Nearly 30 years ago, Stephen Stills was in a New York studio with then-girlfriend Judy Collins recording music for the film "The Subject Was Roses." He finished early, so he asked the engineer, "'Can
Nearly 30 years ago, Stephen Stills was in a New York studio with then-girlfriend Judy Collins recording music for the film "The Subject Was Roses." He finished early, so he asked the engineer, "'Can I buy you for an hour?,'" Stills remembers. "[The engineer] said, 'Sure,' so I peeled off a couple hundred dollars and said, 'Just roll tape,' and I recorded every song that I could think of."
The results of that impromptu session will be heard on "Just Roll Tape: April 26th, 1968," due July 10 via Eyewall/Rhino. The 13-song collection features early demos of Stills favorites such as "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," "Helplessly Hoping," "Wooden Ships" and "Change Partners," along with a bonus rendition of "Treetop Flyer" which was recorded at another session.
"There was most of the first [Crosby, Stills & Nash] album and my first solo albums and things that didn't quite make the cut," Stills tells Billboard.com. "I had a feeling that these were good. This is the first time I got them down coherently, but I felt like I was onto something."
The story of how Stills acquired the tape is almost as good as the music. A musician named Joe Colasurdo rescued the long-forgotten demo reel from a box of tapes that were being discarded when the studio closed in 1978. Colasurdo spent 25 years trying to get it to Stills. In 2003, he was finally able to pass it onto Graham Nash, who subsequently presented it to Stills.
"[Colasurdo] didn't want anything for it; he told [Nash], 'I just want it to get to Stephen Stills,'" Stills recalls. "Graham takes it, doesn't tell me, takes it into the studio ... and just sort of crossed his fingers and closed his eyes and press[ed] play, and the thing ran across beautifully. That's truly rock'n'roll legend."
"Just Roll Tape" isn't Stills' only archival endeavor. In addition to starting work on a memoir, he's also planning what will likely become a series of box sets or retrospectives chronicling his career, probably with a Manassas anthology coming first.
"The wonderful thing's gonna be all of these outtakes and beginnings of songs or [tapes] of me getting guitar sounds, just absolutely face-melting guitar licks," Stills says. "There's a lot of stuff there."
Still up in the air, however, is the fate of the long-discussed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young live album and DVD from the group's 2006 Freedom of Speech tour. Stills predicts that "something will come from that" but adds that "you have to ask Neil [Young]" about particulars.
Stills kicks off a five-week solo tour on Friday in Toronto. Crosby Stills & Nash are slated to play shows in Australia and New Zealand during November and December.