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Interview

July 3, 2014

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

crosby-stills-nash-young-csny

New David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young Box Set

by Harvey Kubernik ~

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young release the new box set: CSNY 1974. Plus an interview with musician-producer, Graham Nash

This July, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young will release their CSNY 1974, boxed set recorded during their historic 1974 tour.
The 40 previously unreleased tracks recorded 40 years ago will be packaged in several formats and configurations for release July 8 in the United States.
The material was compiled from multi-track master tapes recorded during eight U.S. concerts and one in London at Wembley Stadium.

The Graham Nash and Joel Bernstein-produced box set includes 40 tracks, a 188-page booklet of never before seen tour photos, and a bonus DVD of previously unreleased concert footage; the box is available as a 3CD/DVD set or Pure Audio Blu-Ray (192kHz/24-bit)/DVD set.

The CSNY 1974 collection captures the band’s harmonic alchemy during its outdoor stadium tour, a trek that spanned more than two months, and included 31 concerts, in 24 cities, with combined audiences of over a million people.

The box set houses some of CSNY’s best-known music; songs like “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Helpless,” “Wooden Ships,” and “Teach Your Children.”

During the 1974 tour, CSNY also introduced new songs that emerged later on various albums, like Crosby’s “Time After Time,” Nash’s “Fieldworker,” and Stills’ “First Things First.” Several songs by Young are previously unreleased, including “Traces,” “Love/Art Blues,” “Goodbye Dick,” and “Hawaiian Sunrise.”

CSNY 1974 will be available from CSNY and Rhino in several different configurations, including CSNY 1974 (a Starbucks Exclusive for U.S. and Canada)-12 acoustic/semi-acoustic tracks on a single CD, plus full album digital download.

Also scheduled is a CSNY 1974 (Deluxe Limited Edition Boxed Set)- individually numbered edition of 1,000 copies, available exclusively through CSNY. Contained in custom wood box featuring: All 40 tracks on six 180-gram 12” vinyl records, placed in hardbound LP folio case.

CSNY-1974-COVER-PHOTOGraham Nash was born in the seacoast town of Blackpool England, and raised near Manchester.

The singer, songwriter/guitarist was a founding member of the Hollies, (named for Buddy Holly). The band’s mid-to-late 1960s chart parade success rivaled that of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones with hits including “Bus Stop,” “On a Carousel,” “Carrie Anne,” “Pay You Back With Interest” and “Stop! Stop! Stop!”

2011 marked the DVD documentary release, The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975, which featured live performances, vintage television appearances, and new interviews with the group.

On April 27, 1968, after a Hollies’ press party event was held at Imperial Records in Hollywood, GO! magazine weekly music columnist Rodney Bingenheimer invited Nash to attend a nearby Mamas and Papas recording session of “Dancing Bear” at Western Recorders on Sunset Boulevard. Graham then met and talked at length with group member Cass Elliot.

“You know the truth is there’s a part of me that really believes none of this would have happened without Rodney. Incredible music has been made from that moment,” Graham volunteered in a June 2014 phone call from Hawaii.

During the afternoon of April 28, ’68, matchmaker Cass picked up Graham at the Knickerbocker Hotel and introduced him to David Crosby at her house in Laurel Canyon. Crosby subsequently connected Nash to Stephen Stills, and Crosby, Stills and Nash was formed.

“You gotta understand,” Graham earlier told me in a 2009 interview, “David, Stephen and I came from harmony bands. I mean, we were harmony freaks. As I’ve said before, CS&N never had any claim on any of the notes that we sang. It’s just when that sound happened it was instantly recognized by me, David and Stephen as something stunning.”

Graham Nash is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee—with CSN and with the Hollies. He was also inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame twice, as a solo artist and with CSN.

In 2009, Nash’s own recording life was issued in the three-CD retrospective box set Reflections.

Graham Nash was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth during 2010 for his contributions as a musician and philanthropist. An activist for social and environmental justice, Nash is an internationally renowned photographer and digital imaging pioneer.

In September 2013, Nash published his autobiography Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life by Crown/Archetype.

To demonstrate what kind of mensch Graham is, in his book acknowledgements, Nash listed Rodney Bingenheimer, “who helped the story to unfold,” immediately after the Everly Brothers and the Hollies, and above the names Cass Elliot, David Crosby and Stephen Stills.

Graham embarks on a summer tour in July with Crosby, Stills and Nash. He lives in Hawaii with his wife Susan.

CSNY

(Left-right) Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, David Crosby and Neil Young, 1974.

GRAHAM NASH INTERVIEW

Q: We always knew the Hollies were a great group.
A: I was more happy with the Hollies getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than I was with CS&N getting into the Hall of Fame. ‘Cause, with all due respect, I kind of expected me and David and Stephen to be in there, you know. I never expected, especially after waiting so long, that the Hollies would be in there. So I was happier for the Hollies’ induction then I was for CS&N. Of which I was also proud of, of course.

“When I joined David and Steven I didn’t talk about my time with the Hollies. It’s almost like you don‘t talk to your new lover about your past lover. You just don‘t do it if you’re smart. My relationship with the Hollies was pretty sour after I left, obviously. They felt that I deserted them. I personally felt very bad about leaving my friend Allan Clarke behind.

“For the first ten or fifteen years I had been with David and Stephen I didn’t listen to any Hollies music. And then I got sent a DVD of sixty Hollies tracks from BBC radio broadcasts we had done. And I began to realize that we were a great fuckin’ band. We were really energetic. We were musical. We were accurate. We had written some really good pop songs for want of a better word. And I began to realize that we were in deed a great band.

Q: In 1966 you wrote “Marrakesh Express” for the Hollies. And another of your compositions, “King Midas in Reverse,” was penned initially for the Hollies. Later you played an acoustic rendition of it on the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tour.
A: I knew “King Midas” was a good choice. It works. It’s now heard from a 1970 Fillmore East show in the 1992 re-release of CSN&Y’s 4 Way Street.

“You know, the truth is, a song has got to live if I am sittin’ you down in the kitchen and playing it to you on one acoustic guitar. It has to live.

Q: As your book documents and as we look at the legacy and mythology of CSN&Y, I know as a child your family were bombed in World War II. So I guess that prepared you for a life in rock ‘n’ roll, let alone dealing with the personalities that make up CSN&Y. Band tensions, hassles, and Neil Young’s isolationist stance. What is the secret of surviving within your band? On stage and on recordings it’s harmonious. But you’ve taken some real silly crap dealing with these self-centered musicians and careerists.
A: That’s right. And so what. You know, it’s whatever it is. I let people be who the fuck they want to be. And Neil sometimes is a difficult man to deal with. And sometimes he’s a very easy man to deal with. But I respect him completely.

“It doesn’t matter what we’re going through. We all realize that the most important part of our relationship is the music. And it is the music that drowns out all the other shit.

“I mean, I remember when I hated Stephen Stills. He was in my house in San Francisco and we were arguing about an overdub I was doing. He took a razor blade to a master two-track demo tape of my song “Wind on the Water” done with Joel Bernstein on guitar and destroyed it. But then three weeks later he sits me down and plays me a beautiful fuckin’ song that melts my heart. And all off a sudden all of that shit I was feeling disappears.

“I started and finished my book with ‘It all comes down to the music.’ ‘Cause it does. And we know it.

Q: In 1973 you, David and Stephen joined Neil Young for some dates on his Times Fades Away solo tour. Did those appearances convince you that a summer 1974 stadium tour could work aesthetically in stadium venues? Did you have any trepidation about playing nearly three dozen stadium shows? In terms of presenting an acoustic set and your vocal harmonies in outdoor settings?
A: Not really. ‘Cause we had done that at Woodstock. You know, we had played “Guinevere” with one guitar and two voices to how many hundreds of thousands of people. We had already done that. We had no concerns. You bring ‘em on and we’ll entertain them.

“We knew we had the magic. We’ve always known. We’ve always know our music speaks to people’s hearts. We’ve always know it’s been as real as possible. We’ve always know that we’ve taken incredible chances. We’ve always known that we do things that are not normal for a band.

Neil has always been in his own Very special bubble

“I mean, a great example is my song ‘Teach Your Children’ going up in the top twenty and Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic Records) telling me I was ‘going to have a number one hit.’ Then there’s the killing of four students (shot by National Guardsman) at Kent State (in Ohio). And we do Neil’s song ‘Ohio.’ And we think America killing its children is more important than us having another hit record. And so I told Ahmet to pull ‘Teach Your Children,’ and put ‘Ohio’ out. We decided on ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ as the B-Side.

“We’ve always known that we’ve been completely in control. Once you sell millions of pieces of fuckin’ plastic you have control. I say in my book that in the early days of recording with the Hollies we weren’t allowed to even touch the board. If I wanted more bass I’d have to ask Ron Richards (producer) who then would have to ask Peter Bown (engineer) to bring up the bass. After we’d had hit records that all changed. Because they began to realize that these guys who were not wearing white lab coats really knew what they were doing.

“And we never lost the ability to do what we do. We always wanted to be winners and not victims. If you don’t have the ability to call up a studio and say, ‘I’m coming in next Thursday through next Thursday and this is the band,’ and getting all the tape and engineers together, and if you lose that ability, that is a dreadful thing. And we have never lost that ability.

Q: I seem to recall when you were rehearsing for the 1974 tour at Neil Young’s Broken Arrow ranch in Northern California you wanted to have “When You Dance I Can Really Love” from Neil’s After The Gold Rush album in the show.
A: I wanted to open with that song! There’s lots of Neil Young songs I want to do. I want to do “Expecting to Fly.” Are you kidding! I brought it up in the CSN&Y 2006 tour. “Can we do ‘Expecting To Fly.’” And he looked at me and said, “Ahhh. I don’t think you can sing the high part.” And I thought, “You fuck! You know damn well that if I’m asking you to do it I have my fuckin’ part down.”

Q: As you were preparing for that summer CSN&Y jaunt you made very firm choices about the repertoire that would be played at the concerts. Not a re-staging of your successful 1970 gigs.
A: Absolutely. Because we had heard what we’d been writing and what Neil had been writing. And God bless his cotton socks. Neil Young hit a streak of writing that was just un-fuckin’ believable: “Don’t Be Denied,” “On the Beach,” “Hawaiian Sunrise,” “Pushing It Over The End.”

“We knew. And that’s why Neil has more songs on CSN&Y 1974 than me, David and Stephen. Because what would you take off? Would you take off ‘Pushing It Over The End?’ Fuck no! Would you take off ‘Don’t Be Denied?’ No! We are still a band that understands its power within the recording business, you know. And we understand our connection to our audience. All we want to do is communicate. That’s all we want to do.

Q: That 1974 CSN&Y tour was not a continuation of the 1970 tour after Neil Young joined CS&N in 1969.
A: It was a different band when Neil joined. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is a completely different band than CS&N. And not a lot of people understand that. They think it’s just an added voice. But it’s not. It’s an added attitude. Neil brings a sharper edge. I was gonna say a darker feeling but I don‘t mean that in a negative way. He brings this edge to us that we don’t have. And, of course, you have to take into account his ability to play lead guitar against and with Stephen. Which is very very evident in this box set CSNY 1974.

Q: Talk to me about the musicians that worked with CSN&Y on the 1974 tour: Drummer Russ Kunkel, bassist Tim Drummond, and the late percussionist Joe Lala.
A: When we wanted to put that band together we wanted to play with the best musicians that understood our music and would play our music with us rather than just this one track that they are used too. Russell Kunkel, without question, is one of the finest drummers in the world. As Tim Drummond is one of the greatest bass players in the world. And one of the things that make me sad is that Joe Lala passed away about three months ago. Before he heard a note of this. It makes me very sad for Joe because he would have been thrilled with what we did.

“We wanted the best band. And we got it. And God bless Russell Kunkel, man. He’s keeping that groove through the whole 40 songs that he plays on. He plays on his heart. And so does Tim. You’ve gotta be a hell of a fuckin’ musician to be the only white man in James Brown’s band. You got too. What Timmy does is that he understands two things: Melody and heartbeat. That’s what he knows. And he plays it brilliantly. I think Tim Drummond’s bass playing on this box set is phenomenal. Tim and Russell’s kick drum are the heartbeat of this entire thing.

Q: What was it like reviewing and assembling CSN&Y 1974 forty years after the recordings were caught on tape? I’ve always felt and read some of the tour dates were not so great. At Wembley you admitted singing out of tune. Upon recent hearing of the source tapes were they collectively even better sounding then you thought?
A: Yea. Because all the personal animosities are forgotten in the face of the music. And when I saw the bootleg DVD of our (’74) Wembley show it was horrifying to us. It was the last show of the tour. We had done it. We were excited about playing in London. We had snorted too much cocaine. We were playing too fast. We were singing a little out of tune. It was an awful show. And I did not want our CSN&Y fans and future fans to think that that is who we were.

“And I knew that occasionally we had made great music. And, I knew when I was facing this load of tape that by diligently exploring and moving grains of sand away from this thing I can uncover a beautiful jewel. And I think I managed to do that.

Q: Tell me about the methods of productions putting this it together and working with Joel Bernstein and Stanley Johnson. You must have bounced a lot of things off them.
A: That’s true, but don’t forget I had the last say. And we went from this position: We set an incredibly high bar for the music. We listened to every single thing and only the performances that knocked us on our ass made the list in which we compiled the final 40 songs.

“That’s one of the reasons there’s no ‘Carry On’ on there. It’s one of our best known songs. It’s one of Stephen Stills’ best songs. It’s not on the album. The reason is we didn’t find a performance.

“Now you gotta understand something, I worked for over 120 hours on ‘Carry On.’ I tried to find sections of it that made sense and sections where we weren’t too speedy. I couldn’t create a performance that knocked me on my ass. And I told Stephen. And he said, ‘Really? I trust you. I know that you want the best from us. If it’s not there it’s not there.’ So every single song of those 40 songs are performances that personally knocked me on my ass.

Q: What is it like to re-visit songs on recordings four decades after they were first cut? Were your topical songs from 1969-1971 still relevant in 1974? What have these songs become to you right now?
A: It’s the same thing, kid. If I can sing you a song with my guitar and piano and knock you on your ass it’s a great song. And it doesn’t matter how many people you are playing it for. The essence of the song and what the song says still lives. To this day.

Q: On the ’74 tour you would play several political-themed songs: “Chicago-We Can Change the World,” “Ohio,” “Military Madness,” and “Long Time Gone,” along with many new tunes. Do the older songs somehow resonate even deeper because more history is attached to them?
A: That’s because the history has never changed. You could take the word Vietnam War and replace it with Afghanistan and IRAQ. You can take a song like “Great Concern,” that I wrote about Washington during the Watergate hearings. It’s the same thing going on now. We have refused to learn. Holy shit, with the Afghanistan war. If fuckin’ Genghis Kahn and the British and the Russians can’t fuckin’ defeat this country, who the fuck can say that America can do it?

Q: I always felt some of your songs like “Military Madness” were supposed to help us end wars or at the very least educate people about the war game. You personally know what it’s like to be bombed by the Germans during World War II and see your neighborhood reduced to rubble. War is still happening globally.
A: I know. It’s very depressing.

The-Hollies

The Hollies in New York City in September 1966.

Q: You are overseeing tapes first done on analog tape and now have a digital world for them. What was the first thing that entered your mind around your final playback?
A: Well, I fell back in love with who David and Stephen and Neil were. And myself. It was incredibly emotional. I had to stand outside of the four of us. I know I’m one of them. Right? I had to not be one of them and look at those four people and make sure I represented them in the best possible way. I didn’t care that I have less songs on the album than anybody. I have less musical time on this box set than anybody. And that wasn’t because I’m humble.

“It was because musically, Neil Young, for instance, had hit a writing streak that was brilliant. ‘Don’t Be Denied.’ Even ‘Goodbye Dick.’ That fuckin’ one and a half minute unknown Neil Young song was only performed once. But we got it.

Q: What was another aspect that stuck out to you and your ears assembling and producing the tapes for commercial release?
A: I think one of the things that was apparent to me during this whole process of putting these 40 songs together was listening to Neil Young play on other peoples’ songs. He was an unbelievable generous musician on other people’s songs. And that’s unusual for an artist. Normally they want to deal with their stuff or make their stuff the best etc. and fuck you and your other songs.

“On every song that Neil Young plays on, that’s not written by Neil, he’s playing his best. And that was very obvious to me when we were putting this album together. Just how much of a generous musician Neil Young is.

Q: One other reality about Neil Young and one of the photos in the liner note booklet illustrates it all. He can sit in a chair with a guitar in front of 40,000 people and is so relaxed. For a moment reducing his solo performance to a living room type scene. Then another photo shows you and Crosby with Stills standing and on stage it seems you guys have to try a little harder to reach the audience in your presentation.
A: Yea. That’s true. Neil has always been in his own very special bubble.

Q: On the CSN&Y 1974 project, Young offered guidance and technical advice about sound restoration and mixing.
A: Absolutely. And even to the point of I had already worked, and mixed and tuned beautifully mixed about 12 songs. And then Neil called one day. “What we doing it at?” I said, “24 bit 96 k.” He goes, “No. No. No. We need to do it at 24 bit 192 k.” (a much more deeper digital sampling rate). “OK.” Here’s one of my partners telling us that we need to do it a different way. How do I react to this? Do I say fuck off? I’ve already done 12 things I’m doin’ it. Or do you respect him. And I chose to respect him.

“So we threw away those 12 songs. And we started again. It wasn‘t just the question of startin’ again mixing. When you are doing lower resolution stuff most of the software just can’t handle the high resolution stuff. And so we had to find different pieces of software. We had to find different machines. Don’t forget: The file sizes are incredibly high at that hi res. But we respected Neil enough to do what he asked. And we did. Even though we had to throw away weeks and weeks of work.

Q: And how about the artwork and design?
A: That picture that’s the front cover is a perfect example. First of all, it’s a black and white picture. It was hand colored. When I showed Neil my idea for the cover was he was completely against it. And I said, “Why?” He said, “We’re aggrandizing ourselves. We’re makin’ ourselves too important. We’re making ourselves bigger than we were.” And I said to him, “Neil. Did we not do this? Did we not play 31 shows? Did we not play for many many many thousands of people every night?” He said “Yea.” I said, “Don’t you see graphically this is an incredible cover?” And he finally came ’round to my way of thinking.

 

Harvey Kubernik’s Turn Up the Radio! Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956–1972 published last April by Santa Monica Press is garnering international acclaim.






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