Graham Nash: CSNY's "Mellow One" Spins Some Wild Tales
Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life By Graham Nash Crown Archetype, 368 pp., $28
When David Crosby walked out of the gates of Texas' Huntsville State Prison on August 8, 1986 after serving nine months for drugs and weapons charges, two people were waiting to greet him: Crosby's Manager Bill Siddons, and his longtime -- and his long-suffering --musical and spiritual partner, Graham Nash.
First, they took Crosby to get a steak dinner. Later, unbeknownst to Nash, the newly minted ex-felon went to score more drugs.
Six days later, on Crosby's 45th birthday, Nash has a solo gig booked at the now-defunct Rockefeller's nightclub. The approximately 300 people in attendance knew there might be a chance of a special guest. And when a tape played Crosby's a cappella intro to the duo's "Wind on the Water," the now short-haired singer, bereft of his signature walrus moustache, made his way to the mike.
"With the dressing room lights behind him, it was like seeing the silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock -- he was immediately recognizable. And the place erupted, they went crazy, fucking nuts," Nash writes. "Crosby had a fantastic grin on his face. He was so happy to be there, to be free, to have paid his debit to society -- to have all that shit behind him to some extent."
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The two have long been intertwined in life and music. Nash justly earns massive celestial points on some level for putting up with, supporting, and staying with a man who next to Keith Richards is rock and roll's most amazing survivor. In fact, the subtitle of this book should be Keeping Up with the Croz.
I mean, at one point CSN had a little area built at the side of the stage for Crosby to freebase at during the concert. As to whether or not they were somewhat enablers -- and they knew they needed Crosby -- Nash cops to it somewhat.
But that's just a part of this collection of, indeed "wild tales" from the now 71-year-old twice-inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who, positioned with nuts like Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young, was not surprisingly the "normal" one.
In 2009, when I interviewed Nash upon the release of his box set, he told me he was "too young" to write his memoirs. Thankfully, that's changed.
Nash traces his life from his childhood in Blackpool and Manchester, England, to his early love of rock and roll and especially the Everly Brothers, to forming the Hollies, who had a string of massive hits in the early and mid '60s ("Bus Stop," "Carrie-Anne," "On a Carousel").
But it wasn't until he made a few trips to the states and started hanging out with the Mellow Mafia of singer/songwriters in Laurel Canyon that he felt he found his true calling (with a little help from LSD). The musical and social culture, not to mention the weather, both attracted and intrigued him.
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And, after getting in bed with someone personally (Joni Mitchell) and others musically (Crosby, Stills and later Young), the gold records and sold-out shows came one after another. Albeit in start-and-stop fashion as the quartet would alternately love and hate each other, sometimes performing in a dizzying array of combinations. Most interesting are his observations on the erratic behavior of Neil Young.
There's lots in the book for fans of music and recording process -- including the inspirations behind Nash-penned anthems like "Teach Your Children" (inspired by a Diane Arbus photograph), "Our House" (an almost line-for-line retelling of a day with Mitchell), "Just a Song Before I Go" (written on a dare in a an hour), and "Wasted on the Way" (about the band's many lost opportunities).
But the more compelling wild tales are of Nash's social interactions with a who's who of '60s and '70s rock, many told here for the first time. And what a life! A seven-week voyage on Crosby's sailing ship with a boatload of friends, weed, coke, lobster, music, and hot women? Yes, please.
Nash also discusses his dedication to progressive social and political causes and interest in photography and art. But Wild Tales more than lives up to its name while checking off all the boxes of a complete rock bio: It will appeal to the dedicated fan, the casual listener, and those who want to hear stories of rock and roll excess. With two cats in the yard.
See more about Nash at grahamnash.com
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