Autobiography lays bare Nash's 'Rock & Roll Life'
Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll? Graham Nash wrote the book.
“Wild Tales” details almost five decades of debauchery and music by Nash and the three musicians he'll always be most closely associated with: David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young.
The book is a most candid tell-all. Nash spares nothing and no one as he surveys his rags-to-riches journey from being a young survivor of the Nazis' World War II Blitzkrieg campaign against England to helping create the soundtrack of the baby-boom generation — first as a co-founder of the “British Invasion” band the Hollies, later with Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young).
Along the way, the 71-year-old Nash details the drug abuse that fueled and sometimes threatened the professional, and in some cases actual, lives of his bandmates, the sexual excesses they all enjoyed and the soap-opera-like tales of shifting romantic relationships among the guys.
Regarding the latter, it's sometimes difficult to keep track of who stole who from whom. Example: Nash once made a date with singer Rita Coolidge but Stills called her, pretending to be Nash, and canceled their date so that Stills could take her out instead.
Making appearances throughout are classic-rock royalty, including the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan.
Most of what Nash discusses happened decades ago. Why did he wait until now to put it down on paper?
“I'd been asked several time to do this, especially because of Crosby's (two) autobiographies,” he explained, during a recent phone call. “My children are in their 30s, and they've seen me, and they know who I am and they know what I do. But my first-born son, Jackson, just produced a beautiful daughter, who is my first granddaughter. I realized, when she's 16, I'll be 87, and I thought maybe this young woman will want to know who her grandfather was. For my kids and my grandchildren, I did this.”
Typical of Nash's candor is this passage on Crosby:
“Often I would knock on his hotel door, which he kept propped open with a security jamb, and he'd be getting (oral sex from) both of those girls, all while he was talking and doing business on the phone and rolling joints and smoking and having a drink. Crosby had incredible sexual energy.”
His delineations of similarly less-than-wholesome, and frequently illegal, behavior by Stills and Young, as well as their tantrums, are equally lurid. But Nash said that he never considered omitting such details.
“My only two areas of concern were my wife (of 37 years), Susan, and David Crosby, and I checked with both of them, and they are totally cool,” he insisted. “Crosby called me and said, ‘I was that shifty, I did all those crazy things you write about, and it's totally OK.' ”
Crosby, Nash continued, “was really my main concern. I speak brutally honestly about him and our relationship. But I do bring it back to the positive side at the end of the book by letting everybody know he and his wife, Jan ... came out of the darkness and into the light in a big way.”
On the other hand: “Quite frankly, I don't particularly care what (Stills and Young) think. I'm much more concerned about my friend David.”
As their fans are mostly aware, the friendship between Nash and Crosby is so deep and lasting, the two could be described better as brothers than friends.
Nash has been told that without his love and support, Crosby — who famously battled crack cocaine addiction for years and later underwent a liver transplant — probably would have died decades ago. Nash's take on this is surprising.
“It's possible,” he said, “But I also went through the opposite feeling, meaning I was so concentrated on not taking David's music away from him, when everybody had the (1981) intervention with him, I felt maybe I was enabling him. Maybe I was the enabler here by keeping him concentrated on the music that provided him with money so he could buy more drugs. It was very strange for me.
“But,” he added, “I realize my friendship very possibly proved to be very important to David.”
Nash's harsh words about Stills and Young would seem to rule out any further collaboration beyond next year's anticipated release of an audio-video package culled from CSNY's 1974 tour and assembled by Nash and Cheltenham-born CSNY archivist-photographer Joel Bernstein. But in the off-kilter world of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the word “never” is, apparently, never uttered.
Nash shared that, just a couple of days before this interview, Young called and invited him to participate in a band reunion at next month's annual Bridge School concert, in Northern California, which Young produces.
“He said, ‘Come on up here, and we'll see how we sound. Maybe get to do something later,' ” said Nash. “I know what that means in Neil's mind. He's opening the possibility of CSNY going out on tour next year.
“And that's part of the magic about this band. You never know what's going to happen.”
Chuck Darrow is a staff writer for the Philadelphia Daily News.