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12.30 - IN MY DREAMS (Crosby, Stills, & Nash)

Crosby Stills & Nash

LISTEN

Look at those dancers gliding around
Seems as if their feet
Don't hardly touch the ground.

Look at them smiling
Like they knew one another
And they never would come down.

        Turn around and hold me.
        I'd like to see your face alone.
        I'm hoping there's someone home.

I'd like to meet you.
Who do you see?
Introduce yourself to whichever of me is nearby.

Close behind your eyes you're laughing at me
And I'm stuck here with no instructions that I can see
To steer by.

        Stick around, it's tricky ground.
        [Chorus]

Two or three people fading in and out
Like a radio station that I'm thinking about
But I can't hear.

Who gets breakfast? Who gets the lunch?
Who gets to be the boss of this bunch?
Who will steer?

        Turning, turning…
        [Chorus]

[Break]

                Dream
                Do you dream?
                Dreaming
                Do you?
(2x)

                        In my dreams
                        I can see, I can.
                        I can see a love
                        That could be.
(11x)


The reader might wonder why I end this collection with an obscure album cut, especially as I’ve stayed mostly with hit singles in the reverberating years of classic psychedelic music. The initial decision was made because I wanted to bookend the age. One of my early intentions was to end the series with I’m Not in Love--Graham Gouldman wrote and recorded it, and he had written one of the earliest songs in the study, For Your Love. However, I found there were later songs that I wanted to cover, and I found it just as convenient to bookend with David Crosby, who had participated in another early song in the study, Mr. Tambourine Man. Crosby was more pertinent, actually, because as I see it, he not only participated in the psychedelic era but helped to form part of the aesthetic that followed it. Initially the conversion of counterculture to laid back acoustic guitar with the precision harmonies of Crosby Stills and Nash was a great success, and Crosby’s new sound had quite a few imitators, including America and the Grateful Dead for a while. But that was in 1970. It would be seven years before CSN would record another studio album and in that time a great deal had changed. Despite the quality of composition and performance of the 1977 CSN album and its success on the charts, the majority of music critics at the time believed it to be outdated.

Peter Herbst of Rolling Stone magazine wrote shortly after the CSN album release (8/11/1977): “What's so instantly striking about Crosby, Stills and Nash's CSN, their second group album in eight years, is that it sounds so much like the debut LP even though its makers are so vastly changed. Since CS&N, and later Y, were always at the vanguard of the conspicuous counterculture (always ready to hoist their tie-dyed freak flag at a moment's notice), their current reflection and hesitancy are especially interesting. And, because the music is so eerily familiar, the album communicates a kind of time warp (imagine if we knew in 1969 what we know now) that's compelling and troubling… Nearly all of the album's material is disconsolate—full of disillusionment and identity confusion—but it's honest and surprisingly humble… They are not imitating their original sound—all have been through too long an evolution, musically and personally, to be the cute, absurdly optimistic vocal group that arose with the Sixties' slow downshift.” Crosby, Stills, and Nash weren't imitating themselves so much as trying to continue a style, that had worked in the previous decade, on an era in which their sound was beginning to sound irrelevant. George Starostin wrote in his 21st Century blog Only Solitaire: “It's kinda funny to speak of 1977 as the year of the punk revolution when you actually come to realize that a large chunk of the year in the States was spent with Fleetwood Mac's Rumours as album #1 and CSN as album #2 (and don't even start on the Saturday Night Fever problem...). The trio's second album as a, well, trio, picks up exactly where Déjà Vu left 'em seven years ago. And while their old records did capture the spirit of the times, as well as the contemporary state of musical production, perfectly, CSN is already hopelessly - and defiantly – outdated by the standards of '77. It's as if the band, upon reuniting, gives us their official 'fuck you, we'll play the kind of music we have always played, and damn all the trends and fads to hell.’” Counterculture was beginning to sound old.

1977 saw the emergence of the punk movement, with Clash and Sex Pistols, and the triumph of disco music, with the Bee Gees and Donna Summer topping the charts. But it would be interesting to stop and consider that Rumours by Fleetwood Mac was the Number One album for most of the year. Rumours is one of the best-selling albums to the present date, far exceeding in sales the any of the psychedelic albums in this study. (Outside of greatest hits collections, only the Beatles scored platinum studio albums during the 1960s.) It was recorded by a reformed group who had begun its career, like the Steve Miller Band, in 1967, and also, like Steve Miller, didn’t break into large scale national attention until the mid-1970s. One could argue that Rumours appealed to a broader audience than CSN. Though both albums were recorded during times of tension between members in their respective bands, reflecting perhaps the breakup of the cohesion 1960s groups tended to have, Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine fueled excesses fit the times more than disillusioned retreat. Jessie Hopper observed for Pitchfork (2/8/2013) of Rumours: "the personal freedoms endowed by the social upheaval of the 60s had unspooled into unfettered hedonism." Hopper saw Rumours as "a finely polished post-hippie fallout, unaware that the twilight hour of the free love era was fixing to end and there would be no going back.” Crosby, Stills, and Nash seem aware of the “unspooling”, and offer the metaphor of retreat. A prominent theme of the CSN album, drawn heavily from David Crosby’s experiences in sailing, was to take a boat to exotic islands. Rumours bristles with the frisson of an erotic charge and moments of energetic rock and roll; CSN goes mostly mellow (Who gets breakfast? Who gets the lunch? / Who gets to be the boss of this bunch? / Who will steer?). Someone wrote for Wikipedia that CSN was the last stand of the California “Mellow Mafia” (which included other bands such as the Eagles and Steely Dan, who were also enjoying success in the mid-1970s).

Since the 1960s, a generation seemed to have worked through the psychedelic “dreamweaving” that it had inherited from Mr. Tambourine Man, rejecting it as unrealistic, and found another place for its dreams. John Lennon in his song God, released in December 1970, had proclaimed I was the Dreamweaver / But now I’m reborn. / I was the Walrus / But now I’m John. / And so, dear friends, / You’ll just have to carry on. / The dream is over! By 1976, a year before In My Dreams was released, Gary Wright, a sixties musician and a good friend of George Harrison, had a very popular song called Dreamweaver that reached #2 on the U.S. charts, and is thought by some to have been the first synthpop hit (a development, I believe, of the Progressive Rock genre). The Wright lyric has some parallels with Mr. Tambourine Man, but there is one major difference. Dylan seeks the aid of the Tambourine Man because he can’t sleep. The kind of dreaming Wright is singing about is the kind that occurs with eyes closed. Wright dreams to find solace from today’s pain; Dylan, Lennon, and Crosby had dreamt in order to imagine human evolution in utter freedom for tomorrow.

The lyrics of In My Dreams picture an Other, a dream-lover, with which there was once a graceful dance. The poet wants to return to that moment of grace, and his chorus worries that if he finds his dream-lover again she might be “out to lunch”, distracted, lost to drugs perhaps. Close behind your eyes, you’re laughing at me the poet observes of the past lover; without a shared purpose, the dance seems impossible. The poet himself doubts his identity and starts to feel schizophrenic. Time keeps on tickin’ tickin’ tickin’ into the future, as Steve Miller sang in Fly Like An Eagle, but here time is ever further separating the poet from his lover. Still, in an appended melody, Crosby sings of needing to dream about “a love that could be”. Having known grace once as reality in the past, he believes it possible to find that love again someday in the future.

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