Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Graham Nash & David Crosby
Back to albums after playing all of my sister’s singles over the past few weeks … Let’s start with an easy one, an album you may have heard back in the day but now it’s rather hard to find: Graham Nash David Crosby, from 1972.
By 1970, one of the biggest bands in the world was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – comprising David Crosby (formerly of the Byrds), Graham Nash (the Hollies), Stephen Stills and Neil Young (both ex-Buffalo Springfield). Probably the best example of a “supergroup,” the quartet released the monster hit Déjà Vu in 1970 and mounted a massive tour. The four then went their separate ways and each cut a solo LP that got a lot of attention. Then Nash and Crosby decided to team up, each bringing to the table their respective strengths: Crosby’s introspective, moody and (sometimes) dense music and lyrics, and Nash’s knack for catchy pop melodies.
Like they had done when cutting their respective solo LPs, Nash/Crosby invited the cream of L.A.’s session players to join them on the album. The Section, an aggregate of players that included bass player Leland Sklar, pianist Craig Doerge, guitarist Danny Kortchmar and drummer Russell Kunkel, backed the singers on most of the album. One song, Crosby’s “The Wall Song,” had backing from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann and Phil Lesh, while Garcia played pedal steel on “Southbound Train” by Nash. Guitarist Dave Mason, now solo after his stint in Traffic, played the tasty lead guitar on “Immigration Man,” which was the first single from the album.
“Immigration Man” was written by Graham Nash after he was hassled by U.S. Customs officials as he attempted to re-enter the country. You gotta know, in those days any time a law enforcement representative met up with a representative of the Hippie Culture, the long-hair was gonna lose. Didn’t matter if you were doing anything wrong or not (and often those long-haired rock guys had drugs in their suitcases, you know), a hippie was going to be hassled by the “man.” Anyhow, Nash was finally allowed to enter the States but he stayed pissed: “Immigration Man” was released as a single and climbed to the middle of the charts. Nash finally became a U.S. citizen in 1978, and presumably he wasn’t hassled at Customs any more.
Ironically, David Crosby was a raging drug addict at the time. His erratic and often obnoxious behavior pissed off his closest friends and associates. David Geffen, who managed CSNY at the time, finally cut all ties with Crosby during this period. Crosby’s songs on the Graham Nash David Crosby album are very good examples of the music he wrote: his songs are more like free-form poetry with very little structure and Crosby kind of talk-sings the verses, like on “Page 43,” and finally sings the choruses where the melody gets strongest. “The Wall Song,” with members of the Dead, is a pleasant shuffle that has another of Crosby’s lyrical trademarks: confusion and disorientation in a dream-like setting that’s probably some kind of metaphor for life.
Nash, of course, turns in the most listenable tunes: his country-rock “Southbound Train” is one of his best songs, and “Frozen Smiles” is a throwaway trifle reminiscent of John Lennon’s “Crippled Inside” (from Imagine). “Girl To Be On My Mind” is almost a soul song, and “Stranger’s Room” is an antidote to Crosby’s constant confusion (possibly drug-induced … just sayin’).
Graham Nash David Crosby went gold and a couple years later, the duo would cut Wind On The Water, which was even more successful. Although Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) tour often these days, Crosby-Nash occasionally book some dates as a duo. They did it last in 2007 – and don’t be surprised if they do it again.