The Story of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s ‘Annihilation’ Song, ‘Helplessly Hoping’
Ironically, composer Stephen Stills once used Hollywood – but in a negative way – to frame the track's rootsy approach. "Helplessly Hoping," he told Rolling Stone in 1969, is "a real country song, as opposed to all those plastic Hollywood country songs by plastic country groups I read are happening now."
The song emerged from the very first recording session mounted by this fledgling supergroup. Setting up in New York City's Record Plant after a taking a red-eye out of Los Angeles, Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash put "Helplessly Hoping" and "You Don't Have to Cry" to tape under the watchful eye of producer Paul Rothchild in December 1968. "Marrakesh Express" was then paired with "Helplessly Hoping" to become Crosby, Stills and Nash's debut single. It peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of the following year.
At that point, they were still excited by what this fizzy new blending of voices from the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Hollies could do. "I loved it as a song and I loved what happened with it," Crosby told Rolling Stone in 2008. "We got very lucky, very fortunate with the harmonies on that one. They came out extremely well."
Stills had created solo demos of "Helplessly Hoping," along with "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," earlier in 1968. Those tapes were thought to have been lost, only to be rediscovered in 2007 by a studio worker. He returned them to Stills, and the recordings were released as Just Roll Tape in 2007.
Listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash's 'Helplessly Hoping'