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Bringing back the hippy era with the love of music

YOU'VE got to love the contradictions of the hippy era.

The early notions of free music and free love may well have sounded fine and dandy at the time, but the former quickly gave way to acts making a fortune playing in football stadiums, while the latter was really just a cover for the lads to have a field day while the 'ladies' did the cooking and were available for sexual services whenever required. And rarely did a band embody those dichotomies more glaringly than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Originally conceived when former Hollies singer Graham Nash teamed up with ex-Byrd David Crosby and Stephen Stills from the defunct Buffalo Springfield, the genesis sounds idyllic. In his recent autobiography Wild Tales, Nash tells of arriving in Laurel Canyon to be with his lover Joni Mitchell, meeting Crosby and Stills on the first night and wonderful harmonies clicking into place immediately.

Things began to go south when their record company boss said "You guys need Neil Young", so behind all the 'peace and love' front lurked enmities, serious drug use and major rows about money.

Crosby – whose second solo album Cos arrives later this month – agrees that the four are bound by some almost supernatural musical bond which sees them reconvene every few years or so. The last time they did so was in 2006 for the Freedom of Speech tour, captured brilliantly in the tour movie CSNY/Deja Vu.


Apart from the classic harmonies, what's really striking – not to mention hilarious – about the footage, is the audiences' reactions to the new material.

Here we have hippy icons on a tour called Freedom of Speech yet when they perform Neil Young's Let's Impeach the President you can hear a crescendo of boos, with the band estimating that at least a quarter of their audience (apart from in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles) walked out fuming during the number. Old hippies – they're a complicated bunch.

CSNY/Deja Vu is showing on Sky Arts 1 at 10.25pm tonight.

> George Byrne