Did Neil just spring it on you?
“David and Stephen and I had never heard the song. We did that kind of thing occasionally. I wrote a song about the girlfriend I was with at the time – I’d written it in the morning and we performed it at night. On the tape, Stephen is yelling, ‘Hey, Willie, what are the chords?’ And I’m telling him the chords to a song we did in front of thousands of people. We were ballsy. We were full of piss and vinegar.
“So with Goodbye Dick, we had never heard the song, but Neil wanted to play it. Who the fuck is going to tell Neil Young not to do a song? And it was brilliant, because it was about Richard Nixon and Rosemary Woods. It was the song in the set that really pinned societally what was going on. Watergate, the anti-Vietnam War, the 18-minute tape gap – all of those things were so important to us in ’74. I used to have three televisions tuned to CBS, NBC and ABC to watch what was going on. We were all paying attention to what was happening.”
How come you don’t include a version of Carry On?
“I just couldn’t find one that thrilled me. I spent 80 hours listening to every conceivable performance of that song – ‘Can we take the front half of this? Can we take the back off of this?’ Nothing came close. I was most apprehensive with I called Stephen to tell him that one of our most famous songs, written by him, wasn’t on there. But he just said, ‘Willie, if you don’t think it’s there, it’s not there.’ That was such a relief – it’s such an important song in our repertoire.”
Neil traveled separately from the rest of the band – why?
“He never said why, but I understand why. Neil is not a person of excess. He is only ever interested in the music, and God bless him for that. The drawing that Joni Mitchell had done that had become the iconic image for the tour, it was embroidered on our hotel pillows. It was stamped into teak plates with a big brand. It was a tour of excess, no doubt about it. Neil wasn’t into that.”
What were your hopes for the band during the tour? Did you think there was an immediate future for CSNY?
“I’ve never expected anything of this band. I learned a long time ago, with the first show we played, that you can’t expect anything. We started a tour, and after the first night we hated each other and left. There are no rules with this band. I never thought about tomorrow with us. We were so busy doing what we were doing. I couldn’t think about what we might do next year – we’ve got a show to do in Denver tonight!” [Laughs]
I’d like to get your thoughts on some of the recordings you have on the set.
“Absolutely. Go right ahead.”