Déjà vu Desperados: Embattled Survivor Imagery of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the Setting of Youth Rebellion America, c. 1967-1973

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The romanticised Wild West costumed motif of the folk-rock band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSN&Y) on the cover of their Déjà vu LP album from 1970 evokes the American Civil War rebel and Wild West outlaw, along with the rifle-toting heroic frontier scout, the Spanish/Mexican vaquero, and the Native American. Three photographs, taken during a single Déjà vu photo seesion by the photographer Tom Gundelfinger O'Neal, have been line-drawn for the present article by the design technologist and illustrator Marianne Bloch Hansen to enable a close analysis of details of dress, weapons, props, and the shifting positions of band members. The costumed images are considered as artefacts with a view to revealing the motivating circumstances behind that which is seen in the photos. This is accomplished by considering the cover costumes and staging on three distinct levels: as a genre item, a performance, and a product. The focus is on a specific political, social and cultural space: America of the late 1960s-early 1970s youth rebellion. Contemporary editorials, interviews, articles, and advertisements in the music and politics biweekly Rolling Stone magazine are utilized as sources. The imagery raises intriguing questions about its underlying style prototypes and patterns of style influences, and whether the costuming of CSN&Y amounts to a pastiche of the sort originally suggested by Fredric Jameson in 'Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism' (1984). Whatever significance the Déjà vu album cover motif has as a source for fashion history depends on 'what,', 'how,' and 'why' questions asked by the historian. It is evident that the cover motif with its costumed and heavily armed 'outlaws' is a response to an America rent by social tensions contiguous with the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, fears of revolutionary violence and of notorious murders committed by the Charles Manson 'family' for example, while also suggesting an ironic sense of failure of the youth counterculture.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCatwalk: The Journal of Fashion, Beauty and Style
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)71-98
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Developed version of a paper '"Rock Military Style" icons of social tension: Embattled survivor imagery in Crosby, Stills, Nash &Young/Déjà vu (1970)' delivered at Images in Time: Flashing forward, backward, in front and behind photography in fashion, advertising and press, a conference held on 27-28 November 2009 at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik as part of the activities of the Wardrobe Network initiated by Associate Professor Lise Skov at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS).
The paper was also delivered in an updated version 'Déjà Vu Desperados: Embattled survivor imagery of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the setting of youth rebellion America 1968-1972, at Fashion Thinking, an International conference discussing Fashion in Theory, History, and Practice, held 30 October to 1 November 2014 at the University of Southern Denmark in Kolding.

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Fashion, Fashion and politics, Fashion photography, Rock groups, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSN&Y), Record album covers, Phography and methodology, historical sources, Pastiche, American Civil War, American Culture, American Old West, cinema, Television, Westerns, Collective visual memory, Civil Rights, Vietnam War, Youth Rebellion, Lost Cause (American South), Native American textiles and art, The American West in Art, Spanish/Mexican costume, Vaqueros, Gamblers, Guns and gunleather, Vintage photographs, Willam 'Buffalo Bill' Cody, James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok, Authenticity, Fredric Jameson, Rock military style

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