Monday, August 16, 2021

Human Highway

CSNY’s Human Highway is often called “the SMiLE of the 1970s,” referring to The Beach Boys infamous unreleased LP. Over the years, just like we did with SMiLE, many of us have tried to put together a fantasy playlist that might emulate what Human Highway may have been.

I have notes scribbled in a journal as far back as 1977 that includes a tracklist of songs like Neil’s “On the Beach” or “Walk On,” or Graham Nash and Neil Crosby’s “Homeward Through the Haze,” to me the track with a distinctive Déjà Vu vibe.
In the early 70s, few albums were as anticipated as eagerly as CSNY’s follow-up to Déjà Vu. Of course, we never got it. Plenty of the foursome on their own or paired and by the end of the 70s, an LP without Young, but Human Highway never happened. On at least three occasions, CSNY gave it an effort with mid-1973 and late 1974 as the highpoints of the collaboration, but each ventured crash landed after only a few days.
In 1976, Neil Young and Stephen Stills were in the studio eventually inviting Graham Nash and David Crosby to add vocals to finished tracks. Once again, things fell apart; the album (Long May You Run) was released as Stills-Young Band project and Crosby and Nash’s vocals were edited out. That had to help.
The bones of the LP, including songs like Nash’s “Prison Song,” Stills’ “First Things First,” and C&N’s “Homeward Through the Haze” would eventually find their way on vinyl, but without the foursome playing nice. Human Highway wasn’t happening.
I love the bits and pieces, though; my favorite among them was included by Young with Crazy Horse on the iconic LP Zuma: “Through My Sails,” a Laurel Canyon-esque hippie ballad about leaving the past behind. The song featured CSN harmonies floating behind Young, vocals that conjured images of Woodstock or a heavenly night at Joni’s house.
Looking through my old journals, I have been piecing together notes and scenarios for my latest project, Half-Crazy, which utilizes the familiar faces in my novel Calif. The title derives from the main character, Daisy Lane and alludes to the lyrics to the nursery song, “Daisy, Daisy.” Daisy is enamored by the music of Laurel Canyon, from Joni to CSNY to the Doors, and as I write the novel, I’m obsessing over Human Highway in much the same way that Daisy does.

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