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CSN's Biggest Hit Is More Than "Just A Song"

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The Famous Folk Rock Trio without Neil Young


Two minutes and fourteen seconds is the length of it, although it could also be the duration of the act it aroused. In spite of its modest title, Graham Nash's composition is much more than “Just a Song.”

In his autobiography Wild Life, Nash claims to have written the song on a bet with a drug dealer. The latter said that Nash could not write a song on the way to the airport, an explanation that seems less vulgar than the one implied in the lyrics.

One of the shortest Top Ten hits in rock history, the cut reflects the likely subject of the biggest single from the 1977 self-titled album of Crosby, Stills and Nash. The lyrics serve as a metaphor for a one-night stand, and the heartache that is sure to visit at least one of the parties involved.

The narrator, presumably Graham Nash himself, addresses a female adorer who gives herself to the rock star. He immediately warns the woman, whose name he does not even know, that once the act was completed he would take off.

“Just a song before I go to whom it may concern,” he states. “Traveling twice the speed of sound, it's easy to get burned.”

The pair have indeed traveled quickly, having just met at the show and hooking up immediately after. Such rapidity, he admits, is likely to end in her being hurt.

In order to add romance to the one-night stand, the band back the song with a smooth orchestration that is almost hypnotic. Nevertheless, what we hear here is the metaphor for a quick act of copulation, briefly making the narrator soar.

“Driving me to the airport,” Nash sings in verse two, “and through the friendly skies.”

As soon as the act is complete, he is back on the ground and has already forgotten the woman.

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“She finally looked at me in love, and she was gone,” Nash admits.

This sexual interpretation of the song makes sense, especially when it is put in context with the rest of the album. The other tracks contain more blatant references to intercourse, especially “Fair Game.”.

“The ones you never notice are the ones you have to watch,” Stephen Stills cautions on the fourth track. “She's pleasant and she's friendly as she's looking at your crotch.”

Sexual allusions, albeit a little more subtle than the previous example, continue with the side two opener “Dark Star.”

“I see you in the morning, sleeping next to me,” Stills sings in the chorus. “Let your memories of the evening be the first thing that you think of when you open up your eyes and see me.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash had been rock stars for well over a decade by the time of this album, so the political subjects of the Sixties no longer inspired them. As relatively young men in their mid-thirties, they could still appreciate the libidinous temptations of female admirers.

After such a long time in the spotlight, however, theses sirens aroused little excitement. The brief affairs were calm like the music heard here, and each soon-to-be-heartbroken partner was really “Just a Song Before I Go.”

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