highway flowed wet and slick like a quicksilver river into the chimerical oblivion ahead. Somewhere at the end of that aquatic road lay the Wizard of Broken Arrow and his axe-spawned spell more potent than any other known to man. Perhaps even a tantalizing affirmation of truth (signified by the iconoclasm and honesty of the Canadian’s uvre). And so they inexorably pressed on into the dangerous interior. Red eyes gleamed from the murk of the woods and the gallop of demon horses rang and retreated. This volte-face of Nature refuted dappled dreams of American pastoral; it was a foggy enigma. No guiding stars, none of the Moon whose cycles takes the Ghost Dancer of the May Faire through extreme changes. They got lost in the shifting asphalt tangle of the Expressway, didn’t know if they were still on earth.
Music is what anchored them—- the Ghost Dancer in the black plumed Stetson & the willowy Traveler—- to the known world. They sang along with Crosby, Stills & Nash’s moment-appropriate “Wooden Ships”, marveling at how the ensemble’s body of work has become second nature, a part of their DNA. A long way from Home, the explorers realize the music is shorthand for their own generations and their parents’, a communal language that will never meet the fate of Sanskrit. Collectively these songs seem like archives of the recent history of humankind. These are the songs of their selves. Outside one window, to the right, in the tops of spectral trees, the imagined echo of David Crosby’s chiming, spooky masterpiece “Laughing” lurked, competing with the songs on the player. Beyond the driver side, Stills’ breathless blues-rock summit with Jimi Hendrix, “Old Times Good Times”, raced the mechanical animal along the misty median like an outraged band of Lakota in pursuit of Custer.
Northwards, east, the explorer-scribes roll on, intent and determined to reach the end of their expedition, to the heart of meaning. It’s waiting there in the deep, dark cavern of Nassau Coliseum. These pilgrims from desperate Gotham will at long last find the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Tour of America, very much alive. Sans buffer of Kikuyu porters nor inscrutable Indian Scouts, these young gypsy women of New York will locate the last and greatest Wild West Show run amok in hostile slave territory since the height of Aquarian Age idealism. The world’s greatest rock & roll band we presume?
The Natives, the Yankees in their consumerist skins and related freaky tribes, are restless as they march to the electric shrine at Uniondale. Just then the deluge swamps the barren landscape at the edge of sprawling concrete jungle. A radio-lwa at the cavern mouth transmits Stills’ great “Sit Yourself Down” as a herald to the Faithful. The Traveler asks, “What are the drums saying, Mistress of the May Faire?” Access to the rites demands a barter of ticket-amulets and greenbacks to feed the rockbiz temple hierarchy and the superstar deities. Winding their way deeper into the bowels of the site, the Natives prepare to partake of the sacraments and recall the oral histories of their Nation in the praise-songs delivered by the demigods they have conjured. The scattered, near-pagan legacy of CSNY hovers in the space between worlds, urgent to be made whole again.
There, clustered in dense foliage of palms and amplifiers, the altar awaits expectantly, guarded by a giraffe and a cigar-store Indian. White candles for peace wink in the gloom, blue light illuminates a massive flag comprised of flyers commemorating September 11th victims. The barely suppressed excitement loosed by sacred beer, the dull roar of sex drugs rocknroll magick, beckons the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the secret chambers of this underworld. The initiates in the wide circle surge forwards joyfully to be ridden, while their chosen seers raggedly pledge to “Carry On”. The day prior, the Ghost Dancer had launched this expedition by digging for the remains of the Canadian trickster company of The Band. The narrative evidence of what befell those lost souls bore an elegiac title: The Last Waltz. It included an account of the Wizard of Broken Arrow, indicating that he’d not disappeared into the void. Everywhere down the digital Grapevine, there are reports of his and his longtime Canyon companions’ vitality. This miracle that they make happen has always been the number one moving picture in America and will be so forever more.
The terrible sound of galloping night mares beyond the cavern fades away, even as the ceaseless chattering of monkeys in the lofty crevices above the Ghost Dancer & the Traveler continues. The Ghost Dancer contorts herself in prostration as she cannot write, her hands appropriated for the Devil’s work; nor can she speak for snakes will jump out of her mouth. The immaculate twanging of Stills and Young’s dueling guitars thunders through their hearts and minds, chased by the mighty counterpoints of Stax legends Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass and Booker T. Jones on organ. The talking drummer Steve “Smokin’” Potts telegraphs spirit codes to the swaying, shaking Mass. Graham Nash from across the sea, possessed as ever of heavenly voice, dances barefoot across invisible atlases of stardust. And the now wise and paternal Crosby, liminal being bopping down from the Cosmos, preaches love and understanding to the rapt, respectful followers.
Ceremony deepens and the raving Natives are transfigured by the Four Horsemen’s sonic revelations. The Americans belong to the gritty, real world of the East but they hunger for some semblance of Eden and hear it depicted in the timely message of “Military Madness”, the Motown-esque delight of “You’re My Girl”, the unbearably sexy funk of “Cinnamon Girl”, the giddy surprise of “I Used to Be a King”, the aching romance of “Harvest Moon”, in the astonishing jazzy improvisation on “Guinnevere”, the enlivening bluegrass breakdown of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, Crosby’s implacable anger on encore “Ohio” and the cataclysmic guitar implosion of “Let’s Roll”.
At times, the Natives scent blood and their menacing gaze can occasionally be felt. However, for the most part, they ignore the exotic strangers in their midst, craving now receding glimpses of the Garden of pleasure and humanism proffered by the priests in vestments of denim and flannel. These Others, buffeted by forces tensed between exploiting rock & roll and preserving it, have come to worship at the altar of music with meaning in the hour of war—- to them the Tour of America is the Rebirth of a Nation. The Ghost Dancer was looking for glory, transformative energy, transcendence. A sonic act of heroism. These were the aims of the expedition into the heart of darkness. This was a quest after Truth for one drowning in the rock & roll business’ ocean of corruption, vanity, emotional poverty and lies. Her 31 bye-byes all in a line, the rock critic slouching toward Nassau looking to be reborn—- absolution, redemption are hers when the legendary triad comes together on “Long Time Gone”.
There is Truth in Stills’ howling, show-stopping whammy on Booker T’s “Old Man Trouble”. And there’s Beauty in the earnest call-to-arms led by Stills’ Janus face Young on “Rockin’ In The Free World”. Between these stations of the Crossroads, the Ghost Dancer realizes there is no return from this expedition into the light. She must remain imperiled in the wilderness, yearning for the cure-alls of this traveling medicine show run by these witch doctors from the mysterious faraway California. It began so innocently all those years ago with Stills’ gorgeously warm and passionate voice crooning lacy lilting lady losing love lamenting across the voodoo airwaves. And then the encounters with a series of immortal Henry Diltz ikons acting as rock & roll vanitas. Years in the haunted woods of Yankeeland, with now but a tamed turntable, the spirits of brown-skinned Indians and Estevanico The Black for company, incited the glorious apparition of the Buffalo Springfield. Overwhelmed by cultish fervor, a touch of madness or Montezuma’s Revenge one, the Ghost Dancer was assailed by revelations that transformed her into a Black Moses of the pen: Richie Furay’s beautiful rush of a vocal on “On The Way Home”, Crosby’s despair and cunning survivalist stance on “Cowboy Movie”, Stills and Chris Hillman’s anguished heartache on “Both of Us (Bound to Lose)”, Nash reaching across the galaxies on the masterwork “Country Girl”, the fiery alert of Stills’ “Isn’t It About Time” and Young’s doomed struggle for connection on “Out on the Weekend”. There she is ‘neath the gnarled baobab tree in the star-spangled Sahel, the gone native devotee in buckskin and indigo, caught up in the swirl of cosmic romance.
The Ghost Dancer’s quill was refashioned as shadow catcher, hallucinations of Stills the blue man rendered by Kahlo, Crosby-Nash as “Last of The Race” subjects captured by Bierstadt and Young as flesh-bone embodiment of Timothy O’Sullivan’s masterful exposures preying on her rampaging brain. Sketches of Bluesiana to illustrate her slave narrative. This was her voyage. Thirty years in Ascension, this is her greatest glimpse of life in far off lands.
Decades on, there is no escape from sacrifice to these mystics anointed at the Sunset Strip. Once, aeons past, it was her duty to help reinvent the Americas, relaying incandescent images of the West’s hordes of rock & roll revelers and its curious (sub-cultural) native customs back to the Homeland. Today, there are no inscribed questions or answers left to flash on. No more myths to create. The Ghost Dancer must penetrate the feverish interior of this gospel the Four Horsemen espouse and be laid waste. Only eternal belief in the quartet’s horse opera of hope remains. More barn because the deep, dark continent of her tortured soul can only be cleansed by the sonic spear of what Crosby alluded to when he asked, “Is this what you came for?” It’s better to burn out The distinctive guitar fetishes of Stills (whose powers ring down the heavens) and Young (whose piercing eyes gleam with second-sight) come together and tangle into a mythical beast she is compelled to chase unto death. The elusive beast, glimpsed seldom from afar, has taken her soul and gone. And the Traveler is animated by the “urge for going” akin to PaPa Neil who is the Mystery Train shrouded behind his veil.
Lost in this uncivilized, lawless country, the Ghost Dancer has been ruined by its bad air. Still, mapping this land in pursuit of the increasingly rare species of Rock & Roll Band, she’s found a treasure trove more precious than the Star of Africa. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s expedition of over three decades has effected historic revolution not merely in rock but the wider culture as well. In process, they’ve arrived at some semblance of a higher truth. At the intersection of these four suns, the jet gal of the May Faire ultimately recognized the thriving American Dream within. She starves for an endless flow of folk rock hybridization, riffs stimulating ecstasy passion sex-madness, the clash of the spirits, the joyous tumult of roots nirvana and the elixir of exquisite harmonies. The Sign of the Four makes her alive, capable of freedom flight, if by turns despondent, happy, terrified and humble. She has suffered before the altar where Neil Young’s majestic feedback missiles broke her heart. She needs her music administered otherworldly to survive. Buffalo Stomp ragas again. The Garden isn’t green and bucolic; it’s blue and volume. This turbulent New World, where the unholy trinity of CSN and the Bringer of Light that is Y reign, is characterized by mesmerizing highways, herds of silver-tongued hustlers, hallucinogenic flora, flocks of brightly feathered groupies, curious neon edifices erected for the worship of rock gods and stoner heathens creating totems out of stacks of vinyl both canonized and arcane. But she will not survive recounting this voyage. Somehow, she knows she can never go Home again. She is an American after all. Rock & roll her passion. Truth her obsession.