Stephen Stills has taken the blame for arguments surrounding the cover art of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young classic Deja Vu, saying it was his fault that the concept turned out to be much more expensive than anyone had anticipated.

The veteran artist also admitted he was “biting the hand that feeds” as the criticized the 50th anniversary reissue, which arrived yesterday (May 14).

Stills came up with the concept of presenting the LP as if it was an old photograph album, complete with leather-effect case, a custom typeface and band images made using outdated technology. It was masterminded by Gary Burden, but Ahmet Ertegun’s Atlantic Records later replaced the high-quality work with a conventionally-printed version.

Asked to reveal something about Deja Vu that he’d “never told anyone,” Stills told Uncut: “Well, it had the most expensive album cover in the history of album covers and that was all my fault. … I thought of that concept of the old picture and the old photo album and then the art director took it and made it perfect. Ahmet never let me forget about it. He changed it back to a photo of the mock-up as quickly as they could.”

When reminded of the alternative take of the song “4+20” that appears on the reissue, Stills responded: “I like the take I did with the catch in my voice best of all, but we did a second one for reasons unknown and then put both on here. I like the original best, the one with the catch. … We all liked that one but they made me do it again, just in case 50 years later they wanted to cobble together a loosely associated amalgam of all the out-takes as a last gasp before the frigging copyright ran out. At this point, you have to laugh.”

Elsewhere in the interview he confirmed he had “mixed feelings” about the reissue, saying he hadn’t enjoyed the experience of listening to the archive material during the assembly process. Presented with the idea that “Fans seem to always want more,” he replied: “Well, they think they do. I’ve often got my foot stuck in my mouth so I don’t want to make too much of it. But it’s nice to remember that time and this is very reflective of it.”

During his recollection of the sleeve argument, Stills demanded: “Couldn’t Atlantic afford it? Tell them that! I’m still trying to find out if they double billed for the sessions. I’m biting the hand that feeds, so I’d better stop before I talk myself into too much trouble.”


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