I don’t buy 49 bye byes


49 reasons…  all in a line,

 all of them good ones… all of them lies.


Sometimes song lyrics elude me and I wonder why.  Is there just something wrong with my hearing or is there a deliberate attempt by the artist to put something together that under scrutiny just doesn’t make sense?  Take for example CSN&Y’s song, “49 bye-byes”  I am a big fan of classic rock and CSN&Y in particular, but what is this song trying to tell us?  who is trying to sell us?


Driftin’ with my lady… we’re oldest of friends,

need a little work and there’s fences to mend.


I get the metaphor here, relationships all need work and forgiveness but then we get this:


Steady girl, be my world

’til the drifter come…  now she’s gone.


See?  He had just said, “Driftin’ with my lady…”  now he says, “’til the drifter come…” so is HE the drifter?  It gets confusing to me because he then states:


I let that man play his hand

I let them go, how was I to know?


I think Steve Stills was a bit schizophrenic on the begining of this lyric, or maybe it was the drugs of the time.  That is not to say I don’t like the song… but sometimes you are going along with it ” trying your best just to get around the questions of a thousand dreams”… stuff like that and harmonize with them while you’re toolin’ along with the top down on the convertible without really gettin’ it… am I wrong here?


Now it’s over, they left in the spring

Her and the drifter, looking for… beautiful things.


Hmmm… he put up with that set-up all winter long?  Weird.  I mean, I know love can make you do strange things but I would have put her out on her bye byes long before the first thaw…

but maybe I’m just ” seein’ things through a cat’s eye”.


15 Responses to “I don’t buy 49 bye byes”

  1. Jessica Lynn Says:

    You know, I think songs like that are meant to be listened to and enjoyed. Not understood. You listen to it when you’re happy ort when you’re sad, and whatever catches your ears and sticks in your mind is what you probably needed to know, whether you want to believe it or not.

    Well That’s my 2 cents 🙂

    -Jessica lynn

  2. chrisfiore5 Says:

    hey now you may have a point, there may be an obscure art form out there in our pop music culture that no one has “heard” of (get it?) If that is true you would probably love the Kingsman’s version of “Louie Louie”.


  3. Steve Sanders Says:

    Hmmm… Well, I guess you had to be there to get it, all these years later. The bits about “driftin’ with my lady” and “til the drifter come… now she’s gone…” Those relate to the 60’s era of Free Love, when relationships could be a lot more ephemeral and involved a certain free-spiritedness. A lot of people who were into the free love scene tended to have a lot less attachment to their romantic partners, and there was often a sense of (ostensible) “sharing” spirit involved. Although Still’s lyrics here also show a sense of regret and wistfulness.

    “Write if you think of it maybe
    Know I love you
    Go if it means that much to you…”

    People TRIED to allow their lovers freedom to explore and find themselves. A lot of altruism involved, which usually / inevitably bumped up against human nature.

    If you haven’t seen it, rent the original Woodstock documentary to get a sense of what it was all about. There’s a poignant interview with a young driftin’ teenage couple who definitely embody that spirit of Free Love.

    I found your post via a Google search for the origins of the “49 reasons” phrase. Trying to jog my memory… I believe it was referring to Nixon’s justification of the secret, illegal bombing of Cambodia, or maybe the Christmas bombing campaign in North Vietnam, or possibly the Kent State / National Guard shootings of war protestors. I’m old enough to remember, but not old enough to have participated (was just a young pre / early teen Whippersnapper with my nose pressed to the glass during all that Free Love era… Shucks! I missed out!) And, I guess, old enough to need some memory-jogging now and then.



  4. chrisfiore5 Says:

    hello steve,

    way cool, dude… all those memories need to be recorded for prosperity.

    I’m a big Stills fan and please forgive the tongue ‘n’ cheek critique of “49

    Bye byes” perhaps just a weak attempt at 60’s nostalgia and humor.

    hope all is well, and thanks for taking the time to offer a comment… I

    really do appreciate it.

    hope to “see” you again soon.


  5. Steve Sanders Says:

    No problem. Sometimes lyrics can appear to be a bit cryptic.

    I’ve always loved CSN&Y’s music, both together and apart. David Crosby’s first (?) solo album, If I Could Only remember my name, was a revelation the first time I heard it, and I still have the old vinyl.

    Looks like you have pretty good taste in music, IMO. (At least judging by my quick scan of your blog categories.) Allman Bros., Pink Floyd, John Prine, Moody Blues, Radiohead… Wonder if you’re familiar with the British group Porcupine Tree (kind of in the Radiohead realm, but different), generally described as prog rock with a bit of metal mixed in. Not many in the U.S. are aware of them, but I think they’re pretty damn good. Their lead man, Steven Wilson, is I think a really good songwriter and composer, and their music is quite dense and lush and sophisticated.

    Check them out if you haven’t yet. I’m kinda addicted to Porcupine Tree on the iPod while on my long cycling workouts. Great music to ride by… [ http://porcupinetree.com/ ]

    Read your January 15 post on rock and roll… I agree with your sentiments. The music industry has created a wasteland, but there’s still good music to be found and real talent, if you look for it. Thank god for the Internet and iTunes / iPods, etc.

    Also liked your summary of the Bush administration. If you’re interested, I run a blog also, American Liar, and we have plenty to say about these criminals, traitors and thieves (when we have time to write, which is less and less lately… and since I got hacked by Turkish hackers last year and had to rebuild the blog, there’s a ton of archived articles missing, which I’ll restore one day…). My contributing writer, Byron Fry, is a longtime musician and guitarist in CA, and he generates some very good and from-the-gut commentary. Sometimes has things to say about music (read American Rubber, [ http://americanliar.com/11/03/2007/knuckleheads-log-american-rubber-developing-themes/ ] which I think is his best post ever).

    Anyway, I’m still looking for the origins of the “49 reasons” reference. Wanted to work that into a new article I’m writing on the recent report about BushCo’s 935 documented lies that led to the Iraq War debacle. [ http://www.publicintegrity.org/WarCard/Default.aspx?src=project_home&context=overview&id=945 ] Stay tuned, and…



  6. stever Says:

    49 Bye Byes
    Its a song about a love triangle. The entire rhythm changes depending on which man you’re hearing from. One guys a drifter and the other has roots. She likes the security of the conservative guy but then longs for the spontaneity of the road.

  7. Chill Says:

    God, I love this song.

    If you’re looking for an interpretation, I’d forget politics. The bombing of Cambodia was still a year in the future at the time the album was released, likewise the Kent State shootings that the invasion of Cambodia led to. This just ain’t a political song, though CSN certainly had some terrific ones – Ohio, Wooden Ships…

    I’d bet you just about anything that 49 Bye’s is about Judy Collins ripping Stills’ heart out by taking up with Stacy Keach, who at the time was pretty small potatoes, and Stills trying to figure out how and why such a thing could have happened to him. Same with Suite Judy from the same album. I think that Stills was pretty torn up about it.

  8. Noah Says:

    I was just reading “Yearnings – Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life” by Rabbi Irwin Kula. In it he quotes the Jewish Talmud describing a step in the ancient process of becoming a Rabbi in which the student must offer 49 reasons a particular food is pure and then 49 reasons that it is not.

    This is to more deeply understand your point of view you take the opposite as well. He then goes into a mystical interpretation of 49 being 7 (days of creation) squared etc.

    I don’t know if Stills was aware of this. The rest of the song is not as strong as that first line, but 39 years after hearing this for the first time I was riveted back to it when reading this seamingly unrelated book.



  9. chrisfiore5 Says:

    whoa noah,

    I’d never heard that one before, it certainly adds a new wrinkle…

    you know Stills is probably just astute enough to have used that as a point of reference.

    thanks for the input… hope to see you again soon.


  10. Larry Jacobsen Says:

    Check out this bands take on 49 Bye Byes


  11. Matt Says:

    This is DEFINITELY about Judy Collins. The song itself is a fusion (another suite) of two different movements, one called “49 Reasons,” the other “Bye Bye Baby”. This first half is about Stills’ inability to tame Collins…she was (is?) notoriously unstable and, as Chill pointed out, she left him for Keach (the drifter), a relative nobody. Hence the beautiful symmetry of “drift” in the song…on one hand, Stills & Collins were drifting together, oldest of friends- on the other, the “drifter” came and took her away. You can start to understand Stephen’s confusion…”she bailed out of our ‘drifting’ relationship for a drifter? Huh?”

    The song is surprisingly intelligible, in my opinion. But don’t ask me what a cat’s eye is.

  12. Pennsylvaniac Says:

    A cat’s eye has a narrow pupil. She no longer sees the big picture, how good her former lover was for her — she’s infatuated with the drifter and sees only him and his world.

  13. chrisfiore5 Says:

    Hey Pennsylvaniac,

    thanks for that! Nearly 3 years after this post originated and it is so cool that I still get readers on it! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Steve Stills is one of my favorite artists.

    thanks again for stopping by.


  14. Georgia Says:

    Hugely helpful– thanks all for great analysis, and Happy 2010!

  15. Fensterverkauf Says:

    thanks, I loved the part with the glass ;).. excellent

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