Thursday, April 3, 2014

"Wild Tales": Graham Nash as Slave To Joni Mitchell and Left-Wing Orthodoxy

 Like most left-wing ideologues, consistency is obviously not Graham Nash's strong suit.

Nash wrote a ridiculous Yippie
Anthem that went to #35 in 1971

In 1996, Graham Nash flew to Bill Clinton's 50th birthday party in billionaire music industry mogul, David Geffen's luxurious Gulfstream G3 jet. (p.326).

And in 2012, he and co-CSN pal, David Crosby gave a command performance for Silicon Valley multimillionaires at a $38,000 a plate fundraising dinner for Barack Obama (p.329).

Yet, before a 2011 Manhattan menagerie of Occupy Wall Street anti-capitalists, Nash, a North England high school dropout, saw no logical incongruity in calling millionaire conservative contributor, David Koch, "greedy" and "one of the world's truly bad guys" . (p.334)

In fact, he slandered Southern Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert goers who walked out of their 2006 tour appearances in protest of the group's mean-spirited on-stage anti-Bush invective: "I realized there were still plenty of people in the South trying to figure out why the North won the civil war," Nash wrote. (p.336)

And Nash doesn't bat an eyelid at lambasting conservative rocker, Ted Nugent, for calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" - "he's gone too far - he has a very disturbed point of view" (p.334)


This even as he, himself, called President G.W. Bush a "dunderhead" and VP Dick Cheney, "one of the most evil men alive...not of this earth."  (p.329)

It seems that, in Nash's world,  it's not going too far when the bogeyman you're dehumanizing is a conservative.

And after blathering about Americans' "absurd obsession with guns",  calling the NRA "criminals" and arguing that the 2nd Amendment does not guarantee private firearm ownership (p. 212), he waxes poetically over an incident where his CSN pal, David Crosby warded off a home invader by firing off a Colt .45. "...If David had not rolled over, grabbed his gun and fired it, he and Debbie would most likely be dead," anti-gun activist, Graham Nash said.  (p.230)

Huh?

Graham Nash's convoluted political worldview seems right out of  his partner, Stephen Stills', Buffalo Springfield song, "Mostly say, Hooray for our side."

Oh well, the legendary rock 'n roll crooner was a high school dropout so his infantile ignorance in such things as these and his idiotic 1971 Yippie anthem, Chicago (We can change the world) can be understood, if not condoned.

And it can be said to the credit of Graham Nash's recent autobiography, Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life (2013 Crown Publishing, New York) that he had a competent ghost writer.

The 345 page account of Nash's rise from a wartime, North England, blue-collar childhood to musical prominence with the British-invasion Hollies and later, the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Woodstock-era super group, is coherent, lucid and quite well written.

That's a welcome contrast to the nearly unreadable, desultory gibberish penned by his sometimes-band partner, Neil Young, whose 2012 bio, "Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream", was, quite justifiably panned by us and most reviewers.

And unlike Young's peculiar document, in Wild Tales, Nash actually conveys some interesting tidbits about his life with two of the the signal pop musical acts of the 60s and early 70s.

He did, of course, have a brief, but storied love affair with Canadian folk chanteuse, Joni Mitchell. His domestic arrangement with her in Laurel Canyon was the inspiration for one of his nicer and most famous ballads, Our House.

And in this book, his verbal idolatry of his former flame is almost embarrassingly, gushingly sycophantic.
Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash
during their time together

Here's Graham Nash on Joni Mitchell:

"Joni Mitchell was the whole package: a lovely, sylphlike woman with a natural blush, like windburn and an elusive quality that seemed lit from within. Her beauty was almost as big a gift as her talent and I'd been pulled into her orbit from the get-go." p.3

"From the moment I first heard her play, I thought she was a genius...she was on another planet in terms of her songwriting ability. Her acoustic guitar was the entire orchestra...our relationship was a dream. She opened me up to so many experiences --musical, intellectual, romantic and artistic. She was like an Escher drawing with all its sharp angles, unexpected turns and mysterious depths...she had a relaxed playful side that was so easy to fall in love with...It was that exuberance, that joie de vivre, that lit her like a bouquet of sunflowers... she was an accomplished painter with a ravishing style..." p.148


There's quite a bit more of this toadying and it leaves you wondering why, if Joni Mitchell was so blasted wonderful, he just didn't marry her in the pre-Woodstock days when she was angling for that? (p.169)

In his book, the now septuagenarian, Nash, does let us in on a number of interesting anecdotal events in his interesting rock 'n roll life.

For instance:

-- Nash tells us of endless lines of groupies during the Hollies' '64 rise to pop music prominence in England and relates tales of a peculiar habit the girls had of whipping out their breasts for band members to autograph.

-- But during their '65 US tour, Nash found American girls to be "freer and more experimental," than their British groupie counterparts.

-- Nash relates how at the storied Paramount Theater during the Hollies' first trip to NYC in '65, they witnessed Little Richard upbraiding his guitarist for upstaging him by playing with his teeth. That guitarist was one Jimmy James who would later be known as Jimi Hendrix. (p.70)

-- Quite interestingly, he tells how the Hollies acquired their smash hits, Bus Stop and Look Through Any Window, from a 15 year old English kid songwriter in '65 -- They were their first 2 songs to chart in the US.

--  While still with the Hollies, Nash was initially introduced to David Crosby by Mama Cass Elliott, who he likened to an artistic matchmaker in the manner of Gertrude Stein. In his book, he posits that she died of a drug overdose, not from choking on a sandwich.

-- The famous album cover photo of the 3 CSN members on a beat-up couch, in front of a beat-up old Santa Monica Blvd. cottage was set to be re-shot the next day because the members were arranged in the wrong order - Nash, Stills & Crosby. But when they went to the locale, they found that overnight, the house had been demolished.

-- Joni Mitchell turned down her invitation to perform at Woodstock, because her handlers doubted they could extricate her from the congested throng in time to make an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, scheduled for the next day. It was probably one of the costlier scheduling miscues in pop music history.

-- Joni Mitchell wrote the lyrics to the anthemic Woodstock, which both she and CSN recorded, while ensconced in a posh Manhattan, Plaza Hotel suite, many miles from the funky hippy conclave that she glorified in song.

-- Their music industry guru, Ahmet Ertegun, was at first, sceptical about the Crosby, Stills and Nash band's concept, thinking them too similar to the  soft-pop vocalist sound of The Association at a time when more heavy metal sounds were coming into fashion.

-- The pedal steel guitar country sound to Teach Your Children, which pretty much instrumentally defined the song, was added by the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, who had been recording in the same studio, down the hall from CSN&Y.

David Crosby and Graham Nash in
NYC at Occupy Wall Street in 2011


Unlike David Crosby's 1988 autobiography, Long Time Gone, which focuses on the singer's myriad personal problems and Neil Young's aforementioned garbled grand opus, Waging Heavy Peace, which focuses on very little -- Nash's Wild Tales is the most comprehensively informative account of the super group to date. (Stephen Stills is reportedly working on his bio, which may be released later this year.)

Nash imparts the reader with a good sense of the interpersonal interactions of the band members in all their complexity - from angelic harmonizing to acerbic infighting to drug-induced lunacy.

All of their inane politics aside, most any baby boomer can lucidly recall the powerful and upbeat excitement they felt when they first put down the needle to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.

Crosby, Stills and Nash were a truly exciting super group which nicely captured and reflected the zeitgeist of the weird and wild late 60s/early 70s time period. And Graham Nash was, of course, a key component of that.

But there is the political idiocy and Graham Nash was wrong on most every vital issue of his turbulent time, from the population bomb (remember that pseudo-scientific canard?) to advocating unilateral Anglo-American disarmament in the Cold War.

In fact, after Britisher, Nash had been trashing the USA in front of an audience of anti-American Danes in Copenhagen, his then paramour, Canadian Joni Mitchell was provoked to tell him that she thought it unfair of him to speak ill of the US in front of foreigners.

"You keep slagging America after it gave you all this opportunity," Mitchell said. "Why are you biting the hand that feeds you?"

Joni Mitchell then poured a bowl of corn flakes and milk over Graham Nash's head. (p.180)

Good girl, Joni!!!

Here, from an '80s Crosby, Stills and Nash reunion concert, is a performance of Our House, Nash's paean to his former live-in lover, Joni Mitchell:

1 comment:

  1. Occupy Wall Street phoney, Nash, sells "wild Tales" tote bags to lefty chumps on his website for $20.

    ReplyDelete

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