Watch CSNY’s Amazing 1969 Performance With Tom Jones Of “Long Time Gone”

In the late Sixties, network television was pretty uninviting territory for Rock Music. To the Bob Hopes and the Ed Sullivans who ruled TV at the time, Rock was like a freak show to be enjoyed by the “youngsters” and laughed at by everyone else. In 1967 Neil Young quit Buffalo Springfield because he refused to perform with the band on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, saying that he thought it was “belittling what the Buffalo Springfield was doing. The audience wouldn’t have understood us. We’d have been just a fucking curiosity to them.”

Two years later Neil Young would have a change of heart, agreeing to perform on The Tom Jones Show with Crosby, Stills and Nash, but looking none too impressed about it at first. It was September 1969 and CSNY was the hottest band on the planet, a couple of months removed from the CS&Y debut album, a couple of weeks after their landmark performance at Woodstock, and a few days after Young had agreed to join the band on tour. Striking while the iron was hot, the band’s manager Elliott Roberts had them booked onto Jones’ top-rated program.

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Roberts would later express regrets about it. He was quoted in the Neil Young bio Shakey as saying that the performance “was very highly rated, sold a lotta records, but in retrospect it was embarrassing, just a bad call”. I don’t agree. I just recently discovered this clip, and I think it is one hell of an entertaining Rock artifact that stands the test of time.

Tom Jones may have been a Vegas-style mainstream act, but he was a lot younger and a lot hipper than the Carsons and the Hopes of TV land. He grew up singing blues and R&B, and everybody in Rock knew that his chops were bonafide. It’s hilarious to watch David Crosby’s face as Jones in his Haggar slacks starts belting out “Long Time Gone”. Even funnier is watching Stephen Stills for some reason trying to match Jones’ vocal gymnastics and reaching quite a bit too far.

By the end it looked like everyone, even Neil Young, was really digging the jam. It wasn’t 1967 anymore and he must have sensed the times were definitely a-changing. Rock was slowly but surely evolving into the mainstream.

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