Kiefer’s Music Mondays: ‘Long May You Run’

“Funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way.”

When supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young came to an unresolvable end in the middle of creating their highly anticipated final album, it seemed as though that album would never be heard.

David Crosby and Graham Nash continued on as a duo. Stephen Stills dropped a couple solo albums featuring some songs by Neil Young. Young released five of his best consecutive albums, separately utilizing C, S and N in the process.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, nine of those unfinished songs reappeared on the first and last album by The Stills-Young Band, Long May You Run, released this very week in 1976.

The title of the album and the title track seem to allude to separate meanings, but ultimately reference each other. The album’s title is an equanimous albeit positive notion of friendliness between the two artists and possibly a message to Nash and Crosby of “best wishes, long may you run.”

The song itself is an ode to Neil Young’s first car a Buick hearse named “Mort” that he drove until the transmission blew in 1962. He wonderfully utilizes phrases to describe both literally how the car died, yet also what could be a metaphor for lost relationships, with lyrics like “we lost that shift on the long decline.”

Later on Young would be driving a Pontiac hearse (“Mort II”) in Los Angeles, when the automobile caught the eye of two traveling musicians, Richie Furay and Stephen Stills, and led to the formation of Buffalo Springfield. Following Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, The Stills-Young Band marks the third chapter of the two legends’ collaborative history, and the stories of the Morts symbolically tie together a large amount history.

Essentially the record is a perfected singer-songwriter song-swap album, where the odd numbered tracks are written and predominantly feature Young, and the even numbered songs are written and performed by Stills. The makes the song to song transition abrupt and jarring, but as the record goes on it becomes apparent that this is intentional. The entire album acts as a live performance would, where the writer of each track chooses a song from his repertoire and the other harmonizes along. 

Long known for their pseudo-country folk-rock, the utilization of organs, pianos and guitar effects brings a fresh air to the duo’s style. Young songs like “Ocean Girl” and “Let It Shine” are in the same vein as his recent work with Crazy Horse on Zuma, while tracks like Stills’ “Make Love To You” have a swanky jazz vibe. Especially when you appreciate the decade-long creative competition between these two musicians, the album’s dual personalities are only appropriate.

As The Stills-Young Band began to tour behind Long May You Run, former cohorts Crosby & Nash released a tandem album of their own. Then, after only nine shows, Neil Young sent Stephen Stills a telegram informing him that he was abandoning ship, and thereby leaving their latest band’s legacy to lean on its singular studio album. The telegram read: “Dear Stephen, funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach. Neil.”

Listen to: “Long May You Run,” “Guardian Angel,” “Ocean Girl”