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David Crosby - The monster and the man,
This review is from: Long Time Gone: The Autobiography of David Crosby (Paperback)
When David Crosby was kicked out of the Byrds any right thinking person must have had some sympathy with poor old Roger McQuinn. To hear Crosby aimlessly wittering on at the Monterey pop festival with his embarrassing almost teenage political rantings about the Warren Commission on Kennedy's death and the terrible version of "Hey Joe" you wish he would just shut up pontificating and concentrate on the music. Check out him stoned on the BBC concert with Graham Nash in 1970 when he is truly the most irritating man on the planet introducing the songs and trying to do an appalling mimic of Nash's accent.....and then he sings. Crosby had/has a magical voice and his yin and yang was that of a person who bought into some of the most clichéd aspects of the sixties counter culture lock, stock and two smoking joints (plus of course the terrible hypocritical sexism of "free loving musicians") but at the same time managed to record some of the best music of the period, His 1971 solo album "If Only I Could Remember My Name" is rightly regarded with the passing of the years as a masterpiece of the era and possibly one of the strongest and most important records in the whole CSNY canon including Neil Young albums of the same period. Yet on the dark side he is a someone who has been jailed for possession of drugs and firearms in 1985 and indulged in huge levels drug abuse which dominated his existence for 25 years and nearly killed him.
His autobiography "Long time gone" co written with Carl Gottlieb is also one of the best of its kind, not least charting the size of the ego on the prowl preoccupied with sailing, women and song. Yet it is drugs that are at the core of this book. Crosby often talks in this volume of challenging "permissible behaviour" which must have been wonderful for him but utterly obnoxious for those who surrounded him. To be fair he recognises this and the drug monster he became. He questions to a friend that "don't you realise I never stop" and tells the story of his free basing whilst at the wheel- "I'm the best no hands knee steering driver in the world" - he confesses. The recognition that that he could have wiped out families and children as a result of this behaviour is part of the gut wrenching catharsis which populates the latter part of this book including testimonies from arresting police officers. Throughout its pages we are also introduced to the Laurel Canyon elite not least David Geffen but also his one time lover Joni Mitchell for whom he party wrote "Guinevere"; plus just about all the elements of the Woodstock cast list. Throughout the anchor relationship for Crosby is with Graham Nash who should be knighted for his patience and loyalty. Despite being sick of Crosby's drug abuse it was Nash who put down $3,500, and finally got Crosby and his partner Jan Dance to enter Scripps Hospital in Carlsbad, California, hoping the staff could treat their drug addiction. Indeed there are so many instances set out in this book when friends could have abandoned Crosby but a hard core stuck with him. His producer Stanley Johnson tells of a recording session when despite efforts to records vocals one line at a time Crosby's vocals were wrecked and he shut the session with the singer in a pitiful mess. The book is relentless on his dependency and totally demystifies the so-called glamour of designer drug cocaine which essentially ruined Crosby's life. It is sometimes a harrowing read and Crosby is laid bare for all to see. It is not a nice picture and despite his undoubted charisma and charm at the end of it all you can barely escape the judgement of David Geffen who at one point states that "I wish I could tell you that I thought David was a nice guy. He wasn't".
It is however to the credit of Crosby that he dragged himself out of this deep mire and has followed this volume with the less well written but more upbeat follow up "Since Then: How I Survived Everything and Lived to Tell about It". David Crosby was a product of his generation that now seems like a relic of a bygone age. He had neither the stellar musical talent of Stills, the humanity of Nash or the sheer brilliance and longevity of Young. Yet he did have a voice touched by the angels and is as essential to their story and the wider canvass of the sixties and seventies as other figures who loomed equally large like Garcia, Dylan and Mitchell. "Long time gone" will not teach you love Crosby, it will often lead you to loathe him but ultimately he is one of the greatest rock survivors plus a musician and catalyst of true importance and for that and much more he deserves our admiration.