on 13 December 2014
I’ve always liked CSN(Y) and I thought I would warm to Graham Nash as a writer – a down-to-earth Englishman working with three American weirdos, a voice of reason in the superficial world of the pop music business. Sadly, he comes across as rather full of himself, with frequent references to being a good looking, politically aware, thoughtful, creative, fun-loving, sensitive, caring, loyal, energetic, inspired, misunderstood, successful rock star, who also happens to be a great father, a successful entrepreneur, an advisor to Barack Obama and a saviour of our planet.
I was disappointed that Nash is so condescending about his Northern roots. His sentiment on returning to Manchester is to survey the poor, Lowrey-like people going about their business and think "there but for the grace of God go I." Oh dear, just imagine how awful it must be to live in Manchester, being ordinary!
Nash mixes revealing moments of honesty about his own shortcomings with a surprising lack of self-awareness. He mocks his rock star friends for throwing tantrums about trivial things, but he himself throws his toys out of the pram and leaves his record label in a huff when they have the audacity to put a barcode next to his album cover photograph. How dare they?
I read the book because I thought I might get a few interesting insights into a fascinating musical era. What I discovered was that lots of musicians took lots of drugs and had lots of sex. Sometimes they would spend a long time in the studio, going to bed very late at night and getting up very late the next day (you wouldn’t get away with that sort of thing in Manchester). That's pretty much it I think. Oh, and Altamont marked the end of the love and peace era – I hadn’t heard come across that observation before.
On the positive side, the snippets of life in Laurel Canyon are enjoyable, where the sheer joy of making music and meeting new people from a completely different culture comes across very well. I also loved his tribute to his mother late in the book – very poignant. The writing is chatty and it carries you along, although humour is in short supply. As I stuck with the book, I became slightly mesmerised by the self-important "Spinal Tapness" of the writing and by the uncomfortable but gripping story of Crosby’s decline.
Neil Young's book is more engrossing and multi-layered, even though he is even further up his own a**e. The main difference between the Youngs and Nashes of this world seems to be in their willingness to compromise. There are many examples of Nash compromising: doing tours for money, getting back together with Stills after the angry one has spat at him, let him down, embarrassed him and even destroyed his master tapes with a razor blade.
Young, on the other hand, is his own man – charismatic, single-minded, eccentric, hugely creative and about as uncompromising as you can get.
One wonders if the reason for the longevity of CSN is that none of the participants have enjoyed great success on their own, especially Nash - a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
Overall, not a bad read, but on this evidence you probably wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with Mr Nash.
on 25 February 2014
I really wanted to like this book as I am from the same era, from the Manchester area and saw The Hollies several times and CSN, minus Y three times and have most of the c.d.s of all combinations of the above.
It's a very egocentric narrative. After a chapter, I got used to Nash's conversational style but his ego began to irritate. His timeline inaccuracies have been covered in other reviews but his darting around in the immediacy of his narrative was confusing, e.g. he finds a soul mate (several times) then, in the next sentence or paragraph, he'll be boasting about his sexual profligacy with numerous girls.
I mentioned the conversational style but his slang and colloquialisms are drawn from both the UK and USA and are often counterbalanced in the same sentence; this didn't help his often fulsome narrative.
I was in the USA, the same time that Nash was doing a 'book-signing' in Waterstone's Manchester. At £25 per copy, it seemed extreme. I bought my copy at a used book store in Minnesota and paid $13; I'm glad that I only paid so little.
Most of all, I wanted to read about The Hollies and their line-up(s) during Nash's time. The original drummer, Don Rathbone "left" - and that's it! Eric Haydock gets at least a sentence or two regarding his departure, Bernie Calvert barely gets more than a couple of fleeting mentions and I would have loved to have heard more about Clarke and Hicks really felt when Nash was on the point of splitting with them. It's a real shame, as this book had great potential which it didn't fulfil.
There are books about CSNY (including many references to them in the intriguing: 'Canyon of Dreams' by Harvey Kubernik - which has a focus on the whole Laurel Canyon time) but I can find nothing on The Hollies ... except the mid-sixties paperback: "The Hollies Tell You How to Run a Beat Group". If anyone knows of a Hollies biography, I'd love to hear about it.
on 13 October 2013
A very interesting book from Mr Nash. Certainly worth a tenner on Kindle Store.
I don't agree with much of his politics, or views on alternative energy etc., but I do think that Graham Nash is a decent human being in that he cares for his fellow man in the global sense.
Key points are largely covered well, although the split with the Hollies could do with another couple of pages. He never really explains his relationship with Allan Clarke between 1968 and 1983. Did they speak at all? Glad to see that all is well now though.
Throughout Nash is generous towards others and gives credit where credit's due (Allan and the rest of the Hollies, for example). He is often very honest about his own failings and dubious motivations, and some of his personal contradictions. This is refreshing, and makes the book a good, balanced read. There is a bit too much 'poor boy from Manchester made good' but it is sincerely felt, I think.
The big selling CSN(Y) albums are well-documented, but the lesser selling ones don't always make it. The important 1988 reunion, American Dream, is glossed over too quickly for my liking. How did Stephen Stills get to pollute that album with some real stinkers?
If you're a Neil Young fan, take note that he comes out of this book VERY badly! Nash portrays an immensely talented but totally, totally selfish man. And it's believable! For the most part, Nash is generous - and sometimes brutally honest - about all the characters here, but the final swipe at Neil Young on the last page is stinging and, I am sure, is what he really feels about him.
David Crosby is obviously a great, great friend, but Nash does not spare David's blushes in any way shape or form! A total mess for much of his life it seems, and not a pleasant person on the surface.
The OBE is a mystery for several reasons: Nash doesn't seem to know the person nominating him at all, which is odd. More importantly, Graham makes no attempt to explain why, as an American citizen of some 30 years AND a constant critic of the Establishment/Global Corporations/people in power generally, he would want to be honoured by the Queen in this way?! Instead, it's more 'imagine this poor boy from Manchester meeting the Queen!' sentiment.
So, all in all, Nash comes across as the decent human being you probably always suspected he was, despite his sometimes sermonising music. On paper, his worldview and politics are somehow less grating than on stage!
This is a good read for anyone interested in US/UK rock pop scene in the 1960s and 1970s.
One final warning: Strong language throughout (for no good reason I can think of!) He may be 71 but he's going on 12 on this evidence....why the publisher let it through is anyone's guess. It doesn't add anything: he can tell a good story without it.
on 25 March 2014
I enjoyed the first 75% of this book a lot, but the last 25% was a rushed affair of Grahams last 25 years. The book starts brilliantly with an in depth story of how it all began and covers the 60s and 70s in great detail. His relationships, his music and the drugs are well covered. However as we get into the 80s things began to get glossed over and there is not as much to read about. Many other books written by rock stars also tend to go this way so it's not the first time I have encountered this. The final few chapters cover his family life and how things are for him today.
I am a big fan of music from the 60s and 70s so as a whole this is a great read for me, however it is painfully obvious that music not only changed for us as listeners but the attitude from musicians also changed and gave us the music we hear today. The old guys are not the same as they were in the heyday of music, they have money, families to worry about.
on 2 July 2015
I approached this book warily, as, although I like some of CSNY's output, they seemed to epitomise the end of the hippie dream, coming to prominence just as the drugs turned hard, and idealism gave way to selfishness, ego and bloated lifestyles. And this book only reinforces that view. Mr Nash has lived a very privileged life for a long time, and this leads to unintentional hilarity on occasion - e.g., on being asked to meet a Property Magnate in Hawaii at 8 in the morning: "Let me tell you, eight o'clock in the morning was pretty interesting. If you've never seen it before, you ought to give it a try. Once." Well, Mr Nash, we poor sods who never got to lounge around and take mountains of cocaine, get to see eight o'clock most mornings!
It's also quite a sad book, in that, when they ought to have been at their peak in the 70's, CSNY seemingly never had the discipline or structure to fulfil their initial potential. It's really only Neil Young who has managed to shake off this post-hippie legacy and go on to produce interesting and challenging work. And, obviously, he comes out of the book badly by walking out on CSNY whenever things weren't to his liking.
However, having said all that, it's an interesting and seemingly honest read, particularly when it comes to the cocaine craziness of Messrs. Stills and Crosby, even though it reads like it was transposed directly from voice recordings, with its strange mix of English and US slang, and liberal use of 4-letter words.
Probably for true fans only.
on 7 May 2015
This is a very enjoyable and easy read and should appeal to all CSNY fans. The style is everyday and engaging, although perhaps too much use of the "f-word" for my taste. This book suffers from the same problems as many similar volumes in that it addresses some events/incidents in detail but skates over others or never mentions them at all. In this book there are several examples of contradictions and inconsistencies which I found hard to overlook. Additionally,too often, after describing a difficult gig or situation Graham states, "Somehow I/we managed to ........." So explanations are often not provided. This of course may be due to the copious amounts of drugs which CSN increasingly used as they became more successful. This also begs the usual question, namely, how accurate and credible are the "Wild Tales" described if the guys were all coked to the eyeballs, sometimes for days at a time ? At times I found this book to be just a bit too full of self-praise and self-congratulation, especially when relating how well a gig went. This aside, Graham has written an entertaining account of his life and I found it to be an engrossing read and one which I read very quickly. Considering his humble beginnings Graham has achieved and contributed a lot both as an artist and as a human being. His work for good causes is well documented and this book reveals the immense support he gave ( and continues to give ) to his partner in crime, David Crosby. Well worth purchasing if you can get it at a good price.
on 17 January 2014
Graham Nash is blessed with a fine harmony voice and wrote a few decent songs over a very long career. Reading this book it seems as though he was at the focal point of the counter culture a decade after Joan Baez, Pete Seeger etc were at their zenith and that he and his band mates were modern day Mozarts. Lots of bragging about drug use along with descibing the dehumanising effect it had on his best friend David Crosby as well as it's destroying of creativity.
It's an interesting read for those of us that grew up with music of this era. The creation of and his leaving of the Hollies is interesting as is the formation of CSN, and some of the gossip that he was party to is amusing. However it is all overshadowed by Graham Nash's overwhelming self importance and failure to accept that on his own he was not a popular artist compared to as part of his band. He is nowhere near as gifted as Stills or Neil Young but he happily claims to be and passes off the failure of a lot of his solo stuff as the public not being ready for it.
A little more self awareness would have come in nicely and made this a more interesting read.
on 17 September 2014
Mmmm. Can't quite make my mind up about this. As a 64 year old ( at the time of writing!! ) the 60's and early 70's really resonate with me musically. I wasn't, in the literal sense, a Hollies fan although they were a very talented group. Bought CSN'S first album, played it once and thought it very bland. Played it again a few days later and then played it solidly for weeks. Great album. However, I digress.
I particularly enjoyed the book from him going to live in America onwards and his insights into the whole music scene are enjoyable. I was especially interested about his relationship with Joni Mitchell, of which, Nash writes very well as he does of his friendship/ working relationships with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young.
He comes across as a caring individual, never more so than talking about Crosby. And yet for me, he seems a little full of himself in an indefinable sense. His use of Americanisms grates a little, as does his use of "man" and "cat" although bearing in mind his American readership, that is largely understandable.
So, I've turned into my dad, with regard to phraseology, but as a personal viewpoint, this book is largely good but with some reservations.
on 2 January 2014
Reading these memoirs it struck me that it's bloody amazing any rock stars from the 1960s and '70s survived at all. They let cocaine / heroin take over their lives and ruin their health.
A lot of the book is about Graham Nash's life and times and that's what I expected, but that he chose to fill other pages with David Crosby's woes of drug addiction, ill health and accidental parenthood. I mean, there's a *lot* about how stupid David Crosby was, less so about Stephen Stills' problems. Graham Nash proclaims himself never an addict, despite getting through grams of cocaine like, well, a rock star of the 1960s and '70s. As to Neil Young, I think Nash must just be afraid of him as he gets off so lightly as to be almost as good as the author at dodging the drug charges.
For the most part this is an astonishingly frank memoir with some illustrations of his songwriting technique.
Well worth a read.
Graham Nash's autobiography opens in August 1968. At that time he was at a crossroads in his musical career. He was a founder member of the Hollies, the phenomenally successful Manchester band that had had a string of hits in the sixties, but he had come to realise that the sort of music they performed didn't interest him any more. He was increasing becoming more and more drawn to the United States and to the music that he had heard being produced by his recent acquaintances Stephen Stills and David Crosby. When the Hollies released an extremely lightweight record called Jennifer Eccles, which Nash hated, it was the last straw. He decided to quit the Hollies, move to the States and form Crosby, Stills and Nash with his new friends, and occasionally with fellow troubadour, Neil Young.
This autobiography can clearly be split into two sections, the Hollies and before and CSN and after. Surprisingly, particularly when you consider that Crosby, Stills and Nash all led a true hippy lifestyle consisting of copious amounts of free love and hard drugs, it is the earlier of these two sections that is by far the stronger. Graham Nash's recollections of his early years in Manchester make fascinating reading. Although his family were poor, particularly after his father was sent to prison on a trumped up charge, they allowed him to pursue a musical career rather that get a `proper job'. When he become friends with a class-mate called Harold Clarke, later to become Allan Clarke, he formed a musical partnership which after the obligatory years of struggle finally led to the Hollies. I thought this part of the book was excellent, as good as anything I had read in a rock music autobiography.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the book is not nearly so good. Whereas Nash's account of his early life is lively and vibrant, once he starts to write about his life after leaving the Hollies the mood dips completely. It soon becomes apparent that Nash regarded being a member of Crosby, Stills and Nash to be on a totally higher plain to being a member of the Hollies. Whilst the Hollies were a down to earth pop group with few pretensions, Graham Nash clearly believes Crosby, Stills and Nash to be just the opposite - a serious band whose songs should not just be tuneful but should also make a statement. It is probably because of that that the book also takes on a more serious tone, losing the element of fun that made the earlier part of the book so compelling to read. Despite the tales of a hedonistic lifestyle I found the story of his life in CSN to be rather tedious, only picking up slightly when he describes David Crosby's headlong descent into drug addiction and his subsequent recovery.
Overall, this is a complete curates egg of a book, probably suitable primarily to Crosby, Stills and Nash devotees.