“Wasted on the Way”

December 3, 2022 • 3:00 pm

Crosby, Stills & Nash, one of the great bands of the late Sixties through the early Eighties (joined sporadically by Neil Young), got together by accident. People who followed them know the story—the group formed from the leftovers of other bands: Buffalo Springfield, the Hollies, and the Byrds.  The way I heard the tale was that C,S, and N sang together extemporaneously at a party at Joni Mitchell’s house, and the harmony was instant and mesmerizing. The version given by Wikipedia, below, differs only in the location of the party:

In July 1968, over dinner at a party at another Laurel Canyon house (the home of either Joni Mitchell or Cass Elliot, accounts by the three members differ), Nash invited Stills and Crosby to perform a Stills composition, “You Don’t Have to Cry”. They did so twice, after which Nash had learned the lyrics and improvised a new harmony part on a third rendition. The vocals gelled, and the three realized that they had a very good vocal chemistry. While singing the third time, they broke out in laughter. The Byrds, the Buffalo Springfield, and the Hollies had been harmony bands, with Nash later saying in a 2014 interview, “We knew what we were doing,” referring to the success of each of the individual bands. He continued, “Whatever sound Crosby, Stills, and Nash has was born in 30 seconds. That’s how long it took us to harmonize.”

The group was alway better on records than live, but the song below, “Wasted on the Way“—written by Graham Nash—is as good as the recorded version. That’s even more surprising because the three were well past their peak at this time (especially Stills, whose voice went downhill rapidly). But lo and behold, here the vaunted three-part harmony is on full show. And Stills’ guitar work never went downhill.

“Wasted”, of course, is a double entendre. And notice that all three times they sing the word “bridge”, Stills adds one more syllable than do Crosby and Nash.

The original recording (remastered 2005) featured Timothy B. Schmit doing additional harmony; you know him from the Eagles.

10 thoughts on ““Wasted on the Way”

  1. Love the band, but they are definitely better in recordings than live. I remember buying the album 4 way street. It had all the songs I loved. Couldn’t wait to play it. I may have only played it twice to make sure I wasn’t hearing things. Worst harmonizing ever. I’ll settle for the studio recordings

      1. It’s great. I had to deal with a bout of near post-coital tristesse once the natural high wore off after leaving the theater. 🙂

  2. When I was in my early 20’s, I would often put their records on (at a time when everyone else was throwing them away) and sit on the wood floor in front of the stereo, acoustic guitar in my lap, and feel their music wash over me, almost in tears, overwhelmed with emotion. Such beautiful harmonies, delicate guitar work, evocative lyrics. No reason to sing or play along because I could only mar the music, but I wished I could be even half as talented.

    I did eventually see CSN&Y live, and well past their prime it I still loved every minute of it, and same for seeing Stills solo in a small bar for a DNC fundraiser. He was high as a kite, denied he still used drugs he doth protest too much methinks, I mean, Dude, it was obvious) but he still put on a helluva show, past his prime or not.

  3. I wasn’t much of a fan at the time, but I saw them play live in Auckland around ten years ago and thought it was a great concert, so I’m a belated convert

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