Friday, August 8, 2014

Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life by Graham Nash

Here's something new: a rock star writes a memoir that details nonstop excessive drug use, except in this case he is speaking of a friend and fellow band member. It's not that Graham Nash (of The Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) was necessarily an angel - after all he did require surgery on his septum after substantial cocaine use - but rather than friend and fellow band member David Crosby went through some very well-documented heavy drug usage, that ended up with imprisonment for various drug and weapon charges.

David Crosby was the musician whom Graham Nash initially bonded with before he ended up forming CSN (later CSN&Y) and their relationship forms much of the heart of this book. They were harmonious both onstage and off, though as a large part of the book details, Crosby's excessive drug use caused lackluster performances, seriously injured his creative muse and frustrated those who loved him. Stephen Stills and Neil Young are not ignored in this memoir though. Stills is portrayed as the real heart of the group, bringing musicianship, arranging skills and pure talent to the table. While shown as arrogant and unreliable early in the book, Nash did seem to bond with him as the years went by and some stability in the band was needed. Neil Young, meanwhile, was an enigma, sometimes actively participating in the band's various formations and other times following his own distinct muse.

The book, following the blueprint of many music memoirs, follows Nash's early years growing up in England, bonding with school chum Allan Clarke over The Everly Brothers and eventually forming a band together. The Hollies were certainly massive hitmakers, though as Nash toured and saw the world and the 60s blossomed, he started to feel as if he could be doing something more important musically. Immersed in California music with girlfriend Joni Mitchell and former Byrd Crosby, Nash was able to find two other people who had individual muses but were able to blend their voices harmonically in a unique way. While their output together has been sporadic, they've occasionally released albums (in various combinations of the four of them) and toured (with a recent stop at Ravinia) since their first two bestselling albums and appearance at Woodstock took the world by storm.

Nash has produced a repertoire of hit songs for the Hollies and CSN including radio staples Teach Your Children, Our House, Look Through Any Window, Carrie Anne and Chicago. Outside of music, Nash pursued his interest in photography into a museum-worthy collection, which was eventually auctioned off so that he could finance a business in what were then very new and revolutionary techniques for creating photographic prints using computers. He eventually formed Nash Editions, which still provides printers for Epson. Beyond this musical and photographic career he remains involved in myriad charities, giving him a variety of topics to tackle in this book. Despite a nearly 50 year career of musical success, Nash's voice remains friendly and humble and this book is a fun read for fans of his or his colleagues' music.

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