When Neil Young Left Stephen Stills In The Lurch

The Stills-Young Band’s 1976 studio album, ‘Long May You Run,’ was a unique endeavor that brought together two musicians, Neil Young and Stephen Stills. While it marked a significant collaboration, it was also the breeding ground for substantial tension between the two. With various factors at play behind the scenes, the project’s background was as interesting as its musical output.

This record represented the sole instance of these singers working together as a duo. Although their musical history included memberships in bands like Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, they didn’t recreate this two-member band composition in their future projects. Thus, the album stands as a singular collaboration in their discography.

In fact, the album was on the verge of becoming another band project. David Crosby and Graham Nash, pursuing their careers as a duo after the band’s hiatus in 1974, initially joined Stills and Young for the production. However, midway through, they had to exit to work on their record, ‘Whistling Down the Wire,’ causing the other members to remove their bandmates’ contributions out of frustration.

Following Crosby and Nash’s departure, Neil and Stephen continued the project, each bringing their compositions to the table. While the two shared the album, they each sang lead on their own tracks and even added some traded guitar licks between the pair to the mix, although they didn’t match the intensity of their earlier guitar duels.

The duo completed recording ‘Long May You Run’ in June 1976 and went out on a pre-release tour shortly after. However, the Stills-Young shows were cut short when Young abruptly quit after nine gigs, attributing his departure to a sore throat. What he left behind was a short telegram for his friend to receive.

In the message, it was written:

“Dear Stephen, funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach, Neil.”

Neil Young later admitted that he stopped touring with his mate because the tour wasn’t working out. Despite his advice and warnings, Stephen Stills was overly concerned with the critics’ reviews of their shows to the point of accusing the tour personnel of intentionally undermining his performance.

Stephen went on with the tour dates until the album’s release on September 1976. ‘Long May You Run’ was well-received by both critics and audiences, achieving gold record status. Fortunately, over time, the tension between them subsided, although they did not collaborate as a duo again.