Thursday, January 21, 2016

Graham Nash ... Wild Tales

I will admit to always being a little bit suspicious when reading the self-penned biography of a rock star known for his exorbitant amount of drug use ... so I approached Graham Nash's biography "Wild Tales" with at least one somewhat skeptical eye open. 

However, Nash is such a GREAT storyteller ... as evidenced by his appearance at The Arcada Theatre last summer as part of a very brief US Tour, that I just couldn't resist hearing these tales in his own words. 

The stories behind many of his most famous songs are recounted in nearly identical fashion both from the stage and between these pages ... but the inspiration behind some of his finest work ... "Our House", "Just A Song Before I Go", "Wasted On The Way", "Immigration Man" and countless others is just SO fascinating that they're worth repeating again and again. 

Nash starts at the beginning ... his humble roots ... his father going off to serve time in prison for (it turns out) a crime he didn't actually commit ... meeting Allan Clarke in grade school and forging along a lifetime friendship, even through some of the roughest times after Graham's departure from The Hollies ... 

Meeting The Everly Brothers on the steps of The Midland Hotel in 1958 after their show at The Free Trade Hall ... and then serving as their back-up band when The Everlys recorded "Two Yanks In England" in 1966 (including several songs written by The Hollies themselves!) 

We're taken through The Hollies' skyrocketing fame ... to Graham eventually leaving the band because he wanted to continue to expand the band's musical horizons while they seem content to just record an album's worth of Chuck Berry covers instead.  (Once The Hollies turned down Graham's "Marrakesh Express", it was all over ... Nash moved to America, teamed up with David Crosby of The Byrds and Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield and the rest, as they say, is history.) 

It was a colorful union ... (credit Mama Cass and Peter Tork for being instrumental in their initial meeting) ... massive drug use but an incredible and immediate following.  (Their second gig was Woodstock!!!)  Crosby comes across as the most psychotic and drug-dependent ... there where times when he was taking enough drugs on a daily basis to kill THREE men ... yet somehow he still managed to survive.  The portrait painted of Stephen Stills isn't very flattering either ... Nash relates some of their less-pleasurable experiences together such as the time Stills once spit on him when he professed is love for a common love interest ... and on another occasion slashed Graham's master tapes when things didn't go Stephen's way.  One truly cannot wonder how the two of them can even speak to each other today, much yet spend extended time together on the road making music.  The mystery of Neil Young seems to be the strongest attraction between the two ... you just never know which Neil you're going to get ... which apparently is all part of the appeal of the whole Neil Young experience. 

Lots of interesting tidbits can be found throughout.  (Yesterday we told you about the circumstances surrounding The Hollies' induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame) ... Graham's love affairs with Joni Mitchell and Rita Coolidge make for interesting chapters in his life and his unflinching love for his wife Susan, who's also the mother of his three children, is heartwarming.  (Susan once told him "I'm giving you ten years ... at the end of ten years, if I still like you, I'll stay."  Imagine living life under THAT kind of pressure!!!  lol  She did ... and she and Graham renewed their vows when Crosby wed his long-time love Jan.) 

The photo used on the original Crosby, Stills and Nash album also has an interesting story behind it.  The group found an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere and posed for the cover shot on the front porch of that house.  When it came time to print the album, they realized that the title on the album ... Crosby, Stills and Nash ... didn't accurately present the photo underneath, which depicted Nash, Stills and Crosby.  Concerned that, being a new band, this might confuse their audience, they returned to the house to retake the photo in the proper seating order, only to find that the house had already been bulldozed to the ground.  (They should have known THEN that they'd have a rocky road ahead of them!)

The book is highly recommended ... thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and you'll learn something new about our out-of-sorts heroes every step of the way. 

Graham Nash's contributions to the CSNY catalog have always been my favorites ... and it has been HIS solo albums that I've also added to my personal collection ... so it was nice to hear their story told from his perspective.  (Honestly, I'm not sure the others could have done as thorough a job.)  I'm sure there were some hard feelings along the way ... but the lesson learned in all of this seems to be that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young all recognize the fact that they are strongest together when the chemistry is right than as any other entity.  No matter what else may get in the way in their personal battles ... and no matter how difficult the roads may have been along the way ... they're still up for the challenge to see if they can recreate the magic one more time.  And invariably they do. 

In his end credits and acknowledgements Nash writes

"To David Crosby, my partner and great friend, and his wife Jan.  I may have been brutally honest in my descriptions of them in their past, but I'm delighted to tell you that they both came out of the darkness and into the light in a big, big way." 

"To Stephen Stills, one of the finest musicians in the world; my compadre who has a great a great heart and soul" 

"To Neil Young, the strangest of my friends.  He remains true to himself, his family and his music." 

As we've all learned during our own journeys through life, you can't change what the heart wants.  For better or for worse ... and for everything in between ... Crosby, Stills and Nash ... and sometimes Young ... belong together.  (kk)